Pet ownership to keep growing after pandemic bump

20 July 2021 2 min. read

Pet ownership is expected to keep growing even after the pandemic caused a significant bump in pet ownership, according to research from L.E.K. Consulting.

The number of pet dogs and cats in the US increased from 140 million in 2019 to 149 million in 2020, representing approximately 7% growth. That growth greatly outstripped pre-pandemic projections, which expected an increase of 1%-2%. 

The unique factors of the lockdown environment encouraged many Americans to adopt or buy pets for companionship. The pandemic also greatly depressed birth rates, which could have driven some substitution of pets for babies among millennial couples.

“We believe part of this [growth] was ‘pulled-forward demand,’ as many consumers who were already considering pets decided to move forward with ownership sooner than later. However, some of it was new pet ownership among consumers who had no prior plans to get a pet,” Lauren DeVestern, head of the pet practice at L.E.K. Consulting, told Pet Business.

There is still runway for growth in pet ownership

The growth rate in pet ownership is expected to slow to 2%-4% in 2021, reaching approximately 153 million dogs and cats. Slightly positive growth is expected until 2025.

There is still considerable runway for growth despite the pandemic boost exhausting some demand, the L.E.K research notes. Of the 128 million households in the US, 56 million (44%) owned no pets in 2020, and approximately 3%-10% of non-owners plan to buy or adopt a pet between 2021 and 2023. In that same timeframe, 11%-13% of pet owners plan to buy or adopt additional pets.

“The figures are encouraging for the pet products industry, and investors should remain positive despite the pandemic-related surge,” DeVestern said.

The US pet industry grew from $97.1 billion in 2019 to $103.6 billion in 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association, avoiding a pandemic-related economic downturn. Pet food and treats was the top category, at $42 billion, followed by vet care at $31.4 billion. Supplies, live animals, and over-the-counter medicine sales represented $22.1 billion, while “other services” – including grooming, boarding, and walking – represented $8.1 billion.

APPA expects the US pet industry to grow to $109.6 billion in 2021.