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Women, Baby Boomers and Cincinnati Residents Are Most Pet-Obsessed

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If you’re among the 49% of U.S. households with a pet, you may want to buy your dog, cat, bird, rabbit or furry friend a special treat for National Pet Day on April 11. Your purchase would be part of an increase in pet spending that’s growing 2.5 times faster than overall spending in the U.S.

In honor of National Pet Day, LendingTree analysts examined how much Americans spend on their pets in search of the most pet-obsessed places in the U.S. We also offer tips if you need help with paying for pet care.

Key findings

  • Pet spending has risen 50% since 2013. In 2020, households spent an average of $690 on pets, up from $460 in 2013. In that same 2013-to-2020 period, overall spending rose 20%, meaning pet spending grew 2.5 times faster.
  • Women spend more than men on pets. Single women spent an average of $504 a year on pets, or 1.4% of their income, in 2019 and 2020. Men spent an average of $381, or 0.9% of their income, in the same period.
  • Baby boomers spend the most on pets. People born between 1946 and 1964 spent an average of $834 — or 1.4% of their income — on pets in 2020. Members of the silent generation — people born in 1945 or earlier — spent the least on pets at an average of $296, or 0.7% of their income.
  • Cincinnati is the most pet-obsessed U.S. metro. A breakdown of data from the 50 largest U.S. metros shows the Ohio metro has 1.93 pet stores per 1,000 businesses — the most in the nation. Bridgeport, Conn. (1.89), and Buffalo, N.Y. (1.83), rank next.
  • Birmingham, Ala., is the least pet-obsessed U.S. metro. The Alabama metro has 0.77 pet stores per 1,000 businesses. San Jose, Calif. (0.90), and Oklahoma City (1.02) are just ahead.

Pet spending grew 2.5 times faster than all spending from 2013 to 2020

From 2013 to 2020, spending on pets increased 50%, from an annual average of $460 to $690. (According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, pet expenses include pets, pet food, pet services and veterinary costs.)

Overall spending increased 20% in the same period, which means that pet spending increased 2.5 times faster.

Average spending over time: Pets vs. overall

Average spending on petsAverage annual expenditures
2013$460$51,100
2014$507$53,495
2015$528$55,978
2016$583$57,311
2017$710$60,060
2018$662$61,224
2019$681$63,036
2020$690$61,334
Change from 2013 to 202050%20%

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

“Pets are becoming a bigger and bigger part of people’s lives, and there’s never been more stuff to buy for your pet than today,” LendingTree chief credit analyst Matt Schulz says.

Though it doesn’t appear to have had a significant impact on average pet spending, the 2013-to-2020 range examined includes the first year of the COVID-19 crisis, when the phrase “pandemic pets” entered the American consciousness.

Pet spending and the pandemic

“I expect that pet spending has continued to accelerate during the pandemic,” Schulz says. “Millions of Americans have brought home pets in the last two years, and many others have spent more money on their current pets after having spent so much extra time at home with them.”

“As things slowly, eventually return to normal, some of that pet spending will likely recede. However, I think we’ll likely see some extra spending on pets for some time to come.”

Women’s best friend

The famous saying goes “a dog is a man’s best friend,” but the data tells another story. According to the latest two-year average data, single women spend more on pets than single men.

Between 2019 and 2020, single women spent an average of $504 on pets annually, while single men spent $381.

Average pet spending (by gender)

Single womenSingle men
All$504$381
Younger than 25$310N/A
25 to 34$444$548
35 to 44$842$380
45 to 54$754$257
55 to 64$570$489
65 and older$422$351

Source: LendingTree analysis of 2019-2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

In this period, pet expenditures comprised 1.4% of single women’s income ($37,100) but only 0.9% of single men’s income ($40,350).

Women spent a greater proportion of their income on pets than their male peers among all age groups, except those ages 25 to 34. In this age range, single men spent a slightly higher percentage of their income on pets (1.3%) than women (1.1%). In fact, men ages 25 to 34 spent a higher percentage of their income on pets than any other age group.

Percentage-wise, women ages 35 to 44 spent nearly twice as much of their income as men their age, while women ages 45 to 54 spent three times as much of their income on pet expenses than men their age.

