Cats increase numbers, pet food growth opportunities

Pet food market experts say momentum for cat food category success is building thanks to strong, stable cat population growth in the U.S. and Europe.

“Cats are underserved,” read the headline of a blog post I wrote in May 2021. I was quoting Bryan Jaffe, managing director of Cascadia Capital, from his spring 2021 report on the pet industry, in which he identified the cat food and product market as an opportunity for growth. Is that still true as we emerge from the pandemic?


  • Jaffe shared IRI data showing that in most U.S. retail channels, the number of cat food brands—dry, wet and treats—had increased from 213 total in 2018 to 249 as of spring 2021. That jibes with my observations at the last few pet retail trade shows I attended pre-COVID-19, where I had noticed a growing number of new cat food product launches.
  • New product development has seemed to continue, judging by the increase in cat food and treats in our online product database, plus product launches at Superzoo 2021 in August and Global Pet Expo Digital Access in March 2021.
  • Packaged Facts data showed the number of cat-owning households in the U.S. increased 5.1% from 2019 to 2020. In some European countries, such as Germany, cats were more popular than dogs even before 2020; as of April 2021, cats comprised 52% of the country’s pet population, according to WZF, organizers of Interzoo, and outnumbered dogs 15.7 million to 10.7 million.
  • Perhaps spurred in part by rising cat ownership and product development, more researchers are also focusing on cat nutrition. For example, a Petfood Forum 2021 session featured results of studies on the aging of cats, specifically how dietary formats may affect various health indicators over a cat’s lifetime; dietary choline supplementation to help address feline obesity; and cats’ feeding enjoyment related to preference of components in wet cat food.

I find all these developments to be positive progress, partially for personal reasons: I’ve lived with cats my entire adult life, including, for the past 14 years, with my sweet gray goofball, Deacon. And I can’t help but agree with U.S. cat owners surveyed by Packaged Facts in summer 2019, 44-51% of whom believed that product manufacturers and retail channels treated cats as second-class citizens. But that seems to be changing—good news for all cats, their owners and the future of the pet food market.


Cat populations in Europe

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