Analyzing the role of ‘small animals’ in the pet market

Going outside the dog and cat ownership silo can lead to additional insights on pet owner trends, and the broader pet food segment would be wise to pay attention to what's happening in the small animal space.

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Dogs and cats are a significant part of the pet ownership picture, but they don’t tell the whole story. | (ApuuliWorld I
Dogs and cats are a significant part of the pet ownership picture, but they don’t tell the whole story. | (ApuuliWorld I

Small animal-type pets are having an interesting year, according to U.S. pet ownership data. Thanks in part to the global COVID-19 pandemic, in 2020 reptiles are projected to see the highest growth in household ownership (7%) and small mammals in aggregate are expected to be right behind (6%) over 2019 numbers, according to Packaged Facts data. This compared to 5% growth in ownership for dogs and 4% for cats — also robust numbers given that 96% of pet-owning households in the U.S. have dogs or cats. But cat- or dog-owning households also make up part of the small animal (which, for the purposes of this issue, also include birds and fish) crowd, since such animals are more likely to reside in multi-pet homes.

In this, our second-annual issue focusing on small animals in the pet space, we’ll take a look at pet market data with a particular focus on reptiles (p. xx). We’ll also look at two primary trends in the dog and cat space — sustainability (p. xx) and functional pet food ingredients (p. xx) — to see both how they’re affecting the pet food industry overall, and how the trends dog and cat food producers are seeing are affecting other areas of the pet space.

It’s easy to focus on our silos, and to be sure dogs and cats dominate discussions when we talk about overall ownership, food trends and predictions for the pet space. But taking a look at the rest of the picture is vital, not only to ensure no opportunities are missed but also to see if there may be trends on the horizon. If a dog or cat owner also owns a snake or a hamster, odds are pretty good they’re going to treat all their animals like family. Which means if their tiny furry friend is getting top-notch food and treats, it’s a fair bet they’re looking for similar options for their larger four-legged pets. As in our constant eye towards human food trends, it pays to see what customers are thinking outside the box we’re used to putting them in.

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