Pet care can be doggone costly Vets report dog, cat owners are spending more

Posted: Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

  Suds the cat rests on Marc Drake's extended arm as Drake's girlfriend, Emily Foley looks on. "We had no idea he'd become a line item in our monthly budget," Foley said. "We've spent $500 so far for shots, neutering, declawing, flea stuff, things like that. It really adds up." AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

Suds the cat rests on Marc Drake's extended arm as Drake's girlfriend, Emily Foley looks on. "We had no idea he'd become a line item in our monthly budget," Foley said. "We've spent $500 so far for shots, neutering, declawing, flea stuff, things like that. It really adds up."

AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

AMARILLO, Texas And they say children are expensive.

A trade group representing businesses that make stuff for Fido and Fluffy estimates pet spending will double from a mere $17 billion in 1994 to $34.3 billion by the end of this year.

The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association said sales in 2003, a tenuous economic year, totaled $32.4 billion. In other words, people spend more on Fido and Fluffy than they do on toys for human children - $20 billion or on candy $24 billion.

The American Veterinary Association put a pencil to how much people spend on their pets and calculated that in 2001 each pet-owning household spent $261.30 on its dog, $159.90 on its cat, $263.10 on its horse and just a smidgen, $18.20 on its bird.

Dr. Sam Reeves, an Amarillo veterinarian, said pet ownership has a life cycle.

"A lot of young couples, before they have children, they focus their instincts on their pets," he said.

Sometimes when children come along, pets take a back seat, but when children grow up and leave home, people focus again on their pets, Reeves said. Stephen Payne, spokesperson for Pet Food Institute in Washington, D.C., estimates about 70 million pet cats and 60 million pet dogs in the United States.

"When you add in smaller animals, it increases numbers of animals by millions. If you include fish it's gigantic," Payne said.

The number of multicat households is growing, he said.

"With increased urbanization, we're seeing more cats owners," Payne said.

An aging population may contribute to the rise in cats, he said.

"Cats don't have to be walked," Payne said.

Puppy love is good for retailers, too. PetSmart, based in Phoenix, operates more than 660 pet superstores in the United States and Canada. In the first quarter of this year alone, the company opened 23 new stores with 90 planned for the year.

The company reported net income of $35.8 million in the first quarter.

Net sales since 2001 have grown from $2.4 billion to more than $2.9 billion in 2003. Concurrently, debt halved from $341 million to $170 million last year.

"The pet industry has been trending upward and is continuing to grow," said PetSmart communications representative Andrea Davis.

"The business media has been picking up on the fact that people are looking for more products and services to integrate pets into their families and daily lives," she said.

The American Veterinary Medicine Association recognizes 20 veterinary specialty organizations. Vets practice in areas ranging from laboratory animal medicine to clinical pharmacology.

Animals have their own veterinary dental college, too, at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reeves said he thinks people are taking better care of their pets than 20 or 30 years ago, with fewer animals running loose where they can get hurt.

Services available include cataract surgery and hip replacements for dogs, and that shows progress, he said.

Orthodontia was slow to catch on, but animal teeth cleaning is common, he said.

Dr. Johnny Wise at High Plains Veterinary Clinic said he observes people more willing to pay for lab testing.

"People are much more savvy in medicine any more, and they want to know why and how. I think that's a product of more education," Wise said.



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