Their faces were so hard to resist. Yet their costs – as offices, travel, and entertainment options reopen – are causing delayed financial shock.
Pets have brought solace to Americans in isolation at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. U.S. consumers bought some 47 million in 2020, according to VitusVet, which provides services to veterinarians. A whopping 10 million of them were dogs.
When much of the workforce was away, keeping a new pet was easy and fairly inexpensive. Who needed doggy day care when every day was a day at home?
But with the reopening of offices and the rebound in travel, pet owners say their spending is rising sharply, approaching the amounts some people might fork out for their own (human) rent. While few admit regretting their purchases, many say they are readjusting their budgets to reflect the high price of pet ownership.
Josephine Hendrix, 38, a literacy coach who lives in the Dumbo neighborhood of Brooklyn, is one such pet owner. Last year she bought Bowie, a seven month old sheep. (It’s a mix between an Old English Sheepdog and a Poodle.)
“We knew living in New York would be a bonus and we figured having a dog would be no exception,” she says.
Ms Hendrix estimates that she and her husband now spend around $ 800 a month just on childcare. This is in addition to vet visits (at least $ 100 each time), food ($ 120 for delivery service each month), and toys ($ 26 per month for a BarkBox membership).
Ms Hendrix also spent around $ 400 to replace Bowie’s crates when he exceeds them, an additional $ 350 for a recent emergency vet visit, and $ 400 for her recent bout of giardia, a parasite that puppies can contract. (Bowie is fine now.)
The extra spending isn’t life changing, but it did encourage the couple to rethink their overall spending.
“Daycare definitely costs double the price of a dog walker, we did the math,” Ms. Hendrix said. “But we also thought daycare was double the benefit for a puppy due to socialization.”
She and her husband are reducing their consumption in restaurants and their purchases in expensive delicatessens. They also now park their cars on the street instead of paying for a garage.
For people who don’t own a dog, this can seem like a big lifestyle change. But pet industry executives and analysts say it represents a shift in the way people think about pet ownership.
More than 75% of Millennials and Gen Z consumers “believe their pets are part of the family,” according to Jeffrey Simmons, CEO of Elanco Animal Health. As such, they have heightened expectations for the necessary care of their pets and are willing to make sacrifices.
In a survey by Realtor.com, about 75% of home buyers with pets said they would pass up an otherwise ideal property if it wasn’t suitable for their animal companions.
Sarah Mogin, 34, a software developer who lives in Brooklyn Heights, finds that in a reopened economy, she must make new sacrifices for her dog, Julian, a chihuahua.
At the moment, Julian can only bear to be away from his owner for only about two hours.
“We can probably develop that, but that’s where it’s at right now,” Ms. Mogin said.
That means she has to put it in daycare when she walks into her office. Her business doesn’t require her to return to the office, but she enjoys going three days a week to see colleagues and put some separation between her work and family life.
Ms Mogin estimates that she spends around $ 600 a month on Julian’s daycare, with each day costing around $ 50.
“It’s definitely more expensive for me to go back to the office,” she said.
Then there’s pet insurance for $ 50 per month, $ 15 for nail trimming every four weeks, and $ 140 for a six-month supply of flea and tick medication, as well as food, toys, and vet visits.
She once had to rush Julian to the vet because he couldn’t stop throwing up (he has since recovered), and the bill was $ 791. Pet insurance reimbursed $ 482, but it still left him with an unexpected cost of $ 309.
“It’s totally worth it, I love it so much,” Ms. Mogin said. “I look at him and I am happy. He has this cute little trot when we walk.
A June survey of American Pet Products Association found that spending on pets has increased overall since the start of the pandemic. About 35% of pet owners in the United States said they spent more money on their pets in the past 12 months than in the previous year.
Pet sitting companies have been a huge beneficiary of these expenses.
The phone at the Pups & Pals Pet Lounge in Austin, Texas rings at least 10 times a day with calls from new potential customers, according to DeDe Lally, the owner of its two locations.
“We have 250 names on our waiting list at each location, a total of 500 names that aren’t our customers but want to be,” she says. “It’s just exploding right now.”
At Animal Loving Care in Brooklyn, the waiting list is 70 animals long, according to owner Adrienne Preuss.
“We are a small day care center,” says Preuss. “We are at the maximum every day. “
It’s a similar story across town at Harlem Doggie Day Spa, where owner Brian Taylor says business is booming and dog owners all seem to want three to five days of care a week, matching the readjusted attendance in the new world of hybrid work. .
“I am struggling to find new employees,” said Mr. Taylor.
The hunt for labor is one of the ways the pet care industry is affected by the broader stresses over the economic recovery.
At a time when supply chain disruptions have resulted in shortages of everything from furniture to golf clubs, pet food supplies are also under pressure, according to Dana Brooks, president and CEO of Pet Food. Institute.
The average dog owner spent $ 287 on food last year, up from $ 259 in 2018, according to the The latest survey from the American Pet Products Association.
Despite the costs, Ms. Hendrix does not regret buying Bowie. She would buy another dog if her building allowed it.
“I’m already wondering if we can clone it,” she said.
Update: November 25, 2021, 5:06 am