Growing Trend Of Pets Becoming Part Of Family

Dog and cat

Pets are not just companions, but they are part of our family. They are our furbabies, our kids, our four-legged family members.

According to a Harris Poll, more and more families are considering pets as part of the family.

Almost nine in ten (88%) pet owners say their pet is a member of their family with just seven percent saying no. Women are more likely than men to believe this (93% versus 84%). Dog owners are slightly more likely (93%) than cat owners (89%) to consider their pets members of their family.

Just under two-thirds (63%) of Americans currently have a pet. Certain groups are more likely to have pets than others. Women are more likely then men (68% versus 57%) and Gen Xers (those aged 31-42) and Baby Boomers (those aged 43-61) are more likely (71% and 67% respectively) to have pets then the younger and older generations. Regionally, those in the Midwest are most likely (67%) to have one while those in the East are least likely (58%) to have a pet.

Dog people outnumber cat people among U.S. pet owners. Seven in ten pet owners have a dog compared to just over half (52%) who have a cat. One in six (15%) have fish while seven percent have a bird and 12 percent have some other type of pet. Baby Boomers are more likely to have a dog (74%) while Gen Xers are more likely to have fish (21%).

Just over one-third (35%) of pet owners have one pet while one-quarter (25%) have two. Lesser numbers have three (13%), four (7%) and five (6%) while 13 percent of pet owners have six or more pets. Mature pet owners (those aged 62 and older) are more likely to just have one pet (42%) while Gen Xers are more likely to have three or more pets.

If pets are members of the family, then they are entitled to certain things and pet owners make sure their pets get these things. Over two-thirds (69%) of pet owners let their pets sleep in the bed with them, with women more likely then men to share their bed with their pet (72% versus 64%). Gen Xers are also more likely to share their bed as almost three-quarters (74%) let their pet sleep with them. Also, cats are more likely to get on the bed then dogs (78% versus 70%).

Pet owners are also present buyers. Almost two-thirds (65%) have bought their pet a holiday present and over one-third (37%) have bought their pet a birthday present. Dogs get presents more than cats do. Seven in ten (71%) of dog owners have bought their pet a holiday present compared to 63 percent of cat owners. The same is true for birthday presents as 42 percent of dog owners have gotten a present for their pet compared to one-third (33%) of cat owners.

Further down on the list of what people do for their pets is cooking especially for them (23% of pet owners have done so), dressing them in some type of clothing (18%) and being taken to work (10%). Cooking for your pet is something one does as they get older as three in ten (31%) of mature pet owners have cooked especially for their pet compared to just 14 percent of Echo Boomers (those aged 18-30) who have pets. While dogs may get more presents, cats may get the last laugh. Only 14 percent of cat owners have dressed their pet in some type of clothing compared to almost one-quarter (23%) of dog owners.

Photo: bothhands

13 Responses to “Growing Trend Of Pets Becoming Part Of Family”

  1. Tanya says:

    Maybe I’m totally out of touch, but i just can’t imagine “fish” as “pets”.

  2. Jodie says:

    I agree…if you can’t “pet” it then it’s not a pet!!

  3. Nora and Rufus says:

    Rufus (young dog) and Toonces (old cat) are the only real companions I need (I have discovered) and will be moving into my OWN purchased home with just the two of them in Mid December. We will be QUITE HAPPY, Thankyou!!!! We are definitely family.

  4. Bridgett says:

    Oh, I beg to differ. Fish can very much be companions and pets.

    I worked for two months up in Anchorage, Alaska. I didn’t want to put my cats through the stress of a long flight and new surroundings so I left them at home with their “Auntie” Renee to take care of them.

    Let me tell you, was I miserable without them. Being in a hotel room without someone to greet me and keep my company was terrible. So much so that I went looking for a pet. I decided adopting a cat and/or a dog just wasn’t feasible so I went to Walmart and got a fish, a Siamese Fight fish (betta). His name was Francois. I put his bowl on the coffee table so we could watch TV together.

    That was all I needed. Once little Francois was there, that hotel room became my home for two months. When it came time for me to go home, I put him in a plastic container and he went home in my carry-on bag. I had him for 3 years, which is a long life for a betta.

    And as of this moment, there is another betta, by the name of Orlando (as in Orlando Bloom) who is calling my cubicle here at work home. He is my little bud and provides a sense of peace in a stressful environment.

    Fish can definitely be companions.

