How Much Do Americans Spend On Their Pets?

Whether you're Team Dog or Team Cat, we can all agree pet ownership is on the rise. According to U.S. Census data, 63.8 million households (or almost 50% of all households in the United States) had at least one pet in 2021, though pandemic-fueled pet ownership increases have already changed those numbers. A Pew Research Center survey from 2023 puts the number of households with pets at 62% (with 35% of households reporting having more than one pet). All of this is to say, pet ownership is definitely on the rise, and it shows no signs of slowing down.

However, with this rise in pet ownership, there's also been a rise in pet-related expenses. From food to supplies to vet care, pet expenses can easily become a significant portion of a household's budget, and it's no wonder when you consider that 97% of all pet owners report seeing their pets as part of their family.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average U.S. household spends ~$770 per year on their pets. In 2022 specifically, American households spent a whopping $136.8 billion, which was an 11% increase over 2021 ($123.6 billion), and this spending is anticipated to continue on increasing. Analysts estimate that the U.S. pet market size is expected to grow over 5% in the next few years, reaching $103.27 billion by 2029. Let's break down what kinds of pets people are spending on, and what exactly they're buying.

What people are paying for

According to data from the American Pet Products Association, the biggest spending category for pet owners in 2023 was actually pet food and treats, with $58.1 billion. The next biggest spending category, totaling $37 billion, was veterinary care (this ranged from routine annual exams to specific surgical procedures) and products (such as pharmaceuticals and supplements). A total $31.5 billion was spent on a combination of pet supplies, over-the-counter medicines, and live animals (such as purchasing fish, birds, rodents, and reptiles). 

The smallest spending category for pet owners in 2023 was services, totaling $11.8 billion. This category includes things such as grooming, boarding, pet sitting, and any other pet-related service outside of a veterinary office. Part of this services category spending also includes pet insurance, which has experienced a growth in popularity, even while many remain skeptical. 

Forbes reports about half of surveyed dog owners expressed concern over their ability to pay for unexpected vet bills should they arise in the next three months. This financial strain can add anxiety to those already financially struggling and lead to budget cuts in important areas. For instance, 17% of those surveyed reported they would cut their pet's veterinary visits in order to save money. Yet, even with these financial fears, pet insurance was still largely overlooked. Forty-seven percent of survey respondents who currently didn't have pet insurance reported being unlikely to buy it in the next three months. The majority of those surveyed listed the cost of pet insurance as the biggest obstacle.

Which pets do Americans have

Dogs are by far the most popular pet in the United States, with 2023-24 APPA data finding that 65.1 million U.S. households have a dog. Meanwhile, MarketWatch survey data found the average cost of dog ownership in the U.S. across a dog's entire lifetime is ~$28,000. However, this cost estimate can vary depending on what state and/or geographic region you live in with your pet(s). For instance, pet owners in Oklahoma pay nearly 14% less than the national average. Another factor is if you choose to adopt or purchase a puppy, as the associated costs for vaccinations and spay/neuter surgeries can also change this overall cost.

Cats are the second-most popular pet in the country, with 46.5 million U.S. households sharing their space with a feline friend. Cats are typically seen as less expensive pets than dogs, mainly due to the fact that 63% of cats are kept entirely indoors, which limits their risk of injury, illness, and related vet expenses. As with dogs, the decision to rescue or pay for a kitten can change your overall expenses, as well as related vaccination and surgery expenses.

You might be surprised to learn that the third-most popular pet in the U.S. is actually freshwater fish with 11.1 million U.S. households reporting having fish as pets. Some other popular pets in America include small animals, like bunnies, hamsters, and guinea pigs (6.7 million households); birds (6.1 million); and reptiles (6 million).