What life was like for animals in America before people learned to love pets

guard and herd. They were seen more as workers than as part of the family. Cats were prized largely for their ability to control rodent populations.

Animals we now consider pets lived in conditions that depended largely on their use and the economic status of their owners. Although some were treated kindly, there was little understanding of animal welfare by today’s standards. Veterinary care was rudimentary at best, and concepts like spaying and neutering to control animal populations were not widely practiced.

The diet of these working animals was primarily practical and based on what was readily available, rather than the specialized pet food we see today. The shelter was also often simple, with the animals often kept outside except in the worst weather.

Wildlife experienced less human interference before urban expansion reduced their habitats. But without conservation efforts and regulations as we know them today, they fell prey to uncontrolled hunting and trapping practices that threatened several species with extinction.

The shift in human attitudes toward animals began with a growing middle class and a more urbanized society, where people placed fewer functional demands on animals but more room in their lives for companionship. As communities became more settled and prosperous, animals increasingly came to be seen as companions who improved quality of life through social interaction, rather than merely as beasts of burden or practical possessions.

Although there were exceptions, before becoming pets in America, most animals’ lives were austere, defined by survival needs rather than emotional bonds or comfort. When Americans came to value animals beyond their utilitarian functions, there was a transformation not only in the way these creatures lived, but also in the way they were perceived within the broader cultural narrative.

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