Business USA News

Why the pet industry hopes Americans will start treating their cats more like dogs

Humans worshipped cats in pharaonic times and have been their servants, one way or another, almost ever since then. But until recently, the felines have not been getting that kind of deference in the modern-day United States from a pet products industry more focused on their canine counterparts.

It’s easy to see why doggos get so much attention from pet stores and manufacturers. Among U.S. pet owners, spending per dog last year was $1,381, while for cats it was $908, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Most cats are much smaller than most dogs, so they consume less food. Cats are much more difficult to coax into a visit to the vet. And there are fewer cat owners to cater to: 43 million U.S households have a cat, but there are 63 million with a doggie.

Still, industry players, from big-box retailers to foodmakers to Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, are hopeful that they can eventually get pet owners to spend on their cats like they spend on their dogs—and thus expand an underexplored market. Those folks are seeing promising signs in some product lines: An AlixPartners analysis of APPA’s data found that expenditures on vitamins, treats, toys, and grooming aids are all seeing significant growth among cat owners. (For more, see “It’s a dogfight at America’s pet stores as COVID-19 upends the $96 billion industry.”)

Right now, cats account for only about 7% of the $7 billion spent annually on pet treats. Food makers think they can shake that up—not least because, in the era of Instagram and sheltering in place, teaching old cats new tricks is more rewarding for their owners. “You have cat parents who want to reward and engage their cats in new and different ways,” says Rob Ferguson, interim SVP for pet food, pet snacks, and supply chain at J.M. Smucker, which earlier this year launched cat treats under its Rachael Ray Nutrish brand. It remains to be seen whether cats feel the same way, but the industry is prepared to feed the beast, so to speak. “The cat treats market has been ‘doggified,’” says David Sprinkle, an analyst with research firm Packaged Facts.

Source: Phil Wahba Fortune