Since the beginning of the recession, many Americans have given up on having kids. It seems they also have given up on having pets.
Pets still are popular: 56 percent of all U.S. households owned a pet at the end of last year. But that share is down 2 percent from the end of 2006, according to the study. And pet ownership has fallen across all categories of animal: cats, dogs, birds, horses, specialty pets and exotic pets.
The U.S. population of dogs, cats, pet birds, and horses has plunged. There now are 3 percent fewer dogs, 9 percent fewer cats, 26 percent fewer pet birds and 33 percent fewer horses than before the recession.
Pets can be expensive. Cats and dogs cost more than $1,000 to take care of during the first year, and more than $500 per year after that, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). (Find more information about the cost of pets here.)
In a similar trend, the U.S. birth rate is projected to plunge to a 25-year low this year, after peaking before the recession, according to Demographic Intelligence. It costs between $12,290 to $14,320 per year to raise a child in a middle-income family, according to the Department of Agriculture.
Meanwhile, the median U.S. household's annual income was $50,020 as of January, according to Sentier Research, 8 percent less than at the end of 2007.
The economy could be on the upswing. Americans recently have been indulging in more haircuts, dinners out and plastic surgeries. But the pace of consumer spending growth has slowed sharply over the past year, according to the Commerce Department.
Dog Rescued After Tsunami
Ban was reunited with her owner in tsunami-ravaged Japan after a news channel aired dramatic footage of her being rescued from the sea. This is pure joy.
The Persistence Of Memory
Joplin's owner was incarcerated for 3.5 years. Would Joplin still remember her after all that time apart? (The answer, of course, is yes, but don't let that stop you from watching this beautiful video)
Christian The Lion
The video NEVER gets old. From the video's description on YouTube: "In 1969 a young Australian, John Rendall and his friend Ace Bourke, bought a small lion cub from Harrods pet department, which was then legal. 'Christian' was kept in the basement of a furniture shop on the Kings Road in Chelsea, the heart of the swinging sixties. Loved by all, the affectionate cub ate in a local restaurant, played in a nearby graveyard, but was growing fast... ...Then in 1971 he was flown to Kenya, his ancestral home, and returned to the wild by lion-man George Adamson. Nine months later in 1972, John and Ace returned to Kora in Kenya. This clip is of their reunion at that time. It was an emotional reunion: "He ran towards us, threw himself onto us, knocked us over and hugged us, with his paws on our shoulders." John Rendall"
Chuck Is Reunited After Years On The Streets
Chuck got lost and spent 4.5 years on the streets. Forty pounds lighter, but still wearing the same dog tag, he was reunited with his family.
Anita And The Wolves
Anita spent two years socializing with these wolves. This is their reunion after two months apart. If you've never seen wolves act like puppies, this is your chance.
Tyrone Stewart Reunited With CiCi
The Stewart family was forced to leave their five dogs behind to make room for other families when they fled New Orleans by boat during Hurricane Katrina. In this video, 15-year-old Tyrone is reunited with his dog CiCi.
Greg Cook Reunited With His Dog Coco
Greg Cook hugs his dog Coco after finding her inside his destroyed home in Alabama following the tornado in March 2012.
Damian Meets Kwibi
Conservationist Damian Aspinall is searching for Kwibi, a lowland gorilla he hasn't seen for 5 years. Kwibi grew up with Damian at an animal park in England, but was later released into the forests of Gabon. Now Kwibi is 10 years old. Watch what happens at their reunion..
Lavern's Rescue During The Tornado
For 16 days, Lavern, a 13-year-old cat, was buried beneath the rubble of a house in Joplin, Mo. Her owner, Terrla Cruse, assumed her cat had died. But when she and her sister returned to the house to look for some papers, they heard meowing and began to dig frantically. Lavern's head soon emerged and Terrla's sister was quick to take a photo of the moment.
Chuck Welcomes Home His Owner
Chuck's dad is a soldier returning from service. If there was an award for happiest dog on the Internet, Chuck, who is a boxer, would be the clear winner.
Jared Is Reunited WIth His Lost Cat
Clyde had been missing for 12 days before someone found him and returned him while 10-year-old Jared was at school. Jared's mom decided to surprise him, and a lovely, tearful reunion followed.
A Christmas Miracle!
Maynard was reunited with his owners after a series of minor miracles just before Christmas in 2009. He'd been missing for two years before that!
Karma's Reunion With Her Baby
Okay, so this isn't exactly an animal-human reunion. But it is heartbreaking and amazing. Karma is reunited with her calf after they've both been rescued. Yes, it's okay to cry now.