How Much Do U.S. Pet Owners Spend On Their Animals?
Until the year 2011 my wife and I owned a feed and grain store in our city here in southeastern Massachusetts. It's a densely populated, mainly suburban, setting and the bulk of our business was pet supplies, lawn and garden products and wild bird supplies.
We subscribed to a publication of the American Pet Products Association (APPA), that was a terrific resource for us as business people, and for me as a newspaper columnist. I still subscribe, but only as a columnist.
The APPA National Pet Owners Survey is a treasure trove of information they gathered. The 2016 survey was released as the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, some of the results of which I share with you here.
The complete report, which is several hundred pages long, costs over $3,000 for non-members. Members pay a few hundred dollars less, I think. Your intrepid pet columnist got it on the cheap, the donut, albeit the condensed, press release version.
Works me, and should work for you, too, unless you’re developing a business plan for starting a pet supply store. In that case, I emphatically suggest you join the organization and get the full report.
For openers, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 84.6 millions homes. The first such survey was conducted in 1988 and back then only 56% of American households had pets.
For this column, I’ll just use rounded off dog and cat figures, although the APPA uses decimals and further breaks the survey down by species.
In the U.S. there are 88 million dogs living in 60 million households. Cats in the U.S. are represented in greater numbers, even though they reside in fewer households. There are 94 million cats living in 42 million homes.
On average, dog owners spent $235 a year for food and $72 for edible treats, while cat owners spent $235 for food and $56 for treats. Those numbers seem awfully low to me. Here in the Northeast, things tend to be more expensive than in some other regions of the country. But even at lower food and treat prices, these numbers seem low.
A 35-50 pound bag of your typical low-end grocery brand will cost anywhere from $20 to $30 dollars in the suburbs . The high-end holistic foods typically run between $50 and $75 for a 22 to 30 pound bag . Prices are even higher in cities.
How many of you dog owners can feed Boomer for $19.58 (235 ÷12) a month? And $6.00 a month for treats? You wish, huh?
Here’s another eyebrow raiser: dog owners spent an average of $84 on groomers and/or grooming supplies, while cat owners spent $30. Remember that these are annual figures. How about toys? The APPA found that dog owners spent an average of $47 while cat owners spent $30. I'll bet you spend much more than that in a year's time.
I think this survey finding is absolutely astounding: dog owners spent an average of $58 a year on vitamins; $46 for cats. At my store, customers didn’t spend that much on vitamins in a decade! I can’t tell you how many bottles of expired vitamins I threw out. Even now, I spend 30 hours a week in various pet supply stores and I don't see many vitamins going out. I guess maybe vitamins are purchased more in other parts of the country.
You dog owners spent an average of $257 on routine veterinary care, cat owners $182. But when they needed surgery, the average cost was $474 for dogs, $245 for cats. If you went on vacation without the animals, you spent an average of $322 to board the dog, $164 for the cat.
However, just to set the record straight, 32% of you dog owners took your pets with you in the car when you were away for two or more nights.
While they may still sell birds, reptiles and small animals, fewer and fewer pet stores are selling puppies and kittens nowadays because of “puppy mill” fears. Also, more dog and cat buyers are turning to reputable breeders, and even more are going through shelters and rescue groups to acquire their dog or cat.