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Reference Desk June 2011

Pets Really Are Members of the Family

    Three in five Americans are pet owners

    NEW YORK, June 10, 2011Americans 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.

    TABLE 1
    HAVING A PET
    "Do you currently have a pet?"
    Respondents answering "yes"


    Base:  All Adults

     
     

    Total 2007

    Total 2011

     
     

    %

    %

     

    All Adults

    63

    62

     

    Gender

         

        Men

    57

    55

     

        Women

    68

    69

     

    Region

         

        East

    58

    61

     

        Midwest

    67

    54

     

        South

    63

    66

     

        West

    63

    65

     

    Age

         

        Echo Boomers (18-34)

    59

    63

     

        Gen X (35-46)

    71

    70

     

        Baby Boomers (47-65)

    67

    63

     

        Matures (66+)

    50

    46

     

    Race/Ethnicity

         

        White

    67

    66

     

        African-American

    35

    32

     

        Hispanic

    68

    65

     

    Education

         

        High School or less

    66

    64

     

        Some college

    64

    64

     

        College graduate

    57

    59

     

        Post graduate

    54

    56

     

    Income/Household

         

        $34,999 or less

    60

    57

     

        $35,000 – $49,999

    56

    62

     

        $50,000 – $74,999

    67

    63

     

        $75,000 – $99,999

    NA

    64

     

        $100,000+

    NA

    66

     
           

    Party ID

         

        Republican

    66

    64

     

        Democrat

    60

    61

     

        Independent

    62

    61

     

    Note: In 2007, the data for respondents with an income of over $74,999 was broken out differently.

     
         

     

    TABLE 2
    TYPE OF PET
    "What type of pet do you have?"


    Base:  Has a pet

     
     

    Total

    2007

    Total 2011

    Generation

     

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Dog

    70

    69

    73

    65

    69

    66

     

    Cat

    52

    51

    52

    56

    51

    42

     

    Fish

    15

    11

    15

    12

    6

    11

     

    Bird

    7

    7

    8

    7

    4

    16

     

    Other

    12

    8

    9

    12

    4

    5

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding and because multiple responses were allowed

     
                 

     

    TABLE 3
    NUMBER OF PETS
    "How many of each type of pet do you have?"


    Base:  Has a pet

     
     

    Dog(s)

    Cat(s)

    Bird(s)

    Fish

    Other

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    1

    63

    47

    61

    23

    62

     

    2

    25

    30

    18

    19

    18

     

    3

    8

    11

    8

    10

    11

     

    4

    2

    6

    2

    9

    2

     

    5

    *

    2

    -

    7

    1

     

    6 or more

    2

    5

    10

    32

    6

     

    Note: Respondents were asked the number of each pet they have only if they have that type of pet;

    Percentages  may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

    * Signifies less than 1%; - Signifies no response

     
               

     

    TABLE 4
    PET AS MEMBER OF FAMILY
    "Do you consider your pet to be a member of your family?"


    Base:  Has a pet

     
     

    Total

    2007

    Total 2011

    Gender

    Has a pet

     

    Male

    Female

    Dog

    Cat

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Yes

    88

    91

    85

    95

    92

    91

     

    No

    7

    7

    12

    3

    6

    6

     

    Not sure

    4

    2

    3

    2

    2

    3

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

     
                 

     

    TABLE 5
    THINGS PET OWNERS DO FOR THEIR PETS
    "How often have you done any of the following?"


    Base:  Has a pet

     
     

    Frequently/ Occasionally

    (NET)

    Frequently

    Occasionally

    Rarely/

    Never

    (NET)

    Rarely

    Never

    Not

    sure

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Allowed my pet to

    sleep in the bed

    with me

    70

    57

    13

    30

    7

    23

    *

     

    Bought my pet a

    holiday present

    60

    33

    27

    40

    13

    27

    *

     

    Bought my pet a

    birthday present

    36

    20

    17

    63

    14

    49

    1

     

    Cooked especially

    for my pet

    24

    12

    13

    75

    17

    59

    *

     

    Dressed my pet in

    some type of clothing

    16

    6

    10

    84

    17

    66

    *

     

    Took my pet to work with me

    11

    5

    5

    89

    6

    83

    *

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

    * signifies less than 1%

     
                   

     

