New Harris poll shows pets are members of the family (duh)

NEW YORK, June 10, 2011 /PRNewswire/ Americans have always had interesting relationships with their pets – whether that pet is a cat, dog, parakeet or something else. The pet industry is thriving and for good reason. More than three in five Americans (62%) have a pet. Among pet owners, seven in ten have a dog (69%), half have a cat (51%), one in ten have a fish (11%), and less than one in ten pet owners have a bird (7%) or some other type of pet (8%).

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll of 2,184 adults surveyed online between May 9 and 16, 2011 by Harris Interactive.

Pets are family members

Over nine in ten pet owners (91%) say they consider their pet to be a member of their family —a sentiment that remains constant among dog-owners (92%) and cat-owners (91%).  And pet owners do things to show their Cocker Spaniel, Calico or Cock-a-too that they care.  Over half of pet owners (57%) say they frequently let their pet sleep in the bed with them while less than one-quarter (23%) say they never do this.

Pets also get presents. One-third of pet owners (33%) frequently purchase holiday presents for their pet, while one-quarter (27%) occasionally do so. And these gifts are not just at holiday time as one in five pet owners (20%) frequently buy their pets birthday presents and while 17% do so occasionally. Pets are probably happy that their owners don’t do two things: two-thirds of pet owners (66%) say they have never dressed their pet in some type of clothing and four in five (83%) say they have never taken their pet to work with them. If the dog or cat goes to work, how will they spend the day lying around on the couch!

Pets are more than just members of the family

There have been a lot of discussions recently about how spending time with pets, particularly dogs, can have various health benefits including helping to relieve stress and anger.  Some institutions actually keep dogs for people to play with and care for to help reduce stress and/or anger. Majorities of Americans believe it’s a good idea to have dogs at long-term care facilities (89%), hospitals (72%) and prisons (60%). However not all places may be appropriate pet places as majorities of U.S. adults believe it is a bad idea to have dogs at professional offices (52%) and university libraries (55%).

So What?

There is nothing like the unconditional love of a pet, whether it is a cat that snuggles up to you while watching TV or a dog who greets you so enthusiastically when you walk in the door, even if you just left to take out the garbage. It’s no wonder that these animals are treated like family members. The pet industry understands this and capitalizes on it, creating a vast market of holiday gifts, gourmet dog and cat food and designer clothing and accessories all for our furry friends.

For the full release and data, visit

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