Statistics reveal strength of human-animal bond

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Americans are spending more on pets than ever before, and individuals rank companionship, love, company, and affection as the number one benefit of owning a pet. These two statistics, from the National Pet Owners Study recently released by the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, are indicators of the strength of the human-animal bond.

The study provides information on pet ownership, pet care practices, and purchasing behavior with regard to pet-related products and services. It includes survey results from 2,233 pet owners in the United States, individuals who own dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, and other companion animals.

Among the notable statistics are that 74 percent of dog owners, 60 percent of cat owners, and 45 percent of bird owners considered their pet as a child or family member. Sixty-two percent of cat and dog owners said their pets helped them relax and relieved stress. And 59 percent of dog owners and 37 percent of cat owners thought their furry companions were good for their health and would help them live a longer life.

Survey respondents also listed downsides of owning a pet. The most commonly listed drawbacks were handling grief when a pet dies, cleaning up after pets, dealing with odor issues, finding care when away from home, and getting children to accept responsibility. These drawbacks were universal for all companion animal owners and remain unchanged from surveys done in previous years. The APPMA has conducted the survey every other year since 1988.

The study also analyzed financial aspects, and found that money spent on pets in the United States will have more than doubled from $17 billion in 1994 to a projected $35.9 billion for 2005. In 2004, pet owners in the United States spent $34.4 billion on their pets, making the pet industry larger than the toy industry, where spending was $20 billion. According to the study, in 2004, dog owners spent an average $211 on routine veterinary visits, and cat owners spent $179.

The upward trend in pet spending is expected to continue. In 2005, Americans are projected to spend $14.5 billion on pet food, $8.8 billion on pet supplies and over-the-counter medications, $8.6 billion on veterinary care, $1.6 billion on live animal purchases, and $2.4 billion on other pet-related services.

Bob Vetere, chief operating officer and managing director of APPMA, believes several factors are likely driving the increase in spending, including increased pet ownership and the growing belief that pets are a part of the family. Vetere added that baby boomers who are filling empty nests with pets are contributing to the growth within the industry. Young couples who are waiting until later in life to have children and, meanwhile, are spoiling the family pet is another factor.

"The strong growth in the industry demonstrates what an important role pets are playing in the lives of Americans," Vetere said. "They have become a part of the family."