(BPT) - Move over, Rover. While dogs have long been considered the most popular pet in the United States, cats are a pet of choice for many in the millennial generation, according to research conducted earlier this year by Nestlé Purina.
Close to half of 1,000 survey respondents in the millennial age range (18 to 34) say they own cats, and many believe their cat is similar to themselves. Many millennials consider themselves independent, yet social. Fifty-seven percent of millennial cat owners say their cat is as important in their lives as their friends, two in five consider their cat to be their new 'best friend' and nearly 50 percent say they tell their cat secrets no one else knows.
According to the Pet Food Institute the U.S. pet cat population is more than 73 million - or two million more than the U.S. pet dog population.
Perhaps it's true what Sigmund Freud once said, 'Time spent with cats is never wasted.'
More than 80 percent of millennial cat owners agree one of the main reasons they own a cat is their cat fits in well with their current lifestyle, perhaps because two-thirds of their cats stay entirely indoors.
'People like cats because they are great pets - they provide comfort to their owners and with appropriate socialization they can be warm and friendly,' said Purina behaviorist Sandra Lyn. 'In addition, they don't need to be taken on walks or for bathroom breaks and they're generally happy doing their own thing, though they do like attention and cuddling.'
Pet ownership may also fill a companionship gap left as millennials get married and have children later than baby boomers did, according to a Wakefield Research study.
'The relationship between pets and people is continuing to evolve,' noted Lyn. 'Through research and personal experience, the bond between pets and people can be viewed as an important part of improving quality of life.'
It's unclear whether the preponderance of cat videos (and the popularity of 'celebrity cats' such as Grumpy Cat) in digital media has affected the political correctness of being attached to one's cat, but nearly three in five millennial cat owners surveyed by Purina consider themselves as 'cat ladies' or 'cat men.'
Many also see their pets as a form of social currency through which they can share photos and stories on digital media, according to the Wakefield Research study.
In fact, two in five millennial cat owners talk about their pets on social media, three in five have watched cat videos and half have shared cat memes.
In general, those identifying as cat people are 11 percent more apt to have an 'open' personality than dog people, meaning they tend to be curious, creative, artistic and more apt to be non-traditional thinkers, says research by WebMD. Further, Purina found 88 percent of millennial cat owners consider themselves similar to their cats. Forty percent describe their lifestyle as independent, and 72 percent see themselves as friendly - with 46 percent motivated to own cats because they're also friendly.
For more information about the bond between pets and people, visit www.betterwithpets.com.
Editor's note: Purina's online study about millennials was conducted among 1,000 subjects ages 18 to 34 in the United States between Oct. 16 and 22, 2015. The research firm was Penn Schoen Berland of Washington, D.C.