Percentage of income toward pet spending (by gender)

Single womenSingle men
All1.4%0.9%
Younger than 251.2%N/A
25 to 341.1%1.3%
35 to 441.5%0.8%
45 to 541.8%0.6%
55 to 641.5%1.1%
65 and older1.2%1.0%

Source: LendingTree analysis of 2019-2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

OK boomer, spend money on your pet

When pet spending is broken down by generation, baby boomers spend the most on average on pets. Compared to the national average of $690 spent on pets in 2020, baby boomers spent $834, according to the latest data for that year.

By contrast, Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980) and millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) spent just about the national average — $700 and $695, respectively. Generation Z (those born in 1997 or later) and silent generation members spent considerably less than average.

Percentage of income toward pet spending (by generation)

Average spending on petsPercentage of income toward pet spending
Overall$6901.1%
Birth year of 1997 or later (Gen Zers)$4251.2%
Birth year from 1981 to 1996 (Millennials)$6951.1%
Birth year from 1965 to 1980 (Gen Xers)$7000.9%
Birth year from 1946 to 1964 (Baby boomers)$8341.4%
Birth year of 1945 or earlier (Silent generation)$2960.7%

Source: LendingTree analysis of 2020 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

This suggests a correlation between spending disposable income on pet expenses and life stages. Older and younger Americans have lower incomes on average, either because they’re retired and living on fixed incomes or because they may still be in school or at the beginning of their careers. Older generations may also have less mobility for routine pet care, such as dog walks.

Cincinnati is the most pet-obsessed metro

Given that we’re approaching National Pet Day, it makes sense to look at pet stores, too. Among the 50 largest U.S. metros, Cincinnati ranks as the most pet-obsessed.

How did we determine that? The Ohio metro stands out with 1.93 pet stores per 1,000 businesses — the highest number of pet stores relative to the total number of businesses in a given metro. Close behind are Bridgeport, Conn., at 1.89 pet stores per 1,000 businesses and Buffalo, N.Y., at 1.83.

With Columbus, Ohio, coming in the fourth spot at 1.81, the Buckeye State is the only one with two metros among the top five pet-obsessed places.

Seattle rounds out the top five with 1.79 pet stores per 1,000 businesses. It has more than double the total number of pet establishments than No. 1 Cincinnati, but the West Coast city has far more total businesses than its Midwest counterpart.

Most pet-obsessed metros

RankMetroTotal pet storesPet stores per 1,000 businesses
1Cincinnati, OH901.93
2Bridgeport, CT511.89
3Buffalo, NY501.83
4Columbus, OH791.81
5Seattle, WA1941.79

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2019 County Business Patterns Survey data.

The least pet-obsessed metro areas

Birmingham, Ala., ranks at the bottom of the list, making it the least pet-obsessed metro area. While Cincinnati has nearly two pet stores for every 1,000 businesses, Birmingham has only 0.77 pet stores per 1,000 businesses.

Though California is known as the Golden State, it’s not quite a golden land for the pet-obsessed. With the Los Angeles and San Jose metros in the bottom five, California is the only state with two at the bottom of the rankings.

Los Angeles does have the second-highest total number of pet stores, only behind New York. But when that number is compared relative to the total businesses in the metro, Los Angeles has just slightly over one pet store per 1,000 businesses.

Least pet-obsessed metros

RankMetroTotal pet storesPet stores per 1,000 businesses
1Birmingham, AL200.77
2San Jose, CA450.90
3Oklahoma City, OK371.02
4Los Angeles, CA4041.05
5Salt Lake City, UT361.06

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2019 County Business Patterns Survey data.

Full rankings: The most and least pet-obsessed U.S. metros

Here’s the full ranking of the largest 50 U.S. metro areas from most to least pet-obsessed:

Most and least pet-obsessed metros

RankMetroTotal pet storesPet stores per 1,000 businesses
1Cincinnati, OH901.93
2Bridgeport, CT511.89
3Buffalo, NY501.83
4Columbus, OH791.81
5Seattle, WA1941.79
6Philadelphia, PA2641.76
7Portland, OR1241.74
8Tampa, FL1391.71
9Hartford, CT501.71
10Providence, RI691.66
11Jacksonville, FL641.62
12Sacramento, CA821.61
13Cleveland, OH791.59
14Detroit, MI1571.57
15Milwaukee, WI601.55
16Orlando, FL1061.55
17Kansas City, MO821.55
18San Diego, CA1341.53
19San Antonio, TX721.52
20Indianapolis, IN731.52
21Denver, CO1321.51
22Austin, TX841.50
23Charlotte, NC951.49
24Riverside, CA1141.47
25Richmond, VA461.42
26Baltimore, MD941.39
27St. Louis, MO991.38
28Raleigh, NC481.38
29Nashville, TN621.37
30Houston, TX1921.31
31Dallas, TX2231.31
32Phoenix, AZ1321.30
33Boston, MA1711.29
34Pittsburgh, PA761.28
35Miami, FL2481.25
36Las Vegas, NV591.24
37Atlanta, GA1841.24
38Chicago, IL3081.24
39Washington, DC1911.23
40New York, NY7071.21
41San Francisco, CA1591.21
42Virginia Beach, VA461.20
43Minneapolis, MN1161.19
44Louisville, KY351.17
45New Orleans, LA361.15
46Salt Lake City, UT361.06
47Los Angeles, CA4041.05
48Oklahoma City, OK371.02
49San Jose, CA450.90
50Birmingham, AL200.77

