Home > Media news > The “Pet-Parent” phenomenon… WTF is going on?

The “Pet-Parent” phenomenon… WTF is going on?

by Birk on March 26, 2012

 I am the devil in disguise.

My "pet parents" run a meth-lab. Can you adopt me, Sarah McLachlan?

This is Mr. Puppers. He is not a dog.

That’s right folks, Mr. Puppers has a highly evolved brain and is more like a child than a dog.

Sadly, Mr. Puppers was dealt a bad hand of cards in life. He is the child (not dog) of a mother and father who run a successful meth-lab. I think the only way to save Mr. Puppers is to hire a washed-up artist to write a special song about Mr. Puppers.

I want the ASPCA fund a commercial that can narrate the feelings Mr. Puppers has about his life as an abused pet-child. I want to hear sad music in the background and show dialogue boxes that describe what Mr. Puppers thinks about on a daily basis.

Is this a joke, you ask? Nope. It’s true. Commercials such as this do exist. They exist because they are well funded by a new and ever growing group of people who refer to themselves as “pet parents.”  The demographic is mostly women, although there is an increasing number of men who are following suit. These “parents” take pet ownership to a very unhealthy level. A Google search for pet accessories will reveal complete lines of pet clothing, accessories, and even pet car seats and designer jewelry.

Although these fancy trinkets have always existed, they have never been sold at such a high rate as in the last decade. Long ago, only the rich bought diamond-encrusted dog collars and plush designer beds. Now, the largest consumer of such wasteful products is actually the middle and lower class demographic of society. Here are some statistics and then I’ll tell you why so many crazy women (and some men) are now treating their dogs like real “children.”

According to the ASPCA website

  • About 62 percent of all households in the United States have a pet. (Source: APPA)
  • About 78.2 million dogs and about 86.4 million cats are owned in the United States. (Source: APPA)
  • The average cost of basic food, supplies, medical care and training for a dog or cat is $600 to $900 annually.

Now, to the untrained eye, it just looks like a hell of a lot of people love them some dog and cat companionship. Let’s look a little closer:

62% of households have pets. There is approximately 311,591,917 - Jul 2011 people in the US. That’s well over 100,000,000 (hundred-million) people.

78.2 million dogs and 86.4 million cats are owned in the US. That is a total of 164.6 million cats and dogs! That total accounts for over half of the total population of humans in the US! In fact, according to, there were only 75.6 million children ages 0-17 in the US! Dogs and cats outnumber children by double!

And finally, here is the crazy part (sorry…it’s ALL crazy), people spend an estimated $600-$900 per year on basic pet necessities. This does not include all of the stuff crazy psychos buy to make dogs into real-live “children.” Ready for a grande total? Taking the more conservative number ($600) people in the US spend $98,400,000,000 – that’s 98 billion, 400 million dollars! I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

This post is not about economics, so I won’t dabble on about what the US could be doing with all that loot. However, education, infrastructure, and federal deficit do come to mind…I’ll remember that for another time.

This is about the crazy people that treat this massive hoard of four-legged beasts like their own children. For simplicity sake, I have divided up these people into several categories. Some people may fit into one or several. Normal people will not fit into any of them.

Category #1 – Menopausal women - Menopausal women whose children moved out  just as the hot flashes started making a daily appearance. The severity of the “pet-child” behavior is determined by the conditions of the move out. If the child was troubled (on meth or knocked up without knowing who the daddy is), expect the pet-child behavior to be worse. If it was for college, the pet-child replaces the real child and may even get to call the real child’s old bedroom it’s own. If the mom was basically self-absorbed in her own issues with a troubled marriage and the child(ren) move out, the dog basically becomes a replacement for the child. Apparently some women look at this as a chance to “start over” and give parenting 100% effort.

Category #2 – Divorce -  Becoming a crazy person who looks at their dog like a child could happen by way of divorce. Divorce can turn men and women into the type of people that call their dogs and cats “children.” The circumstances are usually that the relationship was rocky for a long period of time, or the man or woman (maybe both) are very insecure in the big wide world now that they are alone. In some cases, the dog replaces the feeling of loss for the spouse that left the household and now doubles as a pet-child and pet-spouse. This is the craziest form of all.

