While Boomers have changed the face of "pet ownership" to "pet parenthood," it's the Millennials who have redefined what it truly means to have a dog or cat (or both!). From health food to internet memes, the younger generation of adults are carving out an American pet culture where pets are family and pet health care is not just necessary, but as technologically advanced as human health care.
Millennials & Pet Parenthood
Millennials are in a marketing and consumer sweet spot. The generation that covers 18-35 year olds makes up about a third of the U.S. adult population and are, as such, examined repeatedly, not just on their lifestyle, but on their purchase power as well. A recent study from market research agency Wakefield noted that Millennials are adopting or rescuing a pet around the age of 21 rather than getting married or having children, whereas the average Boomer waited until 29 to adopt a pet, usually post-marriage. Interestingly, a whopping 78 percent of all ages surveyed indicated that pets are part of their family, and respondents were sensitive to their pets' quality of life and care.
While young adults may be putting off traditional "adult" choices due to college debt and earning lower salaries, they are sparing no expense when it comes to their pups and kitties. Millennials spend more than any other group when it comes to their pets' comfort, with accessories, clothing, and toys. In fact, 76 percent of Millennials are more likely to splurge on an item for their pet than they would for themselves, including expensive treats (44 percent) or a custom bed (38 percent). This extends to their pet's diet as well: They demand transparency and natural choices when it comes to pet food including real, whole ingredients. They will also spend more to get the better product.
Somewhere along the line of sharing Instagram and Snapchat photos, memes, and YouTube videos, pets started to take center stage not just in our digital lives, but in real life as well. Through networking on social media within our communities and globally, many people have grown a fan base for their own personal pets, not just the Lil Bubs or Manny the Frenchie. It goes even further: sharing food recalls, rescue and charity events, and pet training tips have encouraged a more positive pet landscape — one where pet parents have become advocates for healthy, safe pets.
Blame it on the Millennials — we are now a more educated, informed country than ever before due to those larger communities we've established, and that especially applies to our furry friends. From knowing the proper service dog etiquette to sharing the dangers of xylitol in peanut butter, the digital push to share about our pets has lead to us simply knowing so much more about how to coexist with our favorite creatures. From this, we've discovered and developed employee benefits that coincide with pet parenthood to pet insurance providers that insure pups and cats throughout their lives.
As Americans share news on our own personal pets as well as bigger education issues, we see a rise in empathy and compassion for pets. It's a changed world in terms of dog and cat parenthood — people now consider their pets' feelings (and in New Zealand and France, the law enforces this sentiment) and have realized that pets rely on forever homes not just for food and shelter, but also love and health. The American Pet Products Association says that Millennials are a "very passionate, active, and connected group," and these same attributes dictate how they treat their pets. It's fantastic that the pet industry has responded similarly.