In this article, we focus on pet ownership. The topic was approached through an online survey conducted on the questia.ro platform. The research study was active between February 5thand February 6th, 2019 and covered 998 respondents, with a +/- 3% margin of error when reported to the Romanian online population.

A Ball of Fur to Love

A century ago, animals served a more utilitarian role in our lives. Nowadays, we study human-animal bonding and interaction, we actually talk with our pets and we treat them as family. How did that shift happen?

Many studies point out that pets and owning a pet have benefits on human health such as lowering blood pressure and reducing anxiety, helping children’s emotional development, decreasing stress and reducing pain in people who suffer from cancer and terminal illnesses and even contributing to living longer by lowering the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

However, it’s quite a challenge to measure the positive impact of pets and not be biased. Most evidence regarding the benefits of owning a pet come from studies who research the current health state of the respondents, which means it’s impossible to detect if a person has a good health because they have a pet or if a person is more likely to own a pet simply because they are in a good health shape. A person who isn’t in a very good health state might decide he/she doesn’t have the time nor necessary money to care for a pet. Furthermore, pet owners who love their pets are more tempted to give the research the impression that their pets improved their lives.

Another issue circles around the definition of the word “pet”. Does a parrot, a hamster or a fish have the same health benefits as a golden retriever? Most studies focus on the benefits of owning dogs and pets which makes quite difficult the process of drawing a conclusion of the health benefits of other pets such as lizards, birds, hamsters or others. Moreover, the amount of time spent with the pet is also influenced by the type of pet. Just how much time can you stare at an aquarium or talk to your fish? Thus, this could in turn influence the health benefits of having a pet, as well.

Furthermore, for every paper that highlights the health benefits of owning a pet, many others report there is no effect or even negative effects, but these don’t make the headlines, as the bias is in favor of the good news.

On another note, people sometimes joke about their pets being their “baby”. For millennials, as it seems, pets have become a replacement for children or even love partners for many young singles. This might be because millennials (the generation born between ’80 and 2000) are half as likely to be married or living with their partner than they were 50 years ago. They are also delaying parenthood and demanding flexible work schedules, all of these being translated into higher rates of pet ownership.

Furthermore, pets are not just simple animals anymore. Approximately 90% of those who own animals consider their pet to be a part of their family.

Some fun facts about pet ownership around the world:

  • 🐟 Fish are the most popular pet in the UK
  • 🐶 Americans spend over $50 billion per annum on their pets
  • 📸 27% of American pet owners admit to having had professional photographs taken of their pets
  • 🎁 36% of Americans give their dog birthday presents
  • 👶 9 in 10 Americans say they consider their pet to be a part of their family
  • 🐈 More than half of all Americans have a dog or a cat in their home
  • 🐇 Pet ownership in the US has more than tripled since the 1970s
  • 😆 Half of all pet owners in the USA admit to talking to their pets
  • 🐕 While Switzerland’s dog population is shrinking, India has the fastest growing dog population in the world
  • 🐕 Norwegians spend the most money feeding their dogs, totaling roughly $629 a year, while Vietnamese spend the least
  • 🐕 Brazil has the highest number of small dogs per capita in the world
  • 🐦 68% of New Zealand households own a pet, higher than any other country on the planet
  • 🐕 Saudi Arabia has the world’s highest proportion of big dogs, with 70% of their dog population belonging to a large breed
  • 🐇 83% of Australians have had a pet at some point in their lives
  • 🐱 92% of Australians cats and 76% of dogs are kept indoors

Digging for Bones

According to American Pet Products Association's 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey, 68% of Americans are pet owners. Moreover, the most popular species is the dog, with almost half of the U.S. population owning one, followed by cat with 38% and freshwater fish with 10%.

On a global note however, it has been reported that 57% of consumers worldwide own pets, dogs being the most popular pet (owned by 33% of respondents), with cats next at 23%, followed by fish (12%), birds (6%) and other pet types (6%).

It has also been reported that Romania has the world’s most balanced pet population, with 45% of households owning dogs and 45% of households owning cats. Let’s dive into the results.

From our research, we found out that 86.8% of respondents (4 out of 5) are pet owners. Three-quarters of them (75.8%) are dog owners, while 61.3% are cat owners. A little more than a quarter (26.6%) own parrots, while almost a quarter (24.8%) own freshwater fish. Some respondents also preferred to adopt hamsters (15.1%), rabbits (14.1%) or turtles (9.9%) as pets.

Next, we wanted to find out from where respondents procure the food for their pets. It seems that a little more than half of them (54.8%) buy food from pet shops, followed by supermarkets (43.4%) or hypermarkets (41.9%). Some also choose the small stores from their neighborhood (17.6%) or even cook it themselves (14.6%). A few respondents choose to buy the food from the internet (12.8%), most of them having 25-34 years old.

Almost three quarters of our pet owners have procured a health card for their pet, while 64.9% admit their pet wasn’t implanted with a microchip.  

More than half of our pet owners (63.8%) are the ones responsible for their pets, while a little more than a quarter (26.2%) let their family in charge. Moreover, some (7.4%) also let their partner take care of their pet.

One in three respondents adopted their pet from friends who had puppies or adopted/rescued a pet from the street. Almost one quarter (22.5%) bought their pet from a store, while some chose to buy a thoroughbred from a kennel (9%) or to buy the pet from their friends or family (8.9%).

Two out of five respondents spend up to 2 hours per day with their pet, while a quarter (25.8%) admit to spending between 2 and 4 daily hours with their pet. Furthermore, 31.1% said they spend more than 4 hours on a daily basis with their pet.  

In the end, we wanted to find out if respondents perceive their pets as family members and as the data shows, most of them (88%) seem to do so.

No one appreciates the very special genius of your conversation as your pet does.

- adaptation from Christopher Morley's quote

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