Generation pet: age groups and their attitude to animals

12 June 2023 - 3 min read

Does your age define your relationship with your cat or dog? Generation Z, Millennial or Gen X - whichever you are, your age and upbringing might define your relationship with your furry family members more than you think.

We surveyed 385 British pet owners across the generations to ask them about their attitudes to pets.

We divided our respondents into the classic generational identities:

  • Baby Boomers: ages 59-77

  • Gen Xers: ages 43-58

  • Millennials: ages 27-42

  • Gen Z: ages 18-26

The results reveal that your age is a surprisingly strong influence on your pet parent spending, boundaries and more…

Dog in owner's lap

Youngsters perceive the biggest differences

Our survey suggests that the younger you are, the more likely it is that you think those of other age groups treat their pets differently to you.

74% of Gen Zers said that they have a different outlook on their pets than the older generations. Only 54% of Boomers and 57% of Gen X pet owners thought they had a different view on pets to the youngsters.

Owner holding dog's paw

Filling a family void

Perhaps that’s because the younger group are more prone to coddling their cats and dogs – and almost treating them like children.

In our study just over half of Baby Boomer (57%) and Gen X (60%) pet parents said that they had a pet to have something to look after. But a huge 82% of Gen Z respondents said the same thing.

So while pets might sometimes be filling empty nests in the older groups, it’s actually the youngsters who are more likely to be really doting on their dogs and cats.

Dog with bandana

Chasing the ‘pet pound’

This yearning to take care of our pets can be big business.

In 2022 market researcher Euromonitor highlighted an emerging global trend of owners ‘humanising’ their pets, which means we’re now more willing to spend substantial money on their care.

This has led to a boom in pet-focused businesses – everything from pet spas, to bakeries and boutiques. In fact Consumer Trends Data from the Office for National Statistics revealed that expenditure on pets and related products was over £9.89 million in 2022 – the highest it’s ever been since records began and up by a third from five years previously.

Cat in a box

Home is where the pets are

Our survey also shows that the younger you are, the more likely you are to think your pet’s a real part of the family.

We asked our respondents: ‘how much more domesticated are your pets than those of older generations?’

The results show a clear curve across the age groups.

Graph showing percentage of pet parents who agree their pets are more domesticated than those of older generations by generation. 65% baby boomers said yes; 70% of Gen X said yes; 88% of Millennials said yes; 93% of Gen Z said yes.

Yet interestingly, people’s perceptions don’t quite match how they treat their pets.

It’s actually Millennials and Gen X who are the most lenient when it comes to letting their pets sleep in their beds, with 29% of pets with owners in these age groups being allowed to snuggle up on the pillow.

In fact only 18% of Gen Z’s pets were allowed the same privilege, with 45% instead being banished to another room to slumber.

And while across all age groups around half of us like to keep our pets in the same room as we sleep (whether tucked up in bed with you or not), it turns out the Boomers are secret softies over their cats and dogs. They actually had the highest percentage of owners who let their pets sleep in their room, at 54%.

Woman with dog on beach

We all need some doggy to lean on

Gen Z pet parents are the age group most likely to see pets as emotional support animals, with 79% agreeing that they had a pet for emotional support. 

Millennials and Gen X also largely agreed, with 71% and 72% saying they had a pet for this reason.

But there’s one thing all the generations can all agree on: dogs (and cats) are truly our companions.

Across all four generations at least nine out of 10 of the survey respondents agreed that they had a pet as a friend.

  • Baby Boomers: 92%

  • Generation X: 92%

  • Millennials: 91%

  • Generation Z: 90%

But it was across the two younger generations that pets were seen as more than just pals, with 88% of millennials and 82% of Gen Z agreeing that their pet completed their family.

  • Baby Boomers: 78%

  • Generation X: 79%

  • Millennials: 88%

  • Generation Z: 82%

Look after them

Whether your pet’s a Gen Z pup or a feline Boomer, pet insurance can help look after them. 

It’s a good idea to choose a pet insurance policy while they’re younger and healthy so they’ll be covered for any conditions they develop as they age.

Derri Dunn
Content marketer

Derri is a personal finance and insurance writer and editor. After seven years covering all things motoring and banking at GoCompare, Derri joined ManyPets in 2021 to focus on pet health. She has fostered cats and kittens for Blue Cross and Cats Protection and is owned by tabby cat Diggory and two badly behaved dogs.