What the Pet Adoption Boom Means for Retailers

84% of dog, cat owners expect to spend the most money on food for their pet in the next 12 months
man shopping for pet food
Photograph: Shutterstock

The pandemic fueled an increase in cat and dog adoptions as people found themselves housebound and with more time to give their new furry friends the attention—and training—they require. Digital media and promotions technology company Quotient surveyed more than 1,000 cat and dog owners and found that 33% adopted a pet during the pandemic.

So what does this mean for retailers and brands? A lot, actually.

“With the adoption of furry companions during the pandemic, we found interesting consumer purchase trends for food, gifts, treats and more,” said Steven Boal, CEO of Mountain View, Calif.-based Quotient. “These animals have already and will continue to influence consumers’ purchasing behavior long after the pandemic is over. This provides retailers and brands with the opportunity to identify and provide value for the ongoing needs of their customers—and their pets.”

Quotient asked dog and cat owners what top three items they plan to spend the most money on for their pet over the next 12 months. At 84%, food topped the list, followed by medicine/veterinary care (45%) and treats (44%). While not in the top three, items such as clothing and accessories are not to be discounted, with 11% of respondents saying these items will rack up the highest bill over the next 12 months.

When it comes to feeding their furry friends, most consumers (80%) will be coming to the pet aisle for standard dry food/wet food, Quotient found. However, 17% of respondents said they will cook for their pet, and just under one-sixth (16%) usually feed their dogs and cats with gourmet and/or subscription food services.

Younger generations are more willing to feed their pets premium selections (21% of both millennials and Gen Z), which Quotient said supports its internal data that pets are eating premium. Non-dry dog food sales—including wet and moist dog foods, which tend to be more expensive—are up 25% compared to pre-COVID. 

Beyond the everyday essentials, pet owners also indicate they will pamper their dogs and cats throughout the year as they celebrate the holidays. Nearly half (42%) of respondents plan to give their pets a Christmas present, and 40% plan to purchase a birthday gift. But it’s their pet’s “gotcha day,” the anniversary marking the day of adoption, that consumers will spend the most, Quotient found. Consumers plan to spend an average of $87 on a gift to commemorate the occasion, which is notably higher than the amount consumers plan to spend on holiday gifts ($57), Halloween costumes ($59) or birthday gifts ($62).

Other notable pet insights from Quotient:

  • Millennials (ages 24-42) were the most likely to adopt during the pandemic, with 43% contributing to the fur baby boom. While millennials mainly adopted pets for children/other family members who had been wanting one (40%), 32% of Gen Z (aged 18-23) adopted a pet to boost their mental health.
  • When asked where they usually shop for their dog and/or cat, pet superstores received the greatest number of responses (48%). Of baby boomers (ages 55-73), 39% shop at pet superstores the most, but they also enjoy the shopping experience that big box retailers provide (31%).
  • Dog control products—such as bark control, harnesses and gentle leads—saw a 113% increase in sales compared to pre-COVID, according to internal Quotient data.

Quotient’s research was conducted by Censuswide, which surveyed 1,017 dog and/or cat owners in the U.S. ages 18 and older from June 7-9.

Quotient is a digital media and promotions technology company for advertisers, retailers and consumers. Its omnichannel platform is powered by exclusive consumer spending data, location intelligence and purchase intent data to reach millions of shoppers daily and deliver measurable, incremental sales, says the company. Its retail partners include Albertsons Cos., CVS, Dollar General, Hy-Vee and Peapod Digital Labs, a company of Ahold Delhaize USA.




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