Fiona McCade: Doghouse for folk who splurge on pets

Christmas is wasted on cats. First, I don’t think many cats are Christian. They’ve never got over being worshipped as gods by the ancient Egyptians which, I think, explains their general disdain for all life-forms except their own.

55 per cent of Britains 18 million household pets received a Christmas stocking full of goodies. Picture: Esme Allen
55 per cent of Britains 18 million household pets received a Christmas stocking full of goodies. Picture: Esme Allen

Second, cats may accept offerings from their slaves – although only those of the highest quality will be perused – but gifts? Well, that would depend. As far as they’re concerned, every time we provide water, it’s a libation.

So, cats may be as surprised as I am to learn that yesterday, 55 per cent of Britain’s 18 million household pets received a Christmas stocking full of goodies. Not only that, but 26 per cent of them were given their own advent calendar this year. In all, according to an RSPCA survey, we have just lavished £300 million of gifts on our precious, non-human darlings. Some 3 per cent of people actually spent more on their animals than they did on their children. Is it just me, or is this crazy?

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Don’t get me wrong; I love animals. Even cats. It’s just that I can’t get my head around spending so much money on creatures who are either ungrateful (cats), or haven’t a clue what you’re doing (all the rest). Reptiles are great, but they don’t really do excitement. Equally, it’s difficult to know if a goldfish is disappointed. So, frankly, if your pet isn’t going to give you a guilt trip over whether or not you got them a present, then why bother?

Even dogs, who are a joy to spoil, don’t need anything in particular to make them happy. Every day is Christmas, as far as dogs are concerned: “Is that a twig? Yeyyy! It’s the best day EVER! Oh wow, you threw me half a sausage! I LOVE you! I love you, I love you, I LOVE you!” If dogs could understand about Christmas, they’d do nothing but sit in front of the fireplace for 365 and a quarter days, waiting for Santa and panting with joyful anticipation.

But – spoiler alert for those pet owners who bought their com­panions a present this year – animals haven’t a clue what’s going on. Do they know it’s Christmas? No they bleedin’ don’t.

I could understand it more if animals talked to each other and compared notes. Peer pressure, especially where cats are concerned, could become a real problem. I never buy my two anything – their lives are far too luxurious as it is – but if I thought the neighbour’s cat had been telling them what they’ve been missing, I’d be worried.

I can see it now. A summit meeting on the fence: “Yours got you a catnip-flavoured mouse toy? We didn’t get anything, did we? Tuh! She’s a disgrace, that one.” Then they’d march in and treat me with utter contempt. If I noticed (which I probably wouldn’t, because let’s face it, this is what cats do), they’d probably go straight into their “If you don’t know what you’ve done, I’m not going to tell you” act. So it’s probably just as well that cats don’t do Yule.

Having said that, although it doesn’t surprise me that no cat bothered to visit Baby Jesus in the manger, cats certainly know how to give, and they don’t confine their gift-giving to any particular time of year. I often come down in the morning to find surprises waiting for me – a mouse’s head and a kidney of unknown origin spring effortlessly to mind. I can imagine my fluffballs discussing what they’re going to give me next: “That woman who lives in our house can’t hunt for the life of her, so we need to get her something.” “Yeah. She loved that kidney, didn’t she? Did you see her jumping up and down and squealing?”

Of course, we should show our animals we love them, and pamper them occasionally, but spending £300m on creatures that already have caring homes is madness. That money could save every animal in every shelter in Britain. So please, before you waste any more cash on spoiling your own pet, at least put the same amount aside for the ones who really need help. Go on – give money to the animals who have nobody. Even those ungrateful cats.