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”— at the beginning of the year. In a January 2021 report*, we found that nearly half (41%) of Canadians welcomed 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, 40% brought home a dog, 55% a cat, and 5% both a dog and cat.
  • 65% of pet parents adopted (43% from a rescue or nonprofit organization and 22% from another family).
  • 25% 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 17% are first-time pet owners.
  • 27% didn’t have another pet when they adopted in the last year but have had a cat or dog before.
  • 55% already had a cat and/or dog.

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 $840 to $2,385 a year, and $600 and $1,800, respectively. More than half of people (48%) 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, Canadians 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. 

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

  • For emotional support and happiness (37%).
  • They needed something positive in their life (36%).

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?

  • 37% those surveyed reported they were anxious about going back to in-person work and leaving their pet at home.
  • While 25% of respondents have already left their pet during the day to go to work. 
  • 27% anticipate their first commute away from their pet to be between March-June 2021.
  • An outlier 17% 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. But if this survey proves anything, it’s that our pets helped us through the most challenging of times, and that 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 500 Canadian dog owners via Pollfish in January 2021.
**Rover survey of 571 Canadian pet owners via Pollfish in March 2021.

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