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    More than Cats and Dogs

    Fish, birds and other small animals fuel pet industry growth.

    By Kathleen Furore
    Breakdown of Pet Ownership in the U.S.

    In 2009, when she was just 10 years old, Katherine Bauhs asked her parents for a pet bunny for Christmas. Although she and her older brother, Jack, already owned a dog named Sugar, parents Tim and Shannon relented. Soon Oliper the rabbit was hopping around the family?s Oak Park, Ill., home.

    If your store doesn?t stock food and accessories for pets like Oliper (who nibbles on kale, cilantro, rabbit pellets and timothy hay), you?re missing out on a category that?s growing right along with the popularity of fish, birds and small animals. Today, the pet population in the Bauhs? house is an increasingly common one, as more consumers opt for pets of the non-canine and non-feline kind.

    ?There is a lot more to the pet industry than dogs and cats,? according to ?Pet Population and Pet Owner Trends in the U.S.: Fish, Birds, Reptiles, and Small Animals,? a report released by Rockville, Md.-based Packaged Facts in January 2013. ?While research into the human-animal bond tends to focus on the special relationship between people and dogs that has evolved over thousands of years, today?s pet owners do not limit their connection with animals to dogs ? or cats ? alone. A wide range of other animals have found their way into the households and affections of pet lovers.?

    By the Numbers

    According to the Packaged Facts report, 116 million fish, birds, small animals and reptiles are part of Americans? pet families. Fish tanks can be found in 7.2 million households, bird cages in 4.6 million households, and reptiles in 1.8 million households. Rabbits, meanwhile, ?warm the hearts and engage the children of 2.5 million adults,? the report notes.

    Considering the spending power possessed by owners of pets other than cats and dogs, retailers that carry food, toys, grooming products and accessories to meet these pet owners? needs have an opportunity to significantly affect the bottom line.

    Demographics can help determine the types of products customers are likely to buy.

    Bird and fish owners tend to be young, multicultural, and much more likely to live in apartments, condos or co-ops in large cities, especially in the Northeast. ?Marketers will find these Gen Y pet owners to be highly engaged with social media. Bird owners, for example, are 37 percent more likely than the average pet owner to purchase products advertised on a social sharing website and are 24 percent more likely to place greater trust in product information they get on a social sharing website,? the Packaged Facts report says.

    Parents and children, as the Bauhs family shows, also play a big role in this market segment. Compared with pet owners who have only cats and dogs, those who own fish, reptiles and small animals are much more likely to have children under the age of 18 in their households.

    ?Nearly 90 percent of households with hamsters have children, and 87 percent of these have children under the age of 12,? Packaged Facts reports. ?Around 60 percent of households with fish, rabbits and reptiles have children under the age of 18. Thus, children and their parents are at the heart of the market for fish, reptiles and small animals, and represent a key factor in the post-recession recovery and long-term growth prospects of the pet industry.?

    By Kathleen Furore
    • About Kathleen Furore

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