By Carmen Rustenbeck
As the pet industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, not surprisingly so, too, has grown the number of reports and industry surveys related to how much is being spent on pet-related services. This much on pet food. That much on pet grooming. This much on veterinary care. That much on pet boarding. The how much certainly provides key industry insight and those big numbers are always a point of big interest, but what about the why? Why do pet owners make those spending decisions?
To better understand why pet owners make certain spending decisions, specifically regarding those trends and attitudes related to pet health and pet away-care, the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA) commissioned a survey of 652 U.S. pet owners about their experiences with veterinary, pet boarding, and pet-sitting services. All survey respondents owned at least one pet and were the primary caretakers of their pets. Most owned at least one dog (80%), and a majority owned at least one cat (64%). Most dog owners had just one dog (57%), and most cat owners had just one cat (57%). The following reveals more about who they are, the pet services they use, and why they do so.
Respondents sampled were selected to match the overall national population of adult pet owners and were further identified by generation. Over half of respondents were Gen Xers (52%), defined as those born between 1965 to 1982, a quarter were Baby Boomers (25%), defined as those born between 1946-1964, and a fifth were Millennials (21%), defined as those born between 1982-1996.
Most of the respondents lived in the South (35%), with about a fifth of respondents in each of the other three regions: Midwest (23%), West (22%), and Northeast (19%). Half of the respondents were women (50%). While the selection of respondents was controlled for age, gender, and region, they also represented a variety of incomes and backgrounds. The median household income was $50,000-$99,999, but 21% made over $100,000 a year. Most were currently married (60%). Most pet owners were white (85%), Hispanic (9%), or African-American (5%). Most lived in suburban areas (45%), followed by urban (33%) and rural (22%) areas.
Most pet owners surveyed reported that they take their pets for regular veterinary visits (88%), and half had taken their pet to an emergency veterinarian or clinic in the past (53%) . Of pet owners who had been to a veterinary clinic or hospital, most had taken both a dog and a cat at some point (36%). The top reasons for choosing a particular veterinary facility were overall reputation (47%) and friendly/helpful staff (46%). Top-ranked considerations for selecting a clinic or hospital were staff seeming to care about their pet (#1), overall reputation (#2), and cleanliness (#3).
Pet owners who regularly visited veterinarians were more concerned about the health of their pets overall. They were more inclined to confirm vaccination requirements at boarding facilities (83% compared to 70% of other respondents) and to have had the facility explain the requirement’s reasoning (93% compared to 82% of other respondents).
Half of pet owners had boarded their dog in the past (49%), while cats were boarded less frequently (32%). Dog owners who boarded their dog were also more likely to also make regular visits to a veterinarian (97% compared to 83% of those who did not board), and nearly twice as likely to have visited an emergency veterinarian or clinic in the past (67% compared to 39% of those who did not board). Boarders were more likely to be male than female (64% versus 36%), live in an urban versus rural area (40% versus 17%), and be married and living with a spouse (65% of all boarders).
The top considerations for selecting a facility were safety and security (44%) and overall reputation (43%). Most pet owners used boarding facilities that required certain vaccinations before taking in pets (76%) and, of those that did, most explained the reasoning (88%). Eight out of ten respondents said it was very or extremely important to them that a boarding facility required all visiting pets to be vaccinated against infectious disease (80%).
Pet owners who had boarded both dogs and cats in the past demonstrated greater vigilance in selecting a facility or pet sitter and had greater awareness of pet sitter finding apps. Half of such boarders said certification and training was very or extremely important in a pet care provider (58%), compared to 24% of all other pet owners.
Most pet owners had a family member, friend, or neighbor take care of their pet while away (71%). A few respondents did not travel at all or at least not without their pet (18%), and they were more likely to be female (73%) and live in a rural area (39% versus those living in other areas). Most pet owners discovered their pet sitter by recommendation of a family member, friend, or neighbor (66%).
Pet Sitter Apps
Only a minority (38%) of participants had ever heard about finding a pet sitter through an app on their phone. And only 31% of pet owners reported they were very or completely likely to use such an app.
The Top 10
If you consider no other numbers from this survey, do take note of these. The following are the top 10 reasons survey respondents chose a particular pet care facility to care for their pets.
- Safety and security (44%)
- Overall reputation (43%)
- Convenience (39%)
- Price (38%)
- Recommendation by someone you personally know and trust (38%)
- The facility is certified (35%)
- The facility is part of a veterinarian practice (32%)
- The personnel at the facility are educated and trained to care for pets in case of an emergency (30%)
- The facility has a veterinarian on call (29%)
- You toured the facility and were impressed (28%)
How do these numbers help you understand your client? In a nutshell, this data shows that pet owners care about what your pet care service is doing to keep their pets safe and healthy. Is your facility safe? Is your staff trained and certified? They’re paying more attention to what you do versus any initial mobile app convenience of how to find you and that’s why they spend their money with you.
About Carmen Rustenbeck
Carmen Rustenbeck, Executive Director & Founder of the International Boarding & Pet Services Association (IBPSA), has been involved in non-profit work for over 20 years and active in the pet care industry since 2004. Carmen is committed to building a member-centered organization that promotes business education, best practices, and profit-maximizing strategies for the safety and security of pet clients and staff, and for the financial future of association members. For more information on IBPSA, member benefits and services, and how to join, visit www.ibpsa.com.