Americans spent approximately $30 billion on pet products in 2016, a recent FONA International report found. The study, Pet Care Gets Personal: Human Flavor Trends in the Pet Care Space, also determined that this figure surpassed what U.S. shoppers spent on alcohol, bottled water and coffee last year.
One reason for the spending is that modern day pet owners tend to anthropomorphize their furry companion, treating it as if it were a human child.
In response, products have emerged that satisfy the human’s desire to celebrate special occasion’s—such as a birthday—or to otherwise indulge pets even if the animals themselves clearly do not understand the meaning behind the gift.
“In a way, the bond between a human and pet is the same at a basic level,” said James I. Millhouse, a licensed psychologist that specializes in medical and clinical sport psychology in Atlanta.
“Almost every feeling a person has for another can be found when you look into what owners feel and get from their pet. People are capable of a wide range of relationships with animals from none to feeling support, caring, acceptance and love from them. Research has shown that the companionship of an animal has significant positive effects on the health of the owner.”
“The trend to treat dogs like children is becoming increasingly popular,” added Jancy Ulch of K. Sutherland PR. Ulch represents both Bella & Beau and Planet Dog, both of which cater to humans who seek to give their pets special treats.
“This may be due to the growing population of young, working professionals who aren’t quite ready for children, but still want something to spoil and love,” Ulch continued.
Bella & Beau focuses on dog charms and have over 200 options in its lineup. The charms are sold at varying price points such $24 and $39, while the collars to attach them to run nearly $60.
Ulch said that the company is geared toward “owners looking to really spoil their pups.”
Planet Dog specializes in durable toys such as the Happy Birthday Ball, which is described by Ulch as a “practical and fun birthday gift.” The ball costs $14.95.
“Nothing says ‘happy birthday’ to your dog like a minty, chewy, buoyant ball,” reads the product’s description on the company’s website. “Available in two fun, vibrant colors. The perfect Happy Woofday present.”
The Dapper Dog Box, a subscription service that mails owners packages that contain multiple treats for their four-legged friends on a monthly basis, gets in on the pet birthday celebration subcategory via a customizable package.
“This is one of our best-sellers for one year now as people nowadays do consider dogs part of their family and love celebrating their birthday as they would a child,” said Kerrie Fitzgerald, the company’s owner and founder.
“Dogs provide so much unconditional love to their humans, they bring an immense amount of joy and happiness to our lives, and I believe that is why people treat them like kids. They simply adore them beyond belief, so why wouldn't they spoil them?”
Each birthday box comes wrapped in pink or blue polka dot paper with a handwritten, personalized birthday card. The package includes red velvet cake mix with frosting, vanilla ice cream, sweet potato chips, a squeaky doughnut toy and a bandanna.
The birthday Dapper Dog package costs $39.99.
The FONA report pointed to seasonal pet items as drivers for commerce as well, mentioning selections such as heart-shaped dog cookies for Valentine’s Day and cranberry treats to ring in the holidays.
The current season, fall, is no exception.
Greenies launched limited-edition pumpkin spice dental dog treats this month. The item can be found at retailers such as PetSmart and Chewy.com.
“The key is to offer products that enable pet parents to include their pets in the fun of family celebrations—whether it be holiday gift giving or the return of our favorite fall drink,” said Anna Rudeva, marketing director in charge of dog treats for Greenies.
Sold in 12-ounce packages, these fall-inspired treats will run owners $17.99.
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