In 2022, around 70% of American households had at least one pet in their family. Whether it’s a Georgia Bulldog or a Beverly Hills Chihuahua, the American love affair with pets is going strong.
This love for our pets affects our wallets as well as our hearts. American households spend anywhere from $2,500 to $6,500 on their pets every year. This covers essentials like vet bills and grooming, but American pet owners are also splashing out on luxuries like doggy aromatherapy and CBD-infused treats.
So, how does pet ownership differ state-to-state?
To find out, we’ve conducted some in-depth research. The DollarGeek Great American Pet Report takes a closer look at American pet ownership – from which state spends the most on their pets, to who’s letting their pup share their bed.
1. How Much Does Owning A Pet Cost In The USA?
The Great American Pet Report found the average cost of owning a pet in the USA comes to a massive $4,408 – 6% of the median household income*. This spending includes food, toys, grooming, household items, and medical care.
However, the amount of money spent on pets annually varies significantly from state to state.
On average, Californians spend the most on their pets, shelling out $6,497 a year per pet, more than $2,000 above the national average.
Our study found Californians spent the most on their pets in nearly every category, including nearly double the average national amount on grooming costs per year.
California also had the highest average pet purchase or adoption price at $3,446, 177% above the national average of $1,246 and nearly thirty times more than the cheapest state, Tennessee’s average cost of $120.
2. Pet Health & Healthcare
Vets Fees & Insurance
The average American pet owner spends roughly $1,060 a year on vet fees and bills, the second-highest regular expense after food.
“The number of pets in the US has risen in recent years, and currently stands at over 160 million (NAPHIA). With veterinary costs also rising, it is not surprising that veterinarians are seeing more animals impacted by financial constraints on their medical care.” says veterinarian, Dr. Elizabeth Youens.
However, just 7% of owners had taken out an insurance policy for their cat or dog, meaning should an emergency bill arise, they would have to pay out of pocket to ensure their pet’s wellbeing.
On average, we found US pet owners were willing to spend up to $2,499 in medical costs to keep their pets healthy should something happen.
“The vast majority of owners are having to fund these rising expenses completely by themselves.” Dr. Youens said.
In comparison, a comprehensive pet insurance policy could cost just $636 per year, which could protect both your pet and your pocket should any unexpected issues arise.
“With this research from DollarGeek showing average annual vet bills of over $1,000 per pet, I would urge pet owners to consider whether a pet insurance policy may help, given that the average monthly premium for an Accident & Illness policy is under $50 for a dog and under $30 for a cat (NAPHIA). Pet insurance can give owners some peace of mind, and lessen the impact that their financial situation may have on medical decision-making.” Dr. Youens concludes.
Pet Vaccinations And Microchipping
Our research found that less than half of dogs and cats in America are microchipped (42%), with just over half being fully up to date on vaccinations.
In both cases, California led the rankings for the pets most likely to be vaccinated and microchipped, at 85% and 61% respectively. In contrast, Oklahoma and Georgia pet owners were the least likely to jab or chip their animals, with just 17% of Georgia pets microchipped and less than a third (31%) of cats and dogs in Oklahoma fully up to date on their vaccinations.
Despite microchipping being proven to dramatically increase the chances of being reunited with a lost or stolen pet, our research found a lack of trust and education among owners about the relatively painless procedure.
Our study found that privacy concerns were the main reason cited for not microchipping pets, with 21 states saying their main reasons for not doing so were related to them or their pet potentially being tracked.
However, microchipping only provides static information, which animal shelters or veterinary clinics can use to identify pets and owners, such as the owner’s address and contact information, to help reunite them.
It does not provide live tracking via GPS of the animal like many people in the study seemed to believe.
Mistrust was also a critical factor in owners refusing to vaccinate their animals, with one in 10 owners simply stating they did not believe in vaccines, and nearly a quarter (23%) citing ‘vaccine-related health concerns’.
Our study found that generally speaking, states with lower Covid-19 vaccination rates also tended to be more skeptical of vaccinating their pets, though no direct link between the two can be inferred from the study.
Alternative Medicines For Pets
When it comes to healthcare owners in New York, Oregon, California and Washington were the most sensitive to their pet’s needs and also the most willing to try alternative, unconventional methods to treat them.
