The American pet spending boom is cutting into 'essential expenses'

Aarthi Swaminathan
Finance Writer

We love our pets. Perhaps a little too much.

According to a new survey by MagnifyMoney, which analyzed data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Survey of Consumer Finances from 2013 to 2018, Americans spending on their pets “is increasing at a higher rate than money spent on essential expenses like food and medicine.”

Overall, Americans spent $87 billion on their pets last year, the survey found. The average amount was $662 per household. But when comparing spending over the last five years, the report found that spending on pets had seen the highest rate of change when compared to other common expenses.

According to one report, the pet care industry is expected to grow to $281 billion by 2023.

(Source: MagnifyMoney)


While companies like Chewy are taking advantage of the boom, pet owners reveal that the emotional bond between them and their furry companions is hurting them financially.

For a 26-year-old living in Manhattan ...’

Yahoo Finance spoke with pet owners who confessed that they had even gone into debt over their pets.

Micky Ndreca, a 28-year-old wedding planner from Florida, told Yahoo Finance that when her blue nose pit bull, Kyra, fell ill due to a number of cascading problems, she had to spend over $3,000 on her.

To pay for the surprise expense, Ndreca had taken out a credit card provided by her vet: “At the time, it was easier to put everything on a credit card and deal with it later,” she explained.

(Photo: Micky Ndreca)

Similarly, Courtney Lippincott, a 33-year-old higher ed professional from Philadelphia, faced a thousand-dollar bill when her cat Pearl needed surgery after she ate two feet of a curling ribbon off of a Christmas gift. 

“I didn't go into debt over it, but I spent pretty much every penny I had,” Lippincott said. “It cost $2,000 which was the lowest estimate the vet had given me. It could have been $5,000. … The vet's office literally called me while she was in the operating room to give me the cost because they knew I had limited finances.”

(Photo: Courtney Lippincott)

Lippincott said she ended up putting the expenses on a credit card and canceled an upcoming trip to Spain which she had been saving for.

And even when owners try their best to be careful with expenses, accidents happen.

In New York, Sam Luton, a 31-year-old account director, said that when her two cats, Beau and Ella, had a dental emergency, she was shocked when she was given a $4,000 estimate.

She managed to bring the cost down by going to the ASPCA, and “it was much cheaper than the initial vet estimate, but still around ... $2000,” she said.

“For a 26-year-old living in Manhattan, we didn't really have that type of money just lying around and it meant we had to make sacrifices and didn't do as much traveling or entertaining as we would have liked that year,” Luton said.

(Photo: Sam Luton)

Yet, spending that money was worth it in the end, the pet owners agreed, especially if it was for their furry companion.

“Millennials are accustomed to making personal sacrifices for their career in an effort to stand out from the pack, or just gain employment,” says Lippincott. “Pets fill in the gap of meaningful social interactions.”

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at aarthi@yahoofinance.com. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami

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