Companion animals are now considered to be family members, no longer the outdoor dogs and cats on farms that were typical for many families a few decades ago. The human–animal bond has become a household term, reflecting the entry of dogs, cats, and other pets into our everyday lives. A majority of pet owners have more than 1 pet. Cats are increasing in popularity and numbers, leading to the emergence of veterinary practices serving only cats. Yet a 2008 study of the care pets receive reported that dogs were seen more than twice as often by a veterinarian than cats. Even in households with multiple pets, the dogs were seen by veterinarians more often than were the cats in the same household.
Households with children are the most likely to have pets. A majority of couples also have pets, and the largest recent growth rate in pet ownership has been among retired couples. Currently, fewer than half of single persons have a pet. Developing techniques for incorporating the entire family is an important feature of successful veterinary practice.
With the growing awareness of the human–animal bond, pets are known to fill many of the same support functions that humans do, and the roles of animals have expanded into new applications. At the same time, the public is focused on ensuring that animals receive adequate consideration and care. Albert Schweitzer's concept of “reverence for life” has become a standard for decision-making concerning animals. Acknowledgment of the human–animal bond has become a cornerstone of veterinary practice.
Last full review/revision March 2012 by Lynette A. Hart, PhD