Millennials get ready to bring up fur baby

Millennials get ready to bring up fur baby

See more Packaged Facts reports focused on Millennials here.

June 20 - The Millennial generation has become a driving force in the American pet industry.  Between 2007 and 2015, Millennials were responsible for 43% of the growth in the number of pet owners in the United States.  The 43 million pet owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group now account for around one in three pet owners, according to Packaged Facts in the report Millennials as Pet Market Consumers.

Millennial consumers will play an even more significant role in the pet industry over the next decade.  The accelerating aging of the American population threatens to shift the consumer landscape for the pet industry because pet ownership traditionally has declined precipitously after the age of 60.  Although aging Boomers will still account for the largest share of growth in the population of pet owners, Millennials will play an increasingly vital role in the market for pet products and services.  According to Packaged Facts National Pet Owner Survey data, more than four in 10 (44%) Millennials don’t have a pet now but hope to have one in the future.  Packaged Facts projects that the Millennial generation will be responsible for adding 2.6 million pet owners between 2015 and 2020. 

Packaged Facts’ Millennials as Pet Market Consumers provides important insights for marketers trying to understand the mindset of 18- to 34-year-old pet owners.  For one thing, Millennial pet owners demonstrate an overwhelming urge to pamper their pets.  According to data compiled by Packaged Facts National Pet Owner Survey, they are much more likely than other pet owners to agree “I would rather spend money on pet toys and other products for my pets than on things for myself.”  Millennials also are much more likely to “splurge” once in a while on an item for their pets and to enjoy purchasing products that pamper their pets.   So it is not surprising that Simmons National Consumer Study data show that both dog and cat owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group are much more likely than other pet owners to buy toys and fashion accessories for their pets.

Millennials want pets they can pick up and carry wherever they go.  Packaged Facts National Pet Owner Survey data show that 18- to 34-year-olds are much more likely to prefer to have a small pet “you can take with you more places.”  Thus, dog owners in the 18- to 34-year-old age group are more likely than other dog owners to have small dogs weighing less than 25 pounds and much less likely to have dogs weighing over 40 pounds.

Millennials are more likely to coddle their pets when they feed them.  Around 30% of Millennial dog or cat owners prepare home-cooked meals for their pets, compared to just 19% of dog owners and 10% of cat owners in the 35- and-over age group.  Millennial dog or cat owners are more likely to prepare side dishes to add interest and nutrition to pre-made pet food.  Millennials also spend more money than other pet owners on treats and chews for their dogs or cats, suggesting that they especially like to reward their pets with treats and chews.

Millennials also appear to be a bit more obsessive about the health and safety of their pets.  For example, Millennial dog or cat owners express an elevated concern about the possibility of feeding their pets contaminated foods.  Besides being more involved in providing home-cooked foods for their pets, they are much more likely than other pet owners to use raw pet food or pet foods with formulations geared toward enhancing the health of their pets, such as organic, natural or non-GMO.

Moreover, compared to their older counterparts, 18- to 34-year-old pet owners are more fixated on keeping an eye on their pets.  They are much more likely to employ a wide range of technologies to track the activities of their pets and monitor the status of their health, including webcams, smartphone or tablet apps, collars with a tracking device and motion/sound sensors.

In short, compared to other pet owners, Millennials are more likely to be anxious about the health and safety of their pets.  They also are more inclined to pamper, coddle and keep their pets with them whenever they can, while using technology to keep an eye on them when they are away from home.  If this sounds like pets play the role of surrogate children for many Millennials, it’s because they do.  According to data compiled by Packaged Facts National Pet Owner Survey, the vast majority (71%) agree that having a pet is a good way to get ready for having a family.  Thus, for many 18- to 34-year-olds owning a pet is part of their transitioning into creating a family.  So, for many Millennials it may just be that looking out for Fido and taking care of Fifi is simply a way to get ready for bringing up baby.

-- by Ruth Washton and Robert Brown