New Survey Reveals that American Pet Owners are Top Dog

Have you made provisions for your pet in your will? Would you take care of your pet’s medical need over your own? Do you plan your vacation around the comfort and safety of your pet? If you’re saying yes to any of these questions, then you’re not alone. According to the American Pet Products Association’s (APPA) new 2009-2010 National Pet Owners Survey, more than three-quarters of dog, cat, bird, small animal and equine owners appreciate the companionship, love, company and affection their pets offer, with dogs and cats above others offering the benefit of being considered like a child/family member to their owners.

Since the inception of the APPA National Pet Owners Survey in 1988, dogs and cats have accounted for more than two-thirds of all households that own a pet. The actual number of pet owning households is significantly higher than it was twenty years ago, as is the overall number of U.S. households. Because the growth of pet owning households has kept pace with the growth of U.S. households, the percentage of pet owning households has remained fairly stable over the past twenty years.

Pet ownership is currently at its highest level with 71.4 million households in the U.S. owning at least one pet (translating to 62% of the U.S. population owning a pet). Furthermore, during the past decade the current number of pet-owning households increased +12%, up from 61.2 million pet-owning households in 1998. According to The Survey, there are 77.5 million dogs, 93.6 million cats, 171.7 million freshwater fish, 11.2 million saltwater fish, 15 million birds, 15.9 million small animals, 13.63 million reptiles and 13.3 million horses owned in the U.S.

“The findings in The Survey clearly demonstrate the importance of the role our pets are playing in our every day lives. Two decades of trended data show that now more than ever people consider pets an important part of the family and are still providing for their faithful companions even in these trying times,” said Bob Vetere, president of APPA. “As pet ownership continues to rise, so has the demand for quality products and services. This has led to an amazing evolution of innovative products and services that truly enhance the experience of owning a pet.”

Below are just a few interesting facts pulled from the extensive Survey that tracks hundreds of pet ownership trends:

Pets and Travel

Pet owners still prefer family or friends to care for their animals while they are on vacation. However, The Survey shows that more pets than ever are on the move with 21% of dog owners taking their pet with them in the car when they travel. These owners take their dog on an average of five car trips per year. Cat owners bring their feline friend on three car trips per year. New to the 2009-2010 APPA Survey is the fact that among the 3% of owners who take their dog to work, they have done so an average of 17 times over the past 12 months.

Amount Spent on Pets in the Past 12 Months

Dog and cat owners spend more money for food, kennels/boarding, routine veterinary visits, surgical veterinary visits, and travel expenses than other species owners. Fish owners reported their highest expenses associated with aquariums and ponds. Bird owners also noted higher costs for cages/crates and routine veterinary visits. Small animal and reptile owners spent the most on food and routine veterinary visits. Equine owners generally have higher expenses across all items, especially food, accessories, trainers and exercisers and routine veterinary visits.

Electronic Tracking Devices for Dogs

Seventeen percent (17%) of dog owners have an electronic tracking device implanted in their dog, with the Western region having significantly more tracking devices (29%) than dogs in other regions. Also, owners of dogs with tracking devices tend to not have young children at home, have higher household incomes, and own their own homes compared to owners whose dogs do not have tracking devices.

Nutrition and Food

Many dog and cat owners nationwide choose specialty formulated food for their pet. The most common specialty food fed to dogs is for: middle aged dogs, senior dogs, a healthy coat, and weight control. Cat owners more frequently purchase specialty food for indoor cats and hairball management. Based on the percentage of dogs and cats eating weight control food, four and one-half million cats and nearly six million dogs have been fed special weight control food.

Caring for a Pet’s Health

Dog visits to the veterinarian are up (2.8 visits), representing a+8% gain in the number of visits from 2006, while cat visits remained unchanged (2.1 visits) and the number of times a bird was taken to the veterinarian declined by -33% to two visits from three visits in 2006. Thirteen percent of dogs and 21% of cats are considered obese/overweight by their veterinarian. It is also interesting to note that when asked to indicate their priority if there was a choice between a large medical expense for themselves or their pet, 15% of dog owners would attend to their dog’s need before their own, and 13% of cat owners would do the same.

Provisions for Pet in Owner’s Will

In the 2009-2010 APPA Survey, dog, cat, bird and equine owners were asked if they had made provisions for their pet in their will. An average of seven percent (7%) of these pet owners indicated they had made financial provisions for their pet in their will. One-third of dog, cat and bird owners and almost half of equine owners have named a caretaker/guardian for their pet in their will.

Disaster Preparedness

The Survey showed that most pet owners said they would take some type of action to ensure their pet was safe in the event of a disaster situation. Over half of dog, cat, bird, reptile and small animal owners say they would take their pets with them. Ten percent or fewer say they would bring their pet to an animal shelter or abandon their pet.

Pet Gifts

Gift giving to pets continues to rise in popularity. The Survey shows more than one-half of all dog, cat, bird, and small animal owners report having purchased a gift for their pets in the past 12 months, with most buying a gift for their pet for no special occasion. Fish and reptile owners buy the least number of gifts for their pet in a year (three gifts). However, even though fewer fish owners buy gifts and buy fewer of them, they spend more money per gift ($37) than other pet owners.


The Survey also profiles who the pet owners are and where they live in the U.S. There are more equine owners in the Central region than owners of other pets or the remaining population. Pet owners have a significantly higher proportion of households that include children under 18 (averaging 38%), while only 19% of non-pet owning households include young children. Also bird and cat owners include more single female owners than other pet owners.

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