A survey by the American Pet Products Association (APPA) shows 79.7 million pet-owning households, representing a 50% gain over the past two decades.
Noteworthy findings from the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey include an increase in the number of new and younger pet owners. The study found that more than 10% of pet owners are new pet owners, which equates to almost 8 million new pet owners within the past year, the majority of which are Gen Y and Gen X. The survey also reports that the average length of pet ownership is shorter for some pet types than in previous studies, which is suggestive of new owners entering the marketplace.
“This is really exciting as the industry as a whole has been trying to engage Gen Y in pet ownership the way generations before them did,” said Bob Vetere, APPA president and CEO. “These numbers demonstrate huge potential for the industry to grow with up-and-coming, new pet owners.”
According to the survey, this generation tends to pamper and spend more on their pets than their parents and grandparents. A Gen Y dog or cat owner spends more to purchase their pet; takes them to the vet more often; buys more toys, gifts and care items; and utilizes more services than Gen X, Baby Boomers and Builders.
“This generation also likes high-tech gadgets like pet cams and electronic health monitoring collars, and convenience products to take their pets with them or care for them while they’re gone,” said Vetere. “This opens the door for innovation in products and services as well.”
One inevitable fact to come out of this year’s survey is that the historically largest population of pet owners, Baby Boomers (comprising 37% of pet owners), may be nearing the point where they are no longer able or willing to care for a pet. This may partially explain a slight decrease in overall pet ownership over the past two years.
“We knew this was coming as the generation that started the humanization and pampering of pets is aging,” said Vetere. “But, what’s important to note is that this is only one number over 20 years and is by no means indicative of a trend. In fact, the growing incidence of pet owners among the younger generations is so encouraging, we are extremely optimistic about the future of pet ownership and the industry that stands to serve those pets and their owners.”
Social media, businesses play a role
New data from the 2015-16 survey reveals a growing prevalence of online and social media networks used to find pets and pet products with websites, product review sites and Facebook pages leading the charge. But emerging channels including blogs, YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram are gaining growth as well.
The Survey also shows that more places of business are catering to pets. Eight percent of current pet owners report that their workplace allows pets. Twenty-eight percent of dog owners have been to a pet-friendly hotel and 9% have dined at a pet-friendly restaurant.
Economy no longer a factor
What no longer seems to be a factor on pet spending is the state of the economy. According to the survey, more pet owners, 74%, report they are not influenced by the economy when it comes to their pets. Furthermore, fewer pet owners report spending less money on their pet or that they did not get a pet or had to give up their pet due to economic factors. With regard to spending money on their pets, many owners report increased or consistent spending across all pet types.
Pets good for our health
Another relatively new finding from this survey along with research conducted by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative (HABRI), supported in part by APPA, finds that not only do more pet owners believe pets are good for our health, so do doctors. Along with 64% of pet owners in the National Pet Owners Survey saying the health benefits of pets are important to them, according to a survey of 1,000 family doctors and general practitioners, 97% of doctors polled believe in the health benefits of pet ownership and 60% would recommend a pet to improve overall health.
“The body of science validating that pets are good for us is growing with strong research in numerous areas of health,” said Vetere. “Studies now exist that show pets can help improve our cardiovascular health, improve immunity in young children and assist with therapy for autistic children and people suffering from PTSD. Our desire to take better care of our pets and the joys and benefits they provide are continuing to work together to grow pet ownership and keep this great industry strong.”