Pandemic pet boom puts dogs, cats and other critters at the top of the holiday gift list

  • Pet merchandise is expected to be one of the top gift-giving categories this holiday season, with people planning to spend an average of $90, according to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte.
  • Walmart, Chewy, Petco, Petsmart and other retailers have stocked up on seasonal costumes, chew toys and other pet gifts.
  • “Pet parents have more time. All of us have more time,” Chewy CEO Sumit Singh said. “When you have time and there are more people at home, pets are actually getting entertained and engaged more.”

a dog looking at the camera

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During the early months of the coronavirus pandemic, Meagan Remmes felt a tug for companionship after she got furloughed from her job and spent long days in a quiet house. She found her answer about two weeks ago in a box abandoned near her mailbox.


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She heard a whimper. Inside, she found a weeks-old puppy wrapped in a towel.

Her new rescue puppy, Locust, is one of many that have joined families through adoptions and fostering during the pandemic as Americans seek out company and find it in pets from reptiles to cats. As Americans get ready for the holidays, retailers and industry-watchers anticipate that pet boom may drive sales of dog treats, cat furniture, pet-sized ugly Christmas sweaters and other gifts throughout the holiday season.

Pet merchandise is expected to be one of the top gift-giving categories, according to a survey by consulting firm Deloitte. About half of the more than 4,000 people surveyed by the firm said they plan to purchase pet foods and supplies during the holiday season. On average, they plan to spend $90 on pet items, such as gifts for their own dog or for a family member or friend’s pet.

About one in four people said they plan to buy pet toys, decor and accessories as a gift. About 15% of those surveyed said they hoped to receive those as a gift.

Walmart said it’s prepared to sell more than 3 million pet beds. Chewy said it will offer gift cards and personalized mugs, blankets and bandanas for the first time this holiday. And PetSmart will carry a mix of seasonal attire — including Santa costumes for bearded dragons.

Rod Sides, vice chairman of retail and distribution at Deloitte, said pet owners need supplies for their new pets. He said historical buying patterns show that pets take priority, even when the budget is tight.

“Often, pet is a fairly recession-proof category,” he said. “Folks will continue to spend for their pets, just as they do for their kids and family.”

a teddy bear sitting on top of a lizard: PetSmart has a wide range of seasonal pet gifts and costumes, including some for bearded dragons. I just got and uploaded the permission slip from them.

© Provided by CNBC
PetSmart has a wide range of seasonal pet gifts and costumes, including some for bearded dragons. I just got and uploaded the permission slip from them.

A $53 billion market

Even before the pandemic, pet care spending was on an upward trajectory. The $131 billion global industry is expected to have a 7% compound annual growth rate over the next five years, according to research by Jefferies. The

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Cats don’t have to be a danger to pregnant women

Q: I’m pregnant with our first child, and my mother-in-law says we should get rid of our cat because of the risk of toxoplasmosis. Is she right?

A: You can safely keep your cat.

Toxoplasma is an internal parasite that lives in the muscles of sheep, rabbits and rats. Cats that eat the meat of an infected animal can spread the parasite through their feces. If your cat lives indoors, she’s unlikely to become infected. And, in most cases, only young cats pass feces contaminated with toxoplasma eggs (oocysts). If you have an adult cat, the chance of infection is very low.

Veterinarians are well-informed on this subject, possibly even more than doctors, because they learn about toxoplasmosis at least four times during their education: in courses on feline medicine, parasitology, zoonotic disease and public health, including meat and food safety. I can assure you that female veterinarians and veterinary technicians don’t stop working with cats when they are pregnant.

You can take the same easy precautions they do to reduce the risk of infection to the developing fetus:

• Delegate litter-scooping duty to your spouse.

• Have your spouse scoop the litter box once or twice daily. Toxoplasmosis organisms need time after being passed in the cat’s feces to become infective. Frequent scooping minimizes the risk.

• Keep your cat indoors to prevent it from hunting and eating wild prey.

• Whether you’re cooking for yourself or your cat, cook lamb or rabbit meat well. And wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water after handling raw lamb or rabbit, just as you would with chicken, beef or other meat.

These precautions apply to anyone who is immunocompromised, not just women who are pregnant.


Have a pet question? Send it to [email protected]

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