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Millennials Really Love Their Fur Babies


Much maligned millennials are finally doing something right, at least when it comes to their fur babies.

Millennials are taking their heads out of their phones and showing up for preventive care for pets more than previous generations. They seem to get it, and cats may benefit even more than dogs. However, their concerns and needs must be addressed.

While pet ownership has overall been on the rise since 2000, routine care visits have suffered a significant decline.

As just one example, according to a 2011 study, 28 percent of dog owners suggest veterinary visits are stressful for them, and 38 percent say their dog hates it. For cats the news is nearly shocking with 38 percent saying their cat gets stressed by the vet visit, and 58 percent suggest their cat hates going there and being there. And with those attitudes, no wonder that routine care has declined.

The American Veterinary Medical Association response, called Partners for Healthy Pets, and various studies have confirmed the problem, and have suggested solutions which until now have not resonated with pet owners, or even caught on among veterinary professionals.

The real solution might be happening right now with millennials leading the way.

When you think about it, millennial attachment to their pets isn’t a shocker. This is the generation that dubbed their pets “fur babies” or refer to themselves as pet parents. Pet product purchases among millennials is on the rise. Millenial pet parents think nothing of dressing up their pets for Halloween or have their pet wear the sweater of their favorite football team. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) Pet Owners Survey 2017-2018 just over 70 percent of millennial dog caretakers and 55 percent of millennial cat caretakers say their pet “is like a child.”

The human animal bond has never been more intense.

Cat yoga? Another ‘millennial thing’

While all age groups enjoy social media, many millennials live there in a sort of alternative reality. They don’t live alone – their pets are right there with them.

Who would have predicted that cats would become the most hit topic on the web? Cats like Grumpy Cat, Lil Bub, Venus and Cole and Marmalade are among the many rock star celebrity cats of Instagram and household names among many millennials.

Cat cafes not only now exist in most major American cities, but when they are visited a super highway of cute cat images speed on Instagram. Millennials also foster and adopt more cats than other generations.

Now, combine all that with some additional data. Only 21 percent of millennials are married, while 42 percent of Baby Boomers were married at the same age. Most millennials do have at least one pet and more pets overall than ant other demographic. And living in apartments in greater numbers today than previous generations, they are also more likely to specifically have cats or live with combined species, at least one dog and also at least one cat, than Baby Boomers did at that same age.

While debt occurs among younger millennials, it decreases significantly among older millennials. Most important, millennials are willing to spend on their pets – even if they don’t have it. Millennial pet needs an expensive surgery? They are known to even crowd fund.

However, there are caveats.

Millennials are the most educated generation ever, and the most connected. If there’s even the slightest doubt or question, going online is what they do – and increasingly it’s what all people of any demographic may do. No one’s word is any longer considered gospel – including veterinary professionals.

Also, like all clients, perception is reality. So, if millennials perceive their beloved child with fur isn’t being treated well, or that they are not receiving value for what they paid – they won’t hesitate to find another clinic which better matches their expectations.

And all of this describes why Cat Friendly Practices, the Fear Free Initiative and Human-Animal Bond Certified Practices have happened at exactly the right time. Millennials “get” the human animal bond far more than previous generations, and as a result the emotional well-being of their fur babies matters as much as the physical well-being.

According to a Human Animal Bond Research Initiative and Banfield study, “Millennials and the Human Animal Bond:”

  • 77 percent of millennials would have a more favorable view of their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.
  • 74 percent of millennials would be more likely to visit their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.
  • 25 percent of millennials regularly talk to their veterinarians about the health benefits of pet ownership, more than other generations.

There’s no doubt that the Fear Free initiative to minimize fear, anxiety and stress of veterinary visits has been responsible for a major paradigm shift. Not only in about three years’ time do most veterinary professionals know about the Fear Free movement, pet parents are now seeking out Fear Free certified professionals and Fear Free practices. There’s no data (yet) to demonstrate that millennials are leading the way. But there is data to demonstrate millennials lead the way on increasing veterinary visits, and that they care greatly about their fur baby’s emotional health, so extrapolating that millennials are most championing Fear Free isn’t a stretch.

Cat Friendly Practices have compelling data how practices are benefiting, from jumping through hoops for their certification to provide care with the cats’ perspective in mind. 75 percent of Cat Friendly Practices say feline visits are up for check-ups, and 80 percent of clients respond with positive feedback to the Cat Friendly.

Clearly what millennials are seeking is answered with bond centered approaches and what Fear Free and Cat Friendly both inherently address.

Millennials demand the best medical care ever for their fur babies, and I suggest that is a good thing.

Learn more about Cat Friendly HERE and Fear Free in your happy home HERE.

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Steve Dale is a certified animal behavior specialist who has been a trusted voice in the world of pet health for over 20 years. You have likely heard him on the radio, read him in print and online, and seen him speaking at events all over the world. His contributions to advancing pet wellness have earned him many an award and recognition around the globe.

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