It’s technically National Cat Day.
But it’s more like National Cat Year.
With millions of Americans working at home or simply spending more time there because of the pandemic, they’re spending a lot more time with their pets than usual – not that their cats can be bothered to care.
(We, as cat lovers, are OK with that.)
More than one-third, or 34%, of pet owners have increased their pet-related spending since the pandemic began, according to a new survey by LendingTree. Only 17% are spending less, while the rest are spending about the same.
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Don’t tell cats, but the boom includes a big increase in spending on dogs.
As the economy flounders, though, some Americans are struggling to pay for the costs of owning a pet.
An estimated 10 million pets could be displaced in the coming months because of renters at risk of eviction during the pandemic, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
And many Americans have gone into debt to pay for things related to their pets. The LendingTree survey, conducted in September, found that 47% of pet owners had debt due to pet spending, up from 36% in 2019.
Despite the financial trouble, though, some 46% of all Americans are considering getting a pet. And among Americans who have been laid off or furloughed during the pandemic, it’s 69%.
The upshot is that pet stores are enjoying a turnaround after years of consumers increasingly buying pet goods online.
PetSmart, the nation’s largest pet store chain, has gotten a boost at a time when it was much needed.
S&P Global Ratings increased the retailer’s credit outlook from stable to positive on Sept. 28, signaling that a credit rating increase could be next. Agencies like S&P typically increase credit ratings when companies’ finances improve.
In PetSmart’s case, the retailer reported a 10.6% jump in second-quarter sales at stores open at least a year. That came after a 0.2% decline in the comparable period of 2019.
PetSmart’s online business, known as Chewy, is doing even better. Chewy’s sales increased by 46% in the second quarter.
“We believe that the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in pet ownership as well as a reallocation of consumer discretionary spending toward home-related purchases, including pet purchases, and away from travel and dining,” S&P Global Ratings analysts wrote in their report on PetSmart.
It’s been good timing for PetSmart, which has the most debt of any retailer that must be paid through 2022, according to a Moody’s Investor Service report released in March. The retailer was on the hook to pay $4.2 billion during that stretch, topping even J.C. Penney, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May.
The increased sales are helping PetSmart pay off its debt at a quickening pace, according to S&P.
To be sure, questions about how long the pandemic will last and how pet owners will react continue to linger. S&P also noted that the federal government’s springtime stimulus package likely temporarily boosted pet spending, as millions of Americans received one-time checks or increased unemployment insurance.
“The path of the pandemic remains uncertain and could lead to changes in consumer discretionary spending that negatively affect PetSmart’s performance,” S&P said.
Contributing: Brent Schrotenboer
Follow USA TODAY reporter Nathan Bomey on Twitter @NathanBomey.