North Americans are crazy about their pets and the obsession is at an all-time high. According to LiveScience.com, two-thirds of households have at least one pet, and they’re considered treasured family members. That’s up from just over half of homes who had pets twenty years ago and 45% of pet owners have more than one animal. Cats and dogs are the favorites, and they really are considered part of the family. Owners are spending more time and money on their pets’ health and happiness. So things like doggy daycares, pet cemeteries and expensive surgeries – things that used to be considered luxuries – are now common. In fact, owning a pet at all used to be considered a luxury! Farmers had cats to get rid of mice or dogs to help with herding or hunting, but keeping an animal just for companionship was something only the wealthy could afford. As the middle class grew during the 20th century, pets became something almost anyone could have. Pet ownership really took off after World War II, when people started moving to the suburbs and they had more room to keep animals.

These days, pets are full-fledged family members. Forty percent of people who keep pictures of their family in their wallet also keep pictures of their pets. There’s a strong sense of grief when a pet dies. Hallmark even makes condolence cards for pets. There are also a lot of solutions to the problem of what to do with them when you’re away at work. Doggy daycares are springing up, and some companies even let owners bring their dogs to work! Like the biotech company Genetech. They’re ranked by Fortune magazine as the 5th best company to work for, partly because they have onsite doggie day care. People also spend more money at the veterinarian to keep their pets healthy, and in some cases keep them alive with surgeries that weren’t even available 20 years ago. The range of pet products has exploded! From bottled water for dogs to memory foam pet beds! So why do people invest so much in their pets? Over the years, the number one reason people say they want a pet has stayed the same: for companionship. Pets give us that and more.