Don't make your pet your Valentine

One-fifth of Americans are spending millions on presents for their animals this year. C'mon, people!!

By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Published February 14, 2013 7:50PM (EST)

Valentine's Day is a pretty BS holiday, right up there with New Year's Eve on the list of high-pressure, aren't you having THE GREATEST EXPERIENCE OF YOUR LIFE? days seemingly designed to make 98 percent of us feel like losers. So if one-fifth of us have figured out a way to mark the holiday with a different kind of statement of love, that's probably a good thing, right? If we want to take this day to do something special for a loved one – the one who offers comfort when we're sad, the one we go for walks with in the park, maybe share a bed with, who's to judge? I'm just saying, folks, $815 million is a whole lot of money to spend on Valentines for your pets.

That's how much the National Retail Federation estimates we will shell out this year for our dogs, cats, "fish, horses and small animals." I'd say that it's all well and good, but don't expect them to reciprocate with so much as a card -- except that over the past few years, I've noticed a creeping new segment of the card shop rack devoted to none other than "From Cat" greetings.

Your cat does not know it's Valentine's Day. You cat doesn't care if the catnip is heart-shaped. Your cat doesn't need a ribbon-wrapped jar of fish-flavored treats. Relatedly, your cat also isn't buying you a card. In fact, your cat, if she found out about it, would probably resent that someone you know was sending you greeting cards on her behalf. She would probably walk away in disgust and go lick herself in a corner at the very notion.

The animals in our lives occupy a very special and significant place in our hearts. And in a world where getting an e-card and maybe, if you're lucky today, a text with a picture of your lover's junk is what qualifies as romance, animals remind us what real affection looks like. Pet expert Kristen Levine told USA Today Wednesday, "You communicate digitally with most people in your life through text, e-mail and Facebook. But you can't do that with your pet." But the beauty of our relationships with them is that we can shower them with love every day of the year – not just on some marked-up, trumped-up "special" occasions. Not everything needs to be an exercise in consumerism, not everything is an excuse to go shopping. And to paraphrase Janeane Garofolo in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs," you can love your pets. You just don't need to love your pets enough to make them your Valentine.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a senior writer for Salon and author of "A Series of Catastrophes & Miracles."

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