A pyramid of sweet bread for dogs, where chicken liver shavings substitute for fruits or drops of chocolate, are the first thing you see when entering a Petz chain store, west of São Paulo. A walk through its aisles reveals other exclusive products for animals, such as flavored toothbrushes or costumes of Spiderman, in the midst of the most varied options of feed, accessories or toys. One Friday afternoon Apolo, a puppy of border collie, he waits lying on a little bed for his mother choose a toy for him. He only gets up when he hears the command “come on, son.” Meanwhile, Tina, a mixed-breed black dog, leads her mistress to the food section, pointing her nose at the package that interests her the most. Behind them, a boy pushes the cart with the products chosen by the dog so far.
In a Brazil of 212 million inhabitants, there were 144 million pets in 2020, about four million more than the previous year, according to the Pet Brazil Institute (IPB). The annual increase during the pandemic is six times greater than that observed between 2018 and 2019. They are little animals that become members of families and thus drive a multibillion-dollar industry of products and services. The GDP data assume that the vast majority of Brazilian families (in a nucleus with four people) have at least one pet to give and receive affection. A significant amount of this domestic animal population is made up of dogs (55.9 million), but there are also cats, birds, iguanas … and rabbits. What Rabbit Alfredo, who has become famous in Brazil by starring in a viral video on social networks.
Alfredo’s owners were videotaped during an altercation with employees of the KLM airline company at Guarulhos International Airport, in São Paulo. The reason was that the company had prohibited the rabbit from traveling with its guardians to Ireland, although the couple presented a precautionary measure from a court that authorized its shipment. A heated discussion then began, with shouting, offending and shoving.
“I too would ride a chicken if it were with my dogs,” says Fabiana Pazotto, 30, a human resources professional and mother from Nala, a dog without breed, and Moana, a German shepherd. The dad One of the dogs is Fabiana’s partner, Rodrigo Sclosa, a 35-year-old computer programmer. They have lived with their pets for a year in a house in Campinas, 90 kilometers from São Paulo. “I think that fighting for your little animal means that you understand that he has feelings like us. I have noticed this change in behavior, that people now care about pets, instead of just feeding and drinking them, “he says.
Fabiana and Rodrigo do not hesitate to call them daughters a Nala Y Moana. They went to live together in August 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, and in that same month they adopted Nala – Moana I already lived with Rodrigo. Fabiana explains that she plans her telework routine based on times when she can interrupt it to interact with the dogs. He makes them poles of minced beef, cooks mashed potatoes and buys them natural bones, as well as walks them every day. If the couple has to go out, their parents come to avoid leaving the dogs home alone. And if it is necessary to go to the vet, the secret, says Fabiana, is to talk to them Nala Y Moana so that they understand the reason for the visit.
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The coronavirus pandemic was also a stimulus for that longer relationship. The void opened by confinement increased the search for pets. “People stayed at home and saw in the adoption of animals a possibility to face loneliness. And, once in the house, the pet becomes part of the family, ”says Nelo Marraccini, IPB spokesperson. “The companion animal is a facilitator in therapeutic processes, which brings social, physical and psychological benefits to its owner. That is positive ”, adds Mauro Lantzman, a psychologist specializing in the human-animal relationship.
When millions of Brazilians were forced to telework, they had to seek the company of an animal to liven up the harsh reality that Brazil experienced. It is proven by the figures that the pet industry handles. The product and service chains expect to invoice R $ 49.9 billion (about 7,860 million euros) in 2021, a growth of 22% over 2020, according to the Pet Brasil Institute. Petz, one of the largest chains in the sector in Brazil, expanded its number of stores by 40% this year (there are 153 in total) and has become one of the star stocks of the Brazilian Stock Exchange, capturing some 122.8 million euros in its initial public offering of shares (IPO, in financial jargon, for its acronym in English), in September 2020. It has been one of the few successful operations of this type on the Brazilian Stock Exchange and, after a year from its launch, the shares of the only company in the sector pet on that floor they were valued at 96.86%.
A November 2021 report in the Brazilian edition of EL PAÍS reported that many companies decided to postpone their public offering of shares after seeing the Bovespa stock index plummet 12.9% in 2021. “I see a direct relationship between the humanization of animals , the pandemic and the increase in business volume ”, explains Marraccini. “When you have a pet, you have to buy it, I think all the time. It is a consumption that does not fluctuate ”, assures Murilo Breder, economic analyst at Nu Invest. “With that humanization [de la mascota], people will only stop buying things for their animal in extreme cases. And, many times, you stop spending money with yourself to spend with your dog or cat. It is a segment that we call high recurrence and low seasonality ”, he adds.
There are those who see the connection between masters and pets as a replacement for children. There is no research to show such a correlation, but some signs can be seen. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), the number of couples with children is decreasing year after year in the country. The rate of 15 births per 1,000 Brazilians at the beginning of the last decade fell to 13.7 births in 2019. “Some factors contribute to the reduction in birth rates, such as the cost of education, the smaller size of homes and the later marriages. They are also points that make a pet more affordable than a child ”, says Guilherme Cadim, geographer and researcher in the area of population expansion at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).
Fabiana, the mistress of Nala Y Moana, you see in that profile. “I don’t want children myself. Since I was a child, I have always had more attachment to animals than to human beings ”, she confesses. This human resources professional also extols the importance of her dogs for the mental health of the home. “Sometimes Rodrigo travels, and I couldn’t stay alone in this house without them. They changed my life, because they are by my side even when the world is falling ”, he justifies.
Cadim argues that animals also play an important role for an aging generation with fewer children than the previous and, theoretically, more lonely. “That is why older people try to complete their emotional relationships with pets,” adds Cadim. According to IBGE, the proportion of older people in Brazil jumped from 7% to 10% in the last 10 years. And the expectation is that it reaches 20% until 2046.
The instinct to care seems to transfer to the animals. For Mauro Lantzman, cases like that of the masters of Alfredo, the rabbit, can even be seen as extreme and pathological behavior. “As if the person were crazy or lacking in affection, or using the pet to replace a human being. But, in the vast majority of cases, that does not correspond to reality ”, he points out. “In the case of the rabbit AlfredoFor example, the exaggeration is from the airline. The couple even recovered in health and sought a precautionary measure, which only shows how strong their emotional bond is ”.
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