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Small animal, pet bird ownership on rise in US, report finds

Ownership of small animals, birds and fish as pets is on the rise in the US, according to a new report from market research firm Packaged Facts, which suggests pet industry retailers may benefit from this rebound.

The most popular small animal in the US is rabbits; in 2012, 4.2 million rabbits lived in US households. The report noted that in 2010, 39 percent of small-animal owners said they owned a rabbit, compared to 25 percent for hamsters and 24 percent for guinea pigs.

The report also found that 7.2 million households own a total of 84.3 million fish in 2012, accounting for 73 percent of the pet population, excluding dogs and cats. The number of fish-owning households in 2012 rose by about 100,000 from 2011.

The number of bird-owning households in 2012 totaled 4.6 million. Although this number was down from the 5.8 million households that owned a bird in 2008, bird ownership is up 24 percent since 2010 when just 3.7 million households owned birds. Moreover, 41 percent of bird owners said they considered their bird to be a member of the family.

A decline in pet ownership was seen in the reptile segment. In 2012, 1.8 million households owned 3.9 million reptiles, down from 2.3 million households in 2008. The report noted the decline may be linked to the higher cost of caring for reptiles, such as lizards and iguanas.

“These pet owners represent big business for the pet industry,” the report's co-authors, Robert Brown and Ruth Washton, noted. “They groom and board their birds, buy toys for their iguanas, purchase medications for their turtles, take their gerbils to the vet, 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."

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