  5. KarlaSanDiego says:

    Ok, whatever Bridgett.
    Nora: I totally agree with you. I have two adorable little kitties who are my babies. I live for them. My boyfriend does not get the connection people have with their loved animals.
    Unlike people, pets offer sweet, tender, innocent, unconditional love at all times. It’s a love like no other.
    Good for you! I wish you all the best in your new home….just in time for the Holidays. Cheers!

  6. G in INdiana says:

    Nice attitude Karla. Sheesh.
    I second the fish as pets thing.
    We have a 8 year old pleco who comes to the top of his tank home when we call his name. He is called Fish. We trained him just like we trained our dogs, by calling his name and giving him a treat of his food.

  7. Velvet's Dad says:

    Does it really matter either way? When I was a kid I had a pet hamster, Edgar. Since hamsters are nocturnal animals, I took him everywhere (well, not everywhere) with me as he mostly slept in my shirt pocket. We had dogs but they all “belonged” to the family. Edgar was mine alone and I think the first animal I really became attached to.

    Suffice to say as an adult I love all animals. If the animal happens to be your companion, then I think it follows that the animal can be considered a pet. No?

  8. Lynn says:

    Yes, “Velvet’s Dad,” anything living that is not human but cherished, whether pettable or not, is considered a “pet” [in my book, at least].

    Nora and Rufus [and Toonces, too]: What a great way to get a jump start on the new year!

    Let me put forth this question for everyone:

    As a pet-loving adult, can you see yourself living with a spouse or significant other who DOESN’T care for pets?

  9. Velvet's Dad says:

    Well said, Lynn. No, I can’t.

  10. Mike S. says:

    Now can someone do a poll on responsible pet owners?

    I’d like to see how many pet owners follow the law and keep their dogs properly restrained (leash or fenced in yard) and how many let their dogs run loose around the neighborhood.

    And how many pet owners actually take their pet to the vet. Are cat and dog owners more likely to take their pets versus fish and other small animals? (Who takes a fish to the vet anyway? Don’t answer that.)

    And how many pet owners have hit their dogs or cats to punish them thinking that these animals will actually learn from that?

    I think a study and poll like this would be far more useful.

    I bet the majority of pet owners are irresponsible and don’t deserve to have a pet. This has certainly been my experience. I would say that maybe more than 70% of pet owners I’ve come in contact with don’t deserve to have a pet (or children).

  11. Lynn says:

    Mike S:

    Surely such a poll would produce very interesting results…..IF the negligent ones would respond. Which is doubtful.

    I’m fortunate to live in an area where we are crazy about animals and the vast majority of fur parents are very responsible. Our police department enforces the leash laws and clean up laws if necessary, but quite frankly, the police are rarely involved. We pet guardians are pretty well behaved here.

    But I don’t delude myself into thinking every city is like mine. I know better; I travel a lot on business and I see the other side. But I ask myself, “If the people in my city treat their pets like family, respect the animal-related laws, make sure their pets have medical treatment, lobby for and get bark parks, why can’t this be so in other cities?”

    If I had to move, I’d do some serious checking BEFORE I moved to make sure the new city’s attitude was the same as where I live now.

    I know what you mean when you say that more than 70% of pet owners don’t deserve to have pets. I agree. But maybe our standards are too high. I don’t think so…..but I’m sure others do.

  12. KarlaSanDiego says:

    G in INdiana - I apologize. you’re right. Fish can be nice pets.

    Mike- - I couldn’t have said it any better. I see irresponsible pet care everywhere I look. Many pet owners have no right. They are ignorant, selfish, have no patience or understanding of caring for a pet.

    I don’t have children so my little kitties are precious and spoiled with enough love for 100 kitties. I wish people would stop taking out their aggessions on animals and that they first understand the enormous responsiblity of an animal before buying or adopting one.

    And I must add: people need to “learn how’ to be a better pet owner because if a pet is being destructive or difficult in any way, it’s usually because the owner isn’t doing something right or providing the right environment. And instead of trying to find a solution, the owner would rather throw out the pet with the dishwater. It saddens me.

  13. Max says:

    As I read the comments above I was surprised that more people didn’t actually respond to the actual premise - are pets family members?

    Pets are cherished, to be sure but they are still our property. As such they deserve our gentle care and concern - we make the choices for them that they cannot - right down to the pet food we purchase for them.

    I own my pets, and the people I know who also own pets love and care for them - respecting their unique status in the home.

    Unlike Mike S - i think most people do take good care of their pets - I also believe the ‘animal overpopulation’ bad owners equation is being blown out of proportion, ugly propaganda from various fund raising organizations to line their pockets with pet lovers money.

    Good book on that topic is “Redemption” by N. Winograd.

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