More Than Ever, Pets are Members of the Family


Three in five Americans currently have a pet, and they show their love in some interesting ways.

NEW YORK, July 17, 2015 — Whether furry, feathered or flippers a-flapping, Americans continue to display close relationships with their pets. 2015 is expected to continue the pet industry’s more than two-decades-strong growth trend — and why shouldn’t it?

More than three in five Americans (62%) have at least one pet in their household, with ownership highest among the two youngest generations tested (65% among Millennials, 71% among Gen X). What’s more, nearly all pet owners (95%, up 4 points from 2012 and 7 points since the question was first asked in 2007) consider their pets to be members of the family – and the behaviors backing up this claim could well be helping along those aforementioned great (sales) expectations:

  • 45% of pet owners say they’ve frequently or occasionally bought birthday presents for their pets, up 5 points from 2012 and 8 points since 2007.
  • Three in ten (31%) say they frequently or occasionally cook especially for their pets, up 7 points since 2012 and 8 points since 2007.

These are some of the results of The Harris Poll® of 2,205 U.S. adults, of whom 1,323 have at least one pet, surveyed online between May 20 and 26, 2015. Full results of this study, including data tables, can be found here.

Americans with kids in the household are more likely to have at least one pet than those without (73% vs. 57%) – and kids in those households may themselves be more likely to be the pet owners of the future, as Americans who had a pet when they were growing up are more likely than those who didn’t to have one now (66% vs. 41%).

  • Congress’ ratings may be in the dog house, but looking at Americans by their political beliefs, Republicans may be more likely than either Democrats or Independents to have a dog house in their backyard as they’re more likely to have at least one pet in the household (68% Rep, 59% Dem, 60% Ind).

Who’s top dog
When it comes to what pets are in these households, dogs come out on top with 71% of pet owners saying they have at least one dog; half (49%) have cats, while one in ten have fish (11%) and less than one in ten pet owners have a bird (8%) or some other type of pet (9%).

  • Interestingly, dogs may have a leg up in “crossover” pet ownership as well: half (49%) of cat owners also say they have a dog, while only a third (34%) of dog owners also have a cat.

The majority of dog owners have just one pooch in the house (61%), and the average number of dogs in these households is 1.6. Cat owners are somewhat less likely to limit their home to just one kitty (53%), and the average number of cats under those roofs is 2.0.

Showing the love
In addition to the aforementioned growing percentages of pet owners frequently or occasionally buying birthday presents for their pets (45%) and cooking for them (31%), majorities of pet owners frequently or occasionally let their pets sleep in bed with them (71%) and buy them holiday presents (64%). Just over two in ten at least occasionally dress their pet in some type of clothing (22%), while just over one in ten at least occasionally bring their pets to work (12%).

  • Cat owners are more likely than dog owners to let their pets sleep on the bed (81% vs. 73%), but dog owners are more likely to “paws” and show their love in all of the other tested manners, including buying holiday (70% dog owners, 61% cat owners) and birthday (52% and 40%, respectively) presents and cooking for them (38% and 26%, respectively).
  • Women are more likely than men to say they at least occasionally buy their pets holiday presents (70% vs. 58%), while men are more likely to at least occasionally bring their pet to work (16% vs. 9%).
  • Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say they at least occasionally buy their pets birthday presents (54% vs. 40% Gen X, 42% Baby Boomers and 27% Matures) and dress their pets in some type of clothing (31% vs. 19%, 14% and 13%).

Of course, pet owners also show their love through their wallets, reporting that they spend nearly a combined $1,200 per year on food/treats ($476.6), medical costs ($425.7), pet sitting/boarding ($128.5), toys ($63.7) and other equipment ($97.4). Women spend more on these items and services for their pets than men (nearly $1,400 vs. less than $1,000).

Pet protection
Over one in ten pet owners (12%) have taken out health/medical insurance policies or any of the pets they own.

  • These policies are most common among Millennials (19%, vs. 9% Gen X, 8% Baby Boomers and 9% Matures).
  • Additionally, men (15%) are more likely than women (9%) to have such a policy.

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This Harris Poll was conducted online, in English, within the United States between May 20 and 26, 2015 among 2,225 adults (aged 18 and over) of whom 1,323 have a pet. Figures for age, sex, race/ethnicity, education, region and household income were weighted where necessary to bring them into line with their actual proportions in the population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents’ propensity to be online.

All sample surveys and polls, whether or not they use probability sampling, are subject to multiple sources of error which are most often not possible to quantify or estimate, including sampling error, coverage error, error associated with nonresponse, error associated with question wording and response options, and post-survey weighting and adjustments. Therefore, The Harris Poll avoids the words “margin of error” as they are misleading. All that can be calculated are different possible sampling errors with different probabilities for pure, unweighted, random samples with 100% response rates. These are only theoretical because no published polls come close to this ideal.

Respondents for this survey were selected from among those who have agreed to participate in Harris Poll surveys. The data have been weighted to reflect the composition of the adult population. Because the sample is based on those who agreed to participate in our panel, no estimates of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

These statements conform to the principles of disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

The results of this Harris Poll may not be used in advertising, marketing or promotion without the prior written permission of The Harris Poll.

The Harris Poll® #41, July 16, 2015
By Larry Shannon-Missal, Managing Editor, The Harris Poll

About The Harris Poll®
Begun in 1963, The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys measuring public opinion in the U.S. and is highly regarded throughout the world.  The nationally representative polls, conducted primarily online, measure the knowledge, opinions, behaviors and motivations of the general public.  New and trended polls on a wide variety of subjects including politics, the economy, healthcare, foreign affairs, science and technology, sports and entertainment, and lifestyles are published weekly.  For more information, or to see other recent polls, visit us at


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