Describing Americans' relationship with their pets as "ambiguous, tenuous, and complex," David Blouin, an assistant sociology professor at Indiana University South Bend, says his recent study shows a tendency on the part of parents to spend less time with pets and visit the veterinarian less after the birth of children.
"If you have kids, you have less time to spend with your pets," Blouin says. "That's part of it, but not the whole story. People who think of their pets as their children often reevaluate this thought when they have human children of their own."
Blouin interviewed a mix of 28 rural and urban residents and surveyed more than 500 pet owners to discover some of the differences among pet owners in how they interact with their animals. He found that city dwellers and adults without children are more likely to consider their pets "babies" and more likely to take their pets to the veterinarian. Some pet owners in the study reported their feelings toward their pets changed when they had children of their own, and they stopped thinking of their cats and dogs as children.
The good news is, 81 percent of dog owners and 67.5 percent of cat owners surveyed—with or without children—spent two or more hours daily with their pets. Only 2 percent of pet owners didn't see their pets every day.