2023's Biggest Pet Trend Could Only Have Emerged in a Post-Pandemic World

A mother-daughter pair drape themselves over a cuddly Bernese Mountain dog.
Rachel Meyer / 500px/Getty Images

Have you noticed the traffic jam of canines on your sidewalk? You’ve definitely taken note of the droppings left behind by not-so-civic-minded individuals. Maybe the board even voted to add those nice little doggie waste stations with a free supply of poop bags. Your favorite coffee shop with a big “no pets allowed” sign is now home to several remote-working furry companions and every other car you pass seems to have the happy head of Golden Retriever sticking out, eating the wind. And was that a cat…on a leash?

No, you’re not imagining things. Over the height of the pandemic, the ASPCA reported that more than 23 million American households adopted a pet. And now, as the ways of early Covid life transition to a somewhat return to normalcy, we’re left wondering, who’s taking care of these pets?

The answer? Fairy dog parents, by which we mean the network of people involved in raising one pet.

There are two major factors that have created this village of caregivers. The first is the return to work and the higher-than-ever demand for pet care. The Washington Post reports, “With many doggy daycares and boarding centers nationwide reporting months-long waiting lists—and newly adopted pets often lacking the socialization for boarding—pandemic pet owners are appealing to families, friends and businesses to ensure their dogs are living their best lives, or at least not spending the day alone.”

The second factor is that at the height of the pandemic, a big slice of America returned to intergenerational living. Why pay high city rent when you can move back home and enjoy the fruits of communal living (aka your mom’s Sunday night spaghetti). A survey of U.S. parents and/or Generation Zers or millennials from Lending Tree found that nearly 32 percent of millennials and Gen Zers moved back with their parents. Per that same survey, as of August 2022, it seems that two-thirds remain there.

More official data is needed to understand just exactly how the pandemic affected where Americans live, why and for how long. But it’s no surprise that as young adults—specifically millennials, who are believed to have adopted pets at the highest rate during the pandemic—returned home with pets in hand, they found extra support from their “fairy dog parent” helpers. However, as family members return to “before-life,” boomers are finding themselves sharing the load—financial and emotional—of taking care of their children’s beloved pets, showering them with long walks (thank you, retirement) and homemade treats.

But the knife cuts both ways: younger generations are also helping out with pets belonging to parents or grandparents who might not be able to tend to them full-time. It’s like a pet sharing economy that benefits everyone involved. Seriously—science has repeatedly proven the benefits of pet ownership with everything from easing stress to aging better.

It’s no wonder that during this collective hardship full of fear and anxiety, we turned to our furry friends. But it’s also pretty sweet to see how they helped further connect us to our human ones.


Executive Editor, Frazzled Mom, Bravo-Holic

Dara Katz is PureWow's Executive Editor, focusing on relationships, sex, horoscopes, travel and pets. Dara joined PureWow in 2016 and now dresses so much better. A lifestyle...