Episode 12:

Americans Love Their Pets

Helpful Links:

Transcript of the Episode:

Welcome to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! I’m your host, Caren Hayden, and I’m here to help you improve your English.


Are dogs really man’s best friend? Well, in America, yes! Today, I’ll be telling you all about how much Americans love their pets. Stay tuned.




“Man’s best friend” is a common saying that demonstrates man’s close relationship to dogs throughout history. The American love affair with cats and dogs as pets has created luxury pet spas, chef-inspired doggie meals, and many children begging their parents for a pet. While animals have been owned by humans for work and hunting purposes since cavemen roamed the Earth, the domesticated pet of today started thousands of years ago.


Currently, 68% of all households in the U.S. have at least one pet, and many have more than one. That’s about 85 million households! The most popular pet, making up about half of all pet ownership, is the dog. A close second is the cat. Other pets that Americans have are fish, birds, reptiles (like snakes, turtles, and lizards), horses, and other small mammals (like gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rabbits). Pet ownership in the U.S. has consistently increased in the last two decades. Most pet owners in America consider their pets to be part of the family. It is very common for dogs and cats to live mostly inside the house, and some people even allow their canine and feline friends to sleep in their beds with them.


Personally, I don’t have any pets at the moment, but I’ve had several dogs throughout my life. I’ve also had ducks, a rabbit, a few fish, and even a couple of domesticated albino rats.


Where do people in the U.S. get their pets? Well, the top three ways people acquire their pets are: they simply find the animal outside as a stray, they go to an animal shelter and adopt it, or they purchase it from a breeder.


How much money do Americans spend on their pets every year? Well, a lot! Between visits to the veterinarian, food, treats, boarding fees, beds, leashes, toys, carriers, clothing, and grooming, costs for keeping a happy and healthy (and probably spoiled) pet add up very quickly. In 2011, Americans spent nearly $51 billion on pet expenditures.


So, why do people get pets in the first place? Most Americans report that the top benefit of owning a pet is happiness. Dogs, cats, and other creatures simply make us happy. They help to reduce stress, are good for teaching children responsibility, and provide years of companionship, affection, and love. Some pet owners think that there are no drawbacks to owning a pet, but others report that the negatives are: cleaning up after the pet, the overall costs for caring for the pet, finding someone or some place to keep your pet when you go on vacation, and sadness when the pet dies. Even with these drawbacks, most pet owners agree that the positives surely outweigh the negatives.


There are, of course, famous pets that many Americans are familiar with. Lassie, Benji, and Toto are all real-life beloved Hollywood dogs that have appeared on television or in movies (or both). Most famous cats, however, are of the cartoon variety, like Garfield, Tigger, and Sylvester. Some of my favorite movies that feature animals or pets are: Turner and Hooch, Ace Venture: Pet Detective, and The Horse Whisperer.


Finally, I’d like to share a few common English sayings related to pets. The first one that comes to mind is, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” If spoken about a person, it means that the older someone gets, the harder it is to teach them something new. For example, you might think that your parents have a hard time navigating the latest smart phone. Another idiom related to pets is, “to let the cat out of the bag.” This is used when someone tells a secret or a bit of news that they probably weren’t supposed to tell anyone. For example, if your friend tells you that they are pregnant, but they haven’t told anyone else yet, and you post about it on Facebook, then you have just let the cat out of the bag.


So, did you grow up with a pet? What kind? Do you consider yourself a cat person or a dog person? Which pets are most common in your country? Leave me a comment on the podcast website! I’d love to hear from you.


Thank you so much for listening to the English for Everyone ESL Podcast! Don’t forget to subscribe to the podcast on iTunes. You will find the transcript of today’s show and some helpful links about today’s topic on the show website: www.englishforeveryonepod.com. [Stay tuned for the slower version of today’s episode].




[slower version, same transcript]


Bye Bye!



Music is Where’s My Jetpack by Computer Music All-Stars found on www.freemusicarchive.org