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It's no secret that Americans are obsessed with their pets – particularly younger Americans. In fact, Millennials may have begun the trend of treating their pets like children, but Gen Z has further established that you don't need to have a handful of kids to be a parent.

But when money is tight, how far does the American pet obsession go? We conducted a study to highlight trends in pet-related spend behaviors across both of these generations to get some insight on shifting priorities and economic behaviors.

The job market may be in flux, but Baxter and Cleo deserve the finer things in life, too. It's just a matter of whether young Americans can afford them.

Key Takeaways

  • Nearly half of Millennials (46%) and Gen Zers (45%) claim they have had to sacrifice their own needs in order to afford their pet's needs.

  • Over 1 in 4 Gen Zers prioritize pet spending over personal luxuries than (26% vs. Millennials' 19%).

  • Millennials spend an average of $1,712 on their pets per year, while less job-secure Gen Z forks over nearly that at $1,602.

  • North Carolina spends the most on cats, shelling out $2,280, while Pennsylvania spends the most on dogs at $4,200.

  • As for cities, Austin, Texas spends the most on dogs ($7,200 annually), while Washington D.C. spends the most on cats at $2,770.

Pet Ownership Trends

Pet Care Spending by Generation

Millennials slightly edge out Gen Z in pet ownership, with 24% versus 20%. Both generations adore their feline friends equally at 33%, but dogs are a bit more favored by Gen Z, with 47% being dog owners compared to Millennials' 43%.

However, owning more pets doesn't necessarily reflect in spending.

Dollars and Cents

When it comes to spending, Millennials outpace Gen Z, averaging $1,712 per year on their pets, while Gen Z isn't far behind at $1,602. This spending includes food, healthcare, grooming, and toys.

Considering inflation over the past 30 years, these numbers take on new significance, with pet food prices increasing by over 90% from 1994 to 2024. Despite this, animal lovers continue to prioritize their pets financially. So, where exactly do these dollars go?

Luxury vs. Necessity

Both Gen Z (20%) and Millennials (21%) spend similarly on personal luxuries as on their pets. However, 26% of Gen Z and 19% of Millennials admit to prioritizing pet needs over their own indulgences. Nearly half of both generations have had to cut back on personal needs to ensure their pets are well cared for.

Pet Insurance

Protecting pets from harm is a priority, with nearly one in five Millennials embracing pet insurance. Gen Z takes it a step further, with 28% investing in pet insurance.

Food and Healthcare

Both generations prioritize their pets' health and nutrition. Gen Z spends about $57 monthly on pet food, slightly less than Millennials' $61. Annual healthcare spending follows a similar trend, with Gen Z spending $408 and Millennials $466. Quality nutrition and healthcare for pets? Sounds good to us.

Grooming and Entertainment

In grooming, Millennials spend more, averaging $38 per session compared to Gen Z's $33. When it comes to toys and entertainment, Gen Z leads, spending $26 monthly versus Millennials' $24. Whether this means Gen Z pets are played with more, we don't know, but their toy collection is enviable.

How U.S. Spending on Cats and Dogs Varies Regionally

Top 10 States That Spend the Most

Whether you're cat-obsessed in North Carolina or a dog devotee in Pennsylvania, pets are a priority. North Carolina leads in cat spending with $2,280 annually, followed by Oregon and New Jersey. Washington, D.C., tops the list for cat-loving cities at $2,770 annually, with Providence and Baltimore not far behind.

For dog lovers, Pennsylvania takes the crown, spending $4,200 annually on their canine companions. Arizona and Colorado follow closely. Austin tops the list for dog-doting cities, spending an astounding $7,200 per year, with Louisville and Jacksonville also making strong showings.

While there are differences in spending between Gen Z and Millennials, one thing is clear: both generations adore their pets. From food and healthcare to accessories and toys, pet parents are committed to giving their fur children the best. After all, they give us unconditional love – and that's priceless.

Methodology

This survey was given to a pool of 2,000 American dog and/or cat owners, aged 18-42 in April 2024 (a 50/50 split between Gen Z and Millennials) with 60% identifying as women, 36% as men, and 4% as non-binary.

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