Pets playing a big role in dating

Published: July 26, 2006 | 4497th good news item since 2003

Love me, love my dog. That’s the message for potential suitors from pet owners.

“We always hear stories, It’s me or the cat, and she chooses the cat,” said Dr. Debra Owens, associate veterinarian with the Animal Medical Center in Charleston. “But there are a lot of couples who truly love animals, and it brings them together.”

Thus, creators of online dating services for single pet owners for whom the specialized Web sites have multiplied recently like … well … like rabbits, are hoping for the latter.

“Only dog lovers really understand what it’s like to love dogs, and it’s important for them to be able to share that passion with the person they love,” said Derek Collinson, creator of the Web site

His and similar Internet-based services offer search tools, instant messaging and e-mail capabilities for customers to track down other pet-minded romantics. Other sites, such as, rely on high-speed networks through which members can communicate with each other.

Online dating service claims there are 40 million single pet owners, while the American Animal Hospital Association reported results of a 2002 survey in which 90 percent of pet owners said they would not date someone who wasn’t also endeared to their pets.

“If you’ve started dating a fellow pet lover, you already have something important in common: your love for animals,” writes Ann Palik, a marriage and family therapist, for the Web site “You probably feel you and your pets are a package deal; if your date cannot get along with your pets, it’s time to look elsewhere.”

After all, according to some experts, how one treats animals potentially indicates how that person would behave with larger responsibilities, say, children, for example.

“It’s like a litmus test: How do you deal with any other creature that needs care or attention?” said Paula McNitt, a clinical psychologist and relationship counselor for Carle Foundation Physician Services in Coles County. “If it goes well, it probably bodes well for the relationship.”

She cited her own daughter, who wanted a cat and got one from her boyfriend, who also helps care for the cat.

Rachel Toor, author of “The Pig and I: Why It’s So Easy to Love an Animal, and So Hard to Live with a Man,” jokingly writes in Happen magazine that if prospective boyfriends don’t like animals, “Forget about them. That’s clearly an evil person.

“But, if you find a guy who makes a joke if your pet pig pees on their Oriental carpet; who brings treats for your pooch and chocolate for you; who can play rough or gentle with them depending on the mood; who is kind and caring and responsible well, then, send him my way.”

According to Dr. Owens, some of the couples who bring their pets to the Animal Medical Center regard their animals as “pre-kids.”

“They’re thinking about having kids, so they start out with a puppy or kitten,” she said. “Having a puppy is like having a child.”

But pets, while important, certainly should not become the foundation of a long-term relationship, said experts. Palik encourages would-be couples to ask themselves this question: “Do you have enough to sustain a relationship aside from your mutual love of animals?”

McNitt, who spends much more time counseling married people than couples who are dating, said she has never had clients for whom pets were a “particular issue.”

Dr. Owens noted the pet-oriented dating services are “OK.” However, she said, “There’s a lot more to a relationship than loving a dog.”

Published in Animals, Love
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