Millennials are, according to Bob Vetere, the President and CEO of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), “a very passionate, active, and connected group” of pet owners.
APPA released their 2017 National Pet Owners Survey at the end of March, and the findings indicate that, for the first time, millennials own more pets than Gen Xers or baby boomers.
Millennials are the generation born between 1981 and 2000, and reading between the lines of the report, it is possible to see hints of a generation leaning on their pets as they struggle with ongoing economic stress.
Some of the key findings from the APPA report are:
· 85% of owners believe pets are a good source of affection
· 82% agree that interacting with a pet can help them relax
· 81% are aware that owning a pet can be beneficial to their own health
· 81% feel unconditional love for their pet
· 61% feel buying a pet product made in the USA is important to them
Many of these findings are encouraging.
Engaged, committed, loving pet owners are good for pets and for pet-related industries. However, when discussing the millennial generation, intentions cannot be teased apart from economics.
Millennials are the subject of heated debate among pundits and professionals.
Are they the most entitled generation? (Probably not.) The most narcissistic generation? The most cautious generation? The most unique generation? The most stressed out generation? The most anxious generation? The most progressive generation?
If nothing else, they may be the most speculated upon generation!
Some of these generational traits have significant implications for the role of millennials within the pet industry.
In 2014, Forbes reported that half of Millennials were living paycheck to paycheck, and three years later, millennials are carrying high debt loads.
Despite the fact that millennials are a passionate generation of pet owners, pet ownership is expensive and millennials are a generation beset by economic insecurity and political volatility.
This economic instability is one reason so many millennials own pets, but not houses.
It is also one reason so many love their pets unconditionally, but are forgoing or delaying parenthood.
But, despite the fact that pet ownership is not as expensive as home ownership or parenthood, economic instability can put pet ownership at risk.
In Alberta, the Calgary Humane Society has seen a significant increase in owner surrenders coinciding with the ongoing economic struggle.
This pattern repeats itself across North America, where economic hardship is a frequent cause of pet surrender.
Despite this, millennial spending on pets is expected to increase in the next year.
Not only are pets being treated as surrogate children by many millennials, there is also the reality of health benefits resulting from pet ownership.
Studies show that pets can help with everything from PTSD to high blood pressure, and with healthcare costs remaining high, pets may play yet another important role for millennials.
Regardless of the pressures facing the millennial generation, their pets are standing by to help.
About Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a published academic, an editor with the Editors Association of Canada, an independent scholar and researcher, and a self-care and narrative coach. She is particularly interested in the intersection of technology and identity - how our tools shape our selves and change our stories, and in how the nature of work is changing as we incorporate more technology into our daily lives.