In Future Pets, we predict the future of pet ownership and pet care. Here we look at Millennials and their pets.
Future Pets: Millennials and Pets
A review of Gen Y young adults and their relationship with companion animals
Who are Millennials?
Millennials, sometimes known as Gen Ys, were born between the early 1980s and the late 1990s. Generally, they differ from previous generations by their familiarity and use of communications, media and digital technologies. On the negative side, however, they often start their working lives with debt and, due to this and increasing property values, are less likely to be homeowners, car owners or to be parents, when compared to previous generations.
What are the Millennials’ Pets?
Millennials have all sorts of pets. Together with the previous generation, Gen X, they are more likely to have birds, fish, reptiles, rabbits and other small pets than previous generations.
They still love cats and dogs. In fact, they love them more than their older cohorts or their parents, the Baby Boomers. They are now the largest segment of pet owners. In the U.S., three-quarters of Americans in the 30s have dogs and half have cats. Compare this to the entire population (Table 1) and you see how popular these traditional pets are in this generation.
|% Pets||Overall population (%0||Pet owners in 30s (%)|
While small dogs were having boom time over the previous 10 years, now medium dogs are becoming more popular. And while we often think of pets as being more human female-oriented pursuits, men are catching up with women in pet-owning numbers.
And yes, Millennial men like cats!
The importance of pets
Millennials are half as likely to be living with a partner as they were 50 years ago. So, pets become even more important to these 20-40 year olds.
And while most cannot afford to buy a home of their own, a third of millennials who had already purchased their first home said they were influenced by the need to have space – for their dog!
Human babies cost a lot, so pets may be a money-saving bonus when saving for a home. Pets can also be left at home while you work or go shopping.
Many Millennials, however, do not intend to ever have a human child. Their pet is their “fur-child”. For those who still intend to have babies one day, their pet is seen as a “practice” for the real thing. As many as 44% of Millennials in the USA think this way.
Pets are an important emotional part of the Millennials’ life. Not only are pets their fur child but Millennials often regard their animal companions as their best friends and their confidants too.
Millennials understand and enjoy digital technology and it’s no surprise that their pets feature in their communications. They may still take their dog for a walk but while doing so, they will be taking photos and posting them on Facebook or Instagram, to get that digital stamp of approval.
Many Millennial pet owners also use social media to discover new trends in pets and they may be influenced by pet influencers online.
Millennials celebrate their pet’s every milestone. If you are part of this generation, you’ve probably posted your pet’s arrival online, their graduation from puppy school, their cuddles and purrs with you. If you’re of an older generation looking on, you’ve probably shaken your head in disbelief at the personalised collars and bedding that your younger pet-loving counterparts have purchased and love to show-off to anyone who’ll visit or view online.
Most Millennials (76% of them) are more likely to splurge on a pet item – treats, a new custom-made bed – than they are to spend on themselves. Compare this to only 50% of Baby Boomer pet owners.
Making pet decisions
Millennial pet owners like to gather information before making informed decisions about their fur-kids’ lives. Online information features heavily, of course, but so does veterinary advice and not just from vets. Vet nurses and other animal professionals are consulted to gather as much information as possible before making any decisions.
Preventative medicine is important to Millennial pet owners. They don’t treat fleas once they’re on the pet, they prevent them arriving.
Unlike previous generations of pet owners, Millennials are more likely to be looking for particular brand voices. It’s not simply choosing the cheapest dog food or the largest cat-scratching tree. It’s about core values of companies and quality of products. Organic and natural products may feature heavily in their choices.
Once their decisions on pet products are made, Millennials pet owners are not afraid to spend on their pet. Convenience is king when it comes to Millennials and they like to have their pet products delivered right to their door. They may well prefer to have, where possible, veterinary and behaviour advice delivered directly to their home too.
While Millennials spend big on their pets, they like to see other companies spending big too. They may favour smaller, family-owned companies, whose messages are personal and pet-friendly and/or gravitate towards companies who give back to their communities – helping animal shelters, for example.
Future Pets – further predictions
Pet Problems Solved predicts that Millennials will be a driving force behind pets becoming a normal part of life, accompanying us in everything we do.
- Homes – Millennials may not own a home but they rent one and need to have their pets with them. Therefore, they will be the generation that insists landlords and property owners allow pets.
- Work – Millennials want their pets to be part of everything they do, so they will campaign to bring them to work. Not just for a day but any day that they wish to.
- Outdoors – When they go for coffee or to the shops, they want to bring their pet, especially dogs, with them. They will choose items on the menu for their pet.
- Holiday – When they go on holiday, Millennials will take their pet with them. Hotels and Air BnBs need to prepare.
- Home Alone – Pets don’t like to be alone and Millennials do not like to think of their pet being lonely, so they hire dog walkers and companions, they use daycare for pets.
- Technology – this generation of digital natives will spy on their pet, who is home alone, from their phones, They will talk to their pet via technology and they will embrace anything that combines pets and tech. Be prepared for novelty and fun in the future!
- Education – we must always take the welfare of our companion animals into account and this may become a more pressing issue. The Millennial generation may be more inclined to support animal organisations which help pets but they may not be aware of their own pet’s true needs. Education of all pet owners remains vital.
Millennials and Pets – conclusions
If you are a Millennial, does this sounds like you? If you know a Millennial, does this sound like them? Perhaps this will help you understand other generations and their attitude differences from yours towards pets. Perhaps if you are a pet business or organisation it will help you understand pet owners a little more.
No matter what generation you belong to or what your particular interest in pets is, pets are important in our lives and we need to satisfy their needs and give them the lives they deserve. Love your pet!
More reading on pet lifestyles
How the modern Australian lifestyle has changed pet ownership
Pet ownership internationally. How does your country compare?
About the author
Dr Jo Righetti is an animal behaviourist who helps people understand pets and their owners. Her business Pet Problems Solved consults with Governments, Universities, Not-for-profit organisations and Media. Dr Jo has written a series of pet behaviour books and is a regular radio guest with pet Q&A segments.