$61 Billion a Year on Tender Loving Care for Pets
Business + Economy

$61 Billion a Year on Tender Loving Care for Pets

REUTERS/Alexander Demianchuk

Without counting several million pet fish, there are some 218 million pets in the United States, so it’s probably no shock to learn that in 2011 we shelled out over $61 billion on our furry, feathery and leathery friends.

On average, each U.S. household spent over $500 on their pets, according to a recent report from BLS.

Nearly three quarters of American households have pets. That’s a ton of homes that need pet food, pet supplies, pet medicine, pet beds, pet clothes, pet toys, pet grooming, pet spas, pet boarding, visits to the vet – and so much more.

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Andrea Jones (not her real name) of Westchester County, New York, is one of those who know all about the “and so much more” category. When her beloved Schnauzer of 12 years became too disabled to take his usual walks up and down their leafy suburban block, she purchased a doggy cart – and outfitted it with plush blankets, chew toys, even a sun umbrella. Off they went for their walks several times a day as some neighbors wondered if Andrea, a retired administrator, had adopted a baby.

“I saw no reason to keep him inside just because he couldn’t walk anymore,” she says.

Plenty of Americans want to give their older pets whatever “creature comforts” they can – not to mention the best veterinary care their budgets will allow. That means addressing such common age-related concerns as arthritis (often in large-breed dogs), cancer, liver disease, pancreatitis (in older cats), heart disease, kidney disease (the top problem for older cats), diabetes, thyroid problems and more.

The BLS report notes that despite some tough economic conditions, “families continued to spend consistently on pets between 2007 and 2011.” Married couples without children at home spent the most — a cool $698 on average, the report notes – while single-parent households with at least one child under age 18 at home spent the least, an average of $267.

None of this spending, though, surprises those who attend the annual Global Pet Expo, an extravaganza at which more than 900 international companies displayed 3,000 new products for dogs, cats, birds, fish and reptiles. Among the offerings in Orlando this year: Ugg boots, lifejackets and treadmills (all for dogs); GPS trackers (for dogs and cats); and mountains of natural and organic foods and treats for just about every type of pampered creature lucky enough to live in America.

No wonder Beth Stern, host of the new National Geographic Wild show “Spoiled Rotten Pets,” gushes, “Personally I’m such an animal lover that I think it’s beautiful when people have such passion for their pets. I’d rather see people spoiling rather than hurting an animal.”