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What Big Data Tells Us About the Growth of a Contemporary Pet Culture: Part 1, the Past

Arthur Cosby and Megan Stubbs-Richardson

Although pet-keeping and owning is a universal and historical phenomenon, the nature of pet-keeping is affected by social, economic, and cultural processes of human culture. The current study provides a socio-historical analysis of the nature of pet-keeping and pet-owning in the United States, and namely, how the relationships between animals and humans have changed over time. We used Big Data from Google’s Ngram project, a digitized library containing 15 million books and 500 billion records, to assess the frequency of discussions on animal rights’ movements and animal cruelty, domesticated pet products and animal services, animal health and care, and changes in animal activities (e.g., animals going on vacation) making them a part of the family, from 1900 to 2000. Our findings show that the 1970s saw a substantial rise in the domestication of animals that continued throughout the 1990s. As evidenced by this analysis, animals moved into the home in the 1970s with increased advantages arising throughout the 80s and 90s which included the luxury of joining families on vacation.

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