You take them out for ice cream, long walks on the beach, and now you can even take them to Disney World if you want. We aren’t talking about children or even a significant other – we’re talking about pets.
Across the U.S., more than 2 in 3 families (68 percent) own a pet of some sort, a number that continues to rise. The amount of money we spend on our pets and the way we include them in our everyday lives are changing too. Today you might not think twice about taking your dog out to brunch or on a family vacation.
But just how far does that emotional bond go? What’s the joy of owning a pet (or getting a new pet) compared to the agony of losing one? We surveyed Americans across the country to understand how the love they have for their pets ranks against other people (and things) in their lives and exactly what they’d be willing to give up to keep their furry friends around forever. Read on to see what we discovered.
For millions of Americans, pets are like family. That kind of bond doesn’t happen by accident, and research has shown that dogs especially can feel complex emotions beyond simple affection, like loyalty, guilt, and even jealousy.
We interviewed five pet owners who recently lost a pet they loved. We asked them to submit pictures of their pets so we could give them a surprise as a way to thank them for their stories. Here, you can see the emotion people experience when talking about a pet they’ve lost. For some, the love they experience still resonates long after that companion has passed on. For many, it’s easy to recall the memories, laughter, and joy pets provided in the time shared with them.
Even though they weren’t expecting it, we wanted to surprise the people we talked to with something to help them remember their pets and keep their memories alive for years to come. Take a look.
Cats and dogs make up some of the most popular pets in the country, even if they don’t stay with us forever. On average, dogs typically live between six and 14 years based on their breed, diet, and overall health, while the average cat life span ranges from 10 to 15 years. For some pets, their first year can be all it takes to cement themselves firmly in our hearts for years to come.
Despite the lengths we go to keep our pets happy and healthy, we all have to learn to say goodbye at some point. But what if you didn’t? What would you be willing to give up or sacrifice in order to bring your pet back forever?
Nearly 2 out of 3 people we polled said they’d cut coffee out of their lives forever if it meant they could have their furry friends back again. This is no small sacrifice considering the more than 60% of Americans who have at least a cup a day, and only a dismal 10% have a desire to cut back. In a similar response, 64 percent of respondents said they would be willing to give up social media. Of course, social media isn’t just for people, and sites like Instagram have made it easy to fall in love with animals you’ve never even met from around the world. To show just how far their devotion could go, more than a quarter of people would turn down their dream job, and 40 percent said they’d pass on a free trip around the world if it meant being able to hold their pets again.
For many of us, losing a pet can be a devastating experience no matter how long they stayed in our lives. Like losing a friend or family member, it’s not uncommon to experience the symptoms and stages of grief as you grapple with the loss of a loving friend.
From the loss of the relationship you shared with your pet to the sudden shift in your routine without having a pet to play with, walk, or feed on a regular basis, sometimes adding another animal to your life can seem like the only way to move forward.
But how long do most people wait before getting a new pet after one passes away? That answer could depend largely on the type of animal you own. Small mammal owners (like those who own rabbits) told us they waited the longest – nearly three years on average. Typically living for only two to four years at a time, most Americans weren’t so quick to replace these small pets. Birds earned the quickest rebound at just over one year, followed by cats and then dogs. While some people may suggest immediately replacing a lost pet, most Americans told us they prefer to take the time to grieve and adjust before bringing another animal into their life.
Considering the agony of losing a pet, it’s a wonder so many are so quick to bring them into their life in the first place. That is until you consider how much joy owning them can bring you in contrast.
When asked to consider the emotions they experienced at losing a cherished companion, we found people might be more emotionally attached to cats and dogs than any other type of pet. Given a scale with 1 being the least amount of emotional pain and 7 being extreme emotional pain, nearly a third of cat and dog owners rated their response to a pet’s death a heartbreaking 7.
Regardless of the type of animal, most Americans told us that losing a pet was a devastating experience. But that sorrow paled in comparison to the joy they felt bringing a pet into their lives. Over 50 percent of dog and cat owners said getting a new pet brought them extreme joy (a 7 out of 7 on our scale), and with the exception of fish, few rated that happiness less than 5. Owning a pet may not make you live any longer or have any tangible effect on your physical health, but there’s no denying the impact they could have on your heart and your life.
So how does loving or losing a pet compare to anything else in your life? Our survey found, for many Americans, furry friends can outrank real friends (and even spouses) more often than not.
According to the people we polled, loving a pet gave as much joy as loving their significant other. Ranked exactly the same on our scale of 7, research has shown that some generations (particularly millennials) are starting to choose pets over people in more ways than one. People also said loving a pet brought them more joy than their best friends, parents, siblings, and co-workers.
And losing a pet? In case you haven’t experienced that grief yourself, Americans we surveyed said the pain of losing a pet was akin to getting divorced, and the loss was worse than being separated from their children for an extended period or being let go from a job.
No matter what you’d be willing to give to bring them back, all pets cross the Rainbow Bridge at some point in our lives. What lives on once they’re gone are the memories we shared with them – the crazy antics of house training, teething phases, and even bringing them home for the very first time. In the end, the joy of owning and loving our pets can outweigh the heartache we feel when losing them.
At Petsies, we want the bond you share with your pets to last forever – which is why we design a custom-made, 100 percent huggable, lifelike plush of your pet. Big or small, your custom Petsies capture the characteristics that make each pet unique. From cats and dogs to turtles, horses, and even pigs, we’ll create a custom look-a-like of your dear friend that can go with you wherever you are (without having to worry about cleaning up after them). Whether you’ve lost a pet or just want another way to be reminded of their love, Petsies helps you capture the light of their lives forever. Visit us online at MyPetsies.com to learn more and see our custom creations for yourself.
We can create a custom lookalike of all kinds of pets, big and small, no matter how exotic they are! Check out some of our most popular animal plushies we've made.
For the static components of this project, we surveyed 1,000 pet owners who had lost a pet about their experience with the loss and plans for moving forward.
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And now: back to more cute pets!