Puppy Love: Why Pet Ownership Among Singles Is On The Rise

A new study shows more singles are turning to pets for love.

woman and puppy

My name is Liz Newman, and I love my dog like a human being; if we're being totally honest, I actually love him more than most human beings. Ok, pretty much all human beings. Fine, I'd jump in front of the bus from Speed (so long as it didn't plummet below 55mph!) for my dog, ok? There! I said it. (This is the part where you all say in unison: "Hi Liz", and try not to judge me).

But wait! You can't judge me, because according to a recent study by AVMA's U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, singles are much more likely to identify pets as members of the family, rather than merely companions or property. This certainly applies to me as, like countless others, I've been burned by boyfriends, and managed to move on without overly dipping my pen in the crazy ink. But try and take my dog away? I'll cut you.


In fact, to further reiterate that AVMA's latest discoveries are totally founded, I, a single girl living in New York — and whose heart beats for a 7lb maltese (damn right, I fit the profile!) — am going to break down the top three findings with a corresponding, completely factual tail — I mean — tale.

1. Pet ownership among single people increased from 46.9% in 2006 to 54.7% in 2011.
It's hardly a secret, pets inherently know only one way to love: unconditionally. I actually, and quite accidentally, acquired Joe (said 7b maltese) after a major breakup. I wasn't even thinking about getting a dog, but he came into my life and was an instant healer; it was remarkable. This little guy is so overly excited when I return home he physically cannot stop running circles for a solid 30 minutes, unless it's to shower me in nonstop affection. "Oh please, my boyfriend did that all the time," said no one ever.


2. Widowers, divorcees, and separated couples with pets jumped from 51.3% to 60.4%.
This is actually really strange, but both my parents, who divorced when I was four, acquired cats soon after the split. My mother almost solely because I wouldn't stop asking Santa for a dog (her excuse, by the way: "Santa hates dogs"), so compromised with a feline. My dad, around the same time, saw a half-dead kitten on the road, scooped it up, saved it, and boom: new roommate. I was a little too young to understand it then, but it was obvious these animals provided them both a strong sense of comfort, particularly for my Dad who was living alone for the first time in 20 years. And even though my mother was in complete denial when it came to her love for Steve (our cat; yes, I love human names for pets), I caught her cradling him like a baby on more than one occasion. Fact is, there's a reason doctors say petting an animal helps reduce stress and anxiety, they're basically living Xanex (only possibly even more habit-forming).

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3. Pet ownership among single men increased by 27.7% 
This is my favorite statistic, mainly because men often fool themselves into thinking they don't love pets the same way women do — but oh they do, even when they're not the owner! Case in point: when my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, in the midst of the crying, and the "I don't want to hurt you" nonsense (side note: why do people even say that? Of course you don't!), he actually uttered: "soooo, what about Joe?" I almost started laughing, until I thought: Um, what about, Joe?! We're a package deal, son! This was not a couple's purchase, so there were no visiting rights here. Guess who soon found himself pooch shopping?

The real irony was Joe had formed quite an attachment to said ex, and was depressed for months; still, he miraculously managed to forget this every time I walked in the door. Find me a human that awesome, and I'll find you a million dollars.