In 2006 there were more than 72 million pet dogs in the U.S. and nearly 82 million pet cats, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition). In the same year, nearly half of pet owners, or 49.7 percent, considered their pets to be family members.
How many of those consider their pets to be their sweethearts? In a poll taken of 3,000 British dog and cat owners, 19 percent stated that they would rather have a pet than be involved in a romantic partnership. For 81 percent of the dog owners polled, it would be an instant deal breaker if their date didn’t like their pet. And 79 percent polled stated that they wouldn’t give up their pet for a romantic partner.
A study by the National Institutes of Health revealed that having a pet can help to diminish feelings of loneliness, particularly for women living alone, and compensate for the absence of human companionship. However, owning a pet doesn’t have to disallow meeting a human mate. In the British study cited above, 5 percent of dog owners have been on a date with someone they met walking their dog, with 1.5 percent still dating that person. I am in the U.S. and am amongst those who have been on a date with someone I met while walking my dog (while not being in the 1.5 percent still dating that person.) I have been known to fall in love with a Golden Retriever in a heartbeat, and it may have been possible that I confused who my attraction was for when I looked up at the other end of the leash. However, I believe that how you do anything is how you do everything. So, observing someone’s relationship with their pet can also reveal a lot about the person.
That may account for the recent popularity of online dating sites for pet owners. DateMyPet.com and PetPeopleMeet.com are two such sites. On the latter, I read a success story from a woman who met her match when she fell in love with a man who also rescues dogs. Yet, once in a human relationship, people often state they crave the kind of unconditional love they receive from their pets. Can Pets Improve your Relationship?, an article by Dr. Suzanne Phillips, Psy.D., ABPP, states that all the qualities we often want in our mate appear similar to those we experience with our pets. Her reports show that a person in a relationship often wants to be spoken to with the same affection shown to their pet.