You’re never too old to have a pet. At least that’s one of the takeaways from new research that shows that baby boomers — those between 55 and 74 — are the only generation to see an increase in pet ownership in the past 10 years.
To get a glimpse inside of the pet market, market research firm Packaged Facts surveyed 2,000 pet owners. They also referred to data from Simmons National Consumer Study for Winter 2019, which polled approximately 25,000 consumers. Simmons is another market research firm that regularly tracks consumer trends.
The percentage of boomers who own a pet grew from 50% to 54% between 2008 and 2018. Among the oldest boomers — those between 70 and 74 — the percentage of pet owners rose from 41% to 45%. In contrast, the percentage of pet owners between the ages of 18 to 39 dropped from 63% to 61% during that time frame. Among consumers 40-54, the percentage of pet owners held steady at 64%.
The 55-and-over crowd in general has seen an increase in pet owners, with the market growing by 11.6 million between 2008 and 2018. Pet owners under 40 saw a more modest increase of 4.1 million to their population. On the flip side, the number of pet owners between 40 and 54 has decreased by 2.9 million in that time frame.
Dogs vs. cats
So what type of pet reigns supreme among boomers and seniors? Those over 55 appear to see the value in all types of pets, as the percentage of dog owners grew from 27% to 32% and the percentage of cat owners grew from 27% to 33% between 2008 and 2018. The percentage of owners of pets other than dogs and cats also increased going from 16% to 24% in the 10-year period.
Among boomers specifically, the percentage of dog owners has risen from 34% to 38% in the last decade, and the research showed that boomers are more likely to own dogs than other pets. Boomers are also getting new pets as opposed to simply aging with the pets they already owned. In fact, the data show that 1.4 million boomers own dogs that are less than one year old and another 5.2 million have dogs between the ages of 1 and 3.
With pets come additional expenses such as food, toys, veterinary bills and other costs. Boomers and those in their mid 70s are fueling the market for such supplies as well, as the data shows they are responsible for nearly half — 47% — of spending on pets.
Owning a pet has its benefits, but it also has its costs. If you’re planning to join the ranks of pet owners, make sure you understand the average costs associated with pet ownership and budget for them. You may also want to consider pet insurance if you don’t have enough money to handle potential medical costs if your pet experiences a health crisis.