- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 23, 2002

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — In last year's movie "Cats & Dogs," dogs were portrayed as heroes who save the day, while cats were evil connivers intent on taking over the world.

While few would argue that cats would take over the universe if they could somehow evolve opposable thumbs, the evil connivers part grated. It also raised the question: How much truth is there to the idea that the world is divided into cat people and dog people?

Dog people: Bratwurst-eating slobs.

Cat people: Bloodless bores. Or

Dog people: Healthy, hearty lovers of life.

Cat people: Creative free thinkers.

If the idea holds that people become like their pets, then dog people are eager, loyal tail-waggers in need of constant attention and affection, and cat people are sly, independent smooth talkers who know exactly what they want and how to get it.

"It more or less depends on the person," said Jeff Tarrant, who co-owns Pampered Pets. "There's very neat people with dogs, very messy people with dogs, very neat people with cats, very messy people with cats. It's the nature of the person, is how I see it."

According to 1996 U.S. Census data, 52.9 million dogs and 59.1 million cats live in U.S. homes. And 31.6 percent of U.S. households are home to a dog, while 27.3 are home to a cat, with 1.7 dogs per household compared with 2.2 cats. Households of one or two people were more likely to have a cat, while households with three or more people were more likely to have a dog.

Which, when summarized, simply identifies the fact that people love their pets. In a recently released poll from the American Animal Hospital Association, 1,225 pet owners surveyed in the United States and Canada clearly stated how important their pets are to them: 84 percent acquired their pet mainly for companionship; 78 percent talk to their pet in a different voice; 83 percent refer to themselves as their pet's mom or dad; 59 percent celebrate their pet's birthday; and 90 percent would not consider dating someone who didn't like their pet.

The data also revealed that 44 percent of those surveyed would spend $3,000 or more to save their pet's life, and 36 percent have named someone as the future guardian of their pet.

American Veterinary Medical Association data shows that ownership of pets other than cats and dogs is on the rise. In 1996, 12.6 million birds lived in 4.6 million U.S. homes. Also, rabbits and ferrets live in 2.3 percent of U.S. households, rodents in 2.3 percent of households, fish in 6.3 percent of households and reptiles in 1.5 percent of households.

"I think as far as cat person, dog person, fish person, the important thing is the nature of the pet owner themselves and how they love their pet," Mr. Tarrant said.

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