American pet preferences are sobering

As Texan musician, author, and politician Kinky Friedman observed, “Money can buy you a good dog, but only love can make it wag its tail.” So there should be plenty of queues moving across the country this month; May is National Pet Month in the US, and new research has shed light on how Americans love to pamper their furry friends and make them feel like part of the family.

The rise in popularity of pets during the coronavirus pandemic is well documented. About 19% of Americans reported getting a new pet during this time, and many of us are spending a lot more time at home and wanting extra companionship during this difficult time.

Attest conducted a survey of 400 US working-age pet owners in February 2022 to gauge the nation’s attitude toward their pets and track how much they spend on their animals. One of the most surprising findings was that dogs are much more popular than cats, with 75% of pet owners saying they have a dog and only 49% having a cat.

raining cats and dogs

This popularity was especially pronounced among Generation X pet owners, with 82% dog owners compared to just 45.5% cat owners. Gen Z and Millennials rated above average for cat ownership. Men are slightly more likely to own a dog than women (78% vs. 74%), although they are much less likely to own a cat (41.5% vs. 52%).

Ownership of other household pets is much less common, according to the research. Seven percent of pet owners said they had fish, while another 7% said they had birds. Reptiles (6%), rabbits (4%) and rodents (3%) followed. Meanwhile, horses and donkeys got just 1%. The majority of American pet owners report having only one pet to their name (28%), and 24% have two pets (12%).

Research also suggests that pets integrate seamlessly into American family life, with many owners going the extra mile to make them feel included. Nearly six in 10 (57%) allow their pet to sleep in bed with them, 51% buy premium pet food, 33% give their pet vitamins and supplements, 21% cook and prepare food for their pets, while 15% are signed up for a gift subscription.

How much do Americans spend on treating their pets?

Most American pet owners tend to spend between $26-$50 (30%) on their pets each month. Eighteen percent spend between $51 and $75, while 19% spend between $76 and $100 (19%). One in 10 spend between $100 and $125, and only 8.5% said they spend less than $25, suggesting that a large proportion of owners see no problem spending money on their pets. As for the gender gap, men were more likely to spend more than women.

Perhaps more interesting than how much pet owners spend is what they actually spend on and, more importantly, where they spend it. Many industries saw an e-commerce boom during the coronavirus pandemic, but the pet sector seems to have been overlooked. Most owners prefer to buy food from a pet store (35%) or a supermarket (34%), and only 13% buy it online. Treats are also often purchased in person, with the majority of purchases made at the pet store (42%) or supermarket (26%), with only 15% going to online retailers.

40% go to the pet store to buy equipment such as toys, leashes and cages, while 18% go online and 16% visit the supermarket. These purchases tend to be less frequent, with most respondents saying they only buy gear or accessories for their pets once every few months. The majority purchased pet food weekly (39%) or monthly (35%), while the majority of pet owners purchased treats on a month-to-month basis.

Go the extra mile to make pets feel included

Americans also like their pet to be a part of special occasions. Nearly half (48%) said they buy birthday and Christmas gifts for their pets, while just over a third (34%) take their partner with them wherever they can. This shows that many of us see our animals not only as pets, but as true members of the family. However, less than two in 10 (18%) have an insurance policy for their pet. Again, men are more likely than women to have their pets insured.

It’s safe to assume that pet ownership is more of a lifestyle choice than a mere expense for American pet owners. This is particularly highlighted in the research, with data indicating that Americans love to make their pets feel like part of the family by including them in celebrations and outings. It is also interesting to note that e-commerce is not making the inroads in the pet supply industry that it is in other market sectors. It seems like a personal touch is required when it comes to ensuring our pets have everything they need, showing how much Americans love their furry friends.

(Jeremy King is the CEO and founder of Attest.)

french-bulldog-g1f37708bf_1920 representative image Photo: Credit: Pixabay

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