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Analysis of Current and Future Trends in U.S. Pet Ownership




Current Performance and Trends

The landscape of pet ownership in the United States, particularly regarding cats and dogs, reflects an intricate interplay of economic, social, and health factors. Over the past five years, the number of household pets has grown at an annualized rate of 0.9%, reaching 191.3 million in 2023. This increment is largely attributed to the gradual economic recovery, which has enhanced the capacity of households to adopt more pets.


Economic Recovery and Pet Adoption

The improvement in disposable income levels has been a significant contributor to increased pet spending. Families, benefiting from slow growth in household sizes, have found themselves with more space, time, and financial resources to dedicate to pet ownership. This phenomenon has been particularly evident in the adoption rates of cats and dogs, the most popular household pets for generations.


Fluctuations in Pet Population

Pet adoptions have shown inconsistency in recent years. Notable surges in pet population were observed in 2012 and 2013, followed by declines in 2014 and 2015. The trend reversed again in 2016 and 2017, correlating with improvements in wages and income levels.


Aging Pets and Healthcare

An interesting aspect contributing to the dynamics of pet population is the aging of pets. Advancements in veterinary care have increased the lifespans of pets, leading to a higher number of older pets. This factor adds volatility to the pet population as it increases the prevalence of geriatric pets.


Challenges and Concerns

The American Pet Products Association (APPA) highlights that pet ownership in U.S. households rose from 56.0% in 1988 to 67.0% in 2019. However, this rise in pet ownership brings its own set of challenges, particularly the overpopulation of unwanted pets. Humane societies, animal shelters, and rescue groups face significant pressure from the surplus of adoptable pets, a remnant issue despite the decrease in feral animal populations due to increased awareness and practice of neutering.


Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic created a unique scenario where more individuals, staying home, adopted pets. This led to a 3.9% increase in pet numbers in 2020. However, as businesses reopened in 2022, a decline in pet numbers was observed, likely due to reduced time available for pet care.


Future Outlook (2023-2028)

Looking ahead to the next five years, the pet population is forecasted to grow at an annualized rate of 0.9%. The longevity of cats and dogs, often exceeding a decade, means that many households that desired pets are now sustained pet owners. Interestingly, cat ownership is outpacing dog ownership, attributed to cats requiring lower maintenance and having longer life expectancies. The trend suggests a potential shift in preference towards cats, especially as home ownership growth remains slow.


In summary, the U.S. pet ownership landscape is shaped by economic factors, evolving social attitudes, and advancements in pet healthcare. While the number of pets in households has grown, this trend is accompanied by challenges like pet overpopulation and shifts in pet preference. The future of pet ownership seems to lean towards a steady, albeit slow, growth, with cats possibly becoming the more preferred choice for many households.


Source: MMCG, IBISWorld

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