Popular Pets from Around the World

The Martha Stewart Show, March 2010

Dogs and cats may be the most popular pets in the United States and Canada, but that's not the case in countries throughout the world. Each culture has its own particular favorite, according to animal expert Marc Morrone, who cites lifestyle differences and historical influences as predominate factors in determining a pet's regional popularity.

Bunnies (Japan)
Bunnies are extremely popular in Japan, due in large part to their vegetarian diet. The traditional Japanese diet emphasizes vegetables over meat, and pet owners in Japan tend to shy away from domesticated carnivores such as dogs and cats. Also popular in the United States and Europe for their clean and quiet habits, bunnies are extremely social and gentle animals ideal for pet owners in smaller homes. Bunnies shed more than most other pets, so be prepared. Regular use of a pet-hair removal product such as Pledge Fabric Sweeper can quickly remedy the issue.

Goldfish (China)
In China, the easy-to-keep goldfish is king. The selective breeding of goldfish began in this Eastern nation about 1,000 years ago, resulting in the creation of more than 50 different breeds. (With long, flowing fins; short bodies; and protruding eyes, some of these new breeds may appear quite odd-looking to other cultures.) These distinctive fish are also thought to bring good luck because of their gold color, a symbol of wealth.

Tortoise (Taiwan)
Tortoises are simple to care for and take up very little space, which makes them highly prized in Taiwan, a country where living space and extra time is tight. Tortoises are also valued for more mythical reasons: Ancient writing has been found on the backs of tortoise shells, and keeping a tortoise is thought to bring long life to the owners.

Pigeons (Middle East)
Versatile birds that can be bred to almost any shape or color, pigeons have risen in popularity in the Middle East, since keeping large animals has become unrealistic in modern cities such as Dubai or Kuwait. In earlier times, Middle Eastern pet owners kept animals for competitions, such as horse or camel racing. Now, Middle Eastern breeders keep birds inside their homes. These breeders often show off their birds to one another, judging them based on certain standards mutually agreed upon by fanciers of similar tastes, in comfortable, air-conditioned halls or restaurants.

Songbirds (the Mediterranean)
Songbirds are a favorite pet for the hard-working people of the Mediterranean region, who build beautiful cages to keep these birds happily living indoors. As a result, these small birds sing cheerfully indoors and out, and the Mediterranean people have selectively bred other finches (such as the canary) into many shapes and colors.

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