Dale Clifton
Consultant, Client Development Organization

According to a July 2023 Pew Research Center survey, 62% of Americans now own a pet, with 97% of those who do saying they consider their pets part of their family. More than half (51%) even consider pets as much of a part of their family as human members. 

Not surprisingly, Circana is also seeing these feelings reflected in plans for holiday gift-giving. Increasingly, Santa’s list of good boys and girls has grown to include those of the canine and feline varieties.

In an October 2023 Circana survey of U.S. pet owners, 50% said they buy gifts for their pet on their birthday, 55% buy holiday gifts for their pets, and 58% buy them gifts on regular or everyday occasions. This makes the holidays the most wonderful time of year for retailers and manufacturers to target pet owners. 

Gift-giving Trends

Among those who buy their pets gifts, the top gifts purchased were food or treats (68%), squeaky toys (46%), chew toys (46%), plush toys (42%), and catnip toys (32%).

On average, respondents purchased 4.42 gifts per year for their pet. Interestingly, younger consumers gave their pets the most gifts; those under age 33 buy the most gifts on average (5.46), followed closely by ages 33 to 41 (4.97). Older demographics, including younger Boomers (3.23), older Boomers (3.52) and seniors (2.43), were less likely to pamper their furry friends with gifts than their younger counterparts. 

As the most tech-savvy generation, the youngest pet owners were also much more likely to say they planned to purchase an interactive toy for their pet over the coming holidays at 40% versus just 27% among respondents overall. They also over-indexed in their intent to purchase accessories, collars, cat trees, and pet beds — likely a reflection that more younger pet owners are shopping for their new furry family members for the first time. 

These trends are particularly important given that Millennials are not just important future shoppers for pet products, but the present of the category, too. They now make up the largest percentage of pet owners (33%) followed by Gen X (25%) and Boomers (24%) — so catering to their needs with the right pet products is essential. 

Where Pet Lovers Shop

Among those Circana surveyed who bought gifts for their pets in the past year, 90% shopped in store and 70% online. Walmart (48%), pet specialty stores (45%), dollar stores (23%), Target (21%), grocery (19%), and club (12%) stores were the top brick-and-mortar destinations. Online stores like Amazon, Chewy.com, and Krisers.com collectively were the top-ranked (48%) e-commerce destinations, followed by pet specialty store websites (17%) and Walmart.com (15%). These stats show that for many retailers, having a great in-store pet section is critical — but a good online assortment is becoming more important, too. 

Knowing your shoppers and being strategic with selection at the store level is also key for casting some holiday pet-spending magic. While shopper generational demographics are important, so are racial and ethnic differences. According to the aforementioned Pew survey, white (68%), Black (34%), Hispanic (66%), and Asian (37%) demographics exhibit sometimes-huge differences in pet ownership rates. The same survey also found that 71% of rural Americans have a pet and 47% have more than one — compared with just 32% of suburban and 26% of urban residents with more than one pet. 

Given generational, racial, and ethnic differences in gifting habits, having the data to truly understand your core consumers is essential. You can use it to target the right shoppers at the right times, employing their preferred marketing channels. You can wow younger generations on TikTok and even get them to buy directly in the app. For older pet lovers, in-store and more traditional channels may be the way to go.

Circana omnichannel data for the 52 weeks ending November 20, 2023, shows the average pet owner spent over $320 on pet supplies and treats and made an average of 19.3 product trips per buyer over the year. Getting the pet gift-giving season right can make any retailer or manufacturer merry — and potentially brighten up total-store holiday sales. 

Get insights straight to your inbox