Why pet treat sales continue to rise

Pet owners love to pamper their pets with treats, and increasing product development for cats has bumped cat treat sales and usage even higher.

Cat Getting Treat
Usage and sales of cat treats have increased substantially in recent years. | Christopher Teixeira I Shutterstock.com

Pet treats have experienced robust sales increases, even outpacing the healthy growth of the overall pet food market. This is especially true for cat treats.

For example, in the U.S., the usage rate of cat treats among pet-owning households reached 60% in the 2020-21 period covered by Packaged Facts’ report, “U.S. Pet Market Update: Pet Food Focus, 2021.” While that’s lower than the 77% usage rate for dog treats and biscuits, it’s a huge leap from when Packaged Facts first began tracking such rates, in 2006-07. At that time, cat treats were used by only 39% of pet-owning households.

The usage rate for dog treats and biscuits has held steady, from 75.5% in 2006-07 to 77% in 2020-21. Yet dog treat sales have also grown along with dog ownership: According to the American Pet Products Association National Pet Owners Survey, last conducted in late 2020/early 2021, U.S. dog owners spent an average of US$81 on dog treats, up 6.5% from 2018 (the most recent comparison). Meanwhile, cat owners spent US$72 on cat treats, a strong 24% increase over 2018.

Other markets worldwide have seen similar rises for cat and dog treats. This makes sense, especially for increases since 2020, as many pet owners spent more time at home with their pets during pandemic lockdowns, more people have continued to work from or stay home and, thus, have had more occasions to provide treats. Plus, just as people have sought ways to pamper themselves during such uncertain times, they’ve likely transferred some of that anxiety and desire to alleviate it onto their furry family members.

Indeed, Packaged Facts attributed pet pampering trends to rising treat usage, though its report noted that started even before the pandemic. The same is true for another contributor: increasing cat treat and food product development. Many pet food brands began sensing, and acting on, a relatively underexplored market opportunity with the cat category in 2019 or before, providing more treat options for cat owners to buy.

Product development focused on functional ingredients has also contributed to treat growth. With treats particularly, these ingredients offer a way for pet owners to provide health and nutrition benefits with just a small number of overall ingredients. Health and wellness is yet another trend that started well before the pandemic and has since accelerated, for people and pets alike.


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