Pandemic pets

The Pandemic Pet Adoption Boom: What We’ve Learned, One Year Later

The last year will no doubt go down in the books as one of the most challenging years in recent history, but one of its biggest (and most delightful) surprises was the wave of pet adoptions that resulted because of the pandemic.

Quarantined under stay-at-home orders, people were isolated, looking for companionship, and pet adoption soared. Rover reported on the trend—pets now ubiquitously known as “pandemic puppies”— several times in the last year. In October 2020, we found* that one-third of people in the US had welcomed a cat or dog into their life since March. In a January 2021 report**, we found that figure was higher when looking at dogs—nearly half (49%) of Americans said they got a new dog during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In our most recent survey***, we asked these new cat and dog owners about what motivated them to adopt, what kind of pets they adopted, and how things are going now that life is resuming its old pace and they’re spending less time at home. Read on for the highlights below.

It’s Raining Cats and Dogs, But Mostly Dogs

“Pandemic puppies” is something of a misnomer: While we did find the pet adoption boom was a boom for dogs, it included lots of cats, too!

  • Of the people who adopted in the last year, 53% brought home a dog, 32% a cat, and 14% both a dog and cat.
  • 64% of pet parents adopted (40% from a rescue or nonprofit organization and 24% from another family).
  • 26% of pet parents purchased their cat or dog from a breeder.

Young Adopters Lead the Way

The majority of recent pet owners are millennials, with more working from home than out of the home, but groups from retired boomers to essential workers have adopted in the last year, and a wide breadth of experience is represented when it comes to caring for cats and dogs.

  • Only 13% are first-time pet owners.
  • 20% didn’t have another pet when they adopted in the last year but have had a cat or dog before.
  • 66% already had a cat and/or dog.

Pandemic pets Stats

Pet Parents Are Financially Prepared

Caring for dogs and cats can be expensive: The annual cost of owning a dog and cat can range, on average, from $650 to $2,115 a year, and $690 and $1,485, respectively. More than half of people (54%) adjusted their budget or reduced expenses in order to afford their new pet. 

Overwhelmingly, Pets = Joy 

Like making sourdough bread, binge-watching TV, and jumping on a Zoom call to connect with family and friends, Americans turned to cats and dogs for comfort. It’s no surprise that these four-legged companions make us happier—they typically just want to snuggle up on the couch or accompany us on a neighborhood stroll. In fact, 93% of people said their “pandemic pet” improved their mental and/or physical wellbeing in the last year and over 80% said it made working from home and being at home during the pandemic more enjoyable.

The top two reasons why people adopted a cat or dog in the last year are:

  • For emotional support and happiness (41%).
  • They needed something positive in their life (39%).

Separation Anxiety is a Concern

As the vaccine rolls out across the world, the conversation has turned to what the new normal will look like for both people and pets. The bond between pet parents and their dogs and cats is clear, but what happens when we start to spend more time away from home, and our pets?

  • Nearly half of those surveyed (40%) reported they were anxious about going back to in-person work and leaving their pet at home.
  • 20% of respondents have already left their pet during the day to go to work. 
  • 43% anticipate their first commute away from their pet to be between March-June 2021.
  • An outlier 9% think they will continue to work from home past October 2021.

While dogs and cats may experience some separation anxiety, it’s likely pet parents may feel that way, too. It’s been an exceptionally difficult year, and we’re all learning as we go.

Pet Care Exists to Support Pet Parents

With more people spending time at home, adopting a cat or dog in the last year was a timely decision. But as these new pet parents start to reacclimatize to a post-pandemic lifestyle in the months ahead, they’ll likely need additional support. 80% of pet owners claim they anticipate needing to leave their pet alone for the first time to return to work by the end of the summer. Here is what they said:

  • 83% of pet owners will spend as much or more on pet care in the next 6 months, 47% will spend more. Among millennial pet owners, 52% plan to spend more.
  • In the next 6 months, over 80% of pet owners anticipate needing one of the services that Rover offers. That number jumps to 85% among millennial pet owners.

If this survey proves anything, it’s that our pets helped us through the most challenging of times. In fact, over 90% of pet owners are still completely happy with their decision to get a “pandemic pet.” As long as we continue to cherish and nurture our bond with them, they’ll be there for us during tough times again.

*Rover survey of 1,000 US-based cat and dog owners via Pollfish in October 2020.
**Rover survey of 1,000 US-based dog owners via Pollfish in January 2021.
***Rover survey of 1,076 US-based pet owners via Pollfish in March 2021.

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