Over 40 Percent of Pet Parents Look at Their Cat or Dog as a 'Starter Child,' Survey Finds

The same survey also found that pet owners can expect to have an average of 231 'mini-panics' about their pet's health and safety each year

cat in highchair
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Pets bring companionship and humor into our lives, but it's not always a smooth ride — according to new research, the average pet parent will have 231 "mini-panics" per year.

A survey of 2,000 dog and cat owners delved into these panic points, and the results found that the average respondent has just over four "mini-panics" about their pet per week.

The survey found that the top "mini-panics" cited by participants included pets having irregular bowel movements (47%), pets not eating a normal amount (47%), and pet poop being an unusual consistency (46%).

That's in addition to pets eating something they shouldn't have (46%) and pets going missing inside the house (42%).

Sometimes these panics resulted in a trip to the vet, and the survey found, of those with children (76%), four in 10 said they'd made an equal number of emergency clinic trips with their pet as they had with their human child.

Commissioned by pet food brand I and love and you and conducted by OnePoll, the survey also explored how people parent their pets and all the love and care that goes into taking care of a four-legged friend.

There might not be a hard line between "child" and "pet," though, as 61% said they consider their pet to be their child.

Four in 10 pet parents surveyed (42%) said they've actually gotten their fur baby as a "starter child," using the animal as a test to see if they're ready for kids.

Respondents treat their pets like children in a variety of ways, including throwing them birthday parties (29%), wearing matching outfits (24%), and watching shows together (21%).

Results also found 41% of survey participants have celebrated Mother's Day or Father's Day with their pet.

The lines between human child and pet are so blurred that 35% of parents admit they've called their child by their pet's name — and of those, they do so an average of 17 times per month.

"Pets are people too, and our families wouldn't be the same without our furry counterparts. We believe that the best love is the best food, and a key indicator of quality pet food is digestive health. Whether it's a fur or human baby, parenting is one of the toughest jobs there is," Lindsey Rabaut, vice president of marketing at "I and love and you," said in a statement.

"Our pets are a piece of us; it's a reciprocal love, and along with that deep bond comes worry in addition to all the love and care. That is why at 'I and love and you,' we do everything in partnership with our own pets so that we know we are supporting their digestive system and helping to alleviate the top causes for concern. Happy tums make for happy bums."

The survey found 58% want to take the best possible care of their pet since they're a part of the family — but this isn't always an easy feat, considering the trouble pets can get into.

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To ensure their four-legged friend is healthy, 54% of respondents pay attention to their pet's poop, and 59% were aware that their pet's poop is a good indicator of their digestive health.

Results found that 24% research what their pet's poop should look like every week — while 10% admit they look it up daily.

And to help their pets stay healthy, 48% look for pet food that has added pre and probiotics to support their pet's digestive health.

"One thing we all do as parents is pay attention to poop! We care about what goes in just as much as what comes out, and we all do a happy dance when it's healthy and normal. It's a sense of pride," said Rabaut. "We make all our food with the highest quality ingredients, and every kibble has added prebiotics and probiotics that promote digestive health as it's critical for healthy poops."


  • Make sure they're eating a healthy diet: 54%
  • Share food with them: 54%
  • Ensure they get enough exercise: 53%
  • Spend quality time with them: 52%
  • Created a social media account for them: 46%
  • Buy them holiday presents: 36%
  • Throw them birthday parties: 29%
  • Potty trained them: 28%
  • Buy clothes for them (rain jackets, booties, etc.): 27%
  • We own matching outfits: 24%
  • Sleep trained them: 22%
  • We watch shows together: 21%


  • Their pet having irregular bowel movements: 47%
  • Their pet not eating a normal amount: 47%
  • Their pet's poop being an unusual consistency: 46%
  • Their pet eating something they shouldn't have: 46%
  • Not being able to find their pet in the house: 42%
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