Pet adoption and pet acquisition trends in 2021 have remained positive—if not as supercharged as in the near-term wake of COVID-19, according to David Sprinkle, research director for market research firm Packaged Facts.
In the wake of COVID-19, the overall percentage of U.S. households owning pets notched up from 54 percent in 2019 to 56.4 percent, according to Packaged Facts’ just-released report Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.
By type of pet, 44 percent of households own dogs, 25 percent own cats, and 12 percent own other pets, including fish, small mammals, herptiles and birds.
Packaged Facts estimates that pet population growth in the wake of COVID-19 brought the number of pet dogs to 96 million in 2020, up by more than 10 million from 2019, and the number of pet cats to 32 million, up by nearly 2 million from 2019.
The stay-at-home, work-from-home and school-kids-at-home dynamics in the COVID-19 era, also edged up ownership rates for fish, small mammals and reptiles/amphibians. Pet birds, however, continue to decline in popularity and have slipped to last place within these four main classifications of “other” pets, according to Packaged Facts.
Acquisition of pets other than dogs and cats in the aftermath of COVID-19 reflects the intertwined trends of owning multiple pets and owning multiple types of pets. While 11 percent of pet-owning households overall added pets other than dogs or cats, 19 percent of those who already had dogs or cats did so.
Pet acquisition has been higher among the younger generational cohorts: among millennials/gen Zers who were already pet owners going into the COVID-19 era, 25 percent increased their level of pet ownership, compared with only 9 percent percent of their boomer counterparts.
At the same time, the share of dog- or cat-owning households with senior pets has steadily risen such that more than half of dog-owning households now have dogs age 7 or older, as holds true for their cat-owning counterparts.
From a longer-term 10-year perspective, some of the key growth for dog ownership has been in demographics traditionally under-represented as dog owners. This trend is spurred by several dynamics, including the graying of the U.S. population, the shifting composition of American households and the increasing appeal of dog ownership to demographics traditionally less prone to keep pet dogs.