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 pretty densely populated, mainly suburban setting, and the bulk of our business was pet supplies, lawn and garden products and wild bird supplies.
There were hobby farmers in the area, so we'd sell 25 or 30 tons of livestock feed each month, and, while it sounds like a lot, it really isn't. The pet section ate up most of our square footage and we sold only high-end food and treats, toys and supplements.
And 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. After closing the store, I lost contact with the organization and thus the information it provided. Until recently.
We’re back together, so to speak, and not a moment too soon, either, because the APPA released results of their 2013-2014 APPA National Pet Owners Survey, a treasure trove of information they gathered.
The complete report, which is over five 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 for me, and most likely for you, too, unless you’re developing a business plan for owning a pet supply store. In that case, join the organization and get the full report. One thing to keep in mind is that the APPA did not ask survey participants how much in total they spend on their dog or cats annually. Each category involved a separate question.
For openers, 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 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 83 million dogs living in 57 million households. Obviously some household have more than one dog. Cats in the U.S. are represented in greater numbers, even though they reside in fewer households. There are 96 million cats living in 45 million homes.
On average, dog owners spent $239 a year for food and $65 for edible treats, while cat owners spent $203 for food and $36 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 25 to 30 pound bag . Prices are even higher in cities.
How many of you dog owners can feed Boomer for $19.92 (239 ÷12) a month? And $5.42 a month for treats? You wish, huh?
Here’s another eyebrow raiser: dog owners spent an average of $61 on groomers and/or grooming supplies, while cat owners spent $20. Remember that these are annual figures. How about toys? The APPA found that dog owners spent an average of $41 while cat owners spent $23. Anybody out there want to dispute those figures? Look at all those hands shoot up! I'll bet you spend much more than that in a year's time.
I think this survey finding is absolutely astounding: according to the APPA, dog owners spent an average of $64 a year on vitamins; $77 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 $231 on routine veterinary care, cat owners $193. But when they needed surgery, the average cost was $621 for dogs, $382 for cats. If you went on vacation without the animals, you spent an average of $327 to board the dog, $337 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.
I could only find one category that showed a decline, and that was in live animal purchases: $2.23 billion in 2013, down to $2.19 billion in 2014. I think a combination of factors come into play here.
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.
In 2013 pet owners spent $55.72 billion overall. The final figures for 2014 aren't in yet, but total expenditures for U.S. pet owners was expected to top $58 billion. In 2013 food purchases alone accounted for $21.57 billion. American pet owners were expected to shell out $22.62 billion just for food in 2014.
The catch-all category, Pet Services, included such items as grooming, boarding, training, pet sitting, and miscellaneous. I suppose "miscellaneous" could include services such as pet photography, licenses, and other infrequent payouts. This category accounted for $4.41 billion in 2013 and was expected to grow to $4.73 billion in 2014.
I'll bet for some pet owners, it sometimes feels like they're shouldering the entire total for pet industry sales!