By LuAnn McLain
Surveys about pet owners and their pets often provide interesting insight into how we pet owners see our companion animals. It can be entertaining to read through results and compare ourselves to the responses of the larger group.
In an effort to better understand the relationship between owner and pet, the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) conducted its ninth annual pet owner survey, which was completed during 1999. The approximately 1,200 pet owners in the U.S. and Canada who filled out the questionnaires were asked to fill them out because they took their pets to an AAHA member veterinarian. AAHA recently released the results.
After pet owners were asked to identify what kind of pets and how many of each they had, they were then asked to finish the questionnaire thinking only of one of those pets. Seventy-four percent picked a dog, while 25 percent picked a cat. That left only about 1 percent for all other pets.
Of the 1,200 filling out the questionnaire, 960 were women. About two-thirds of the total group were married and only one-third reported having children in the home. There were 40 states represented by the people in the survey and about 5 percent of the 1,200 were from Canada.
While looking at the results, keep in mind that those in the survey may not really represent the "average" pet owner. Those surveyed were at a veterinary hospital or a clinic where the veterinarian was a member of a specific organization. The high number of women and the fact that the majority of the responses relate to dogs also makes the group different than the average pet-owning population. Keeping that in mind, let's look at some of the reported results.
Even though only 1 percent of the pets in the survey had their own website, 84 pets of their owners refer to themselves as the pet's "Mom" and "Dad."
Sixty-three percent of pet owners recognized pet birthdays with special treats, wrapped gifts, singing happy birthday, etc. Almost 9 out of 10 pet owners said they include pets in the holidays by doing things such as hanging a Christmas stocking for the pet, giving a wrapped gift to or from a pet, giving the pet special treats, and having a photo taken of or with a pet.
When asked who the owner greeted first when coming home, almost 8 of every 10 agreed it was the pet, while only 13 percent of owners said they greeted the spouse or significant other first. Of course, the spouse or significant other is probably not as good at greeting the "homecomer" as eagerly as the pet is.
Almost half of the pet owners did wisely say that their spouse or significant other understood them best and only 31 percent reported that it was the pet that best understood. Only 34 percent said they talked to friends and coworkers about the pet the most, but that 34 percent was higher than any of the percentages in the other possible categories that included spouse, kids, friends, and family members.
It was gratifying to see that 8 of 10 respondents reported giving love to the pet as a reward for good behavior. About 6 out of 10 also give a food treat as a reward. We know pets often respond well to food treats, especially if used for shaping good behavior and the pet is not overfed.
More than half said they had taken time off work to attend a sick pet. Only one-third of those surveyed said they visited their own physician more often, leaving two-thirds to say they took the pet to the veterinarian more often than seeing their own doctor.
Almost all owners put love and attention as being among the steps they take to ensure the pet's quality of life. Eighty-two percent said they had the pet spayed or neutered and 76 percent said they gave the pet premium brands of pet food to ensure the pet's quality of life.
AAHA is an international organization with more than 17,000 members who treat companion animals. The majority of members are veterinarians. Among the remaining members are veterinary technicians, veterinary students, and veterinary hospital managers and administrators.
Have a happy week with your companion critters. If you would like to write to Pawsitively Pets, please send your letter to PO Box 1731, Havre, MT 59501.