No longer is it just the pampered pets of Hollywood who are spoiled by their owners. Across the US, pet owners have turned into pet parents. According to Mintel’s Pet Supplies US 2014 report, 45% of pet owners say they like to spoil their pets, while more than a third say their pet understands their feelings better than most humans. These pampered pets are the benefactors of the growing US pet retail market, which shows no signs of slowing down.

American pet owners are taking on more of a parental role with their furry friends as 62% of pet owners view their pets as a family member. Additionally, as discussed in Mintel’s America’s Pet Owners – US 2014 report, 79% of adults say they have a pet primarily for the enjoyment/companionship it provides, as opposed to the 8% who say they own a pet to provide a function, such as a dog to guard the house. Many brands have made pet care, health and comfort a priority, capitalizing on the strong connection between pet parents and their “children.” For example, PetSmart released a series on its YouTube channel that humorously chronicles the expenditures of pet parents and the lengths they will go to please their pet, aligning their behaviors to those associated with parents of an infant.

62% of US pet owners view their pets as a family member

While PetSmart displays an obvious level of satire in its campaign, the messaging is not off the mark. Mintel data shows that pet parents have become more attached to their companions with nearly half of owners agreeing it would be hard to give up their pet even if someone in their household had a pet allergy. The same percentage of adults (49%) who have a dog or cat in the household say they are as concerned about the health and wellbeing of their pet as they are with that of their family. Demonstrating the trend to humanize pets, Mintel research finds that some 70% of owners indicated they exercise their pet weekly and 91% agree they should be exercised regularly.

Pet owners seek out technology to help them parent

Pet humanization means increased specialization of pet products and services, which leads to more advanced pet technology. Some 68% of adults agree that pets should be micro-chipped and 57% agree that kennels should be equipped with webcams so owners can monitor their pets while they are apart, much like the current CCTV monitoring methods in place at some US childcare facilities. Furthermore, a quarter of consumers say they are interested in a device that tracks their pet’s movements and sends them data via a smartphone app. Not to be outdone by parents of humans, many consumers embrace social media as a way to share their joy as a parent with others. In fact, one in 10 US pets has its own social media profile.

Technology has enabled consumers to be connected to family, friends, work and their surroundings 24/7. With pets playing a larger role in the family, a behavioral shift has occurred. Consumers what to stay connected to their four-legged loved ones, too, and brands are developing devices to make that possible. As discussed in the Mintel Trend Observation In-Flight Pet Tracker, Delta Air Lines developed a pet-tracking device that allows passengers to monitor their pet in real time to ensure they are flying safely.

As pets owners continue to expand the role of pet parent, advertisements such as PetSmart’s may not be as exaggerated as Americans would like to think.

Margie Nanninga, Home & Personal Care Analyst at Mintel, is a member of the US Reports team. Her diverse background, which includes qualitative research and data analysis, allows her to spot patterns and trends in the market and create actionable recommendations across home and personal care topics.

Consumer Research

Consumer research is about people. What they see, what they do, what they buy. What they eat, what they drink. What they think, what they choose and aspire to.

Read More
© 2016 Mintel Group Ltd. | Privacy Policy | Legal | Cookie Use