Americans willingly cut their spending on upscale
restaurants during the Great Recession, their pets
continued to dine on gourmet meals.
recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
backs up an October 2011 Time magazine report that
claimed pets were as ?recession-proof as doughnuts,
chocolate and condoms, and so popular that Americans
spent more than $330 million on their pets’ Halloween
costumes that year alone.
on pets and their needs soared to a record $61.4 billion
in 2011, according to data collected by the U.S. Census
Bureau. The results of two surveys conducted from
2007-2011 indicate that while overall household spending
decreased by 7.7 percent, Americans spent 7.4 percent
more on their pets during the same time period, said BLS
economist Steve Henderson, chief of the Branch of
Information and Analysis at the Consumer Expenditure
Survey Division in Washington, D.C.
the BLS’ latest quarterly Beyond the Numbers report,
Henderson says that Americans, whether they be higher-
or lower-income households, devote about 1 percent of
household income to pets.
own 218 million pets that live in nearly three-quarters
of U.S. households, according to the American Pet
Products Association, cited in the report.
average U.S. household spent just over $500 on its pets
in 2011. Put another way, households reported spending
more on their pets annually than they did on alcohol
($456), said Henderson.
was interested to see that spending stayed constant,
that people kept caring for their pets as much as they
did and that (spending) wasn’t affected. The other
thing I find interesting is that even when we sliced up
the data by age, people were still spending on pet food
and pet care into and beyond their 70s," Henderson
surveys show pet spending decreases as the number of
people in the household increases. Spending the most are
married couples without children in the home.
extravagance over pets doesn’t surprise Mindy Pozzuto.
She brought her brindle-colored Labrador retriever mix,
Jonah, to a shop for what she called his "mani-pedi"
visit, she said, was "to beautify him up a
was getting his nails ground down by store groomer
Merenda Smith to prevent him from scratching the family’s
said she feeds 5-year-old Jonah, rescued from Summit
County (Ohio) Animal Control, a "high-tech"
dog food made with lamb because corn and chicken
products upset his sensitive stomach.
another aisle, pet parents Courtney Napier and Adam
Deets of Fairlawn, Ohio, were picking up a large bag of
the pricey Taste of the Wild Sierra Mountain grain-free
dry dog food for their 11-month-old black Labrador
retriever named Jed, who suffers from food allergies.
accompanies the couple to the store every two to three
weeks, said Napier. Each time he visits, the dog is
permitted to pick out a toy of his own choosing.
it takes him 10 minutes to pick out a toy. He loves
coming to the store," she said as she watched the
pup sniff his way along each bin in the aisle. Jed
finally settled on a large rawhide bone he nudged out of
a bin with his nose and onto the floor.
Consumer Expenditure Survey by census workers gathers
information on consumers, including buying habits,
income and consumer unit (families and single consumers)
characteristics. It is the only federal survey that
provides information on a complete range of consumer
spending and used to aid policy decisions.
figures are the national averages for all households,
including households that did not make any purchases for
that category. Households chosen from a Census Bureau
master address list are recruited for the consumer
diary survey is conducted annually with 7,000 households
that are asked to keep track of all spending for a week.
Census workers examine the diary after the first week,
then ask the household to continue for a second week,
thus providing 14,000 "good" weekly diaries
each year, Henderson said.
where we pick up a lot of those — I call them Walmart
items — where you are going through the store and you
pick up a lot of those things while buying groceries,
toothpaste and cat food and toiletries and flashlight
batteries — all those things that by the end of the
day you have forgotten," Henderson said.
second survey used to collect data is based on
interviews of 7,000 households every three months for a
year about their spending habits. They provide another
28,000 interviews each year.
that part of the population you get the big
expenditures, or the repeat expenditures — every month
you pay your Netflix bill or your electric bill to keep
the lights on, " Henderson explained.
households represent two different population groups and
the same families are not in the same survey.
one in every 10,000 addresses is represented. In other
words, if you are in the sample, you represent about
10,000 people," Henderson said.
breakdown of pet spending from 2007-11 suggests that
veterinarian services showed the highest percentage
increase of 16.1 percent, from an inflation-adjusted
$123 to $143. However, in the interim, there was a spike
in 2008 to $216.
food was the second-highest expenditure reported in the
surveys, increasing each year from $159 in 2007 to $183
only decrease in spending occurred for live pet
purchases, supplies and medicine, down an
inflation-adjusted 6.6 percent, or $10, from $151 in
2007 to $141 per household in 2011.
indulge their pets with good reason, said marriage and
family therapist Susan Stocker of Akron, who works at
the Akron Family Institute.
the interest of full disclosure, Stocker acknowledged
she owns two cats. But it was a German shepherd she
owned for more than 13 years that taught her about the
unconditional love of a pet, she said.
think my cats would probably live with anyone who fed
them and changed their litter box. But a dog, oh, my
gosh," said Stocker.
level of unconditional love of a pet exceeds most of our
human capacity for unconditional love. We humans are
very conditional in our love. We are almost incapable of
giving the unconditional love a pet can give back to
us," she said.
said she’s counseled couples who stayed together
because they couldn’t decide who would get custody of
the dog if they split up.
not crazy, it’s perfectly understandable. It’s an
indicator of how desperately we all need love, affection
and attention and we know where we can get it. We can
get it trustingly, without question, from a pet,"