Research

Only the Best for Our Pets: A Look At Pandemic Pet Purchasing Habits

Only the best for our pets

Pets have played an increasingly important role in the last tens of thousands of years of human history. In the 21st century, the importance of a pet is that of a “firstborn,” as millennials delay parenthood. With an uptick in adoptions during the COVID-19 pandemic, we explored data on the online pet commerce market over the past decade. 

This inspired us to survey pet owners to explore the important topic: how has the pandemic affected their purchasing behaviors? Did the financial uncertainty of the pandemic slow down pet subscriptions, grooming visits and premium purchases? Surprisingly, only around half of pet owners slowed down their pet purchasing and some pet owners even increased their pet spending. Keep reading to learn more on what pet owners are buying and how they’re preparing Fido for their return to work.  

Key Takeaways 

  • Pet owners spend an average of $837 per year
  • 27% of millennial pet owners reported spending more than usual on their pets during the COVID-19 pandemic. 
  • On average, consumers spend $90 on pet supplies and gifts during the holidays
  • 40% of respondents purchased gadgets and technology for their pets in preparation to go back to the office.

Pet Spending in a Pandemic 

How much do people spend on their pets, and how has the pandemic changed their purchasing behavior? 

Pandemic pet spending habits

Cost was reported as the No. 1 concern among pet owners. Overall, pet owners spent an average of $837 on their pets annually, but when broken down by species, dog owners spent $144 more than cat owners. Cats tend to be lower maintenance, and depending on the size of the dog, a feline counterpart is likely to require much less food.

For some, taking on an animal is like having a child, in that both financial and emotional stability are required to properly care for them. Specifically, millennials make up the largest group of pet owners by generation. They tend to treat animals as their firstborn and have children later in life. Millennials reported spending 27% more on their feline or canine children during the pandemic. 

To evaluate how the pandemic affected pet spending, we listed four different pet services and asked how many of our respondents utilized them prior to COVID-19 – and how many stopped using them during the pandemic. Many survey takers (46%) were able to continue with all four services throughout the pandemic. 

Let’s Celebrate

When it comes to holidays and special events, many people like to include their furry family in the festivities. We took a closer look at holiday pet spending and how the holidays encourage pet owners to spend more than they normally would. 

Holiday pet spending trends

On average, consumers spent $90 on pet goods and supplies as part of their in-store holiday shopping. Pet owner spending during the holidays is no small amount: according to Deloitte’s 2020 holiday retail survey, pet owners accounted for 5% of all holiday spending! Dog owners are probably contributing to pet retail more so than cat owners, according to our study. 

Shopping Preferences 

Overall, pet owners are mostly buying their pet supplies in-store, despite the massive consumer shift to online ordering and purchasing. A quarter of pet owners preferred buying pet supplies online due to convenience and the availability of better prices and products, favoring Amazon and Chewy for their pet toys and supplies. The top two items people chose to purchase online rather than in-store were vitamins/supplements and medication. This may be because these expensive items often cost less online. 

Online pet shopping statistics

Based on data from the APPA data, young pet owners (Gen Z and millennials) were the biggest online shoppers when it came to pet supplies, especially those living in urban areas. However, during various lockdowns during the pandemic, many pet owners purchased supplies for their animals online, and our study showed that around 19% of pet owners tried it for the first time, and they may be hooked. With new COVID-19 variants creating a surge in cases across the country and in some parts of the world, we may anticipate that shift to online shopping again. 

Gizmos and Gadgets 

Next, we asked what smart tech pet owners had bought in preparation for going back to the office and explored the growing wearable pet tech market. 

Pet gadget spending statistics

Until the recent emergence of the delta variant, many employers were slowly bringing their employees back into the office. In preparation to go back, 40% of our respondents had purchased smart tech for their pets. Some of the most popular purchases included pet cameras, automatic feeders, water fountains, treat dispensers (with and without cameras), and activity trackers. Dog owners were more likely to buy pet activity trackers than cat owners. 

Over the last three years, the market share of wearable pet tech (including GPS trackers, sensors, and microchips) has increased tremendously and is expected to continue growing. By 2022, this market will be worth approximately 1 billion dollars and by 2027, over 10 billion

Spoil Them Rotten

Spending behaviors for cat and dog owners vary when it comes to the average amount spent; this includes everything from gifts to food and even pet tech. The pandemic has pushed many new consumers into buying online and has aided the growth of the wearable pet technology market as people transition back to the office from working remotely.

Looking for convenience, better prices, and better products while shopping for your pets online? Visit Wethrift to find a wide variety of coupons so you can continue spoiling your best friend, whether you’re back at work or working from home. 

Methodology and Limitations 

We surveyed 1,028 pet owners about their preferences regarding pet products and supplies. Among them, 52% were men, and 48% were women. 5% were Gen Zers, 54% were millennials, 27% were Gen Xers, and 14% were baby boomers or older. 

To help ensure that all respondents took our survey seriously, they were required to identify and correctly answer an attention-check question.

These data rely on self-reporting by the respondents and are only exploratory. Issues with self-reported responses include, but aren’t limited to, exaggeration, selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and bias. 

This project also used several data sets to create analyses. Data sets were pulled from the following sources: 

  1. Deloitte 2020 holiday retail survey: We pulled data from an annual publication by Deloitte that included an online survey as well as data from Packaged Facts’ “U.S. Pet Market Outlook 2020-2021: The COVID-19 Impact” market research report.
  2. TD Ameritrade Pets & Finances Survey: We pulled data from this Harris Poll on behalf of TD Ameritrade. This survey examined 1,008 Americans’ financial attitudes to pet ownership. 
  3. APPA COVID-19 Pulse Study of Pet Ownership During the Pandemic: We pulled data from this study to better examine consumer attitudes and behaviors during COVID-19. The survey was conducted in four parts and had a total of 6,021 respondents.
  4. Statista Consumer Survey: We pulled data from Statista’s “Pets 2020” survey. This survey asked 1,030 pet owners about their pets, their monthly spend on pets, and their preferred pet brands and supplies.

Fair Use Statement

We know how much you love your pets, so please feel free to share this study’s findings. All we ask is that you do so for noncommercial purposes and give us credit by linking back to the article.