High Pet Spending Spurs New Breed Of Products

A growing admiration for pets has Americans buying increasingly creative pet products, from self-washing, toilet bowl-shaped cat litter boxes and dog strollers to tennis ball-launching doggie golf-club drivers, treat launchers and high-tech clippers. These hot new products and hundreds of others were unveiled at Global Pet Expo, the pet industry’s largest annual trade show in the world. Figures from the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA) show spending on pets is at an all-time high-an estimated $38.4 billion this year.

So just where are these billions going?

• $15.2 billion for food

• $9.3 billion for supplies and over-the-counter medications

• $9.4 billion for veterinarian care

• $1.8 billion for live animal purchases

• $2.7 billion for other services.

And it’s not just the basics. APPMA’s National Pet Owners Survey shows 27 percent of dog owners and 13 percent of cat owners buy their pets birthday presents, and 55 percent of dog owners and 37 percent of cat owners buy their pets holiday presents.

All this spending and pampering has prompted ingenuity ranging from low-maintenance aquariums, matching sunglasses for dogs and their owners and spa treatments for your pet, to laser cat toys and adjustable heating and massaging dog beds.

Industry experts point to a continued trend in the humanization of pet products. “Both baby boomers and young professionals who are delaying having families in favor of careers are turning to pets to fill the void at home,” said APPMA President Bob Vetere. “With these families’ higher-than-average disposable incomes, their pets are enjoying elaborate high-end and high-tech products as well as innovative devices designed for convenience for the pet owner.”

Pet owners report in APPMA’s National Pet Owners Survey that they have a special bond with their pets and consider them a best friend, a companion or like a child or member of their family.

Vetere likens it to his experience with his golden Lab, Dakota. “I can sit and talk to him and tell him any problem I have and he just sits there with his tongue hanging out, smiling at me, just waiting for me to finish. It’s like, ‘OK, you feel better now? Let’s go outside and play.’

“We’ve come a long way in terms of how we view and treat our pets,” concluded Vetere. “Fortunately, for pets and people, there is still plenty of opportunity for healthy growth.”