I just read the funniest thing. There are scientists out there, trying to decide if people feel close to their pets. I swear. Actual time and money are being spent to figure this out.
University of Florida psychology professor Frederic Desmond had this to say on the topic, "There is some research that says pets are seen as an extension of a person's family."
Isn't that precious?
I think I'd refer Professor Desmond to the American Pet Product Manufacturers Association, which provides all kinds of statistics about American people and pets. For example, according to the Association's 2007-2008 National Pet Owners Survey, people with pets is currently at its highest level with 71.1 million households in the U.S. having the companionship of at least one pet (63% of the 113.7 million total U.S. households). The increase is up from 69 million households in 2004.
And we're spending our money on our beloved pets too, Professor Desmond. Collectively, people with pets will plunk down about $41 billion a year on their non-human friends. For things like food that won't poison them, vet checks, health insurance, grooming, clothes, and more toys and accessories than you can shake a Frisbee at. I'd say that's more than a satisfactory amount of compelling research for you, sir.
So, yes, Professor Desmond, pet people do indeed think of their pets as extensions of their family. Actually, not just extensions; we think of them as actual members of our families. And we're better for it.