Living With Animals: Unexpected

By Hope Bidegainberry on June 7, 2019
Goldfish in bowl

Last column noted 9,400,000 reptiles are pets in U.S. households. Here are some other unexpected numbers. The most popular pet? Fish! Close to 160 million individual finny friends swim in 14.5 million homes, and the aquarium industry is worth $300 million per year. Profitable but also the source of much animal cruelty, between the often deadly capture of more than 20 million wild fish annually and the high death rate of fish in homes (a vicious cycle, despite the likely outcome it’s common to buy more and more relatively inexpensive “replacements”). Pet birds, from diminutive captive bred finches to large and often still smuggled parrots, share 5 million U.S. households. While there’s no reliable information about how many large, hairy spiders are kept as pets, the number of websites dedicated to selling and keeping tarantulas and others did surprise me (also a surprise, studies indicate that at any moment there’s a spider standing within 15 feet of you, which means the 8-legged pets have a whole lot of wild competition).

Back to what most of us think of as pets, dogs are not getting smaller but smaller dogs are now the most popular, with more than half under 25 pounds. On average, dog households contain 1.6 dogs and cat household contain 2.1 cats (on average, of course, because fractional dogs and cats are not a real thing). While a higher percentage of Baby Boomers and those just a bit younger own pets, since there are more Millennials out there they now constitute the largest number of pet owners and 44% of Millennials see their pets as “starter children”. If you’ve not yet heard the term “fur baby” you will, since the advertising industry now notes “the fur baby economy is real.” I’ve never liked the increasingly popular term “fur baby.” Why not flip it and reference tiny, squalling humans as “bald pets” instead? 

(BTW, does knowing there are 750,000 pet snakes make you want a drink? Join us June 22, 2-5PM, in Burlingame’s Washington Park for our annual Bark n’ Brewfest! Help raise funds for shelter animals while enjoying local craft brews. Bring your pooch, but not your python. Tickets at — get yours before they sell out!)

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