National Pet Day is April 11, although if you’re a pet owner, you know there’s not a day that goes by that you don’t celebrate your animal companion! So hug your hedgehog, bond with your bunny, and cut your kitty some catnip! That critter makes you happy — and that’s not all. Over the past 10 years, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has been a partner in research to determine the physical and mental benefits of having a pet. It turns out that not only can pets steal our hearts, but they also contribute to overall cardiovascular health by lowering cortisol, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.
History of National Pet Day
Colleen Paige, animal welfare advocate and pet and family lifestyle expert, founded National Pet Day in 2006 to celebrate the joy pets can bring to us. But she also wanted to bring attention to the ongoing needs of many pets of all kinds waiting in shelters to be adopted. She encouraged people who want purebred dogs and cats to contact rescue organizations instead of going to a breeder. “Don’t shop! Adopt!” has become the holiday motto.
In 1973, the Humane Society of the United States estimated that 13 million cats and dogs enter shelters every year. Some were strays, some were surrendered by owners who could no longer care for them, some were seized in legal actions. Today, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, approximately 6.5 million companion animals enter shelters nationwide. And 1.6 million cats and 1.6 million dogs find their furever homes.
Colleen’s holiday got its start in the U.S., but it soon expanded internationally. Pet lovers now mark the day in the U.K., Ireland, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, Guam, Scotland, and many more nations.
Celebrities have also taken up the cause. National Pet Day has been promoted by Taylor Swift, Ellen De Generes, Ricky Gervais, Cee Lo Green, Jimmy Fallon, Willy Nelson, Kevin Bacon, Seth Myers, and Carrie Underwood, among others.
And social media has helped spread the celebration and promote Colleen’s cause. When President Barack Obama was in office, he warmed political hearts on both sides of the aisle with his posted pic of Bo, one of the two Portuguese water dogs who shared the White House with him. Bo was rehomed when he couldn’t get along with an older dog owned by a family in Texas.
National Pet Day timeline
Japanese feline Maru is certified as the most viewed animal on YouTube after 10 years of diving into boxes.
Henry Bergh founds the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York after witnessing a carriage driver in Russia beating a fallen horse three years earlier.
- 900 BCE
Phoenician traders bring the first domesticated cats to Europe.
- 3500 BCE
Walking the Dog
The dog collar is believed to have been invented in Mesopotamia, based on a wall painting depicting a man with a collared dog on a leash.
National Pet Day - Survey Results
Data gathered by a top Dallas PR Firm:
FULL RANKING OF THE MOST POPULAR PETS
#1: Dog (45%)
#2: Cat (30%)
#3: Fish (9%)
#4: Bird (e.g. parakeet, cockatiel, parrot, etc.) (5%)
#5: Hamster/gerbil/mouse (2%)
#6: Horse (2%)
#7: Snake (2%)
#8: Guinea pig (1%)
#9: Lizard (e.g. iguana, chameleon, gecko, etc.) (1%)
#10: Tarantula (1%)
National Pet Day FAQs
Is this the same as National Love Your Pet Day?
No — of course, you love your pet every day — this day reminds us to care about pets in shelters and pets whose people can no longer care for them. We mark National Love Your Pet Day and shower our critter companions with love on February 20.
How do we observe National Pet Day?
You can donate food, toys, blankets/towels, and or money to a local shelter or rescue organization to make life better for pets who need homes. Also, review your own pet’s annual medical needs and schedule a vet appointment if needed.
Why do we also have National Dog Day and National Cat Day?
Those days are intended to honor our most popular, best-loved pets and again, to encourage adopting a dog or cat who needs a home. National Pet Day reinforces the importance of pets in our lives and reminds us that we can care for ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, rats, mice, fish, reptiles and other critters, too.
National Pet Day Activities
Adopt a pet
And remember, you're not limited to dogs and cats. House rabbits are easily litter trained. Reptiles are quiet. Some birds will talk to you.
Launch the next digital diva
Convince your cutie cat to pose, pounce, primp, pout, or play the piano. Post the video on the kitty's account. Pray for viral volume.
Pamper your pooch
What does your furry friend like? A mallard tuggy toy? A nice belly rub? Get down on the floor and give that pup some love!
Take The National Pet Day Quiz
5 Facts About Pets That Will Blow Your Mind
The Egyptians grieved their pets publicly
When a family cat died, the Egyptians shaved their eyebrows; they shaved the rest of their bodies for a dog.
The Egyptians prized and protected cats
The penalty for killing a cat, even by accident, was death.
The Egyptians were inconsistent with pet names
The Egyptians named their dogs, but did not commonly name their cats.
The Egyptians kept many animals as pets
According to scholars, the Egyptians also had baboons, monkeys, fish, gazelles, birds, (especially falcons), lions, mongooses, and hippos as pets.
The Egyptians sacrificed their country for cats
In 525 BCE, refusing to offend their goddess by fighting, the Egyptian army surrendered to the Persians, who had painted the image of the Egyptian cat deity, Bastet, on their shields.
Why We Love National Pet Day
Most of us have a pet
In the U.S., 67% of households have a pet. We spend approximately $75 billion a year on pet care and products.
Pets are part of the family
A 2016 Harris poll showed that 95% of pet owners say their pets are part of the family. That's an increase of seven points from 2007.
Pets are fun
Only a pet will chase a ball for you, pounce on a laser point, or nibble carrots from your hand. Enjoy watching your hamster stuff its cheeks, your guinea pig chew up a TP tube, or your ferret frolic in its hammock. Your guinea pig will probably pee in your lap — but it's so cute!