Those who aren’t pet people sometimes struggle with the sentiment and importance pet owners place on their dogs and cats. There are certainly other pets, such as horses, reptiles, bunnies, fish, and more, but according to the 2021–2022 survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association, 70 percent of U.S. households—accounting for 90.5 million families—included a pet. Dogs are owned by 69 million families and cats are owned by 45.3 million families—many own both a cat and a dog. To provide perspective, fish came in third at 11.8 million families.
While some people own pets for protection, most studies indicate that dogs and cats provide companionship. They can also help keep us healthy; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that dogs increase the opportunities for their owners to get outside to play and take walks, which can keep both owners and pets fit; it’s not uncommon for the pet’s owners to benefit from decreased blood pressure as well as decreased cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Dogs and cats have also proven helpful in managing loneliness and depression. It’s no surprise to see growing acceptance of service and emotional support dogs, as well as more pet-friendly retailers, restaurants, hotels, and airlines.
However, it’s perhaps the unconditional love given by dogs and cats to their owners that grants them the status of cherished members of the family. Accordingly, just as children are taken care of via inheritances, the number of trust funds for pets grows every year. In one very notable example of an owner loving her pet, in preparation for her eventual passing, hotel-magnate Leona Helmsley created a $12 million trust for Trouble, her Maltese. We can’t all make our pets millionaires, but there are many other ways in which we can reward these furry friends for their love and devotion.
With the dog’s or cat’s standing in the family hierarchy firmly established, when it comes to their accessories the sky is the limit. Many owners have bowls that are used only for food or water. Ceramic bowls are popular—until you drop one onto a tile or hardwood floor. Stainless bowls used for water and food tend to be the most durable and easy to clean. If you’re nervous about putting them into the dishwasher, wash them in the sink with hot water.
Dogs and cats are composed of 80 percent water, versus humans at 60 percent, making a steady supply of fresh, clean water a must for overall health. Cats tend to prefer moving water; providing them with one of the many water fountains made for felines can prove very effective for keeping them hydrated. Dogs aren’t as picky, drinking from water bowls, puddles, the swimming pool, or even, much to the horror of Mom, the toilet if the seat is left up. In any event, they’re often more likely to drink if the water is fresh. A simple test is to run your finger along the bottom of the water bowl; if it is slippery, the bowl needs to be washed and refilled with fresh water.
To show your dog that you care, consider the stainless and oak water and food bowl from Hermès. The two-piece design, said to be inspired by the firm’s signature Chaine d’Ancre motif, features an oak base crafted using traditional wine barrel construction methods and two stainless steel bowls held in place by magnets, allowing them to be separated.
When it’s time for sleep, a survey by yogurt maker Stonyfield Organic found that 74 percent of dog owners share the bed with their pets. If your dog hogs the bed, consider getting your own bed or offering him or her an Orvis bolster-style bed with a memory foam cushion. Actress Rachel Hunter took it a step further. She had La Petite Maison build a dog house for her dogs that’s a scaled-down, air-conditioned version of her house.
When it’s time for a family vacation, consider pet-friendly resorts, such as Ritz-Carlton’s Bachelor Gulch resort in Beaver Creek, Colorado. The property welcomes four-legged guests in the suites and rooms, with doggy day camp and grooming services available. The Four Seasons also welcomes pets at many of its properties, including Washington; Las Vegas; Vail, Colorado; and Los Angeles, where a dedicated dog bed is waiting for them in the room upon arrival.
Most major U.S. carriers will allow passengers to bring small pets into the cabin in an approved under-seat carrier. For those who can’t travel with their pet, firms such as Blue Collar Pet Transport will accompany pets that are less than 20 pounds in the cabin of commercial airliners. While airlines can accommodate larger animals in the cargo area, many owners balk at that idea, as it’s a scary, uncomfortable environment. The ultimate in pet travel is offered by Miami’s Noble Air Charter, which will transport your pet anywhere in the United States in its own aircraft.