\With Millennials there are a lot of firsts… Millennials (those born between 1981 and 1997) are the first generation to have their childhood and coming of age in the midst of the digital revolution and Millennials are also the first generation more likely to see pets as more human than animal. And it just so happens that this thinking is reflected in the recent trends with pet ownership. One of the interesting trends in the last few years is the growing number of young adults that are getting pets.
Statistics show that 73% of Millennials currently own a pet. While we typically think about pets as additions to families or replacing children for empty nesters, what we’re seeing now is the growing number of Millennials who are getting pets as starter children—essentially furry babies!
As Millennials prolong the age of marriage and childbearing, they’re deciding to have furry babies (AKA puppies and kittens). In fact, a recent study found that 44% of Millennials see their pets as "practice" for babies.1 This is of course one of the reasons that 44% of the top pet names are human names (check out our blog: Top Pet Names of 2018).2 This trend is also one of the reasons Millennials are purchasing homes. Real estate statistics show that 89% of Millennials who purchased a home in 2018 owned a pet. According to a CNBC article, keeping pets happy appears to be a millennial priority. For this demographic, 79% of pet-owning homebuyers who closed on a property this year said they would pass up an otherwise perfect home if it didn't meet the needs of their pets, according to a Realtor.com survey.3
Increasingly, pets are not just practice for Millennials, but an alternative to children. With this mindset, it’s no wonder why we’re seeing the marketplace and social media world taken over by these proud “pet parents.” Millennials are starting Instagram accounts for their pets like they would a child. And if they don’t start an account for their furry child specifically, the posts on their personal feed are taken over by their pet, akin to parents of human children. In the same way that parents like to spoil their children, Millennials are spoiling their pets. They’re taking them out to lunch, on play-dates, and on vacations. And Millennials are using their disposable income to lavish their pets with products, treats, and pampering. According to Zulily’s The Millennialization of the Pet Industry – Retail’s Opportunity to Reach the Pet-Obsessed Report, 92%of Millennial pet owners purchase gifts for their pets, such as toys, clothing and treats, with more than half (51%) purchasing a gift for their pet at least once a month.4
It’s not enough for Millennials to have pets, they want to be with their pets as much as possible. Millennial pet owners are so attached to their pets that 71% would take a pay cut if it meant they could bring their pet(s) to work every day, with 1 in 5 (21%) opting to take a pay cut of 20% or more.4 It’s for this reason that Kerry Gibson-Morris, vice president of merchandising at Zulily says, “This year, we expect wearable pet apparel and accessories will continue to grow in popularity. Pet-pouch hoodies — a sweatshirt with a pouch to carry your furry friends — are constantly selling out on our site, and we anticipate Millennials to be equally excited about FurryFido, a sling specifically made for you to easily carry your four-legged friends.”4
In a technologically connected world where so many people actually feel disconnected, it makes sense that Millennials are turning to pets. This excerpt from a VICE article entitled, Why Millennials Are So Obsessed With Dogs, seems to sum up the ‘why’ behind this rising trend in Millennial pet ownership, “It's during this new age of loneliness in which we've learnt that the love and bonding hormone, oxytocin, is sparked in both dog and owner when they look at each other. A generation reporting high rates of anxiety and depression is well aware that caring for animals contributes to a lower blood pressure and rates of stress. "It's a boost to have someone run around the house shouting with excitement just because you came home after work. Unconditional love feels great," say Bob and Molly of [their dog] Billie. "She's hilarious and brings you out of yourself when you're down in the dumps, just by sneezing and looking confused, or something like that. She's a real serotonin boost, I've no doubt."5
There’s no doubt that pet ownership in Millennials is meeting a real need for connection. "In your twenties and thirties, you want to feel responsible for something, but you don't want to have a family. We still feel very, very young," says Julian Victoria, editor of DOG, a chic lifestyle magazine for dog owners. DOG's readership are of millennial age and mostly independent artists, creatives or freelancers. "When you see a bunch of mothers sitting around having coffees with babies in prams, that's the same as with dog-owners," Julian continues. "You end up going to the same places, to the park, you meet others walking dogs. It's a community that a lot of young people are realizing they want to be a part of."5
Regardless of the whys and the specifics, Millennial pet ownership is an upward trend that doesn’t seem to be slowing down. If it’s a trend that is promoting connection and positive mental health (and boosting the pet product marketplace), then it’s most definitely a trend that should be embraced and supported.
References and Further Reading:
1https://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/44-of-millennials-see-their-pets-as-starter-children-and-thats-a-big-opportunity-for-brands/ 2http://www.petbusiness.com/The-Most-Popular-Dog-Names-for-2017/ 3https://www.cnbc.com/2018/08/31/millennials-put-pets-first-when-buying-a-home.html