Archives for pets



The Troubled Cremation of Stevie the Cat: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

If there’s a death in your family and you choose to have your loved one cremated, wouldn’t you expect that the remains that are returned to you belong specifically to your beloved? Of course you would!

Would you expect the same if the dearly departed happens to be the family pet? I suspect the answer is still yes. But in the fast-growing pet-cremation business, how do you know that the remains you’re getting back are indeed from your pet?

That’s the question we ask in our latest podcast, “The Troubled Cremation of Stevie the Cat.” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player in the post. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

According to government statistics, there are well over 200 million pets in America, not counting pet fish. (Why government statistics don’t include fish — we don’t know; maybe that’s an episode for another day.) And we spend a lot of money on these pets, about $61 billion a year. One area that is growing very fast: pet “aftercare.” The International Association of Pet Cemeteries and Crematories (IAPCC) tells us that ten years ago, only a handful of places specialized in pet aftercare. Today, there are more than 700 pet funeral homes, crematories and cemeteries. (Or, as Bloomberg Businessweek puts it, “There’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Dead Pet.”) With so much money being spent, and with death being so fraught with emotion and mystery, might there be some misbehavior going on?   Read More »



A New Matching Market for Dog Buyers

Al Roth, the Nobel Prize winner and market design guru who’s worked on everything from organ exchanges to school matching, posts a reader email about Wagaroo, a new matching market for dog buyers and responsible breeders. Christine Exley, an Economics grad student at Stanford, writes:

It is estimated that 23.5 million people plan to acquire a pet every year.  Of this, 1.5 million intend to buy their pet from a breeder, 5 million are committed to adopting their pet, and 17 million are undecided about the source for their new pet. At the same time, 3 million dogs and cats are killed every year in shelters because they cannot find a home. When you account for people acquiring dogs from shelters, rescue groups, the street (i.e., strays), friends, family members and purebred breeders, there are still over 6 million people acquiring dogs and cats from “other” sources. These other sources (as well as some of the listed sources) are likely puppy mills – places that mass-produce dogs for profit in horrid conditions.

Read More »



Question of the Day: Are We Overlooking a Meat Source?

From the inbox:

Gentlemen:

I am a big fan — one who especially appreciates your willingness to (perhaps enjoyment in?) exploring solutions that many would consider repugnant.  In that spirit, I would love to get your thoughts on a seemingly unconscionable idea that I recently became aware of.

Every year the U.S. euthanizes approximately 3 to 4 million companion animals (mostly dogs and cats).  To put it bluntly, what do you think about using these carcasses as a meat source? We expend enormous resources — land, money, and energy –  in producing animal feed and ultimately meat.  Given this expense, as well as the world’s need for protein sources, I’d love for you to weigh in on this rather repugnant idea.

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Breeding Killers?

A few days before Christmas, a Houston woman placed her 3-month old girl in a baby swing and momentarily left the room. In her absence, one of the family’s nine dogs – a 150-lb Rottweiler – broke through the back door of the house and attacked the infant. Out of precaution, the mother had barricaded the back door with a “washing machine and slab of marble.” It was of no use. EMS reported that the girl’s chest was covered with deep lacerations. She died an hour later. Read More »



A Very Interesting Paragraph From …

… today’s Wall Street Journal:

Once upon a time, Americans got dogs for their sheep. Now they get sheep for their dogs. “I never dreamed it would go this far,” says Ms. Foster, 56 years old. Read More »



Zach the Cat as an Example of Why Businesses Should Experiment More

We found our cat Zach at the beach as a tiny kitten, hungry and flea-ridden. We brought him, four kids in tow, to the anti-cruelty society (which we now refer to simply as the “cruelty society”), but they told us that he would almost certainly be put to death if we left him. Not quite ready to give that life lesson to the kids, we let him join our family, and he has been a model citizen ever since.

Until recently. After a year, he suddenly stopped using the litter box, preferring instead rugs and piles of our clothes. So Jeannette took him to the local vet, who advised the following plan of action: Read More »



Up-Market Animal Food

Susanne Freidberg is a professor of geography at Dartmouth and author of the forthcoming book “Fresh: A Perishable History.” She is writing some guest posts here about food; you can find her first one, and a brief Q&A with Freidberg, here. The International Boston Seafood Show may be one of the few trade shows where […] Read More »



FREAK Shots: Foie Splurge

My friend who reviews New York City cafes came across this at Bouchon Bakery in the Time Warner Center: Photo: Ana Dane According to Bouchon’s website: “Some people wish for their pets to take as much pleasure in food as they themselves do.” But are excesses like this actually selling right now? A recent survey […] Read More »