Source: LendingTree analysis of U.S. Census Bureau 2019 County Business Patterns Survey data.

Tips on how to pay for pet care

If you’re hoping to adopt a furry friend but the figures within this study give you sticker shock, you’re not alone. According to a 2021 LendingTree survey, 39% of people who don’t own one say they want a pet but can’t afford it. Among millennials (ages 25 to 40 at the time of the survey) and women, that jumps to 55% and 42%, respectively.

Here are some tips for how you can help afford to pay for pet expenses.

  • Build pet care into your budget. As these numbers suggest, pets can be expensive. For more routine expenses, consider adding pet care to your monthly budget. If your dog loves squeaky toys but goes through one a month, add the cost of a new toy each month into your spending plan. “If something is important to you and you spend a significant amount of money on it, it should be in your budget,” Schulz says.
  • Start a pet “sinking fund”. Budgeting works well for managing recurring expenses, but you should consider a sinking fund for pet medical emergencies. In that same 2021 survey, 45% of pet owners said they’d have to take on debt to cover a $1,000 pet expense — and nearly 10% were already in debt for their pet. If you create a dedicated savings account for pet emergencies — or a sinking fund — you could avoid taking on debt if there’s a time when your best friend needs emergency surgery.
  • Buy in bulk. Inflation is hitting many consumer goods these days, and pet supplies are no exception. While price increases are unavoidable, one way to mitigate their impact is to buy in bulk. Buying in larger quantities may offer you the ability to lock in a price instead of being subject to the whims of further increases. But if you choose to buy in bulk, make sure your pet will use the product. Several boxes of cat litter might be put to good use, but a dozen cat carriers probably won’t help.
  • Consider the Humane Society for veterinary services. If the amount of annual pet spending makes you feel like pet ownership is out of reach, look into whether there’s a local Humane Society chapter near you. Local chapters may offer animal care clinics, helping lower the cost of veterinary services.
  • Consider fostering. If you’re still looking for a furry friend but are concerned about the costs of caring for them, consider fostering. Many animal shelters have foster programs where you can take care of a cat or dog for a designated period before they’re adopted. Though you may still have to purchase some pet supplies, a benefit of fostering is that vet care would likely be covered through the sponsoring shelter.

 

Why create a pet sinking fund?

“Pets are crazy-expensive, and those costs often show up unexpectedly,” Schulz says. “Having a fund specifically devoted to your pet helps ensure that you’ll be ready when those surprise costs appear and that you won’t have to resort to just putting the costs on a credit card. If you can pay cash for even just a portion of these expenses, it can help you break the cycle of debt that so many Americans find themselves stuck in.”

Methodology

LendingTree researchers analyzed U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Consumer Expenditure Surveys from 2013 through 2020 to find out how much Americans have spent on their pets over time and by various demographics.

Note that the gender data looks at 2019-2020 two-year averages from the BLS Consumer Expenditure Surveys, while the generation data looks at 2020 — both based on the latest available information.

We defined generations as the following ages in 2020, according to the BLS data:

  • Generation Z: Birth year of 1997 or later
  • Millennial: Birth year from 1981 to 1996
  • Generation X: Birth year from 1965 to 1980
  • Baby boomer: Birth year from 1946 to 1964
  • Silent generation: Birth year of 1945 or earlier

LendingTree researchers also analyzed U.S. Census Bureau 2019 County Business Patterns Survey data — the latest available — to rank the most pet-obsessed metros.

Specifically, researchers compared the number of pet stores to the total number of businesses in each of the 50 largest U.S. metros. We then ranked these metros based on which had the most pet stores relative to the total number of businesses.

 

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