The Rise And Rise Of The Pet Industry

Dog in fashion show

Americans continue to spend more and more on our cats, dogs and other furry friends. In fact, we spend $41 billion a year on our pets. This is more than the gross domestic product of all but 64 countries in the world.

Add up what Americans spend on pet food, health expenses, toys, houses, beds, clothes, grooming, jewelry and even Neuticles (240,000 pairs of these have been sold) and everything else that goes into caring for and spoiling our pets. This amount is more than what Americans spend on movies ($10.8 billion), playing video games ($11.6 billion) and listening to recorded music ($10.6 billion) combined.

No longer are the days when Spot will get a wash in the backyard with a hose when he’s dirty. He will get a grooming appointment and perhaps even be treated to a blueberry facial at a luxury pet spa. Princess doesn’t go to the kennel down the street. She goes to a five star pet hotel. She also gets to wear pearls and a Marilyn Monroe inspired pet dress.

Pets share our lives, our homes and even our beds. About 63% of U.S. households, or 71 million homes, now own at least one pet, up from 64 million just five years ago. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says that 42% of dogs sleep in the same bed as their owner. The bond between humans and pets continues to grow closer, and for some the bond is similar to a parent’s bond with his/her child.

A Seattle newspaper video blogged several pet owners to see where their money goes.

Pet retailers and companies see this increase in how much pet “parents” spend on their beloved pets and are tailoring their stores, products and marketing to target the needs of their customers.

For example, PetSmart is shifting its company mission from being a pet food top seller to helping customers become better pet “parents.” They are adding PetHotels in their stores. While at a PetHotel, pets can take calls from their parent, cats get fish tanks to watch in their rooms, and there is a separate air filtration system for cats and dogs. This expansion has increased their service business from almost nothing in 2000 to $450 million this year.

There is even a Pet Fashion Week held in New York in August. These days, a pet’s wardrobe can include sweaters, bikinis, ball gowns, leather jackets, jewelry, and even high heels. Pet clothing designers can cater a pet’s outfit to a specific owner’s sense of style.

One of the most recently expansive parts of the pet industry is the pet food business. With the massive pet food recalls leading to thousands of cats and dogs dead or ill, pet owners are cautiously watching what we put in our pet’s mouth. One pet food industry executive calls this the “Godiva-ization” of food, referring to owners wanting human grade meats, visible vegetables, and nutritional supplements. (And of course, no poison or toxins in our pet food either.)

Owners are also spending more on their pet’s health. Americans spend $9.8 billion a year on veterinary services and an additional $9.9 billion on over-the-counter drugs and other health supplies for pets. Also, the range of veterinary services continues to grow. An older cat can get braces or a dog can have a face lift. Pet liposuction is even available if your pet needs to get rid of some unwanted pounds.

Pharmaceutical companies are jumping in the pet industry band wagon also. There is an anxiety drug for dogs or even a diet pill if your pet is a little on the round side. Americans are expected to spend 52% more on medicines to treat their pets this year than they spent five years ago.

Even the pooper scooper business is rapidly growing. There are over 350 businesses in the United States that are dedicated to picking up after your pet. The industry is growing by 50% annually.

One pet parent summed up how much he spends on his pet by calling his dog his 401(k) with paws because that’s where all his money goes.

Sources: Business Week, Seattle P-I, various Itchmo reports

14 Responses to “The Rise And Rise Of The Pet Industry”

  1. wescott20 says:

    Maybe now the politicians, courts and lawmakers will realize how much pets mean to Americans and get away from this “pets as property” foolishness.

  2. Lynne says:

    My dogs get quality vet care, good food, plenty of clean water, and lots of hands-on affection. Instead of spending money on all that over-the-top, Paris Hilton type stuff, I send donations (when I can) to animal sanctuaries and shelters. They need the money far more than my dog needs a designer coat.

  3. catmom5 says:

    Lynne, that’s just what I was thinking as I read that. My cats are well cared for, well loved, get good vet care, etc but the “extras” they can do without. (I believe they live better than many of the humans on this planet) There are a lot of animals who could benefit from some of that money ~ maybe for basics like food, shelter, medical care. Don’t go in for the designer clothing, spa treatments, etc.

  4. Pukanuba says:

    It’s really too bad that commercial pf companies don’t see this as an opportunity to give pet parents something healthy & nutritious to feed to their “children”. I would prefer that over designer clothing or a blueberry facial……oh, puuuullllleeezzz, give me a break.

    Lynne, you are so right…..this is definitely “Paris Hilton type stuff” & the last thing I want to do is anything she would do. She changes dogs like I change underwear.

