More Than Ever, Pets are Members of the Family

Three in five Americans currently have a pet, and they show their love in some interesting ways

01:00 PM EDT Jul 16, 2015 Rating
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More Than Ever, Pets are Members of the Family

New York, N.Y. — Whether furry, feathered or flippers a-flapping, Americans continue to display close relationships with their pets. 2015 is expected to continue the pet industry’s more than two-decades-strong growth trend – and why shouldn’t it?

More than three in five Americans (62%) have at least one pet in their household, with ownership highest among the two youngest generations tested (65% among Millennials, 71% among Gen X). What’s more, nearly all pet owners (95%, up 4 points from 2012 and 7 points since the question was first asked in 2007) consider their pets to be members of the family – and the behaviors backing up this claim could well be helping along those aforementioned great (sales) expectations:

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,205 U.S. adults, of whom 1,323 have at least one pet, surveyed online between May 20 and 26, 2015.

Americans with kids in the household are more likely to have at least one pet than those without (73% vs. 57%) – and kids in those households may themselves be more likely to be the pet owners of the future, as Americans who had a pet when they were growing up are more likely than those who didn’t to have one now (66% vs. 41%).

Who’s top dog

When it comes to what pets are in these households, dogs come out on top with 71% of pet owners saying they have at least one dog; half (49%) have cats, while one in ten have fish (11%) and less than one in ten pet owners have a bird (8%) or some other type of pet (9%).

The majority of dog owners have just one pooch in the house (61%), and the average number of dogs in these households is 1.6. Cat owners are somewhat less likely to limit their home to just one kitty (53%), and the average number of cats under those roofs is 2.0.

Showing the love

In addition to the aforementioned growing percentages of pet owners frequently or occasionally buying birthday presents for their pets (45%) and cooking for them (31%), majorities of pet owners frequently or occasionally let their pets sleep in bed with them (71%) and buy them holiday presents (64%). Just over two in ten at least occasionally dress their pet in some type of clothing (22%), while just over one in ten at least occasionally bring their pets to work (12%).

Of course, pet owners also show their love through their wallets, reporting that they spend nearly a combined $1,200 per year on food/treats ($476.6), medical costs ($425.7), pet sitting/boarding ($128.5), toys ($63.7) and other equipment ($97.4). Women spend more on these items and services for their pets than men (nearly $1,400 vs. less than $1,000).

Pet protection

Over one in ten pet owners (12%) have taken out health/medical insurance policies or any of the pets they own.

 

 

TABLE 1a

HAVING A PET - TREND

“Do you currently have a pet?”

Base:  All Adults

 

2007

2011

2012

2015

%

%

%

%

Yes

63

62

60

62

No

37

38

40

38


TABLE 1b

WHICH AMERICANS HAVE PETS?

“Do you currently have a pet?”

Percent answering “Yes”

Base:  All Adults

 

Total 2015

%

All Adults

62

Gender

 

     Men

60

     Women

63

Region

 

     East

60

     Midwest

57

     South

63

     West

66

Metro Status

 

     Urban

57

     Suburban

61

     Rural

70

Age

 

     Millennials (18-37)

65

     Gen X (38-49)

71

     Baby Boomers (50-68)

59

     Matures (69+)

41

Children (<18) in Household

 

     Yes

73

     No

57

Had a Pet Growing Up

 

     Yes

66

     No

41

Political Party

 

     Republicans

68

     Democrats

59

     Independents

60

Income/Household

 

     $34,999 or less

54

     $35,000 – $49,999

64

     $50,000 – $74,999

65

     $75,000 – $99,999

66

     $100,000+

68


 

TABLE 2

TYPE OF PET

“What type of pet do you have?”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total 2007 

Total 2011

Total 2012

2015

Total

Dog owners

Cat owners

%

%

%

%

%

%

Dog

70

69

67

71

100

49

Cat

52

51

52

49

34

100

Fish

15

11

12

11

11

10

Bird

7

7

7

8

8

9

Other

12

8

9

9

7

10

Note: Multiple responses allowed

 

TABLE 3

NUMBER OF PETS

“How many of each type of pet do you have?”

