How Much Do People Love Their Pets?

December 20, 2021

Lifestyle

December 20, 2021

It’s no secret that pet parents love their pets. From warm and fuzzy feelings of security and companionship to reductions in stress, pets provide an abundance of benefits for their owners. And as anyone who owns a furry companion knows, it can sometimes feel like the bond between pet and owner is stronger than with other humans.

But just how strong is this bond? And how does it compare to our feelings towards our other loved ones? We surveyed 705 pet owners to find out. Here’s what we discovered.

Who Do You Love?

You might have heard someone say they consider their pet to be a member of their family. And that’s backed up by data. A reported 77% of pet owners say their pet is a family member “just like anyone else”. Studies have even found that pet owners who think of their pets as family members can reap positive mental and physical health benefits. And some might even say they love their pet more than a family member. But just how much do pet owners love their pets compared to other family members?

It turns out, quite a lot. In our survey, pet owners rated their love for their favorite pet higher than any other person in their lives, including their significant others. They also rated their love for their pets higher than any close family members, and even themselves. 

On average, pet parents rated family members outside of their immediate family at least 20% lower than their favorite pet. 

There’s no clear scientific reason for why this might be, but scientists have theorized a number of reasons. In addition to possible mental health benefits, pets may help us feel protected and safe, or even signal wealth or status to other humans.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that pet parents feel very strongly for their pet children. Even the rise of the term “pet parent” in recent years further indicates just how deep the relationship between humans and their pets goes. 

Playing Favorites

When it comes to loved ones, they say it’s impossible to pick a favorite. But when we compared individual pet parents’ love for their pets compared to the love for other people, we saw some interesting trends emerge.

Over a third of people rated their love for their pet higher than their own parents. Specifically, 37% said their feelings for their pet were stronger than for their mother, and 42% said the same for their father. And over half (52%) of pet owners rated their love for their pet higher than for themselves.

Employers and coworkers ranked worst, with only 9% of pet parents saying they loved their boss more than their favorite pet.

This part of the study made us feel like there was more to be uncovered. If pet parents rated their love for a pet higher than a family member, what would that mean if they had to make a choice between their pet or their family?

If you had to pick one…

We wondered how pet parents would react when asked to make a life-or-death decision, so we put them to the test. Here’s what we found:

A full 22% of pet owners said they would save their favorite pet from a house fire over their own mother. And 26% would prefer to save their pet over their father.

People not in the pet owner’s immediate family fared even worse in this thought experiment. This time, 35% of pet owners said they’d prefer to save their pet from a house fire instead of their significant other

When we asked them about other humans, over half of pet owners said they’d sacrifice a friend to save their pet and almost 2 out of 3 pet owners would prefer to watch their boss burn if it meant saving their favorite pet.

This finding (that people value their pets’ lives over those of other humans) is even supported by other studies, including one from Northeastern University that showed people were generally more sympathetic to dogs than adult humans in a similar thought experiment. While we can’t say how pet parents would act in an actual house fire scenario, it does look like they place a lot of value on their relationships with their pets.

At what cost?

At this point, it was clear that pet parents loved their pets, but we wanted to find another way to quantify how strong those feelings were. That’s why we asked the pet parents in our survey how much they’d pay to save a pet’s life. Here’s what they said:

A full 24% of pet parents said they’d pay $100,000 or more to save their pet’s life. And 16% said they’d pay up to $1M. About 1 in 8, (or 12.5%) of pet owners said they would pay any amount to save their pet’s life.

And while 43% of the pet parents we surveyed put the cap on potential spending at a thousand dollars or less, that may be more due to lack of available cash than willingness to spend it. Especially given that the average cost of pet ownership can come out to over $15,000 over the average 10-13 years lifespan of a dog.

Giving All You Got

They say if you really love someone, you’d give all you have to save them. But what about your body? The final test we gave our pet parents was to see how much of their own body they’d give up to save a pet. The results might surprise you.

Nearly 60% of the pet parents we surveyed said they would sacrifice a body part to save their pet’s life. And almost 16% said they would lose their eyesight plus both arms and legs to save a pet’s life. While we hope it never comes to that, it showed that pet parents would put their pet’s life over their own well-being.

Conclusions

The results of our survey jived with other studies that showed pet owners place a very high value on their relationships with their pets; even higher than relationships with other humans. 

Further study is needed to draw concrete conclusions, but we speculate that the preferential treatment pets get is a result of the unconditional love they appear to give to  their owners. While other humans are fallible, carry grudges, or expect more from each other in relationships, pets seem quite content with regular feeding and a comfy place to sleep. In exchange, they reward their owners with a lifetime of love and affection.

Whatever the reason, it’s clear that pet parents love their pets, and we do too. At VetVet, we’re dedicated to helping new pet parents discover incredible veterinarians based on what is most important to them, so they can have a long, rewarding relationship with their pets.

Methodology

We received completed surveys from 708 pet owners in January of 2021. Of those, 3 sets of responses were rejected because they failed a screening question, for a total of 705 valid responses. 51.9% were Female, 46.3% were Male, with 1.7% Other or Prefer Not to Answer. The average age of our respondents was 30 years old.

Fair Use

Please feel free to use any of the graphics or information from this study. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You can use it however you like, we only ask that you include a link to this page to give the team credit for their work.


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Disclaimer: Our content is for informational purposes only — it’s not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.