Pet profits: America has gone to the dogs and cats and…
By Joanie Stiers
Copley News Service
People buy granola bars for birds and tent sleeping quarters for their guinea pigs.
Even rats can have the luxury of a couch in their cage.
Pet spending in the United States has doubled in 10 years, according to industry statistics. U.S. consumers spent nearly $36 billion on their pets last year and show no signs of slowing, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. The growth is a result of consumers treating pets like humans in their medical care, food, material possessions, clothes, and haircuts.
Last year, Don and Chris Anderson opened the Lucky Dog Lodge in Galva, Ill., a boarding kennel they prefer to call a pet spa or pet hotel. In place of the chain-link fences are 22 private, white vinyl “suites” arranged horse stable-style. Cats get private condominiums with lattice-front doors and wood blinds for privacy.
Consumer spending is up at Galesburg (Ill.) Animal Hospital, where the business has tripled since 1983 when owners Dr. Greg and Pam Weech bought it. The business offers veterinary services, grooming, boarding, and dog obedience training.
A few years ago, the shop expanded, adding an in-house laboratory for quick blood results, and it recently finished adding more offices and workspace.
“The building got too small for the business growth over the years,” Pam Weech said.
The business’ professional groomer Kim Thompson said her workload has doubled in three years.
“When I first started, I was lucky to have four to five a day,” she said.
Now, she clips, bathes, dries, fluffs and clips again for six to nine dogs daily. When done, they get sent home with a bandana.
That’s a light amount of clothing compared to dog owners who patronize local resident Priscilla Hawkinson, who make dog coats and sell them on eBay.
The pet supply industry is latching onto the pet market’s opportunities. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says its member companies make pet mouthwash, self-flushing litter boxes, and flowing fountain dog water bowls.
More hotels have pet-friendly policies and welcome them with oversized pillows, doggie robes, and check-in gift packages of toys and treats.
Paul Mitchell, Harley-Davidson, and Old Navy are among those offering pet products like shampoo, pet attire, gourmet treats, and food.
And the food is more than the dog chow that today’s pet owners probably grew up feeding their childhood best friend.
Dog food is a No. 1 seller for Thorn’s Pets & Supplies, a new store in Galesburg, Ill. They have food for weight control, weight loss, senior dogs, and dogs with sensitive skin or stomachs, part-owner Emily Thorn said. For cats, the line is similar, with added options for hairball control for all classifications of cats: old cats, overweight cats, sensitive stomach cats, and more.
“We’re starting to see this need for either the so-called holistic lines, really human-grade ingredients.”
Basically, some pet food today meets the same high-quality standards as people’s food.
So much for life in the doghouse.