Pets are a common feature in a lot of people's lives. In fact, I bet you could list 10 people you know with either a cat or a dog. They’re adorable companions we keep around for all the laughs they provide, the late-night cuddles, and that much needed excuse to leave the house (well, that’s more so if you’re a dog owner).
We spend millions a year on pet accessories, from collars to clothes, treats to brushes - on average we spend £10 million a year on dog accessories and £8 million on cat accessories in the UK alone.
But why do some celebrities feel the need to get exotic pets and flaunt them on social media? Exotic pets are a fashion accessory the celebrity world keeps advocating – a bad idea.
Which celebrities have exotic pets?
You may remember Justin Bieber’s pet monkey, Mally. The capuchin monkey was gifted to Bieber for his 19th birthday and was confiscated while on tour in Germany.
Bieber’s pet was taken from its mother at just nine weeks old and had to have a cuddly toy as a surrogate parent. Mally should have stayed with his mother for the first year of his life before he would be able to travel without her. According to the boss of an animal shelter in Germany, Karl Heinz Joachim, Mally would repeatedly call out for members of his family because he felt so isolated.
So, why did Bieber keep Mally? It’s not too far a reach to understand that Bieber wanted a pet that would match his image. Mally allowed Bieber to showcase his outlandish money spending habits and allowed him to use his living accessory as Instagram entertainment.
He’s not the only one.
Both Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson are amongst the stars that had exotic pets as accessories to advertise their fantastical lives. Presley’s kangaroo and Jackson’s chimp, Bubbles, highlight the public attention that these pets garner, with people asking to see the animals as entertainment.
Equally, Paris Hilton’s pet kinkajou (a nocturnal rainforest mammal that comes from the raccoon family – I had no clue either) has been on red carpet events and used as an accessory for media attention. The star got a warning from the state of California about housing an exotic, illegal species but nothing came out of it.
The rich and famous reap no consequences for having outlandish pets, using them as accessories for events and attention. I’m not suggesting they have malicious intent when buying these animals, however, there is a willful ignorance behind these actions, one born from having too much money to spend and a certain image to maintain.
Why is this bad?
You may be wondering why this is bad because let’s be honest, those pets have beds more expensive than my rent. However, taking exotic animals away from their natural habitats or from sanctuaries that understand their needs for celebrity status or as a fashion accessory is wrong. These animals are used as the next ‘must have’, advocating for people who are underequipped to get pets to match their favourite star.
Equally, it's cruel to scare them with paparazzi and thrusting them into the limelight. You can't explain to any animal why they are suddenly in a maelstrom of bright lights and screaming fans, add this to not being in the right climate and the poor animal will be terrified and have long-lasting psychological scars.
For an animal to be ‘fashionable’, or an ‘accessory’, takes away from the fact that it is a living creature that needs to be appropriately cared for. So no, don’t go get a monkey because Bieber did.
How to rep the animal without owning the exotic
Instead of celebrity pets being objectified as accessories, animals can influence fashion in so many better ways. Animal print has been around for decades with everything being leopard print to tiger striped, we can see the recreation of animals without having to use them as living accessories.
The surge of cow print has hit social media with platforms like TikTok and Instagram placing it centre stage. This streetwear trend goes back to Western influences, imagine a ranch girl meets 2021 TikTok outfits.
Equally, Vogue lists how to style animal print and suggests it’s a wardrobe staple. No need for a real tiger roaming around your house if your skirt is striped the same.
Basically, keep your cats and dogs as your companions and stay well away from the exotics - they're not an accessory nor should they be treated as one.