April 14, 2021They call it puppy love: Understanding the pet parenting craze

Why are Gen Yers adopting more pets during the pandemic? How come brands are making human food for dogs? And what’s drawing people to luxury pet fashion? To celebrate Pet Month, Canvas8 explores and explains the drivers behind the pet parent craze.

Precious Osoba

Why has the pet parent craze spiralled?

Pandemic lifesavers

Pampering pets used to be reserved for the likes of socialites such as Paris Hilton, who carried her chihuahuas in designer bags and even housed them in their own mansion. However, this behaviour has become somewhat normalised as people increasingly liken their pets to human babies. Indeed, 64% of people view their pets as a child or family member, and this is also reflected in their spending.

Since the start of global lockdowns, social distancers have found themselves stuck at home, often lonely and lacking physical touch. During this time, pets have played a crucial role in their lives: 89% of people say their dogs and cats have made them feel less lonely during the pandemic. For many, pets have helped reduce feelings of anxiety and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, and physically touching pets has helped 90% of people to feel comforted and relaxed. As a result, people are looking to reciprocate the love they’ve received by spending more time with their pets and spending money on making them happy.

Can’t afford real kids yet

For Gen Yers, seeing pets as family is nothing new: 42% even admit that they think of their pets as their kids. Interestingly, the pandemic has only accelerated the pet parent craze. Nearly half (47%) of Gen Yers found increased emotional support from their pets during lockdowns, compared to 43% of Gen Xers and Zers. Gen Yers have been criticised for their expensive tastes – from avocado toasts to pricy coffees – despite their lack of assets. However, with the American Dream diminishing due to unrealistic expectations, and financial barriers exacerbated by the pandemic, HENRYs cannot afford bigger assets, so they indulge in smaller luxuries. Indeed, 73% say their finances play a role in becoming a parent. For many, that means opting for pets instead of kids.

What are pet parents buying?

Canine Valentines

Valentine's Day 2021 was an extra-special one for the 63% of pet parents who say that it's an important holiday for their pet to feel extra loved. In comparison to previous years, the number of pet parents who expressed an interest in giving their pets a gift for Valentine's Day 2021 doubled to 64%, and over half of them were interested in giving their dog a ‘pet equivalent' of their own favourite Valentine’s Day treat. And with Google searches for 'pet gift' increasing by 263% from early to mid-February 2021, we saw a series of brands cater to this need.

Hanna Anderson’s ‘Pet Johns In Organic Cotton’ let avocado-loving pet parents dress their dogs in the same pyjamas as the whole family, while Stella & Chewy’s launched limited-edition ‘conversation barks’ – heart-stamped dog biscuits that came in Valentine's Day-themed packaging. In the hospitality space, The Orlando Hotel in Los Angeles partnered with the Vanderpump Dog Foundation to launch the 'Woof you be mine' care package, which included an overnight stay at the hotel and a box for your pooch containing a diamond-studded dog toy, doggie cologne, and more.

Sharing is caring

Almost half (49%) of people say that pampering their pets makes them happy, and pet parents have been showing them increased affection during the pandemic. The categories that they’re splurging on the most are toys (51%), special food treats (49%), and grooming items (34%), and they’re increasingly after high-quality buys. Pet parents are throwing out the kibble and replacing it with premium pet food – something The PACK plans to capitalise on with its range of plant-based food, letting pet parents pass on their values to their fur babies. Given that 49% of people already give their pets human food, plant-based pet foods are likely to do well.

Kicking back in front of the TV has been a popular pastime in lockdown, and even this is shared with pets. In the US, seven in ten people watch television with their dogs very often or always, and a further 72% even prepare some snacks for their dog to nibble on. Ben & Jerry’s homed in on this with its frozen Doggie Desserts, so that both humans and their pets could indulge in a scoop or two. Similarly, Busch’s dog brew in a can lets people and their pets have a pint together.

Looking the part

Fashion brands have also entered the pet market as people increasingly humanise their pets. People are dressing their pets up for special occasions such as Halloween (66%) and even throwing a party for a pet's birthday (37%).

Considering that 65% think of spoiling their pets as a form of self-care, it’s unsurprising that Pagerie, which sells luxury pet fashion and dog accessories, is winning fans. Also entering the premium pet accessories space is Ssense, which sells dogwear from the likes of Dsquared2, Ashley Williams, and Burberry. Zara also debuted a collection of pet homeware before going on to release a line of pet clothing.

For pet parents who are yet to find some outfit inspiration, there is a raft of fashionable dog Influencers that are happy to give some pointers. Some pets are even showing off their style on TikTok, amassing thousands of likes. Fast fashion brand Fashion Nova has tapped into this, launching a clothing collab with Megan Thee Stallion and her pooch 4oe, which includes items for pups to wear, too.

Will you be treating your pooch to some Pucci this Pet Month?

Precious Osoba is a junior behavioural analyst at Canvas8. Fascinated by the hows and whys of people and culture, she has a background in social sciences and a degree in marketing. You can often find her in aesthetically pleasing restaurants writing articles for her Medium profile.

Stay on top of the latest insights with Keeping TABS, our free newsletter
Want our free newsletter, previews of report releases and event invites?
Yes please