Marketing to Women: “Pet Parents Not Pet Owners”

March 2, 2012 § 9 Comments

We recently got a dachshund puppy as a gift for our daughter.  My husband calls him the $2000 baby because in the four months we have known him, we have racked up costs for food, vet bills for shots and an operation, harnesses and leashes, a coat and Christmas sweater, a bed, toys, an airplane carrier, and his very own airplane ticket to travel to his new home with our daughter.   His name is Little Richard, and of course, he is the family baby. Brother to our dachshund James Brown, the Dogfather of Soul.

According to a survey by Coyne Public Relations, 77% of us admit to talking about our dogs as if they were human family members, and 54% of us consider ourselves to be “pet parents”, not “pet owners”.  More than 80% of pet owners know their dog’s birthday and have celebrated it;  77% have bought their dogs birthday presents.

Why all this attention for our furry friends?  According to Marketing News, they have  become replacements for the big non-furry types.  Societal shifts have seen more single men and women and childless couples making pets part of the family.  Now, 81% of us think of our pets as family members.  Baby boomers have replaced their grown children with pets who are now the recipients of all that attention.

The number of dog-owning households reached a new high in 2011 – 46.3 million, up from 45.6 million in 2008.  Sixty-two percent of all US households own a pet, and forty percent of US households now own two or more dogs. And we spend on those pets.  From 2001 to 2011, spending on our pet partners grew from $28.5 billion to $50 billion.  And those vet visits?  Well, it makes you consider pet health insurance.  It’s $248 average per routine visit, and $400 average for surgical visits.  And lest you think I jest, there are 10 pet insurance companies in the US, and those pet parents spent $400 million on insurance in 2010.

The anthropomorphization of our furry friends has lead pet products companies like PetSmart to move from being dog food sellers to helping consumers become better pet parents.  Dog fashion has reached new heights, and Martha Stewart has invaded the aisles.

So, now Little Richard is an LA hipster visiting trendy restaurants with his new mama, and sporting his USC sweater when the evenings are chilly.




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§ 9 Responses to Marketing to Women: “Pet Parents Not Pet Owners”

  • How true! We have a little cockapoo that is actually my first dog ever and we bought her last year at 3 months old.

    I married my husband 15 years ago at 38. He has two kids,now grown. We never had children together. We’re the lucky parents of Lucy and do treat her as if she were a kid!

  • I used to run PR for a large, national animal welfare non-profit, and the phrase “pet parents” used to set the teeth of some staff (especially those involved in rescue and/or cruelty) on edge. But it worked from a marketing point of view. Certainly my husband and I are in the “pet parent” category (and don’t even get me started on how much our three dogs cost, especially as two of them are now in the “senior” demographic). But we love them; they’re our babies. We wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Jamie Dunham says:

      I know that pet abuse is a big issue, and it was definitely a problem during the recession and certainly continues with puppy mills. Thanks for your comments. And yes, we wouldn’t have in any other way as well. In fact, we have James Brown, Little Richard and are thinking about adding a Jerry Lee Lewis to the mix!

      • Haha, I love those names! We have Chuck, Suzy Q. & Lola. Before we had any of them, we had a basset named Hank – he came to us with that name – so when we got the next one (adopted from a rescue), we wanted something as down to earth as “Hank,” so “Chuck” it was. Then came Suzy Q., because a) it’s another lovely, simple name, and b) I used to listen to Suzy Quatro as a kid. And then Lola (also a basset) came along… but who could change THAT name?!

      • As kids, my mom bought us home a basset…what name other than Fred would suffice? He ended up being a crazy dog in our home..needed more space than a house. He needed a farm! So, we called our friend the dog catcher and he brought Fred to a place where he could have all the space he needed to run. I think the pet has to fit in the household..that’s key!

      • Jamie Dunham says:

        We had a shar pei at one point who was given to us. And we found out why. He was aggressive and needed space as well. Thanks for the reminder.

      • @kelley, one of my friends had a basset named Fred. Apparently he had an affinity for beer…!

  • lushhomeinteriors says:

    You’re not a pet parent, you did not birth or father your dog. If you did by any chance well that is fucking freaky and I’d advise a priest or something.

    You don’t have three kids, you have two children and a dog.

    Your dog doesn’t have your last name, the “birth certificate” your vet gave you is a non-official piece of crap printed on an ink jet. I don’t care if it lists you and your spouse as the dog’s parents, you aren’t the parents were two dogs.

    I understand you love your dog, great dogs are wonderful. But you aren’t it’s mother or father.

    I wish pet parent would dissappear from human discourse.

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