The rise of the pet parent
Ever heard of an “interspecies family”? It might not be a word that has a big circulation in the mainstream yet, but it will soon. Especially now that Psychologies Today, a publisher with close to 20 million monthly readers, has written about them.
But even if you’ve never heard of an interspecies family, chances are you have heard of a pet parent. You might even be one yourself.
Simply put, pets and humans are forming familial bonds like never before. And it’s a trend that is being reflected in all parts of the world.
Human/pet families across the globe
Consider these statistics (all taken from different research studies):
- 91% of pet owners in the U.S. say that their pets are part of their family
- 67% of people in Latin America admit to liking their pets more than they do their friends (and we presume their family)
- 53% of millennial pet owners in the U.S. say it is a non-negotiable to dine with their pets
- Australians spent $600 million on grooming services and products for their pets in 2016
- 32% of Asian people say it’s common to set up social media profiles for their pets
- A quarter of all British pets are insured
How pet parenting emerged
Humans and animals have lived together since the dawn of time. And while there’s no doubt that bonds between the two have also been in evidence for many centuries, it’s only recently that people have started identifying themselves as parents to their pets.
Various trends are at play in the rise of the pet parent.
Firstly, in many parts of the world, marriage rates are eroding. Or the age at which people marry is being put off until later in life. At the same time, single person households are on the rise, and these households are often in apartments or smaller dwellings. And, in some parts of the world, birth rates are lower than they have ever been, and people are delaying having children if they have them at all.
It’s in this context that pets have moved from being viewed as property to becoming core family members.
Keeping fur children happy
It’s not fair to imagine that people in the past were not concerned about their animals. But while we can’t speak with authority on the feelings humans may have held for their pets, we can see from available data that pet care consisted of keeping their shots up to date and feeding them.
And, let’s be frank, the choice and quality of food available wasn’t that great.
The new pet parent takes a different view.
For starters, the fact that they identify as a parent already indicates the shift in the relationship people are feeling towards their pets. Yes, millennials are driving this trend, but the deepening care and commitment people are feeling towards their fur children is clear across generations.
Pet parents take a holistic view of the animal child’s life. As a result, products and services that no pet parent in the past would even have thought of have now become necessary and essential parts of a household’s budget.
- Fur babies have refined palates - the link between wholesome, nutritious food and health is as indisputable with pets as it is with humans. The dry and tinned food of the past, possibly made with suspect ingredients, is increasingly being pushed aside by organic, customised pet food brands who prioritise taste and health benefits for pets over just keeping their bellies full.
- Pets need to put their best paw forward - pet wardrobes are now a thing. And rather than being purely functional, such as a dog or cat jacket for very cold weather, pet parents are getting into the aesthetics of pet ware as much as they would for their own clothing. Some of Europe’s most prestigious fashion houses have begun creating clothing lines for pets. And Instagram pet influencers are happy to show off their creations.
- Pets care goes digital - in 2018, American Express released data that said British pet owners spend an average of £1,252 per year on the animals. And part of this spend is now on technology for their pets. Gadgets to help care for pets (e.g. self-cleaning litter trays, treat dispensers or cameras to keep a watch over your pets while you’re out) are now part and parcel of parenting fur children.