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Pet Ownership Study: Richmond ranks 4th among U.S. cities for spending on care for cats, 9th for dogs

Did you know the average American spends about $1,700 on their pets each year? That’s the equivalent of adding a thirteenth rent payment annually, based on the average U.S. rent.

Trevor Dickerson

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It’s no secret that Americans are obsessed with their pets, right down to spending more on boutique clothing, healthcare, and food than their own – but how do these numbers differ across generations?

Millennials may have begun treating their pets like children after the Boomer-induced population bubble burst, but Gen Z has further established that you don’t need to have a handful of kids to be a parent.

Because May is National Pet Month, CouponBirds dug into trends in pet-related expenses across both of these generations to get some insight into shifting priorities and economic behaviors. After all, Baxter and Cleo deserve the finer things in life, too – right?

The national survey found that Richmond residents spend an average of $1,620 on their cats annually, the 4th-most among U.S. cities. When it comes to dogs, they rank 9th among U.S. cities, forking over $2,553 per year.

The national annual average spent on cat-related expenses is $1,087, and dogs nearly double that at $2,116. North Carolina and Washington, D.C., spend the most on cats, shelling out $2,280 and $2,770, respectively. Pennsylvania and Austin, Texas spend the most on dogs at $7,200 and $4,200.

Gen Z has slightly higher dog ownership at 47% compared to Millennials’ 43%, though Millennials spend more annually on pet care ($1,712 vs. Gen Z’s $1,602). Gen Z is more likely to prioritize pet spending over personal luxuries (26% vs. Millennials’ 19%).

All fur babies deserve a blend of love, responsibility, and indulgence, no matter what generation takes care of them. Sure, both Gen Z and Millennials have unique styles when caring for their furry companions, but what bites the biscuit when it comes to trends and how much (as well as where) money is spent on them? Let’s break it down by category.

Pet Ownership Trends

When owning dogs and cats, Millennials slightly edge out Gen Z with 24% versus 20%. Though both generations love their feline friends equally (33%), Gen Z favors dogs slightly, with 47% being dog owners compared to Millennials’ 43%.

Although the younger generation may own a few more of (wo)man’s best friends, that doesn’t necessarily reflect in spending – right?

Dollars and Cents

Right. When we talk about funds for four-legged friends, Millennials outspend Gen Z with an average of $1,712 per year, while the latter isn’t too far behind at $1,602. Average total annual pet spending includes costs related to food, healthcare, grooming (approximately six sessions), toys, and entertainment.

When you consider inflation over the last 30 years, those numbers take on a new meaning – as the average bag of pet food has seen over a 90% increase from 1994 to 2024. And yet, that hasn’t stopped animal lovers from prioritizing their animals financially. So, where do these hard-earned dollars go?

Food and Healthcare

Not shockingly, both generations prioritize their pets’ health and nutrition (you’ve seen that Freshpet commercial, right?). Gen Z spends about $57 monthly on pet food—only slightly less than Millennials’ $61. Annual healthcare spending shows a similar trend, with Gen Z spending $408 and Millennials spending a bit more at $466. Quality nutrition and healthcare for pets? Sounds good to us.

Grooming and Entertainment

In another category, Millennials tend to spend a bit more, with grooming scooping up an average of $38 per session compared to Gen Z’s $33.

When it comes to toys and entertainment, though? Gen Z takes the lead, spending $26 monthly compared to Millennials’ $24. Whether or not this means their pets are actually played with more, we don’t know, but Gen Z’s animals have a toy collection to be jealous of!

Pet Insurance

It’s good to protect your cats and dogs from harm and situations outside your control, says nearly one in five Millennials who have embraced pet insurance. But Gen Z? A higher 28% have taken this protective measure.

Luxury vs. Necessity

Both Gen Z (20%) and Millennials (21%) spend a similar amount on personal luxuries as they do on their pets; however, 26% of Gen Z and 19% of Millennials admit to prioritizing pet needs over their own indulgences – and nearly half of both generations have had to cut back on personal needs to ensure their pets are well cared for.

The most telling data point is that a majority of both groups believe they spend more on their pets than older generations. While perception is everything, this may speak more to increased economic hardships as time passes.

Check out the full study and methodologies here.

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Trevor Dickerson is the Editor and Co-Founder of RVAHub.