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With pets being treated like family, businesses aim to meet new needs

About 65 million households nationwide are now proud owners of a furry canine companion, while 46 million households have a lovable feline friend. Millennials are at the forefront of this pet ownership trend, making up the highest percentage of pet owners among all age groups.

One in four pet owners refer to their beloved animals as their "child," signaling a larger shift in the dynamics of modern families. As the United States witnesses a sharp decline in the birth rate, pets are increasingly becoming valued members of households, providing companionship and emotional support for their human parents. 

As pet ownership continues to soar, the pet industry is quick to respond to the demand for unique pet experiences, gourmet treats, and specialized services. Pet-friendly cafes, birthday parties for dogs, and even "bark mitzvahs" for canine celebrations are becoming increasingly common. 

Dog and cat snuggle on a blue sofa
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For those who seek a combination of caffeine and canine affection, there's Boris & Horton Cafe in New York. Founded by Coppy Holzman and his daughter Logan Mikhly five years ago, it welcomes patrons with a unique experience where coffee and cuddles go hand in paw.

"We opened it based on the need we had. We thought, wouldn't it be nice if we both could take our dogs, go inside, drink a cup of coffee, have some food. And here we are," said Holzman.  

Boris & Horton takes its pet-friendly services seriously, ensuring proper precautions are in place, with a clear separation between food preparation and the presence of dogs. 

Boris & Horton's success has led them to a second location due to high demand. The cafe's pet-friendly concept has also inspired similar establishments to sprout up all over the U.S. 

"Post-pandemic, people are treating their dogs more like their family. People were cooped up inside with their dogs, and their dogs were a source of companionship during the time that was really, really difficult. And now that we're out and about again, I'm not gonna leave him at home," Mikhly said.

Sociologist Kathleen Gerson, a professor of sociology at NYU, views this phenomenon as a cultural shift, where 1 in 3 dog owners now considers themselves as dog "parents." As young adults face time, money, and child care challenges, they turn to pets to fill the void and experience the joy of nurturing a living being. 

"People think of their pets as children. And people will tell you they are a member of the family, just like their children are," Gerson said.  

However, not everyone is on board with this trend. Some individuals find it offensive to equate animals with human children.

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