Younger generations are obsessed with their pets
The emotional well-being of their fur babies matters just as much as their medical health
Although cats have been the most popular companion pet in the United States, they are under medicalized when compared with dogs. However, this has been changing, as millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) are demonstrating an obsession with cats. Dogs and even exotic pets are also benefiting from the attention from these younger generations, as was shown when shelters and rescues called for help in getting animals adopted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.1
When you think about it, millennials’ and Gen Zs’ attachment to their pets isn’t a surprise. These are the generations that refer to pets as fur babies and to themselves as pet parents.
Just over 70% of millennial dog caretakers and 55% of cat care-takers say their pet “is like a child,” according to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey. Odds are those numbers may have increased since.
The “Millennials and the Human-Animal Bond” study, by Human Animal Bond Research Initiative and Banfield Pet Hospital, demonstrated the following2:
- Seventy-seven 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.
- Seventy-four percent of millennials would be more likely to visit their veterinarian if they discussed the health benefits of the human-animal bond with them.
- Twenty-five percent of millennials always talk to their veterinarians about the health benefits of pet ownership, more than other generations.
The emotional well-being of their fur babies matters just as much as their medical health to these generations. Wrestle an unwilling dog or fractious cat, and the millennial or Gen Z client will likely not see you again. Worse, you and many others may be reading a negative review, as more clients have become empowered by social media and don’t hesitate to use it for expressing their perceptions.
Word of mouth has always been the most impactful form of advertising. What has changed is that so many can hear or see those words, which can be spread potentially to many others nearly instantaneously.
Any assumption that these millennial and Gen Z clients have no loyalty3,4 is simply not true. For starters, they’re obviously loyal to their fur babies. If there’s any doubt, consider the following5:
- Ninety-two percent of millennials are as concerned about their pet’s health as their own health.
- More millennials would rather spend time with their pet than with their spouse, parents, and friends combined.
- Eighty-six percent of millennials would risk their own life to save their pet.
Be proactive and reassuring of what you know. These clients are going online to search, so why not support their efforts and lead them to credible websites, which can range from stories at dvm360.com to anything ending with a “.edu.” The American Association of Feline Practitioners offers a lot of cat information for the public (www.catfriendly.com), and there’s the Fear Free website for pet parents, where all the stories are reviewed by boarded behavior technicians and veterinary behaviorists (www.fearfreehappyhomes.com). There’s also my website (www.stevedale.tv) and countless others that you may deem credible. Not only are you offering good resources, but you are also demonstrating that you care and want to help. Millennials and Gen Z want to do their own homework, but you will usually be deemed with high regard for helping.
If we’re talking about their babies, like all parents, they simply want to know you care and want to hear from you. However, their preferred means of communication isn’t the same as what it was in the past. Although previous generations were patient to receive their answers, millennials and Gen Z want to know answers yesterday.
All this is 1 reason why following up by text is often preferred to playing phone tag. The average text takes 13 seconds, whereas the average call takes 90 seconds. That’s a savings of 176 hours per year. And these data don’t account for missed calls back and forth, which may add up to a lot of wasted time for vet clinics and increasingly frustrated clients.6
When clients call in, services can instantly identify the client’s name, pet’s name, and other information, such as pet birthdays or when they’re due for heartworm treatment. Not only can systems like this be an efficient means to
track product sales and appointments, but it also provides a personal touch. All generations appreciate that; everyone wants to feel special.
Instead of a follow-up visit when you may be overbooked, video conferencing—when medically appropriate—with a technician or nurse might not only be preferred by the client but may also benefit you. Additionally, millennials and Gen Z clients typically prefer to pay through digital means. All of this is beneficial to you, so embrace it! Being paid instantly means you’re not dealing with collection agencies. Millennials and Gen Z do tend to like wellness discounts and wellness plans, which isn’t suited to every practice in every market but may be considered when applicable.
Two in 5 Gen Z clients believe their veterinarian is outdated, according to a pulse survey from Weave. The survey suggests 34% of these pet owners want to see similar technology to that used routinely in human medicine, such as digital portals to communicate with doctors, schedule appointments, and receive quick tips.7
The overriding message is that millennials and Gen Z care passionate about their fur babies. It’s not that they are disloyal, they just prefer to communicate differently. And considering such changes in communication, that may benefit practices by saving time and money.
Steve Dale, CABC writes for veterinary professionals and pet owners, hosts 2 national radio programs, and has appeared on TV shows, including Good Morning America and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is on the dvm360® Editorial Advisory Board as well as the boards of the Human Animal Bond Association and EveryCat Foundation. He appears at conferences around the world. Visit stevedale.tv.
- Ho J, Hussain S, Sparagano O. Did the COVID-19 pandemic spark a public interest in pet adoption? Front Vet Sci. 2021;8:647308. doi:10.3389/fvets.2021.647308
- Millennials and the human-animal bond. Banfield Pet Hospital. September 11, 2016. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.banfield.com/en/about-banfield/newsroom/press-releases/2016/ millennials-and-the-human-animal-bond
- Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, and Gen A explained. Kasasa. July 6, 2021. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://communityrising.kasasa.com/gen-x-gen-y-gen-z/
- Millennials: technology = social connection. Nielson. February 2014. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.nielsen.com/insights/2014/millennials-technology-social-connection/
- Study shows millennials demand personalized care for their pets to remain loyal to their vets. Weave. September 12, 2019. Accessed July 30, 2022. https://www.getweave.com/study- shows-millennials-demand-personalized-care-for-their-pets-to-remain-loyal-to-their-vets/
- The modern veterinary clinic: communication for the future. Accessed July 30, 2022. https:// content.getweave.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/Modern-Veterinary-Communication-For- The-Future.pdf
- Rueckert P. Survey: Gen Z, millennials want more modern, easy interactions with their vet. https://tinyurl.com/ycy3uvfe