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Economy Improves and Pets See Benefits

Big Data Download

As consumers get more confident about the economy, they're more willing to spend on little luxuries, including expensive items for their pets, according to recent spending trend data.

Spending on pet grooming has increased 56 percent in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period in 2011, according to the Intuit Consumer Spending Index, which draws on credit card and bank transaction data from millions of consumers who use the company's budgeting tool, Mint.com, and opt into disclosing their information. That compares with a 15 percent increase in spending on pet food and supplies over the same period and a 9 percent increase in pet-related spending overall.

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"In terms of spending on pet supplies and food, people want to go ahead and buy the best for their pet. So they're spending a little bit more on that organic food. You know that's a big trend for humans. People are now doing that for pets as well," said Hitha Prabhakar, personal finance expert at Mint.com.

Notably, spending at the vet increased just 2 percent from the first quarter of 2011 to the first quarter of this year, Intuit found.

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But medical tests for pets have been getting cheaper, and pet insurance has gotten more popular, resulting in fewer out-of-pocket costs for pet owners at the vet, according to Prabhakar. Plus, a better-fed and groomed pet could make for a healthier pet overall.

"The gist is, if you are taking better care of your pet, you don't have to go to the vet as much," Prabhakar said.

Cash transactions and spending at big box retailers like Wal-Mart (WMT) and Target (TGT) may not be included in pet-related categories unless Mint.com users input them manually into their accounts.

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