Can owning a dog replace being a parent? The answer seems to be “Yes” since more couples decide to be child-free and treat their pets like their children instead.
Have you ever heard of “fur baby”? Well, Oxford Dictionary definitely has since nearly four years ago, it added this word to its lexicon. What does “fur baby” mean? It represents the degree to which pets are now pampered by their owners as they would a child.
In San Francisco, it seems that this trend of treating a dog like a child is widespread as it turns out, that dogs literally outnumber kids. At least that’s what a 2019 report from Air Mail, a travel newsletter, suggests.
Now, wherever you look in San Francisco, you see luxury dog daycares and hotels, dog gyms and spas, and even dog bakeries. So, it’s clear that San Francisco loves dogs. However, for the city to be home to more dogs than kids, this may be a little bit shocking.
According to the report, based on data from US Census figures for San Francisco, in 2018, there were nearly 118.362 minors in San Francisco. Seems a lot, right? Yet, the number of dogs, from 120.000 to 500.000, literally outnumbers the number of kids here.
It’s difficult to know exactly how many dogs are in San Francisco since less than 30% of dogs are registered here even though pet owners are required to do it. But, even if no one knows for sure how many dogs are in San Francisco exactly, they know an estimated number and an accurate number for how many kids are. And, doing the math results that there are more furry friends around here than there are kids.
According to the report, we can put the “blame” on the city’s booming tech industry for this phenomenon. It seems that the city’s demographic shows that people there are now younger, richer, and stay single for longer, resulting in postponing parenthood or having fewer kids and getting dogs instead.
But, the “fewer babies, more pets” trend seems to be widespread across the entire US, if not globally.
Pets vs. Parenthood
Lately, your Instagram feed is most likely loaded with more photos of cute cats and dogs than pics of cute babies. Know that you are not alone.
We’ve identified a few reasons why young adults these days prefer the #dogmom and #dogdad hashtags than parenthood, including decreased fertility rates, higher student loans, high housing costs, more career opportunities, and even more environmental threats.
Unlike older generations, Millennials, the generation of young adults today, deal with many financial stressors, job instability, more health conditions that affect fertility, and opportunities that reshape their priorities. The result? Millennials are pet crazy and choose pets over parenthood.
A venture firm Qualtrics and Accel conducted a survey with 8.000 Gen-Xers, baby boomers, and millennials to see their opinion on pet ownership and parenthood. According to the survey, 27% of millennials don’t want a pet. But, 44% of millennials report not wanting to have children or are still unsure about this decision.
Now, the problem is, again, that it is really difficult to know the accurate numbers for pet ownership. If you search on Google for the US pet population, you’ll see a number of sources, each offering contradictory data.
For example, the APPA’s 2016 data shows that 68% of US households owned some kind of pet. By contracts, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in 2016, 57% of households had a pet. However, even if there’s very little actual data about pet ownership, some very limited data does exist, be it from APPA or AVMA.
So, what does pet ownership have to do with Millennials delaying traditional life milestones such as marriage, homeownership, or parenthood? It seems that there are many reasons young adults choose to treat their pets like their children:
Owning a dog isn’t cheap. According to the American Kennel Club, the average cost of owning a dog is $2,674 for the first year of raising a small dog and $3.536 for big breeds.
Now, let’s compare these numbers with the average annual cost of raising a child for a two-parent family. According to a report from the USDA, these costs are somewhere between $12.800 and $14.970, depending on the age of the child. In the urban Northeast, raising a child to 18 will cost you nearly $282.480, healthcare costs attached to pregnancy and delivery not included.
Dogs need a lot of attention and love from their owners, but let’s be honest, compared to an infant or toddler, they are as high maintenance. Unlike a human child, dogs don’t need constant monitoring. Yet, as the experts from OurFitPets.com explain, the best way to keep your dog healthy is to monitor them every day and watch for changes in behavior, symptoms, and signs of illness. However, dogs can still do alright on their own inside the house for a few hours.
Kids, on the other hand, need to be watched all the time. And, if you are a working parent, you need to pay for childcare somewhere between $720 per month and $2,230, depending on the type of care you choose.
#dogmom first, parent later
Some Millennials don’t exclude the possibility of becoming parents in the future. In fact, for some of them, that’s actually one of the reasons why they adopt a dog.
Let’s be honest, dogs and babies aren’t the same. But raising a dog might teach you a little bit about parenting for the future. At the very least, it gives you some insights into how your partner may commit to be being a parent.
Waking up in the night to calm a puppy’s whining and howling, waking up every few hours to let the dog out, or coming home from work to find expensive shoes have been chewed and lots of “accidents” that led to a mess does give you an idea of what parenthood responsibilities are like.