Singles increasingly turn to pets for sense of family

Mar 14, 2013, 11:24 ET from American Veterinary Medical Association

Since 2006, rise in pet ownership for singles, especially men, far exceeds families, but unfortunately pets seeing drop in veterinary care

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., March 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A recent American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) survey shows that singles—both those never married and those recently separated or divorced—are increasingly turning to pets for love and a sense of family.

According to AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, it's still more common for a pet to be owned by a family, but pet ownership among single people increased by an impressive 16.6 percent, from 46.9 percent pet ownership in 2006 to 54.7 percent in 2011, compared to just 1.37 percent growth in pet ownership for families, from 65.5 percent to 66.4 percent. The study also indicates that singles are more likely to identify pets as members of the family, rather than companions or property.

"It's interesting to see that more and more single people are discovering the comfort and satisfaction that owning a pet can offer. Pets are powerful, positive influences on our lives, offering unique emotional, psychological and physical health benefits to their owners," says Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the AVMA. "Unfortunately, despite these positive trends, people aren't bringing their pets into the veterinarian as often as they should. That trend is worrisome, not only in terms of the pet's health but in terms of public health. Families, no matter what size, need to bring their pets into the veterinarian – at least once a year – to maintain optimal health."

The Sourcebook indicates that, between 2006 and 2011, the percentage of households that made no trips at all to the veterinarian increased by 8 percent for dog owners and a staggering 24 percent for cat owners. Overall, about 81 percent of dog-owning households made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 1.7 percent from 2006. The decrease for cat owners was, once again, much higher, as only 55.1 percent of cat owners made at least one visit to the veterinarian in 2011, down 13.5 percent from 2006.

Men and People Widowed, Divorced or Separated

Pet ownership was up especially among people who were divorced, widowed or separated. That group saw a 17.7 percent increase from 51.3 percent pet ownership in 2006 to 60.4 percent in 2011. Even more impressive, pet ownership among single men increased by 27.7 percent.

"For now, it's true that more single women own pets than single men, but this survey shows us that this may be changing," says Dr. Aspros. "By understanding these demographic trends better, the AVMA wants to help veterinarians to better serve our clients and keep pets healthy. Veterinarians can use this information to reach out to these growing segments of our clientele to help reverse this trend of decreasing veterinary care for our pets."

Preventive Veterinary Care

In 2011, over a quarter of pet owning households (25.5%) didn't visit the veterinarian at all, according to the Sourcebook, which was an increase of almost 7 percent from 22.3 percent in 2006. This reduction in veterinary visits suggests that more pets are going without annual veterinary examinations and treatments to prevent common health problems, and this could mean that many pet owners will wind up paying more for veterinary care. Prevention is the best cure, and it's also often the least expensive.

For example, according to a Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. (VPI) study of its records, the average cost per pet to prevent dental disease is $171.82, but the average cost to treat dental diseases after it's already begun per pet is $531.71—over three times the cost of prevention. Similarly, it costs just $29.51 on average to prevent internal parasites per pet, but the average cost to treat a pet with internal parasites is $179.93—over six times the cost of prevention. In addition to the potential increased costs, less preventive care for pets means more pets will be suffering with health issues.

AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook offers information on pet ownership, pet owner profiles, trends, veterinary medical use and expenditures. For more information about the AVMA or to obtain a copy of the U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, visit

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with more than 84,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association