How we dote on dogs and cats

You might be surprised by what some owners do

Consumer Reports magazine: October 2012

Illustration: Alison Seiffer

Have you seen the bumper sticker “My dog is smarter than your honor student”? It might adorn the car of a fellow Consumer Reports reader. When we surveyed 1,300 subscribers about their pets, just 3 percent of dog owners and 5 percent of cat owners said their pet was “less smart than average.” Other evidence of pet pride: Half of pet owners give Fido and Fifi holiday gifts; 36 percent sign cards with their pet’s name or photo. Two percent have even given their pet its own social media page.

That doesn’t mean pets are never in the doghouse. More than one-third of cat owners reported that their pet had damaged furniture, and one-quarter of dog owners said theirs had stolen food meant for people. (Personally, we’d like to report a missing wheel of Camembert.) Next-biggest gripe for cat owners was a pet that bit or scratched a member of the family; for dog owners, a pet that ran away or escaped.

Asked the most they had ever spent on their pet for a vet procedure, readers cited an average of $609. The average most would spend to save their pet’s life: $1,620. That figure was $1,824 for dog owners; $1,309 for cat owners. The sums might have been higher, but we asked about each person’s oldest pet and heard about those that were an average of nine years old.

At feeding time, most owners said they seek a balance between price and quality, but 14 percent said a food’s price is no object, and 4 percent said they buy inexpensive food because they think it’s as high in quality as the rest. Apparently there are a few especially lucky dogs and cats out there: One percent of owners said, “I make most of my pet’s meals myself.”

We turned up some differences in the way men and women treat their pets. More women let their pet sleep with them (70 percent, compared with 57 percent of men). But men and women are about equally likely to put their pets in cute outfits.

It's a dog life?

What readers did

Dog owners

Cat owners

Fed the pet human food



Taught it tricks



Let it sleep with you



Gave it holiday gifts



Took it on vacation



Signed a card with its name or photo



Put photos of it on social media sites



Dressed it in outfits



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