  5. Tealcsmommy says:

    Well if the people in the pet industry already knew how much we love our pets, then why did they produce toxic, low grade sludge for them under the guise of healthy and nutritionally complete pet food!?! Didn’t they realize this slow poisoning of our pets would have eventually caught up with them and the price they would have to pay!?!

  6. 2CatMom says:

    If the bulldog asks: Yes, that dress you are wearing does make you look fat!

  7. Mia says:

    I dont dress my dog in pet clothes, I choose to spend it on superior vet care and top quality items that he needs. I do pay to groom my dog but thats it. I dont think Nik is going to get his own fishtank or tv anytime soon. LOL

  8. Lynne says:

    “She changes dogs like I change underwear.”

    “If the bulldog asks: Yes, that dress you are wearing does make you look fat!”

    LOL. Indeed.

  9. nora says:

    My Aussie and my 3 other dogs shared by my sig-other, get home cooked meals, yes, there is a menu that is carefully prepared each week ( same food as we would eat only more selected and only nutritive items) and I do splurge on nice collars and stone pendants, but no fancy clothes or shoes. Probably the most expensive items are the Floppy Disc Frisbees that my Aussie and our Heeler dearly love. We keep regular vet appointments and our little rescue baby, the Jack Russell - Blue Heeler Cross cost us a small fortune in Emergency bills when she came from the Rescue League with a stomach virus and infected all the other dogs over the 4th of July Weekend. Instead of having a Harley or a Fancy Ski Boat, we have plenty of Exercise with our dogs at the Dog Park and any Lake that we can take them to swim!!!! They are like our second set of children now that all our kids are grown.

  10. Elaine Vigneault says:

    I think a few things are going on:

    1. Capitalists are capitalizing on the fact that pet parents love their pets and will spend lots of money on them. So they’re developing new and different things pet parents “need.”

    2. I have personally forgone buying myself something because of my dog. Not because I wanted to buy my dog something instead, but because the store kicked me out for having my dog with me. This has happened to me twice just recently. I wanted to buy an expensive ring from a jewelry store. I was the only customer in the store, yet they kicked me out for having my small dog with me. Then, I went to buy an iPhone and they kicked me out because I had my dog with me in the cellphone store. So, I tend to visit retail shops that allow pets. And well, pet stores allow pets :)

    3. Pets often use the same medicine that people use. And the prices for meds are high in the US. So, people pay that inflated cost. (I have a cat on heart meds. They are the same meds my mother-in-law takes).

    There are obviously other things involved, too. But those are some explanations for why I spend so much on my pets.

  11. ellie says:

    I get the feeling that the over-the-top things that are generally mentioned in these kinds of stories are actually rare. I don’t know anyone who even comes close to spending big bucks on pet facials or designer outfits or other assorted frills. I think most people are, however, spending increasing amounts on pet food and regular vet care and other practical, useful things–grooming, pet sitting, pet furniture–that are pretty basic. But it’s the silly stuff that gets the attention of the news media.

  12. Dave says:

    There is a huge amount of advertising and hype in the pet community trying to make you believe that you are missing out if you don’t buy all the fancy pet clothing, spa packages, doggie birthday parties, etc. While there may be a small market for pet owners to enjoy this type of fun, it is basically the same hype the commercial pet food companies ( & vets) have been pushing to make you feel guilty if you do not buy their “100 % Complete & Balanced”, Holistic, Natural or Oraganic pet foods. There has no doubt been a huge shift in the pet market place to feed real-human grade foods however, unfortunately, there are no big advertsing budgets associated with this type of movement. Word of mouth …a slower movement, is way more powerful than any 15 second ad about what to feed.

  13. Jon says:

    While I understand people being turned off by the Paris Hilton effect on dog clothing etc. And the ridiculousness of dog facials, wedding dresses etc.

    There is a flip side to the recent popularity in dog furnishings. Now you can finally have a dog bed or set of dog bowls that looks cool in your nicely designed house.

    The insane $30,000 dog beds, $3000 dog perfumes, $10,000 dog collars etc. are all there just to get headlines and press exposure.

    But it is a nice fringe benefit of this media attention that now there is a heightened level of design attention being given to dog products.

    If you want to see some of the cool design dog products out there now check out our site:


  14. Elle says:

    I have a cat and no I would not dress her in little clothes, but I’m pretty sure if I had a little pup I would dress it up in a cute little top maybe not designer, i don’t even wear that high end clothing, but i’d still dress him/her up.

    I don’t think it’s a bad thing dressing up your little dog, if people like it and they can afford it then i say why not?

    And it’s not nice to tell the poor little bull dog he looks fat in his dress I’m sure you wouldn’t want to hear you look fat in your dress. lol


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