Whether you’re a dog person, a cat person, or are more into non-furry pets like birds, lizards, or turtles. You have probably had a pet at some point in your life.
The millennial and Gen-Z generations have the highest pet ownership percentage, at 65–70 percent. They treat pets like family members, throwing them birthday parties, choosing costly surgery over putting their pet to sleep, and getting pet insurance the same way you would get health insurance for your child. Americans spend billions of dollars every year on their pets.
Now, there’s another option that’s becoming popular among individuals and families — AI pets. How does having an AI dog compare with a real one, and will AI pets replace our beloved furry friends for good?
The Truth about AI Cats and Dogs (and Other Pets)
To answer my first question, no, AI pets will never fully replace living dogs, cats, lizards, turtles, birds, or any other type of pet. At least, not for everyone. They can, however, be an excellent substitute in many situations.
Let’s consider the Aibo, made by Sony. This lovable AI dog learns your personality the more you interact with it. It can tell if you’re having a bad day or a great day and react accordingly. It loves being pet and will even walk itself to its charger when its battery starts to run low.
In some ways, it’s a perfect companion. It gives you attention when you want it and leaves you alone when you don’t. Designed for families, the Aibo can help kids learn how to care for a pet without, you know, “caring” for a pet (have you ever seen a toddler try to carry a cat up a flight of stairs?)
Introducing an AI pet into the family can also teach kids how to be compassionate toward animals. Researchers have found that kids develop compassion toward AI dogs, even though they know they aren’t real. They feel it is wrong to be mean to it or throw it away.
AI-powered pets can also be excellent for aging adults who could benefit from constant companionship but cannot care for a living animal consistently. Paro is a robotic seal that is adorable to look at and fluffy to hold. As a therapeutic tool, it reduces stress among patients and caregivers.
Finally, AI pets can make it easier to care for our living ones. An AI fish, for example, can swim alongside your real fish, cleaning the tank and doling out food at regular intervals, so you don’t need to worry about it. The SoFi AI-fish swims in the ocean, collecting data about marine life. This idea may soon translate into a home version of an AI fish that will make an aquarium easier to maintain.
We love our real pets, but you have to admit they have some drawbacks. Real pets need to be fed regularly and cleaned up after. They need someone responsible to care for them. They can act out by barking too loud at night, scratching our furniture, or even biting us or someone in our family.
AI pets look, feel, and act like real animals. They make pet ownership more accessible for people who do not want to deal with the challenges posed by living animals.
AI pets are not part of some distant future — they already exist. By 2025, we should expect AI-driven pets to be widely available. Will we love our AI pets as much as our real ones? Only time will tell.