I recently visited a Big Box store that had undergone an extensive renovation, mainly for organizational reasons to improve the flow of the store, but there were some interesting changes. The one that really caught my eye was the pet section. This store moved and shrunk its once-huge TV and electronics section and replaced it with a huge, mind-blowing area dedicated to pets in general, cats and especially dogs in particular. Along the back wall, for about 100 feet and 6 feet high, there was nothing but kitty litter. Sand for cats! This store now has more space dedicated to cat bodily functions than producing or even liquor. You know the world is out of control when there’s more room on store shelves for kitty litter than there is for beer and wine.
This is not surprising, really. I’m not the first person to point out that the American obsession with pets is overblown. According to pet industry research and surveys, in 2021 Americans spent more than $124 billion on everything cat and dog related, and that’s something like 2.5 times the $45.5 billion bill for such spending on 2010, and more than $30 billion a year since 2018 alone. And just so you know, more than $5 billion of pet spending globally in 2021 was for pet clothing, and apparently Americans spend about $2.1 a billion a year buying pet gifts for Valentine’s Day, so yeah, something is out of control.
It’s not that I don’t like cats and dogs – I’ve had many dogs in my life, currently have two cats, and yes, I love them as a family. But I’m not crazy. I don’t take them to restaurants or fly with them for emotional support, and I certainly don’t have a cat wardrobe.
One of the largest areas of total pet spending is, of course, pet food, and that market has been swamped by the popularity of premium, super-premium, and ultra-premium pet foods, now accounting for around 41 % of the pet food market. . In an online search on this topic, I read an article by a couple of vets who pointed out that there are no standards for what constitutes “premium” in pet food, and no real evidence that premium is better for a dog or cat than regular pet food. As with everything else, like liquor or cell service, the word “premium” and the higher price is all people need to truly believe it’s better, even if it’s not.
Since two out of three households in the US have pets, obviously many of us know a lot of people who have pets. Most of those people are regular pet owners who have a family dog or pet cat and it’s not much of a problem for them or their friends. But also many of us know people who have three dogs or four cats, people who dress them up and carry them in bags or backpacks, and who often cancel or delay social events and trips because their dog has anxiety or their cat has a spa. scheduled day.
What really got me thinking about all of this was the remodeling of the Big Box store and its huge pet department filled with all kinds of unnecessary toys and clothing, even jewelry, for pets at a time when the country and the world are experiencing the worst inflation in 40 years and many, many people are making tough decisions about food, rent and bills. But apparently Fluffy and Rover still get what they need.
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Despite my favorite nuisance that this (human) behavior is out of control, there may be opportunity in all of this. I recently came across a part time pet sitter, dog walker and pet sitter; think daycare for pets of people who work from home and feel like they are neglecting their (pandemic) animal friends. This is, apparently, a surprisingly lucrative endeavor, like $150 bucks for a night and $20 to $40 an hour for daytime activities. Why? Because all of the already expensive dog kennels and pet boarding operations are so overcrowded it’s hard to get in. It’s worse than finding an actual daycare, and now it’s just as expensive.
Like I said, the pet obsession is out of control.
Jeff Rundles is a former ColoradoBiz editor and regular columnist. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.