Rockville MD, February 2, 2024 – The COVID-19 epidemic muddied the waters on pet population trends, according to Packaged Facts’ just-released Pet Population and Pet Ownership Trends in the US.
On the one hand, many manufacturing and retail-based sources took for granted an increase in pet population – understandably so, given a spike in pet care spending, including for durable pet products generally associated with pet adoption.
On the other hand, veterinary sector sources were skeptical about any overall increase in pet population, factoring in veterinary supply distribution volumes and annual health check-up traffic for dogs and cats. Shifting reports and anecdotal accounts about pet adoption, intake, and population levels in pet shelters complicated the picture.
There is no debate over a pandemic-era spike in pet care spending, and a spate of pet adoption did occur in relation to the stay-at-home/work-from-home dynamics in the wake of the pandemic. But with the dust largely settled, it’s become clear that other factors led to pet ownership attrition, which offset the pet adoption dynamic.
Packaged Facts estimates that the percentage of US households owning pets slipped from 54% in 2019 to 51% in 2023. Accounting for this trend are dog ownership levels, which fell from 42% in 2018 to 38% over this period.
Historical data show that a gradual ramp up in dog population has been in play for decades, but this trend peaked before the advent of COVID. In fact, according to Packaged Facts pet market analyst David Sprinkle, “Longer-term data suggest that there is no simple or enduring relationship between macroeconomic downturns and pet population trends.”
In 2008-2009, at the height of the Great Recession, dog ownership rates jumped to 39% of households. Dog ownership rates subsequently hovered around 40%, reaching a peak (to date) of about 42% of households over 2013 through 2018. But dog ownership started notching downward before the COVID-19 recession.
In contrast to dog ownership rates, cat ownership has fluctuated relatively moderately over the last decades, hovering in the 21%-24% range. Unlike dog ownership, moreover, cat ownership rates have edged upward since the COVID-19, and correspondingly have emerged as an important driver to pet market growth.
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