There is a lot more to the pet industry than dogs and cats. While research into the human-animal bond tends to focus on the special relationship between people and dogs that has evolved over thousands of years, today's pet owners do not limit their connection with animals to dogs–or cats–alone. A wide range of other animals have found their way into the households and affections of pet lovers.
According to "Pet Population and Pet Owner Trends in the U.S.," a new report from Packaged Facts, American pet owners live in the company of 116 million fish, birds, small animals and reptiles. Fish tanks can be found in 7.2 million households and bird cages in 4.6 million households. Reptiles are pets in 1.8 million households. Tens of millions of adults–and their kids–enjoy the companionship of non-canines and non-felines. For example, 15.6 million adults reside in households with fish and 10.4 million take pleasure in the company of birds. Rabbits warm the hearts and engage the children of 2.5 million adults.
These pet owners represent big business for the pet industry. They groom and board their birds, buy toys for their iguanas, purchase medications for their turtles, take their gerbils to the vet, light and decorate their fish tanks and, of course, buy food for all of the tens of millions of pets that they own besides their cats and dogs. The spending power of owners of pets other than cats and dogs has a significant impact on the bottom line of marketers and retailers of pet products and services.
After a noticeable recessionary slump, ownership of fish, birds and small animals is on the rebound, according to David Sprinkle, the research director for Packaged Facts. Marketers can take advantage of an improving market by leveraging the connection consumers have with their pets.
A recurring theme of the report is the critical role parents and children play in this segment of the pet market. Compared to pet owners who have cats and dogs exclusively, owners of fish, reptiles and small animals are much more likely to have children under the age of 18 in their households (57% vs. 34%). Nearly 90% of households with hamsters have children, and 87% of these have children under the age of 12. Around 60% of households with fish, rabbits and reptiles have children under the age of 18.
Thus, children and their parents are at the heart of the market for fish, reptiles and small animals, and represent a key factor in the post-recession recovery and long-term growth prospects of the pet industry.[Source: "Pet Population and Pet Owner Trends in the U.S." Packaged Facts. Jan. 9, 2013. Web. 18 Jan. 2013.]