Can owning a dog replace being a parent? The answer seems to be “Yes” sincemore couples decide to be child-free and treat their pets like their childreninstead.

Have you ever heard of “fur baby”? Well, Oxford Dictionary definitely hassince nearly four years ago, it added this word to its lexicon. What does “furbaby” mean? It represents the degree to which pets are now pampered by theirowners as they would a child.

In San Francisco, it seems that this trend of treating a dog like a child iswidespread as it turns out, that dogs literally outnumber kids. At leastthat’s what a 2019 report from Air Mail, a travel newsletter, suggests.

Now, wherever you look in San Francisco, you see luxury dog daycares andhotels, dog gyms and spas, and even dog bakeries. So, it’s clear that SanFrancisco 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 SanFrancisco, in 2018, there were nearly 118.362 minors in San Francisco. Seems alot, right? Yet, the number of dogs, from 120.000 to 500.000, literallyoutnumbers the number of kids here.

It’s difficult to know exactly how many dogs are in San Francisco since lessthan 30% of dogs are registered here even though pet owners are required to doit. But, even if no one knows for sure how many dogs are in San Franciscoexactly, they know an estimated number and an accurate number for how manykids are. And, doing the math results that there are more furry friends aroundhere than there are kids.

According to the report, we can put the “blame” on the city’s booming techindustry for this phenomenon. It seems that the city’s demographic shows thatpeople there are now younger, richer, and stay single for longer, resulting inpostponing parenthood or having fewer kids and getting dogs instead.

But, the “fewer babies, more pets” trend seems to be widespread across theentire US, if not globally.

Pets vs. Parenthood

Lately, your Instagram feed is most likely loaded with more photos of cutecats 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 #dogmomand #dogdad hashtags than parenthood, including decreased fertility rates,higher student loans, high housing costs, more career opportunities, and evenmore environmental threats.

Unlike older generations, Millennials, the generation of young adults today,deal with many financial stressors, job instability, more health conditionsthat affect fertility, and opportunities that reshape their priorities. Theresult? 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 andparenthood. 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 unsureabout this decision.

Now, the problem is, again, that it is really difficult to know the accuratenumbers 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 somekind of pet. By contracts, according to the American Veterinary MedicalAssociation, in 2016, 57% of households had a pet. However, even if there’svery little actual data about pet ownership, some very limited data doesexist, be it from APPA or AVMA.

So, what does pet ownership have to do with Millennials delaying traditionallife milestones such as marriage, homeownership, or parenthood? It seems thatthere are many reasons young adults choose to treat their pets like theirchildren:


Owning a dog isn’t cheap. According to the American Kennel Club, the averagecost 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 achild for a two-parent family. According to a report from the USDA, thesecosts are somewhere between $12.800 and $14.970, depending on the age of thechild. 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 humanchild, dogs don’t need constant monitoring. Yet, as the experts explain, the best way to keep your dog healthy is to monitorthem every day and watch for changes in behavior, symptoms, and signs ofillness. However, dogs can still do alright on their own inside the house fora few hours.

Kids, on the other hand, need to be watched all the time. And, if you are aworking parent, you need to pay for childcare somewhere between $720 per monthand $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 thefuture. In fact, for some of them, that’s actually one of the reasons why theyadopt a dog.

Let’s be honest, dogs and babies aren’t the same. But raising a dog mightteach you a little bit about parenting for the future. At the very least, itgives 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 everyfew hours to let the dog out, or coming home from work to find expensive shoeshave been chewed and lots of “accidents” that led to a mess does give you anidea of what parenthood responsibilities are like.

Source: San Francisco Examiner

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