Market Watch: All I want for Christmas is a treat

More than one-half of US pet owners report buying gifts for their pets. - Huntley Manhertz, Jr.

It's no secret that America has a love affair with pets. Pet owners treat their household pets like children. In fact, more than one-half of pet owners in the US report buying gifts for their pets, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association's (APPMA) 2007-2008 Pet Owners Survey.

The year-end holiday season is the most frequent gift-giving occasion for US pet owners, with this breakdown:

  • 57% of dog owners report giving their dogs gifts for Christmas or Hanukkah, spending an average of US$10 per gift;
  • 42% of cat owners say they give kitty gifts at this time, spending an average of US$11;
  • 32% of small animals owners report giving their pets gifts at this time and spend an average of US$12; and
  • 27% of bird owners say they give their feathered friends holiday gifts, spending an average of US$13.

One of the most popular types of pet gifts is treats, says the survey. As many as 90% of US dogs receive treats, followed by 82% of birds, 79% of small animals and 69% of cats. On average, dog owners spend US$66 per year on treats.

Pet ownership growing

In terms of ownership, 63% of US households own at least one pet, according to the APPMA survey. This percentage has remained steady in recent years; the number of pet-owning households has grown at the same rate2.8%as the number of overall US households.

Many in the US own more than one pet, with 46% of dog owners reporting they also own a cat and 40% of cat owners reporting they also own a dog. While dogs and cats are by far the most popular types of US pets, freshwater fish, birds, reptiles and small animals have steady rates of ownership.

Specially formulated

The APPMA survey uncovers other interesting trends. For example, 64% of US dog owners and 58% of US cat owners report feeding their pets specially formulated foods. For dogs, the most frequently fed type of food is one formulated for middle-aged pets, at 16%, followed by one formulated to maintain a healthy coat (14%), one formulated for senior pets (12%) and foods formulated for puppies or weight control (both at 10%).

US cats are most likely to eat foods specially formulated for kittens (55%), followed by ones formulated to manage hairballs (34%), foods for indoor pets (20%) and foods for senior pets (13%).

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