Answer: $72 billion
It’s no question that Americans love their pets. Sixty-eight percent of U.S. households, or about 85 million families, own a pet, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Seven in 10 Millennials own a pet—more than half (56 percent) are dog owners while 36 percent are cat parents. The most popular pet is freshwater fish followed by cats, dogs, and then birds. While only a small fraction of pet owners in the United States carry pet insurance – an estimated 1 to 2 percent of the nation’s nearly 90 million pet dogs and more than 94 million pet cats – that’s only the tip of the iceberg of what Americans spend on their furry friends.
Last year Americans spent a record-breaking $72.56 billion on their pets according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). That’s an increase of more than $3 billion over 2017 when they spent a then-record-breaking $69.51 billion. And that’s an increase of almost $3 billion over 2016 when they spent a then-record-breaking $66.75 billion. In case you couldn’t detect a pattern, spending for 2019 is expected to top $75 billion. To put this in context, in the mid-1990s Americans were only spending a paltry $21 billion on their cats, dogs, and fish. As mentioned above, millennials continue to be the largest pet-owning demographic. The largest portion of spending is dedicated to food, unsurprisingly, but now there are seemingly endless varieties: premium dog food, generic, natural, and vegan. According to the AAHA, “Veterinary care continues to remain the second-highest category of spending ($18.11 billion) and continues to lead all categories in terms of growth at a rate of 6.1%. The report attributes that, in part, to lower prices that made veterinary care more accessible to more pet owners.” Americans want to make sure their snakes aren’t sick.
Spending on food and health care makes sense, but some argue pet spending has gone overboard. With the rise of social media, and especially Instagram, some American pets live better than people in other parts of the world. As the Conversation notes, “Sylar, the border collie, has his own mansion along with a trampoline and indoor pool. The dog’s adorable features, along with his notable intelligence, earned his owner’s devotion along with many social media fans.” These nonessential purchases add up to that $72 billion number above. Lastly, and what might be most notable about this exorbitant spending is that Americans’ annual spend is more than the combined GDP of the 39 poorest countries in the world. That’s something to bark about.