The dust continues to settle on the question of pet population in the wake of COVID-19. Many manufacturing and retail-based sources take for granted that a pet population increase occurred, and understandably so given the spike in pet care spending, including for durables generally associated with pet adoption. Veterinary sector sources, in contrast, have been skeptical, based partly on distribution of veterinary supplies associated with annual pet check-ups).
Shifting reports and anecdotal accounts about pet adoption, intake, and population levels in pet shelters have tended to complicate the picture, though Packaged Facts survey data show that only 26% of dog adoptions in 2020 and 25% in 2021 were through pet shelters.
There is no debate over a spike in pet care spending, and very positive prospects for pet industry revenues going forward. And a pet adoption spike did occur. But MRI-Simmons data by key demographics show this pet acquisition was counterbalanced by pet ownership attrition in the wake of COVID-19. More specifically: Measured by bedrock pet owner population rather than pet care spending, a spike in pet ownership among upmarket consumers was offset by pet ownership attrition among less prosperous or more budget-conscious demographics.
In this pandemic era, the number of pet-owning households jumped unusually among upper-income households, and among those with typically upmarket demographic characteristics such as home ownership or having a graduate degree. For example, in terms of households earning $100,000 or more, 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 anomalous gains in pet ownership among upmarket consumers triggered the spending boom across the pet industry in the wake of COVID-19.
Nevertheless, at the pet-owning household level, these gains were countered by losses among lower-income counterparts. In terms of households earning under $30,000, a modest national gain of 264,000 pet owners between 2017 and 2019 was followed by a loss of 3.4 million pet owners between 2019 and 2021.
For more information, please see the newly published Packaged Facts report U.S. Pet Market Outlook, 2022-2023.
About the blogger: David Sprinkle is the pet market research director for Packaged Facts.