Pet Lit

I was browsing through a bookstore recently and found myself suddenly attracted to a display of pet books, all of which had colorful, appealing covers that immediately evoked an emotional response. The cuteness lured me in – I was powerless to resist. I stepped closer, took a deep breath… and wondered: “What just happened?”

If you are owned by a pet, you have probably had the experience of bumping into someone and learning that they live with the same kind of pet you do. If that person has the same breed you do, well, you're are off and running. What’s the first thing you do? Pull out your cell phone and share pics of your pets! As Mom to two boxers, I have seen enough pictures of boxers to last a lifetime, but I’ve enjoyed every one of them, as well as the connections I have made with people who otherwise would have remained perfect strangers.

No doubt publishers are aware of this phenomenon, which may partly explain the recent “trend-let” of “pet lit.” So many topics are available with appropriately alluring covers:
  • Memoirs and endearing stories from veterinarians, trainers, and ordinary pet owners
  • Heartwarming stories by veterans and their relationship with military dogs
  • Call-to-action books about saving animals, rescue groups, and ethical/moral issues
  • Informational books about specific breeds, pet health, training, and general well-being
  • The world of pet ownership (What on earth is my pet thinking?)
  • Pets who solve mysteries, promote romances, or lead interesting lives in libraries and other places inhabited by humans
  • Inspirational stories of how traumatized animals and people heal each other
  • Charming and clever crafts people can make for their pets (or for other pet owners)

And why are these titles popular at all? Could it be that we long to snuggle up with books about furry friends after a rough day at work, as an antidote to our stressful everyday lives, the depressing news bombarding us in newspapers and on TV? Maybe we crave escape, a feel-good story about a pet who comes into our life and changes everyone for the better. Do both children and adults who can’t have pets fantasize about owning one? Do they wonder how much better life could be if only we had a furry friend? Do we take pet ownership seriously and want to provide the best care possible? Do we invest in the relationship we have with our pets, just as we do with human friends and family?

Perhaps science can help answer the “why” question. Studies have shown that viewing faces of babies elicits positive and affectionate feelings, including the willingness to care.It has been suggested that faces of dogs and cats (“infantile” faces) prompt the same response, and that pets are not just baby substitutes for their owners, but actually fulfill our need for attention and emotional intimacy, just as human-human friendships do.

At any rate, pet owners do not need science to tell us that contact with our pets — and reading books with covers invoking warm and fuzzy “Awwwwww!” feelings — soothes us and makes life a little more worthwhile.

The books in this selection list cover all of the topics mentioned above, but were chosen strictly for their covers. They will elicit an emotional response, providing a “cuteness break” in your work day and giving library patrons something to smile about. Dogs and cats do not have a monopoly on cuteness (though they are the topics of most books), and you will find a few covers of cows, parakeets, rats, hedgehogs, alpacas, and other cute animals as well. Enjoy!