How Much Do Our Pets Cost?

Kathryn Baranoski Life with Money

To say that the Park Piedmont team is a group of animal lovers would be an understatement.

Tom, Nate, George, and Heather are all dog owners, while Sam, Leslie and I are owned by our cats. Catching a glimpse of someone’s pet while on a Zoom meeting is frequently a highlight of our workday.

We also love it when we get to chat with our clients about their pets, and any fun stories or pet photos we receive are usually circulated for the whole team to enjoy.

How much do our pets cost?

Earlier this year, Tom wrote a “Life with Money” piece that explored the ways we invest in our relationships, and how those investments can offer the highest and most-predictable return on investment. So when a recent Pew survey found that almost half of U.S. pet owners consider their pets to be as much a part of the family as their human counterparts, we couldn’t help but get curious about how this expanded relationship might impact pet owners’ financial behavior.

According to a recent article from Forbes, 66% of U.S. households own at least one pet, compared to just 56% in 1988. Annual spending on our furry friends has increased too, with $136.8 billion spent on pets in 2022 – up from $123.6 billion in 2021.

More than 23 million American households adopted a pet during the pandemic, according to an article by the Washington Post, so the increase in pet ownership and spending isn’t surprising. What we wanted to know is, how did the increased spending on pets affect peoples’ spending in other areas?

I often joke that I spend more per month on food for my two cats, Luna and Vin Diesel, than I do on food for myself, and George recently remarked that he eats generic cereal so that his dog, Penny, can eat like royalty. Do pet owners find themselves cutting back in other areas so that their animal counterparts can live the high life?

That same Washington Post article interviewed several dog owners across the country, who remarked that they’ve gone to such lengths as having fewer date nights and cooking at home more, or even delaying purchasing their first home, due to the amount they spend on their pups. Budgeting for veterinary care, both routine and emergency, also factored into their spending decisions.
Cat love
Two recent surveys from pet care site found that the majority of pet owners consider their pets a top financial priority, even at the expense of their own necessities. According to the surveys:

  • 81% of pet owners said inflation is impacting their food bills and 41% of dog owners have cut back on their own groceries as a result.
  • 37% of pet owners said there’s no amount of money they would accept if it meant they could never have a pet again, and at least a quarter said it would take $1 million or more for them to give up their pets.
  • 44% of pet owners would take a lower-paying job if they could bring their pets to work with them.

This commitment to pets is also reflected in the roughly $35.9 billion in annual spending going towards vet care, as well as pet insurance to help manage the cost of pet ownership. With the average monthly pet insurance premium being $53/month for dogs and $32/month for cats, the coverage can be appealing, albeit expensive, as a means to help manage vet bills.

Employers are catching wind of the trend too, with some 5,000 companies now offering pet insurance in an effort to attract talent and acknowledge the strong bond between people and pets.

Another interesting trend among pet owners is the rise in pet-friendly home modifications. Architects and interior designers alike agreed in a recent New York Times article that when designing or renovating a home, you may need to consider the needs of both human and animal occupants.

So what features are pet parents considering adding to their homes? According to the article, for dog owners, spaces like special dog showers or custom crates that blend seamlessly into the décor are top of mind. For cat owners, architectural playgrounds (think wall-mounted jungle gym) and hidden litter boxes are ideal.
Woman hugging dog
We don’t only spend money on our pets, though. We also devote intangible resources to them, like time, energy, and love. Reverend Tish Harrison Warren writes about this in a recent newsletter, where she describes her recent experience with hesitation around adopting a dog for her family.

“In an unspoken place inside me, I’d created a zero-sum system where any money, time or energy I gave to a domestic animal was taking away money, time or energy from other humans,” Warren explained in her newsletter. Warren isn’t the only one who felt that tension. In 2022, Pope Francis criticized couples who chose to have pets instead of children.

Warren goes on to explain that her family’s new pooch, Herbie, forced the family to slow down their lives, be gentler, and lean into love. She ends the newsletter by pulling inspiration from a poem written by Herbie’s namesake, George Herbert – a 17th– century Anglican priest and poet – “Love, without diminishing, always welcomes more.”

We love our pets here at Park Piedmont, and given the opportunity, we’d love to hear about yours, too.