Millennials have become increasingly attached to their fur-babies. From dressing them up in stylish outfits and taking their pictures for Insta-worthy posts to calling their fur baby their “first born” child, millennials are treating their pets like family, more so like their own children. While this trend is making headlines, it’s worth asking why millennials are treating their fur-babies like they would a real child or perhaps, why many millennials actually prefer having dogs than actual babies.
The Fur-Parent Trend and Changes in Lifestyle
Unlike generations before them, millennials are more likely to focus on their careers and personal development. With the current economy being not so forgiving when it comes to having children, many millennials find that they cannot afford to take the financial and lifestyle hit associated with having kids.
According to a Pew Research Center survey, the median age for a first-time mother in 2018 was 26.5 years—nearly five years older than it was in 1970. Today, the median age for first marriage is 29.8 years for men and 27.8 years for women—also a marked increase from the past.
Interestingly, as millennials are waiting longer to commit to marriage and children, they’ve embraced a new kind of family—the fur-baby family. According to pet ownership statistics, the number of households owning pets in the U.S. has increased greatly in the last 30 years. As of 2023, 66% of U.S. households (86.9 million homes) own at least one pet, which is higher than the 56% recorded in 1988.
Since the pandemic forced people to stay in their homes, many millennials found solace in the companionship of a pet. According to a survey conducted by Forbes Advisor, 78% of pet parents obtained their pets during the pandemic. This surge in pet adoption reflected the desire for more meaningful connections as people sought emotional support during a time of isolation and uncertainty.
In addition to providing companionship, pets offer millennials an entertaining distraction from the monotony of quarantine life. Millennials are taking their pet-parenting duties very seriously, recording funny videos of their furry friends and sharing them on social media. This has added a whole new dimension to how millennials interact with their pets and has led to an increase in pet-related spending.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average annual household spending on pets has increased from $460 in 2013 to $770 in 2021. Consequently, both baby boomers and millennials have started seeking pet care products and services, such as pet insurance, pet grooming, and pet food subscriptions.
All-in-all, millennials have embraced the fur-parent culture and it’s clear why this trend has taken off—from providing companionship and entertainment to offering an alternative to having children, pets play a crucial role in their owners' lives as millennials view them as a significant emotional support. And as such, millennials tend to even spend more money on their fur babies from expensive food to fashionable outfits.
Indeed, pet ownership has grown in popularity among millennials, who view their furry friends as a source of unconditional love and acceptance that can help reduce stress and anxiety. So, from huskies to cats, millennials are having fun with their furry friends. They’re taking them on adventures, dressing them up in the latest designs and documenting it all on social media for everyone else to enjoy too.
5 Reasons Why Millennials Prefer Pet Care to Baby Care
Since the pandemic struck, more and more millennials have chosen to become pet parents instead of having kids. Here’s why:
1. Less Expensive
Compared to raising children, taking care of pets is much less expensive. From food and basic accessories such as collars and leashes to healthcare costs like vaccinations and check-ups, all these expenses are much lower compared to those associated with raising a child.
2. Less Time-Consuming
Having a pet does not require the same level of commitment as having a child does. Pets need to be fed, walked, and entertained, but they do not demand constant attention like children do. While babies need to be watched at all times, pets are generally independent and don't need constant attention. This frees up time for millennials to focus on their own projects and interests.
3. Increasingly Independent Lifestyle
Millennials are living increasingly independent lifestyles. Many are juggling full-time jobs with their passions and side hustles. It’s no wonder then, that keeping a pet can be seen as an easier option than having a child. Pets don't require the same level of commitment as children do and they don't need as much financial or emotional support.
As many millennials opt to live in the cities, they’re often restricted on the type of pet they can own, due to space and cost restrictions. This means that many millennial pet owners opt for smaller breeds like cats or small dogs which are much easier to manage in the city.
4. Commitment Issues
Millennials are also more likely to avoid commitment than previous generations. This is due in part to the rapidly changing economic landscape, with jobs often being unreliable and short-term. Commitment to a pet, however, can be seen as a safer alternative—they don't require a long-term commitment like having a child might. Baby boomers, on the other hand, are more likely to expect marriage and a long-term commitment.
5. Environmental Awareness
Finally, millennials are much more environmentally conscious than previous generations, so having a pet is seen as the ethical choice. Pets can be adopted from shelters and they don't require the same resources as raising children does—from diapers to formula milk—all of which have a negative environmental impact.
So, while millennials still view having children as an important part of life, they are increasingly using pets to fulfill their need for companionship and love. By providing unconditional love and entertainment without the same financial and emotional commitments that come with having kids, pets offer a great alternative for millennials who want to enjoy all the benefits of parenthood without the long-term commitment or hefty price tag.
How Pet Care Products Are Big Business Nowadays
As the trend of treating pets like family continues, companies are taking advantage of this opportunity to provide pet owners with a variety of products that cater to their needs. From stylish collars and leashes to personalized food bowls, and even pet food delivery services, there is no shortage of pet care products on the market.
For instance, dog day care center franchises have grown in popularity over the past few years. These centers provide a safe and fun space for pet owners to leave their pets while they’re at work, providing them with much-needed socialization and exercise.
Additionally, pet food delivery companies are popping up all over the country, catering to young adults who don't have the time to shop for pet food. This service allows millennials to easily purchase healthy, quality food for their pets without ever having to leave their homes.
Whether it's high-end pet clothing or treats made of organic ingredients – there’s no shortage of products for millennials looking to provide the best care for their fur-babies.
Preparing Your Home for your New Furry Friend
As more millennials are welcoming pets into their homes, many of them may not be aware of the necessary preparations that need to be made. To ensure that your pet's transition is as smooth as possible, here are some tips for getting your home ready:
- Pet-proof Your Home – Be sure to remove any small objects, like toys and jewelry, that could pose a choking hazard. Also, cover wires or cords with protective tubing or place them out of reach.
- Invest in Quality Accessories – Ensure you have all the basics such as leashes, food dishes and beds. If you’re adopting a cat or dog, make sure to get ID tags for collars as well.
- Take Time Off Work – If possible, try to take a few days off work when introducing your new pet into the home. This will allow you to spend some quality time with your new furry friend and help them adjust more easily.
- Make Time for Walks – Depending on the type of pet you’ve adopted, walks are essential for their mental and physical health. Create a schedule that works around your own commitments and make sure to stick to it.
- Allow them to socialize with others – Pet owners should also consider socializing their pets with other animals early on. This will help them become more comfortable with different people and animals. Bring your pet to a playground or to visit friends with pets.
So, whether you’re taking the plunge into pet parenthood or have been a proud fur-parent for years, it’s never too late to start thinking about how to best care for your furry loved one. With the right preparation and commitment, millennials can ensure that their fur-babies are as happy and healthy as possible!