How Americans Spend Their Time - Pets—companionship, Pleasure, And Well-being
days owners health owned
Pets often provide more than recreation for their owners—they may become companions and family members, and most pet owners report that their pets bring pleasure to their lives. Many pet owners, wanting to extend their pets' lives and improve their health, are willing to spend large amounts on veterinary care; some purchase health insurance for their pets. Some even send their pampered pets to day camps and spas and make arrangements for the care of their pets in the event of their own illness or death.
The numbers of dog and cat owners are almost equal. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's 2003–2004 National Pet Owners Survey, there were about sixty-five million owned dogs in the United States and 77.7 million owned cats. Nearly four out of ten households (40.6 million) owned at least one dog, and a third (35.4 million) owned at least one cat. Seven out of ten dogs that were owned and eight out of ten owned cats were spayed or neutered.
Eighteen percent of owned dogs, and 16% of owned cats, were adopted from animal shelters. Sixty-five percent of owners had just one dog, while half of cat-owners had one cat and the remaining half owned two or more. The
|Most popular sports for men (age 6 and older) based on "frequent" participation, 2003|
|SOURCE: "Most Popular Sports for Men in the USA Based on 'Frequent' Participation (Age 6 and Older)," in "Solo Sports Appeal to U.S. Men," Superstudy of Sports Participation, SGMA International, May 28, 2004, http://www.sgma.com/press/2004/press1085581679-16624.html (accessed September 9, 2004)|
|1 Fishing (freshwater/other) - 15+ days/year||9,169,000|
|2 Free weights: Barbells - 100+ days/year||8,484,000|
|3 Free weights: Dumbbells - 100+ days/year||7,878,000|
|4 Stretching - 100+ days/year||7,569,000|
|5 Calisthenics - 100+ days/year||6,748,000|
|6 Fitness walking - 100+ days/year||6,626,000|
|7 Billiards/pool - 25+ days/year||6,381,000|
|8 Running/jogging - 100+ days/year||6,209,000|
|9 Weight/resistance machines - 100+ days/year||5,812,000|
|10 Basketball - 52+ days/year (25+ in 2002)||5,640,000|
|11 Golf - 25+ days/year||5,552,000|
|12 Treadmill exercise - 100+ days/year||5,375,000|
|13 Hunting (shotgun/rifle) - 15+ days/year||4,327,000|
|14 Day hiking - 15+ days/year||4,260,000|
|15 Bowling - 25+ days/year||3,783,000|
average number of dogs per owner was 1.6, compared to an average of 2.2 cats per owner. On average, dog owners spent more than twice what cat owners did on veterinary expenses during the twelve months preceding the survey—dog owners spent $263 while cat owners averaged $113. During 2003 the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association reported that Americans spent a total of $32.4 billion on pet food, toys, and care. For 2004, this figure was projected to rise 5.9%, to $34.3 billion, double the amount of ten years earlier. Of this, $14.3 billion would be spent on food, $8.3 billion on veterinary care, and $7.9 billion on supplies and nonprescription medicine.
Pets Contribute to Health and Wellness
Research conducted during the late 1990s found that pet ownership was related to better health. At first, it was believed that the effects were simply increased well-being—the obvious delight of hospital and nursing home patients petting puppies, watching kittens play, or viewing fish in an aquarium clearly demonstrated pets' abilities to calm frayed nerves and make people smile.
A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (March 1999) reported that attachment to a companion animal was linked to maintaining or slightly improving the physical and psychological wellbeing of older adults. Following nearly a thousand older adults for one year, researcher Parminder Raina and her associates found that pet owners were more satisfied with their physical health, mental health, family relationships, living arrangements, finances, and friends.
The physiological mechanisms responsible for these health benefits were as yet unidentified; however, some
|Most popular sports for women (age 6 and older) based on "frequent" participation, 2003|
|SOURCE: "Most Popular Sports for Women Based on 'Frequent' Participation (Age 6 and Older)," in "U.S. Women Set Their Sights on the Gym," Superstudy of Sports Participation, SGMA International, May 24, 2004, http://www.sgma.com/press/2004/press1085420837-20560.html (accessed September 9, 2004)"|
|1 Stretching (100+ days/year)||10,710,000|
|2 Fitness walking (100+ days/year)||9,788,000|
|3 Treadmill exercise (100+ days/year)||6,160,000|
|4 Free weights: Hand weights (100+ days/year)||4,587,000|
|5 Running/jogging (100+ days/year)||4,247,000|
|6 Weight/resistance machines (100+ days/year)||4,073,000|
|7 Calisthenics (100+ days/year)||3,921,000|
|8 Day hiking (15+ days/year)||3,749,000|
|9 Bowling (25+ days/year)||3,552,000|
|10 Recreational vehicle camping (15+ days/year)||3,373,000|
|11 Fishing (freshwater/other) (15+ days/year)||3,103,000|
|12 Free weights: Dumbbells (100+ days/year)||3,011,000|
|13 Billiards/pool (25+ days/year)||2,973,000|
|14 Other exercise to music (100+ days/year)||2,942,000|
|15 Abdominal machine/device (100+ days/year)||2,208,000|
researchers think that pets connect people to the natural world, enabling them to focus on others rather than simply themselves. Other investigators have observed that dog owners walk more than persons without dogs do and credit pet owners' improved health to exercise. Nearly everyone agrees that the nonjudgmental affection pets offer boosts health and wellness.
Other research has revealed some specific health benefits of human interaction with animals. Several researchers have observed that petting dogs and cats lowers blood pressure. Preliminary results of a study presented in 2004 by Rebecca Johnson, of the University of Missouri—Columbia Center for the Study of Animal Wellness, showed that after human subjects petted a dog, they experienced a massive release of beneficial hormones, including serotonin, beta endorphin, prolactin, dopamine, oxytocin, and beta phenylethalamine. A similar release was also observed in the dog.