With social distancing guidelines in place for much of this year, many have depended on their pets for companionship. However, financial challenges sparked by the COVID-19 crisis have led some to question whether they can afford the costs of pet ownership.
More than 6 in 10 pet owners — 61% — admitted to having concerns about their ability to cover their pet’s expenses this year, according to new research from pet product maker Mars Petcare. Although social isolation has brought about higher levels of bonding between consumers and their pets, some have found the costs too prohibitive to maintain.
Pets provide comfort during pandemic
Most pet owners appreciate having their furry friends in their lives — particularly during the pandemic. In fact, 86% of pet owners said companionship has been a top benefit of having a pet during the health crisis. When asked about other benefits of having a pet:
- 78% said having a pet alleviated their stress or anxiety
- 75% said it led to less monotony or boredom
- 69% said their pet gave them a sense of hope
The pandemic even prompted 1 in 3 pet owners to get a pet in the first place, with 36% of new pet owners saying they did so to avoid or lessen depression and 58% saying they got a pet for companionship.
While opinions are mixed on whether remote working is good or bad for mental health, 50% of pet owners believe that one of the most important benefits of working from home is having more time with pets. Interestingly, that was a significantly higher percentage than the 36% of pet parents who said an important benefit of working from home was spending more time with their family.
Companionship comes with a cost
Though pet owners overwhelmingly believe their pets add value to their lives, some have struggled to keep up with the costs of pet ownership this year. Consumer spending on pets has grown in recent years, as owners take on costs such as food, grooming and pet insurance.
According to the Mars Petcare survey, 28% of pet parents said that pet parenting was harder this year due to difficulty paying for pet expenses. For some, the situation was particularly dire, as 1 in 5 pet owners considered giving up their pets in 2020 and 13% actually did so because of hardships faced during the pandemic.
Additionally, about a third of city officials admitted to hearing concerns from local residents about the financial challenges of caring for pets. Luckily, some were willing to help, as 29% of city officials said their city has implemented new actions to help pet owners who are struggling because of the pandemic.
When those who considered giving up their pet were asked what would have helped them through the crisis, they identified the following:
- Short-term financial help (32%)
- Pet-friendly housing resources (31%)
- More access to pet services and support (30%)
Methodology: Mars Petcare commissioned public opinion research firm KRC Research to survey 1,001 pet owners and 31 city officials between Sept. 9-25, 2020.