Certainly, the way we work, learn, socialize—or don’t socialize, as the case may be—has been disrupted. More than half of Americans feel that the global pandemic has changed their lives forever, according to a study by Pew Research. But countless other aspects of our daily lives have been altered—right down to the furry family members who’ve kept us company through the long months of isolation. For many people, pets have emerged as the heroes of the hour, providing umpteen hours of safe entertainment and love we can count on to keep our spirits up in the face of unprecedented challenges.
How have pets changed? Pet adoptions skyrocketed during the early months of the pandemic, creating, unbelievably, an actual “inventory” shortage at many shelters. Sales of pedigree dogs also took off, in some cases followed by a sharp increase in puppy prices, proving that the law of supply and demand extends to cats and canines, too. The driving force behind this uptick in pet ownership? Sadly, it’s loneliness. A study by Money.com and Morning Consult revealed that more than half of new pet owners chose to bring Rex the Retriever and Abby the Tabby home to alleviate the uncomfortable sense of solitude they experienced when homes, workplaces, and social spots were under lockdown. Not surprisingly, the pet care industry is booming. According to the American Pet Products Association, sales of pet supplies and veterinary care in the US topped $99 billion in 2021. Pet supply giant Petco reported a 10% increase in year-over-year sales between 2019 and 2020. The company, which retired its stock ticker some years ago is now publicly traded again under the symbol WOOF.
An extraordinary amount. And the pandemic has only increased the bond between pets and pet parents. According to the Money/Morning Consult study previously noted, six out of ten pet owners report valuing their pets more since the global pandemic struck. More than half say they’re even more affectionate towards them now than they were a year ago. And here’s another measure of our attachment to our pets: two-thirds of pet owners would spend any amount of money to save their pets’ lives, while more than 80% say they’d spend any amount they could afford.
The pet health insurance industry has already seen double-digit growth since the start of the pandemic. That makes a certain amount of sense: more pets, more policies sold. But the increase can also be traced to our emotional connection to our pets. More and more, we’re treating our pets like children and making their health a top priority. Employees have been barking for pet insurance as a paid benefit and corporations are responding. One out of three Fortune 500 companies now offers some form of pet insurance benefit. And smaller companies are following suit. The Society for Human Resources Management reports that, among all employers, 15% now provide access to pet coverage.
The value of the pet care industry has doubled in less than ten years. From fresh and organic foods delivered to pet owners’ doorsteps to CBD products to soothe pandemic pups’ jangled nerves, the industry has been marked by continuous innovation. Pet companies have gone mobile, with some providing telehealth services for pets 24/7. Vetster for example, provides on-demand virtual pet care to all North Americans - anytime, anywhere. When booking an appointment on Vetster, pet owners can expect to connect to a marketplace of thousands of licensed veterinarians and veterinary technicians ready to provide online care. The demand for telemedicine is increasing as a resource for pet parents, especially during pandemic times. Fueled in equal parts by technology and our tender hearts, the pet product and services sector is slated for solid, sustained growth according to industry analysts. You’ve come a long way, Fido. And you’re getting more of the love you deserve.
Susan Doktor is a journalist, business strategist, and principal at Branddoktor. She writes on a wide range of subjects including finance, technology, and family life. Follow her on Twitter @branddoktor.
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