Spoiling pets and personal relationships

Charlie Powell

Over the years, I’ve received many calls from divorce attorneys and prosecutors regarding pets, ownership and relationships with partners.

The core issue with pet custody is that the pet in question may have an unequal relationship with domestic partners or spouses.

If you were single and if you met and started seeing someone, is it important that your pet likes them, too?

Joybird, a furniture company, decided it might be in their best interest to ask this question and others. They put it in their blog under the header of, “Where are the most spoiled pets?” at joybird.com/blog/spoiled-pets/.

The internet has revolutionized data collection for marketers. Such surveys are cheap, easy and admittedly, may or may not be valid. Nonetheless, they get ink and airtime because they are interesting and push our thoughts out loud.

“Being the pet-loving team that we are, we were curious to uncover where in the U.S. pet owners are spoiling their pets the most during COVID-19, as well as determine which extravagant measures pet owners will take to make their pets feel pampered and loved in a year filled with uncertainty,” reads Joybird’s website.

The survey tapped 1,000 people across all 50 states. It ran for two days in August and the demographics surveyed were purposefully broad. Now, I know this is like nails on a chalkboard to my friends who are statisticians and sociologists, but let’s just run with it for a bit.

Joybird wanted to collect the following information: How often do pets go to the pet spa? How frequently do they get fed lavish meals? How many birthday parties have been thrown on their behalf?

They asked respondents how spoiled their pets are on an index that ran from 1, not spoiled, to 5, being the most spoiled. The questions asked about things like diet, toys and treats, grooming and overall spending. The national average was 2.83. Idaho and Washington ranked their pets higher than average at 2.90 and 2.98 respectfully.

Maryland has the most spoiled pets in the U.S., with a rating of 3.26, followed by Utah at 3.10, West Virginia at 3.09 and Massachusetts at 3.06. Good luck figuring out what that means.

The states that spoiled their pets the least were Montana at 2.11, New Mexico at 2.21 and Hawaii at 2.31.

Here are some other insights for what they are worth. Back to our original question, 63 percent of respondents said they would break up with a significant other if their pet did not like the person.

Eighty-three percent have thrown a birthday party for their pets. At the same time, 62 percent said they have and manage a social media account for their pets.

Some 70 percent said they pay for some type of subscription service like Barkbox or Cat Lady Box. That is a statistic one could take to the bank.

Among the Generation X respondents, 65 percent said they give their pets CBD-containing gummies, either often or very often. Now when they give them to the pets for was not mentioned. This begs the question of who is out-marketing whom?

Among pet parents, 73 percent let their pets sleep in their bed, something sleep researchers have said can result in sleep disturbances among the humans.

And among all respondents, almost 70 percent spent between $500 and $1,500 annually on food, treats, toys, grooming and pampering. The latter included puppy play parks and paying to have their dog walked. Veterinary expenses were not mentioned.

I’m not sure I can relate to this. But wait a minute, my dog just dropped her toy on my foot for the sixth time. I’ll get back to you.

Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service.

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