A Plateau in Pet Population—But not Per Care Spending

Press Release
Oct 26, 2022

Rockville MD, October 26, 2022 –  In the wake of COVID-19, pet ownership rates in the U.S. have plateaued. The percentage of U.S. households owning pets slipped slightly from 54% in 2018 to 52% in 2022, for a current total of 68 million pet-owning households.

A pet adoption bump did occur in response to the sudden stay-at-home/work-from-home dynamics of this COVID-19 era, explains Packaged Facts’ just-released Pet Population and Pet Ownership Trends in the U.S. Nonetheless, the peak years of pet population gains occurred in the middle of the past decade.

In response to COVID, the number of pet-owners jumped remarkably among households earning $100K or more. For this upper-income bracket, a national gain of 1.3 million pet owners between 2017 and 2019 was tripled by a gain of 3.9 million pet owners in the COVID years of 2019 to 2021. These gains, however, were countered by losses among lower-income or more budget-conscious households.

Even so, there is no debate over a pandemic-fueled spike in pet care spending, nor is there any complaint over pet market financial performance. Even after a year of explosive pandemic-fueled growth in 2020 among most pet market sectors, sales growth in 2021 did not disappoint, with overall pet industry sales increasing nearly 14% to reach $123 billion.

While pet population has been the bedrock of pet industry fortunes, several trends have loosened the relationship between pet population and pet market financial performance, according to Packaged Facts pet market research director David Sprinkle.

Even before pandemic-related trauma had Americans depending on their pets more intensely for companionship and comfort, a large majority of pet owners considered their pets to be full-fledged family members. As of  January 2022, Packaged Facts survey data show that 92%-96% of pet owners agree that pets are part of the family, with 80% of dog owners and 78% of cat owners strongly agreeing.

Pet care therefore remains a privileged and protected area within household spending, even in these inflationary times, such that pet owners will often cut expenses on themselves before curbing expenses on their pets.

Packaged Facts data from August 2022 show that while two-thirds (68%) of consumers have been cutting back on household expenses in the last 12 months--due to price inflation, economic uncertainty, or other factors--pet care is a relatively spared category. Among pet-owning households who are curbing expenses, only 15% are doing so in pet care, and far higher percentages (such as 28% for pet food) are increasing pet care spending above and beyond price inflation. In comparison, among households who are curbing expenses, nearly half (46%) are cutting back on food grocery spending, and two-thirds (69%) on eating out/take out/food delivery.

Increased pet care spending ties not only to the pet adoption boomlet among prosperous households, but to a long-term gain in the share of pet-owning households with senior age dogs or cats (age 7+). Among dog-owning households, the share with senior dogs rose from 42% in 2012 to 54% as of 2022. In contrast, the share with puppies under age 1 dipped from 13% in 2012 to 9% in 2022.

That’s why animal wellness products targeting older pets—ranging from cognitive health pet foods to joint health supplements to orthopedic pet beds—have multiplied over the past decade. A single-factor focus on new pet parents and puppy adoption, therefore, can mean looking at pet market opportunities from the wrong end of the telescope.

About Packaged Facts  

Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, publishes market intelligence on a wide range of consumer market topics, including consumer demographics and shopper insights, consumer financial products and services, consumer goods and retailing, and pet products and services. Packaged Facts also offers a full range of custom research services. Reports can be purchased at our company website and are also available through MarketResearch.com.

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