"The thing that's been good about it — when they don't have a friend over, it's been a really good way to give them something to do, someone to play with," Harker said.
She said many of her other friends whose children are the same age as her own are also buying pets for their children. But she also knows several childless couples who keep pets as well.
Can pet parents have it all?
One clear trend that does seem to be emerging among a rising generation of pet parents is an interest in mobility and an active lifestyle, Vetere said.
Small animals can be left home for a few days without too much trouble — this could be one of the reasons why families with children are more likely to own small pets, Vetere said. A dog or a cat, on the other hand, needs daily attention. It would be much more difficult to leave a canine to travel for business or for pleasure.
Additionally, current pet owners are showing increased interest in services such as pet sitting and doggy day care. Some workplaces have even begun adopting more pet-friendly policies. While the growth of pet product sales has slowed somewhat since the recession, pet services have emerged as the strongest pet-related industry in recent years.
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