Holiday spending on pets is nothing new, especially in America, where pawrents spend tens of billions of dollars on their furballs annually, but the pandemic brought a couple of key changes to pet life that helped push spending to a record $99 billion, even in a time when many families struggled financially. Here’s what happened, and here’s why you should consider pet gifts this holiday season whether you have your own kitties and pups at home or not!
So, what changed?
If there’s one thing we’ll all remember most about the early days of the pandemic, it’s the weeks and months of quarantine that left many of our households truly isolated for the first (and hopefully last) time in our lives. The silver lining of these darkest days came for animal shelters nationwide, finding themselves empty as lonely (and bored) Americans turned to pet adoption for companionship and heartwarming antics. The influx of furry residents drove up the need for pet products across the board, but that’s not all that changed.
Okay . . . what else?
With so many proud pawrents passing each day at home with their new additions, pet spending veered away from mere essentials toward play and luxury items at historic levels. Does this mean the lame yarn balls and crude cat furniture of pre-pandemic times were neglected? We won’t go that far, but the sharp rise in comfort-spending after humans spent all day seeing what their furbabies were up to sure seems to indicate we all realized we could be doing a bit better for our homes’ MVPs (“Most Valuable Pets,” in case you didn’t catch that . . . ). Sure, there was probably a selfish element in this trend, too: If we had to spend all day at home, staring at cat trees and litter boxes between Zooms, they might as well have been gorgeous complements to our homes, like this Mau stunner, instead of utilitarian afterthoughts.
But what does this have to do with gifting?
Great question! While Americans have long been buying small holiday gifts for their furry family members, Millennials, the largest current generation, have taken pet gifting to a new stratosphere. Rather than small gifts, Millennials think big at the holidays, but revert to smaller gifting throughout the entire year, with some polls showing that 51% of these animal lovers buy their kitties and pups a gift every month. Add in a hefty dose of social media sharing from this tech-savvy generation, mix it with the FOMO effect spreading to both younger and older generations, and you have a booming pet gift market during the holidays and even trickling across the entire calendar
Got it. But I don’t have any pets, myself.
Yikes! Really? Okay, we understand that some people have serious allergies or just can’t commit the time or finances to properly caring for a tiny life in the home, and we applaud your responsible decision in those cases. Proper pet pawrenting is a lifetime commitment! But you’re no longer completely off the hook for pet gifting just because you don’t have one! These same studies showing just how much attention Millennials lavish on their pets also show that this generation, and Gen Z, consider their pets as actual family, treating them the way former generations have treated human children, so plenty of family members and close friends of such pawrents are now buying holiday gifts for their loved ones’ pets, too. Odds are high that, even if you don’t have your own precious four-legger at home, you have important people in your life who do, and there are few easier ways to show that you understand and love them than treating their furball to a gift. Plus, there’s another relevant and major societal shift in progress right now.
Ack, what’s that?!
Most people, including those millions who adopted new animals and have spent every day at home with them for months, are returning to on-site employment or, at the very least, leaving the house regularly again. Even those essential employees who remained on-site throughout the pandemic are now able to socialize after work and on weekends, which means all of those meow-machines who’ve spent countless hours with their humans for nearly two years straight are suddenly alone to a degree they’ve not experienced, or don’t remember. And, despite popular misconception, cats are very social creatures. As we look toward what we hope is a return to some human normalcy, it’s important not to forget that we’re upending the daily lives of new (and old) furry family members across the nation who are going to need lots of extra comfort and security as they hold down the forts without us once again, making cozy cat beds and comforting cat caves more vital than ever before. Your furballs have seen you through one of the most tumultuous eras of recent history; isn’t it time to pay them back with some extra appreciation this season?