Pets Rule

Do pets drive you crazy? If so, life isn’t getting better for you anytime soon. Check this out: According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are just over 300 million people in America; and according to the just released 2007/2008 American Pet Product Manufacturer’s Association (APPMA) National Pet Owners Survey, there are more than 245 million pets (not counting all the individual fish in tanks). In other words, there are nearly as many pets as people.

Actually, far more people have pets than kids. The U.S. Census Bureau says 31 percent of households have a child under age 18, and according to the APPMA, 63 percent of households have at least one pet.

In fact, Americans spend more money on pets than on hardware, jewelry or even toys, according to Bob Vetere, president of the APPMA. Spending $41 billion, pets are the eighth largest retail category. That’s up from 38.5 billion dollars devoted to pet food, toys and various products in 2005.

“For most Americans, pets have become a part of our lives,” he says. “And we must enjoy it because the trend is growing.” Vetere points out that as the economy has hit bumps in the road since September 11, 2001, spending on furry, feathered and scaly friends has consistently maintained steady growth and hasn’t looked back.

In fact, the scaly friends, reptiles, as a group have increased 22 percent in popularity since the last Pet Owners Survey 2005/2006. Today, 13.5 million people proudly say they have at least one cold-blooded friend. Vetere says lots of factors account for reptiles’ rise in popularity, including glamorization from TV shows and even commercials, and perhaps maintaining a link to nature in an urban environment (most reptile owners live in big cities). Also, reptiles don’t miss their people who may be too busy to keep a cat or a dog.

If they’re not downright domesticated, many reptile choices are tame, maybe even “personable.” That’s because some species are bred for temperament, making them easy and enjoyable to manage as pets ” including the leopard gecko, corn snake and bearded dragon lizard.

Still, no matter how you slice it ” only a limited number of pet lovers want to cozy up to a lizard or a snake. Of course, cats and dogs still rule. Cats remain the most popular of all pets, with 88 million in the U.S. This is a rare drop in pet numbers in any single category – there were 90 million pet cats in the 2005/2006 survey. However, Vetere points out that today there are actually more households with cats than the last survey (38.5 million, compared 37.5 million) but fewer cats per home (an average of 2.3 cats down from 2.4 in the last survey).

Dog ownership increased 1.2 percent from the 2005/2006 survey, to a current 75 million. Also, the number of dog-owning homes increased to 45 million (from 43.5 million). The average number of dogs is 1.7 per home, remaining stable from the last survey.

While other studies cite shelter adoptions of dogs on the rise, the APPMA survey indicates it has fallen from 16 percent to currently ten percent. Most people get their dogs from breeders (29 percent), 27 percent are given a puppy by a friend or relative, 14 percent go to newspaper ads for a pooch, and seven percent choose pet stores.

Again, differing from others sources, the APPMA report indicates most people get cats from a friend or relative, a significant 43 percent. Only 23 percent choose to get a cat directly from a shelter, or pet stores adopting shelter cats. Nearly a third of all cats pretty much choose their people by just showing up at the door.

While nearly one third of all cats spend significant time outdoors, there’s a definite trend to keep cats inside. The number of cats kept only indoors increased about ten percent from the prior survey to 63 percent.

Not only are more dogs than ever inside only; they’re inside the bedroom. In record numbers, dogs are sharing our beds ” and it seems where they sleep is, in part, dependent on size. 37 percent of large dogs, 33 percent of medium sized dogs, and more than half of all small dogs share a bed with a household member.

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