Pet Ownership Statistics by Generation

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When it comes to pet ownership statistics, we know that adoptions have exploded since the beginning of 2020. That’s when the coronavirus and resulting lockdowns caused a surge in pet ownership in American households.

Many people turned to pets to offset their loneliness as a result of social distancing guidelines. While the number of people who chose to adopt pets skyrocketed during this time, there were some generational differences.

For example, statistics show that millennials took center stage as the largest pet-owning generation, surpassing baby boomers.

dogs at dog beach
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

How different generations see their pets

Millennials tend to view their pets as “starter children.” For many millennials, this means spending more money than the average on their pets.

This includes taking them to a pet day care, throwing doggie parties for their “fur babies” and of course posting their best-dressed pets on social media. Sounds like my millennial daughter and her dog, Walter.

Baby boomers love their pets, too. However, for different reasons. With this older generation, statistics show that pet ownership — and dogs in particular — become their empty-nest fillers. The baby boomer generation is from the era when dogs and cats slept in the backyard, not necessarily in a plush bed.

Finally, there is Generation X or GenX. My husband and I are GenXers.

Our generation views pets as part of the family. However, we also believe that our pets deserve companionship beyond their humans. So, more than any other generation, we’re likely to have multiple pets.

Where these pet ownership statistics originated

ManyPets compiled data insights from several national surveys to break down the statistical differences in how millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers treat their pets. The data explore how pet ownership changed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, along with spending habits.

We’re defining generations as follows: 

  • Baby boomers born in 1964 or earlier
  • Gen Xers born between 1965 and 1980
  • Millennials born between 1981 and 1996

Pet ownership statistics across the generations

  • Millennials: 32% of all pets
  • Generation X: 24% of all pets
  • Baby Boomers: 27% of all pets

Which pets does each generation prefer?

Based on an online survey conducted by TD Ameritrade between April and May 2020, one thing is for certain—each generation has a thing for dogs. All three generations opt for canine companionship as their preference when it comes to pet ownership over any other pet.

See the stats on preferences break out by generation. Note: Not sure what “other” means when it comes to pets. What category doesn’t appear here?

Millennials pet ownership preferences statistics

  • Dogs: 61%
  • Cats: 29%
  • Fish: 9%
  • Birds: 5%
  • Hamsters: 4%
  • Rabbits: 3%
  • Reptiles or amphibians: 2%
  • Other: 3%

GenX pet ownership preferences statistics

  • Dogs: 52%
  • Cats: 41%
  • Fish: 14%
  • Birds: 9%
  • Hamsters: 4%
  • Rabbits: 3%
  • Reptiles or amphibians: 5%
  • Other: 5%

Baby Boomer pet ownership preferences statistics

  • Dogs: 37%
  • Cats: 29%
  • Fish: 6%
  • Birds: 2%
  • Hamsters: 0%
  • Rabbits: 0%
  • Reptiles or amphibians: 1%
  • Other: 1%

Why people choose these pets

Being a dog owner comes with a variety of physical and mental health benefits. These range from improving mood to even lowering blood pressure. No wonder they’re such a popular pet choice.

Pet ownership spending

Being a pet owner definitely comes with a price. A LendingTree survey from August 2021 showed American pet owners spend an average of $1,163 per year on their furry family members.

What do we spend that money on? Well, food and treats, of course, but some also spent it getting social media content. What???

The survey also found that 45% of pet owners would have to take on debt to cover an unexpected purchase, such as a medical expense of $1,000 or more. For those who participated in the survey, 98% spend an average of $86 per month on their pet and 8% are currently in debt for pet expenses.

How much pet owners spend annually by generation

  • Millennials: $1,195
  • Generation X: $1,100
  • Baby Boomers: $926

Of course, what can throw a monkey wrench into these spending statistics is when your dog has an emergency. For example, recently my dog Sadie tore the doggie version of the ACL. That surgery cost five times the so-called annual spending for my generation.

The veterinarian surgeon told us that once a dog does this in one leg, chances are they’ll do it in another leg within 12-24 months. So we’re already budgeting for that possible second surgery.

Pet supplies subscription boxes

Many people underestimate the costs associated with being a pet parent. With the popularization of subscription services across a variety of industries and supply chains, it’s no surprise subscription boxes have found their way into the pet world.

It’s one of the reasons that we use Chewy Autoship to get our dogs’ food, treats and even heartworm and flea and tick medicines.

These generations love getting subscription boxes for themselves. So, why not get them for their dogs, too.

Here are the percentages of dog owners signing their pets up for a subscription box.

  • Millennials: 10%
  • Generation X: 7%
  • Baby Boomers: 3%

It’s not a huge number. However, I thought it was worth noting.

Other pet ownership costs

Luxury accessories and toys have continued to be a large cost associated with pet ownership, with millennial pet owners particularly leaning into the trends. 

Among millennials, 40% said they spent money on their pets for social media posts (for instance, buying props or outfits). 

Meanwhile, 21% of Gen Xers spent money for social media posts and just 8% of baby boomers. No surprise to me — boomers don’t embrace social media like other generations do.

Speaking of boomers, that LendingTree survey found that baby boomers are least likely to go into debt for their pets and generally spend less on their furry companions than other generations.

Pet food and treats accounted for the majority of spending among pet owners with $42 billion worth of sales in 2020.

chewy purchased treats
Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Everyone agrees: Pets are our ‘fur babies’

  • Millennials: 75% agree
  • Generation X: 80% agree
  • Baby Boomers: 75% agree

Millennials have clearly proven they are pet lovers, with 7 in 10 owning fur babies. Of those fur babies, six in 10 are dogs.

Millennials view their pets more as children and are the generation most likely to splurge on luxury items for their furry companions. Baby boomers view their pets more as extended family members. Finally, Gen Xers believe their pets can find companionship with other pets. That’s why, compared to other generations, Gen Xers are likely to own two dogs.

Here’s how to know that your dogs loves you.

Now I have to wonder: which of these generations is the most likely to have dogs in weddings?

This story originally appeared on ManyPets and was produced and distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio. It is re-published pursuant to a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.

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