For instance, around a third (33%) of owners from these states felt their pet had anxiety, twice the national average and compared to less than 5% in Wyoming, Arizona, Mississippi, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Georgia, Kentucky, Alabama
In a similar trend, pets from the states of California, New York, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Colorado were the most likely to be tested for and have allergies with 51% of animals from the area having a condition (with an average test rate of 38%), vs 18% across all other states (with a test rate of 18%).
These states, along with Michigan were also the most likely to trial an ‘alternative’ therapy for their pets, such as aromatherapy.
Pet CBD Products
CBD (cannabidiol) has become a slowly growing industry in pet care after growing in popularity among people in recent years.
Despite still being in the early stages of testing, with no extensive data on the benefits or risks long-term CBD can pose to pets, our study found some owners have already begun to embrace oils and products.
On average, around one in 10 (11%) owners have tried CBD products or therapies for their pets, with owners in Oregon (32%) the most likely to do so.
In general, pet CBD usage tended to be more prevalent in states that have passed legislation to legalize the use of recreational marijuana such as Oregon, California, Colorado, Nevada, and Washington.
In fact, we found owners from states where marijuana had been legalized were four times more likely to try CBD products for their pets than elsewhere.
CBD Note: It’s important to note that while there’s some anecdotal and early evidence to suggest some CBD oils and products can be safe for some pets, testing is still in the relatively early stages, and therefore it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian before giving any new supplement or medication to your pet. DollarGeek does not endorse the use of CBD products for pets.
Pet Diet & Nutrition
Perhaps unsurprisingly Californian pets were also the fussiest eaters, with more than a third (36%) on a special or subscription-based diet, 14% higher than the national average.
They also had the highest average food bills of approximately $2,272 per year, compared to the US average of $1,668.
Generally speaking, states where owners were more receptive to trying alternative therapies and CBD products also had the highest proportion of owners trying alternative diets for their pets.
For instance, while just 6% of Americans said they made all their pet’s food themselves, this rose to 15% in California and 11% in New York, Washington, and Colorado.
Oregon, Washington, and California were also the states where pet owners were most likely to attempt a vegan, plant-based diet for their animals, with 11% of owners saying they had tried this, versus a nationwide average of just 3%.
While some states might feel more attuned to their pets’ feelings and lifestyle needs, we found more ‘traditional’ pet owners were more likely to give their animals regular physical activity and outdoor time.
Asking more specifically about dog ownership, we asked owners how regularly their pets had outdoor activity, including the average length of a typical walk and the number of times their pet had ‘outdoor time’ of more than 20 minutes per week.
Owners in the states of Alabama (30), Georgia (29), Oklahoma (28), Kentucky (27), Mississippi (27) and Tennessee (27) gave their pets the most walks per week, and also averaged some of the longest times per full walk, with Alabama walking their dogs the longest at 80 minutes per full walk.
On the other hand, Californians and New Yorkers gave their dogs the least amount of outdoor time per week, averaging 9 walks a week at around 30 minutes per walk. They were however the most likely to both employ a regular dog walking service (59%) and carry their dog in a backpack, bag, or stroller when it got tired (34%).
Lifestyle – Pampered Pets
Our study found Americans love to pamper their pets. According to our research, 43% of us throw our pets birthday parties, 60% buy them Christmas presents and 63% of us buy them outfits to dress up in.
Slightly less common treats include just under half (42%) of Americans who have gotten their dog a “puppacino”, the 4% of us who have dyed our dog’s fur and the 13% who take their pet to a therapist.
In a common trend throughout the study, Californians were the most likely to pamper their pets, ranking number one in nearly every category, including Christmas and Birthday presents (84%), pet parties (64%), outfits (81%), and therapy (26%).
Throughout January-February 2023, Dollar Geek surveyed 4,782 American adult pet owners, who owned at least one cat or dog, across 50 states, with a minimum of 93 people per state. The State of Alaska and the State of Hawaii were excluded from this study due to a lack of eligible respondents.
- Source: Forbes Advisor analysis of pet insurance costs. Data based on figures provided by Petinsure.com with 90% reimbursement, and a $250 deductible.