The Pandemic Has Increased Demand for Pet Perks

Spending on Pets Rose During the Pandemic

The pandemic forced Americans to cut back spending on restaurants, air tickets, and movies. But one product category got a boost: spending on pet products jumped 8.3% in 2020, even as overall retail sales fell 10.6%.

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In a December, 2020 survey of both pet owners and non-pet owners conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 10% of respondents reported getting a new pet due to Covid. Many existing pet owners spent more time with their pets due to stay-at-home orders, lockdowns, and an increase in remote work—with the result that many came to value their pets more highly and became more affectionate towards them. 

There was one drawback, though: sticker shock. 47% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners said in a recent survey that having a pet turned out to be more expensive than they had anticipated. 

Rising Pet Ownership and Pet-Related Costs Provide an Opportunity for Employers 

The recent experience of U.S. pet owners has implications for employers. Job seekers and employees may now value pet-friendly offices and pet insurance more highly than they have in the past, as two ZipRecruiter surveys of more than 2,000 job seekers conducted in February, 2020 and April, 2021 suggest.  

67% of respondents who work from home one or more days per week said in April, 2021 that they would be willing to come into the office more often if it were pet-friendly, up from 62% before the pandemic. And while pet-friendly offices were the top-ranked pet benefit in 2020, they were surpassed by paid pet insurance in 2021. 

As employers increasingly struggle to fill vacancies, they might want to consider appealing to the growing numbers of pet owners by offering pet-related perks, such as subsidized or discounted membership in pet insurance plans or pet grooming services. Employers are often able to offer these discounts without spending a cent themselves, simply by negotiating group rates that individual workers cannot obtain on their own. 

While it is not possible to offer pet-friendly workplaces in every industry, there can be benefits to offering greater flexibility and designing accommodations for employees who need to take care of their furry, winged, or scaled friends. 

Data from job postings suggest that offering pet perks is already becoming a competitive business. The share of job postings on ZipRecruiter mentioning pet perks has grown rapidly over the past three years, from 1.1 in 10,000 in 2018, to 2.5 in 10,000 in 2019, to 5.4 in 10,000 in 2020. 

That may be because pet perks are often more popular among employees than other perks and benefits that actually cost more. And they do something on an emotional level that many other benefits can’t: appeal to the love we feel for our pets, which we all know is priceless.

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