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Many Cat Owners Feel Their Pets Are ‘Treated as Second Class,’ but Things Are Changing

Retailers, marketers, product developers and investors are paying more attention to felines.

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ROCKVILLE, MD – Historically, the U.S. pet industry has been canine-centric, and not without reason. Dogs significantly outnumber cats and tend to be more lucrative in terms of products and services, market research firm Packaged Facts notes.

Unfortunately, when asked whether they believe that cats are “sometimes treated as second-class” by the pet industry, most cat owners responded in the affirmative to some degree, said David Lummis, pet market expert at Packaged Facts.

Cats represent 30% (or $13.1 billion) of pet food sector sales, according to Packaged Facts’ just-released Cats: U.S. Pet Market Trends and Opportunities, compared with a 31% share of non-food pet supply sales and a 28% share of veterinary sector revenues.

In line with dog owners, over 9 in 10 cat owners consider their cats to be part of the family. And as with dog owners, a large majority of U.S. cat owners believe that their feline friends have beneficial impacts on their physical and emotional health.

To the credit of many pet industry participants, the treatment of cats as an afterthought is beginning to change. Retailers, marketers, product developers and investors are paying more attention to felines.

Market growth and development opportunities span the pet industry sector. For example, minimally processed frozen and refrigerated products are at the forefront of today’s natural pet food thrust, but marketers in this fast-growing niche remains distinctly dog-focused, according to Packaged Facts.

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Similarly, although many marketers offer cat treats, historically the selections have been less robust than for dogs, and some cat food marketers have sidestepped cat treats completely. The situation has changed in recent years, however, in tandem with a steady increase in usage for cat treats.

More from the release:

On the non-food side of the aisle, comfort and health considerations are top-of-mind, especially with pet owners sheltering at home alongside their pets since the COVID-19 pandemic. Nearly one in three dog and cat owners (30%-31%) bought special products to make their pets more comfortable, and one in five (20%) are more concerned about their pet’s health and wellness due to COVID-19.

Nutritional supplements, correspondingly, saw a pandemic-related bump in sales. On the pet side, top health concerns include pet anxiety/stress (with 24% of cat owners “especially concerned”) and immunity (21% of cat owners).

A significant portion of cat owners (13%) are caring for pets with aging-related special needs. These senior pets generally require more – and more personalized – care than their younger counterparts.

The importance of health care costs and payment management concerns notwithstanding, they are not at the top of the list of cat owner priorities for veterinary services. A focus on preventative care claims the top spot, being especially important to 49% of cat owners, and in second place is vets’ availability for pet emergencies.

Moreover, according to the Packaged Facts report, tech devices for cats as well as dogs will continue gaining momentum, especially in the areas of behavioral, entertainment, and tracking/monitoring. But the most important opportunity for cat market advancement, as Lummis emphasizes, is also the most obvious one: an increased focus on cats.

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Since launching in 2017, PETS+ has won 16 major international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact PETS+ editors at [email protected].

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