The folks at Pew Research, apparently bored with divining our opinions of Iraq, illegal immigration and the 2008 presidential race, turn to something truly important, how we feel about our pets:
Fully 85% of dog owners say they consider their pet to be a member of their family, according to a Pew Research Center survey.
And most cat owners (78%) feel the same way.
The pets-as-four-legged-family-member phenomenon helps explain everything from the heart-tugging scenes during Hurricane Katrina last fall, when some Gulf Coast residents risked staying home because they did not want to abandon their pets, to the explosive recent growth of the pet care industry. Americans spent an estimated $35.9 billion on their pets last year, up from $17 billon in 1994, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Some of that money went for pet cosmetic surgery, pet insurance, pet strollers, pet waterbeds and, yes, pet spas and hotels. (The "Presidential Suite" at the Ritzy Canine Carriage House in Manhattan is available for $175 a night, breakfast included.)
We should also note that dog owners outnumber cat owners by 39 percent to 23 percent. But since there are more owned cats (73 million) than dogs (68 million), that means all you dog people are shirkers. Most dog owners (63 percent) have only one dog. But 51 percent of cat owners have two or more cats. And those little old ladies with dozens of cats really make it hard for the dog people to keep up.