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That's what a friend of mime recently stated. I.e. if one owns a pet one is less likely to be parent and vice-versa.

Are there any data available to support such a claim? I'm sceptical, because there is also the classical family + dog cliché.

Mostly for fun I've drawn a graph with dog traces to visualise the assertion ;-) dog traces

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Some people only have pets because the kids kept nagging for a little bunny or a little doggy ;) –  Lagerbaer May 30 '11 at 20:03
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By "parenthood" do you mean "actively parenting" (as in kids living in the house)? In other words, are you counting people with adult children under "probability of parenthood?" I ask because you see a lot of adults who get a pet (or two) once the kids leave the house. –  Scott Mitchell May 30 '11 at 21:13
    
I mean "actively parenting".... –  Sebastian May 31 '11 at 5:14

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up vote 7 down vote accepted

This appears to be false.

  • Knudson, "The Pet Food Market," 2003 (SOURCE):

Pet ownership is higher in households with children than in those without children. In a survey conducted by Mintel, 64 percent of households with children present owned pets whereas 52 percent of those without children owned pets (Mintel, p. 67).

The Mintel paper referenced is titled, "The U.S. Pet Food & Supplies Market," but I can't find a link to an abstract or something similar.

  • Westgarth et al., "Factors associated with dog ownership and contact with dogs in a UK," 2007 (SOURCE):

This study supports the suggestion that dogs are more common in families who have older children (6-19 years), as has been generally observed in other countries.

  • The tables HERE, based on data from the "U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook (2007 Edition) " (LINK) seems to indicate that families with children own more pets than children-less families (potentially).

For example (values in percents):

                            Dog     Cat     Bird    Horse
Family size: 1 One person   13.2    16.8    12.7    12.1      
Two persons                 31.0    32.6    27.9    29.1    
Three persons               21.4    20.6    20.4    22.0    
Four or more persons        34.5    29.9    38.9    36.7

Thus, we see a see higher rates of ownership for households with more individuals living in them. I said "potentially" above, as we don't know the ages of these increased individuals. I will say, there's an obvious dip for three person households, so perhaps two parents with one child are seen with pets less often, and thus this hypothesis was created? Pure speculation, but I did see the big dip between two and four person households.

  • The Australian Bureau of Statistics features some helpful data on this as well (LINK):

ABS data on ownership stats

So, we see that families with all ranges of kids own pets all at rates above 50%.

The same site also has a similar breakdown to the table above (values in percents):

                                Dogs   Cats   Birds  Fish  All
Married couple with dependants  49.0   32.9   21.0   16.0  74.0
Other married couple            37.3   25.7   16.3   5.4   59.4
Lone parent with dependants     41.1   29.5   11.4   7.5   62.2
Lone person aged less than 35   18.9   7.9    5.6    2.8   30.2
Lone person aged 60 or more     15.8   15.4   8.9    0.4   32.3

So, we see the highest rates of ownership for married couples with dependents and single parents with dependents (at least for all pets except birds). The next highest rates of ownership are from married couples with no dependents (I'm assuming that's what "other married couples" means).

  • I saved this source for last, as I couldn't track the figures cited to something more reliable... HERE is a page from the American Humane Association, featuring this tidbit:

Pets live most frequently in homes with children: 64.1% of homes with children under age 6, and 74.8% of homes with children over age 6, have pets.

They have quite a list of sources at the bottom of the page, but without footnotes, I don't particularly want to figure out which one might contain this information. I'm thinking it might be the "U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook" listed above, as this appears in the list of references. The webpage linked above for the sourcebook does have the following in it's list of figures provided (LINK)

  • Distribution of households that owned pets versus all households, both pet-owning and nonpet-owning, by marital status, 2006
  • Distribution of households that owned pets versus all households, both pet-owning and nonpet-owning, by household size, 2006
  • Percentage of households that owned pets by life stage, 2006

Those would be the statistics to know, but I'm not paying $264 for the book! Nevertheless, the rest of the sources above seem to indicate that pet ownership is actually quite high among families with children, or at least higher for families with more than one child than with married/no-kid families.

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thank you so much for your thorough analysis. Great work. –  Sebastian Jun 23 '11 at 5:55
    
Thanks! It was fun to do, and I've heard similar things like, "People don't have kids these days, they have pets." It would be awesome to have that whole source book on demographics, as one might be able to bring overall age of families (not just ages of the kids) into the mix as well. –  Hendy Jun 23 '11 at 12:46

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