Base:  Has the type of pet specified

 

Dog(s)

Cat(s)

Bird(s)*

Fish

Other

%

%

%

%

%

1

61

53

53

25

47

2

27

29

23

13

19

3

7

8

11

9

12

4

3

4

9

13

7

5

2

2

3

10

6

6 or more

1

3

5

31

10

MEAN

1.6

2.0

2.8

7.5

2.9

Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

*Low base (N<100); results should be interpreted as directional in nature

 

TABLE 4

PET AS MEMBER OF FAMILY

By Year & Type of Pet

“Do you consider your pet(s) to be a member of your family?”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total

2007

Total

2011

Total

 2012

Total

2015

Type of Pet

Dog

Cat

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

88

91

91

95

96

93

No

7

7

6

4

3

5

Not sure

4

2

3

1

1

2

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

  

TABLE 5

THINGS PET OWNERS DO FOR THEIR PETS

“How often have you done any of the following?”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Frequently/ Occasionally
(NET)

Frequently

Occasionally

Rarely/Never
(NET)

Rarely

Never

Not
sure

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Allowed my pet to sleep in the bed with me

71

54

18

28

10

18

*

Bought my pet a holiday present

64

36

28

36

15

21

*

Bought my pet a birthday present

45

24

21

55

14

41

*

Cooked especially for my pet

31

11

20

69

19

49

*

Dressed my pet in some type of clothing

22

7

14

78

21

57

*

Took my pet to work with me

12

7

5

88

9

79

*

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

* signifies less than 1%

 

TABLE 6a

THINGS PET OWNERS DO FOR THEIR PETS – TREND

“How often have you done any of the following?”

Percent saying “Frequently” or “Occasionally”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total 2007

Total 2011

Total 2012

Total 2015

%

%

%

%

 

Allowed my pet to sleep in the bed with me

69

70

67

71

 

Bought my pet a holiday present

65

60

61

64

 

Bought my pet a birthday present

37

36

40

45

 

Cooked especially for my pet

23

24

24

31

 

Dressed my pet in some type of clothing

18

16

19

22

 

Took my pet to work with me

10

11

10

12

 

 


TABLE 6b

THINGS PET OWNERS DO FOR THEIR PETS

By Generation, Gender, Children in Household & Type of Pet

“How often have you done any of the following?”

Percent saying “Frequently” or “Occasionally”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total 2015

Generation

Gender

Children (<18) in HH

Type of Pet

Millennials (18-37)

Gen X (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-8)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

Dog

Cat

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Allowed my pet to sleep in the bed with me

71

73

68

72

71

69

73

68

74

73

81

Bought my pet a holiday present

64

67

61

64

56

58

70

69

61

70

61

Bought my pet a birthday present

45

54

40

42

27

45

44

47

43

52

40

Cooked especially for my pet

31

32

27

32

36

29

33

32

30

38

26

Dressed my pet in some type of clothing

22

31

19

14

13

21

22

31

16

28

19

Took my pet to work with me

12

16

11

11

3

16

9

14

11

16

11

 


TABLE 7

PET HEALTH/MEDICAL INSURANCE

By Generation, Gender, Children in Household & Type of Pet

“Do you have a health/medical insurance policy for any of the pets you own?”

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children (<18) in HH

Type of Pet

Millennials (18-37)

Gen X (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

Dog

Cat

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

%

Yes

12

19

9

8

9

15

9

16

10

15

11

No

88

81

91

92

91

85

91

84

90

85

89

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 8

ANNUAL SPENDING ON PETS

By Generation, Gender, Children in Household & Type of Pet

“Approximately how much would you estimate you spend annually on your pets in each of the following categories? Please enter your response to the nearest dollar.”

Summary of Mea Annual Spending

Base:  Has a pet

 

Total

Generation

Gender

Children (<18) in HH

Type of Pet

Millennials (18-37)

Gen X (38-49)

Baby Boomers (50-68)

Matures (69+)

Male

Female

Yes

No

Dog

Cat

Food/Treats

476.6

422.8

460.3

573.3

382.3

360.9

578.4

558.3

429.6

535.9

529.9

Medical costs (e.g., vet appointments, medications, procedures)

425.7

358.0

358.4

567.1

376.5

377.0

468.5

349.4

472.5

477.3

390.0

Pet sitting/boarding

128.5

118.1

82.9

177.8

120.3

92.0

160.6

129.1

128.7

159.8

113.6

Toys

63.7

80.9

57.8

55.3

35.1

61.3

65.9

70.8

59.7

66.9

58.5

Other equipment (e.g., habitats, collars, litter)

97.4

107.5

93.9

97.1

60.6

82.0

110.9

103.9

93.4

71.8

136.9

TOTAL

1191.9

1015.8

1053.3

1470.6

974.8

973.2

1384.3

1211.5

1183.9

1311.7

1228.9

Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

 

TABLE 9

HAD A PET WHEN GROWING UP

“Did you have a pet when you were growing up?”

Base:  All Adults

 

Total

%

Yes

84

No

16


Methodology

This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between May 20 and 26, 2015 among 2,225 adults (aged 18 and over) of whom 1,323 have a pet. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online. 

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #41, July 16, 2015

By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®

Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world. The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public. New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly. 

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