Pet ownership among families in the U.S. has grown much through the years. The 2021-2022 National Pet Owners Survey of the American Pet Products Association, Inc. (APPA) shows that 70 percent of households in the country, or 90.5 million families have a pet. This is a significant increase from just 56 percent of American households in 1988.
The largest group of households, at 69 million, have at least one dog. The second largest group of homes, at 45.3 million, have at least one cat. Meanwhile, 11.8 million homes have at least one freshwater fish, 9.9 million homes have at least one bird, 6.2 million homes have some kind of small animal pet such as a hamster, 5.7 million homes have a pet reptile, 3.5 million homes have at least one horse, and 2.9 million homes have at least one saltwater fish.
Why a Dog is the Most Popular Pet
There are various reasons for the trend in pet ownership. Dogs are favorites because they are very affectionate and faithful companions, wagging their tails when they see their owners, which is a sign of happiness. They often also jump up and cover their owners with dog kisses. Dogs have been known to patiently await the arrival of their owners even through months or years.
Dogs also serve as loyal protectors and can provide security. They can sound an alarm with their barking when they sense danger or an intruder, which can help keep a family safe. Owning a dog can also be a great way to get some exercise because they need to be walked regularly.
Families get so attached to their dogs that they spare no expense for their care. Owners spoil their pups and even find cool dog stuff to buy online. There are various types of dog clothes and even shoes available for purchase, in addition to dog toys.
Cats as the Second Most Popular Pet
Cats are the second most popular pets in American households because they require less maintenance than dogs. They are also known to be independent, which means they can be left alone for long periods.
When it comes to affection, cats can be just as loving as dogs, but in their distinct way. Cats will often purr when they are happy or content. They also like to rub up against their owners and sit on their laps. They can show their love by giving their owners “gifts” such as a dead mouse or bird.
While cats don’t serve the same purpose as dogs in terms of security, they can help keep rodents away. They are also known to be good at alleviating stress and anxiety, which can be beneficial for the whole family.
Benefits of Having a Pet
There are many benefits of having a pet, whether it is a dog, a cat, or another type of animal. According to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), children who grow up alongside pets have many advantages.
Physical contact with pets provides comfort and reduces stress and anxiety levels. The positive feelings children develop toward their pets strengthen their self-confidence, self-esteem, empathy, compassion, respect for all living beings and nature, and non-verbal communication. Children also tend to talk to their pets, developing their verbal abilities. They are then also more able to build trusting relationships with people.
Even the loss experienced by children when a beloved pet dies provides lessons in coping with loss and grief. This contributes to their emotional development. On the other hand, if the pet produces offspring, they get a lesson in reproduction and new life.
Caring for a pet teaches children responsibility at an early age. They do what is needed for their pet not because they are told to but because they want to. Playing with the pet promotes physical activity.
The Role of Parents
Children need parental guidance to be able to care for pets properly. They will follow their parents’ attitudes and behavior toward the pets. It is, therefore, crucial that parents show how pets must be treated with patience, gentleness, and kindness.
All aspects of the pet’s care must be taught and shown to the children, from feeding and providing clean water to grooming and exercising. Children must be supervised at all times and be allowed to do only what they are capable of until they reach the right age.
In times of grief, the support and explanation of parents will be most needed. This can set how the child will view and handle grief throughout life.
Families that have a pet often find that the pet becomes a cherished member of the family. Pets can bring joy, love, and companionship to any family. They offer many benefits for children and adults alike. If you’re considering adding a pet to your home, do some research to find the best fit for your family. Once you’ve found the perfect furry (or scaly) friend, enjoy all the benefits that come along with pet ownership.