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Pet Ownership, Spending Higner Than Ever: Study

GREENWICH, Conn. -- Pet product buyers and category managers have more opportunities than ever to grow the category in supermarkets, judging from the findings of a new study released by American Pet Products Manufacturers Association (APPMA).

According to the 2005-2006 National Pet Owners Survey, pet ownership is at its highest level ever. The showed 63 percent of all U.S. households now own a pet. This percentage equates to more than 69 million households, up from 64 million in 2002 and 51 million in 1988, when APPMA's tracking of the market began. The annual survey tracks hundreds of pet ownership trends.

APPMA said Americans own approximately 73 million dogs, 90 million cats, 139 million freshwater fish, 9 million saltwater fish, 16 million birds, 18 million small animals and 11 million reptiles.

"The steady increase in pet ownership confirms that a growing number of us are realizing pets truly enhance our lives," said Bob Vetere, managing director and c.o.o. of APPMA. "Pets not only provide unconditional love and affection, research now shows they also provide significant health benefits."

Nearly all owners cite companionship, love, company, and affection as the primary benefits to owning a pet. Fifty-nine percent say pets are good for their health and the health of their family. Forty percent say that owning a dog motivates them to exercise on a regular basis. It is universally agreed that pet owners are health conscious, like to look their best, like to exercise with their pet, are happy and maintain a well organized home.

There has been much written lately about the "humanization" of pets, and the new APPMA study confirms this trend. Three-quarters of dog owners consider their dog like a child or family member, and more than half of cat owners say the same.

Buying gifts for pets continues to grow, with eight out of ten dog owners buying gifts and 63 percent of cat owners purchasing gifts. These gifts are no longer just purchased at Christmas, but also for birthdays, Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, Chanukah, and for no special occasion. There's also a growing number of parties for pets with nine percent of dog and five percent of cat owners hosting birthday parties for their pets. On average, $17 is spent per gift.

Other trends detailed in the report:

-- Nineteen percent of dog owners bring along their dog when traveling -- up from 16 percent in 2002.

-- Giving pets treats continues to increase significantly, with 88 percent of dog owners, 65 percent of cat owners, 73 percent of bird owners, and 75 percent of small animal owners giving treats. This is especially, prevalent in households where the pet owner thinks of the pet as a child.

-- Pet owners are paying more attention to nutrition: table scraps are on the decline and gourmet food and food fortified with supplements and added vitamins and minerals showing gains. One percent of dog owners are also buying kosher food.

-- Pet obesity is still a concern. The National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences estimates obesity will occur in 25 percent of dogs and cats.

-- The use of dental products is increasing with a rapidly expanding pet dental market that includes pet toothpaste, whitening strips, mouthwash and orthodontic products.

New to the survey is the tracking of horses. Four percent of U.S. households own a horse, with three percent boarding horses at home and one percent keeping horses outside of their home. Eighty percent of horse owners also have a dog.
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