Fur the love of pets

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Millennials Opt for Pets Over Kids

Cute cat clothing, fancy dog beds, expensive toys and organic pet food are typical high-end purchases by millennials. While they may skip car ownership, they splurge on four-legged members of the family. Kitty selfies, dining with dogs on café patios and pet-friendly vacations are common with this generation, born between 1980 and 2000.

Pet parenthood redefined

The average age for a millennial to adopt their first pet is 21 (eight years sooner than baby boomers). According to recent research about Gen Y, three-fourths have dogs and 51% have cats, which accounts for 35% of all pet parents—a higher rate than the general population.

Reasons for the preference among 18- to 34-year-olds include the following: pets allow for more freedom (you can't leave a toddler home alone!), pets cost less than kids and they're great companions. More than 80% agree that interactions with cats and dogs are relaxing, health enhancing and express unconditional love.

Pets vs. kids

The savings is significant when opting for pets instead of kids. Rescue fees are in the hundreds of dollars, a fraction of the thousands spent on childbirth. A Forbes magazine article compared the annual cost of bringing up a child with caring for a furry baby. On average, the investment in raising a pup runs between $2,674 for a small dog to $3,536 for larger breeds. Expenses for a child start at about $15,000 to sky's the limit.

Realtors have also discovered the power of cats and dogs to influence home buyers: 42% of millennials factor in space for dogs (not kids) as their motivating factor.

Surrogate child

For young adults delaying marriage and children, pets are good parenting practice. Cat litter stands in for diapers and leashes for scooters. Yet, like children, pets require a commitment of up to 18 years, depending on us for food, healthcare and love.

One millennial's tweet summed it up: "My dog isn't my replacement child. She is my child!"