    TABLE 6
    THINGS PET OWNERS DO FOR THEIR PETS – BY GENDER AND GENERATION
    "How often have you done any of the following?"
    Those saying "Frequently/Occasionally"


    Base:  Has a pet

     
     

    Total

    2007

    Total 2011

    Gender

    Generation

    Has a pet

     

    Male

    Female

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

    Dog

    Cat

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Allowed my pet to sleep in the bed with me

    69

    70

    67

    72

    76

    67

    68

    67

    70

    82

     

    Bought my pet a holiday present

    65

    60

    56

    63

    66

    62

    57

    47

    65

    56

     

    Bought my pet a birthday present

    37

    36

    41

    33

    50

    34

    29

    27

    41

    32

     

    Cooked especially for my pet

    23

    24

    27

    22

    29

    13

    28

    29

    30

    19

     

    Dressed my pet in some type of clothing

    18

    16

    17

    15

    28

    9

    13

    9

    21

    11

     

    Took my pet to work with me

    10

    11

    17

    6

    21

    7

    7

    3

    14

    9

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

     
                         

     

    TABLE 7
    SUPPORT FOR DOGS IN PUBLIC PLACES
    "Some people say spending time with pets, particularly dogs, can have various health benefits including helping to relieve stress and anger. As such, some institutions keep dogs for people to play with and care for.  Do you think that it's a good idea or a bad idea to have dogs for these reasons in the following places?"


    Base:  All Adults

     
     

    Good Idea

    (NET)

    Very good idea

    Somewhat good idea

    Bad Idea

    (NET)

    Somewhat bad idea

    Very bad idea

    Not at all

    sure

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Long-term care facilities

    89

    71

    18

    8

    4

    3

    4

     

    Hospitals

    72

    43

    29

    23

    12

    11

    5

     

    Prisons

    60

    32

    29

    31

    13

    19

    8

     

    Professional offices

    41

    16

    25

    52

    25

    27

    7

     

    University libraries

    36

    15

    21

    55

    27

    27

    9

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

     
                   

     

    TABLE 8
    SUPPORT FOR DOGS IN PUBLIC PLACES – BY GENDER AND GENERATION
    "Some people say spending time with pets, particularly dogs, can have various health benefits including helping to relieve stress and anger. As such, some institutions keep dogs for people to play with and care for.  Do you think that it's a good idea or a bad idea to have dogs for these reasons in the following places?"
    Those saying "Very good idea/somewhat good idea"


    Base:  All Adults

     
     

    Total

    Gender

    Generation

     

    Male

    Female

    Echo Boomers (18-34)

    Gen X (35-46)

    Baby Boomers (47-65)

    Matures (66+)

     

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

    %

     

    Long-term care facilities

    89

    86

    91

    90

    88

    89

    89

     

    Hospitals

    72

    70

    74

    76

    72

    71

    68

     

    Prisons

    60

    55

    65

    64

    52

    62

    62

     

    Professional offices

    41

    38

    43

    53

    44

    35

    26

     

    University libraries

    36

    32

    40

    41

    42

    34

    25

     

    Note: Percentages may not add up exactly to 100 percent due to rounding

     
                   

     

    Methodology
    This Harris Poll was conducted online within the United States between May 9 to 16, 2011 among 2,184 adults (aged 18 and over), of whom 1,328 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, Harris Interactive 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 Interactive 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 the Harris Interactive 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 Harris Interactive.

    J40013

    Q805, 810, 815, 820, 825, 828

    The Harris Poll® #70, June 10, 2011

    By Regina A. Corso, SVP, Harris Poll, Public Relations and Youth Research, Harris Interactive

    About Harris Interactive
    Harris Interactive
    is one of the world's leading custom market research firms, leveraging research, technology, and business acumen to transform relevant insight into actionable foresight. Known widely for the Harris Poll and for pioneering innovative research methodologies, Harris offers expertise in a wide range of industries including healthcare, technology, public affairs, energy, telecommunications, financial services, insurance, media, retail, restaurant, and consumer package goods. Serving clients in over 215 countries and territories through our North American, European, and Asian offices and a network of independent market research firms, Harris specializes in delivering research solutions that help us – and our clients – stay ahead of what's next. For more information, please visit www.harrisinteractive.com.

    Source: Harris Interactive

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