Vetting Pets’ Owners

Pet owners are a breed apart. A newly released Associated Press/ poll examines some of their peculiar habits.

The findings indicate the extent to which owners see their pets as something more than dumb animals. Fifty percent agreed with the statement, “My pet is just as much a part of the family as any other person in the household”; 36 percent said it’s “part of the family, but not as much as the people in the household.” Just 13 percent said the pet “is part of my household but not part of my family.” In a further sign of many pets’ exalted status, 27 percent of respondents to the survey (conducted in May and June by GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media) said they celebrate the pet’s birthday “or the day it came to live with you.”

Marketers of pet foods aren’t just competing with one another for share of stomach, given the number of pets who chow down on human fare. When asked how often their pet eats “human food” instead of pet food, 27 percent of respondents said “never” and 30 percent “rarely.” But 31 percent answered “sometimes” and 12 percent “always.”

Then there’s clothing: 19 percent of owners said they’ve bought an outfit for their pet. Let’s hope it was to the animal’s taste. When asked whether they think their pet “has its own sense of style,” 43 percent of respondents said it does. (Note that 72 percent of respondents own a dog, 47 percent own a cat and 12 percent own fish, with single-digit percentages citing other species.)

The pet might have needed some travel attire, as 42 percent of owners said they’ve taken a pet on vacation with them. Seventeen percent have taken their pet to work with them; 16 percent have “taken it somewhere it isn’t allowed, like a hotel or store.”

Speaking of where pets are allowed, one of the poll’s questions asked owners to say where their pet sleeps. While 33 percent said it sleeps in its own bed or cage and 13 percent said it sleeps outdoors (with another 23 percent saying it sleeps “somewhere else”), 30 percent said it sleeps in the respondent’s bed.