Category #3 – The “Eeyore syndrome.” -  Remember Eeyore from Winnie the Poo? His classic line was “Not that anybody cares anyway.” Well, the same way Eeyore was “starved for attention” or never felt like he was good enough; people can develop the “Eeyore syndrome” as well. Several circumstances in life can lead to the Eeyore syndrome. The most common are: women who’s father didn’t give them enough attention, women who feel less pretty or less intelligent than their sisters, men whose fathers were not around or mom had one-too-many random “man-friends”, men or women that have serious self-image issues. These are not all situations that lead to the Eeyore syndrome, but are the most common.

Category #4 – Homosexuality!   Here are the facts: Seven out of ten (71%) GLBT adults today say that they own pets, compared with 63 percent of heterosexual adults, according to the results of a new national survey. The same survey also shows that nine in ten (90%) GLBT pet owners say their pet is a member of their family and 64 percent also add that they have bought their pet a holiday present.

The new nationwide survey of 2,455 U.S. adults, (ages 18 and over), of whom more than 6 percent, or 158, self identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, was conducted online between November 7 and 13, 2007, by Harris Interactive®, a global market research and consulting firm, in conjunction with Witeck-Combs Communications, Inc., a strategic public relations and marketing communications firm with special expertise in the GLBT market. BTW, FYI… the GLBT means “Gay, Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Trans-sexual”. Not to be confused with a “BLT”, which is “Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato.”

Category #5 – Poverty - That’s right. You would think things like food, water, and housing would be at the top of the list. Nope, it’s pets. I understand that people living in destitute find that little ray of sunshine in having “good ‘ol Fido” around, but if there are children in the household – their needs should be met before any animal’s. I have personally witnessed children in the vet’s office that needed shoes and a new coat, but mom instead is chain-smoking and holding onto a leash with three or four “pet-children” instead of taking the real child for dental checkups or doctor’s visits. Get mad all you want, folks, reality is a hard thing to face sometimes. I really believe that people in poverty look at pet-children like a way to escape. I am no expert, but I am pretty sure on this one. It’s psychology 101.

Category #6 – Abuse - This is no laughing matter, and can affect men and women. Sometimes a grown man or woman was abused as a child. Sometimes it was a woman by a spouse. I have researched lots of cases where people with past abuse have adopted a “pet-child.” It is sad. I included it because it contributes to the statistics. What people in this category need is professional counseling. Professional counseling is expensive. People with an abusive past usually do not function well in society. People who do not function well in society usually earn a lot less money. Professional counseling (the good kind) costs a lot of money. Maybe some of the billions spent on pets should be redirected to these people? Treating a dog like it is a child is not a long-term solution.

This could take forever! I could continue profile people with an unhealthy affection for a dog or cat, but it would take 10 more pages. The point is, people who treat a dog like a dog and a cat like a cat are quickly becoming a minority. The main factor is MONEY! The pet industry is huge! Manufacturers of pet supplies and accessories are some of the top financial contributors for commercials that encourage adoption of abused and neglected “pet-children.” Why? The more people that have pets, the more money they make! Simple math and corporate greed.

In decades past, you were considered a lunatic of you treated a dog like it was your child. People who look at a dog or cat as “just a pet” do not spend as much money on them. So, the pet industry got involved and started funding advertisements in most women’s magazines, during commercials on women’s programming, and even recently targeted men. With that level of saturation (and with the addition of getting celebrities involved), it makes it seem normal to treat your pet like family. In fact, the level of saturation makes you feel like a horrible person if you don’t.

Additionally, the rates on unemployment and divorce are at an all time high, and menopause will always be around. This creates a perfectly cultivated market for the pet industry to push propaganda on a society full of needy, neglected and attention starved people. Add to that the fact that the current “ME Generation” side-stepped their parental responsibilities, created resentful “generation X and Y”  that now turn to various addictions, and get the hell out of the house. This leaves lots of women in their 40′s and 50′s lonely and looking for that special pet child the can now raise the right way. Please let me know if I’ve missed anything.



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