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Millennials and Pet Parenthood

By Colleen Williams
May 22, 2017 • 3 min. read

Pets are big business, and while Boomers changed the face of “pet ownership” to “pet parenthood,” millennials are redefining what it truly means to have a dog or cat (or both!). From natural food choices to internet memes, the younger generation of adults are carving out an American pet culture where pets are family and pet health care is not just necessary, but as technologically advanced as human health care.

Millennials are in a consumer sweet spot – the generation covers 18 – 35-year-olds and makes up about a third of the US adult population – and are, as such, analyzed on their lifestyle and purchase power. A recent study from market research agency Wakefield noted that millennials are waiting to get married and have children and instead adopting or rescuing a pet around the age of 21 (whereas the average Boomer waited until 29 to adopt a pet, usually post-marriage). Interestingly, a whopping 78% of all ages surveyed indicated that pets are indeed part of their family, and respondents were sensitive to their pets’ livelihood and care.

Buying Power

While young adults may be putting off human children due to college debt and lower salaries, they are sparing no expense when it comes to their pups and kitties. Millennials spend more than any other group when it comes to their pets’ comfort, with accessories, clothing, and toys. In fact, the majority of millennials (76%) reportedly are more likely to splurge on an item for their pet than they would for themselves, including expensive treats (44%) or a custom bed (38%). This extends to their pet’s diet as well; millennials demand transparency when it comes to pet food. They want real, whole ingredients not just for themselves, but for their pets as well, and will spend more to get the better product.

Pets Online

Somewhere along the line of sharing Instagram photos, memes, and Facebook videos, pets really started to take center stage not just in our digital lives, but in real life as well. Through social communities and networks, so many people have grown a fan base for their own personal pets, not just the Lil Bubs or Manny the Frenchies. It goes even further: sharing food recalls, rescue and charity events, pet training tips, and broader dog and cat issues have encouraged a more positive pet landscape – one where we are pet parents and advocates for healthy, safe pets.

Pet Education

Blame it on the millennials – we are now a more educated, informed country than ever before due to the larger communities we’ve established, and that especially applies to our furry friends. From knowing the proper service dog etiquette to sharing the dangers of xylitol in peanut butter, the digital push to share about our pets has lead to us simply knowing so much more about how to coexist with our favorite creatures. From this, we’ve discovered and developed employee benefits that coincide with pet parenthood to companies like Healthy Paws that insure pups and cats throughout their lives.


The idea that our pets are our family, that we will share news on our own personal pets as well as bigger education issues, all leads to empathy and compassion for pets. It’s a changed world in terms of dog and cat parenthood – people now consider their pet’s feelings (and in New Zealand and France, the law enforces this sentiment) and have realized that their pets rely on them not just for food and shelter, but also love and health. The American Pet Products Association says that millennials are a “very passionate, active, and connected group,” and these same attributes dictate how they treat their pets, and how the pet industry has responded similarly.

You already treat your pets like family, so getting a free quote for pet insurance is the next step! Healthy Paws Pet Insurance covers unexpected accidents and illnesses throughout the life of your pet, reimbursing up to 90% so you can stop worrying about the vet bill and start focusing on what really matters.

colleen williams
By Colleen Williams

Over the past decade, Colleen has written about health, wellness, beauty, and even pets for The New York Times, The Cut, Refinery29, xoVain, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance, and Seattle Met Magazine, as well as many beauty brands. She has a BFA in Art History from the University of New Mexico and an AAS in Fashion Design from Parsons School of Design in New York.

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