It wasn’t that long ago—and in many areas of this country and world, when dogs slept outside, cats slept wherever they could find a place, they ate dry food, and sometimes road kill. But something happened when pet owners moved from rural to urban and began accruing wealth. Human relationships became complex, people often became emotionally isolated from each other, some wedded to their careers, but dogs and cats were still there, waiting for their owners to come home, loving them unconditionally.
Popular research states that pets lower human blood pressure, help with motivation for exercise, and on the whole, make owners feel and rest better. It is no wonder, then, that such bonding has its rewards. Due to this quid pro quo, the pet economy has recently been elevated into the luxury stratosphere.
"People are no longer satisfied to reward their pet in pet terms," said Bob Vetere, president of the American Pet Products Manufacturers Assn. (APPMA). "They want to reward their pet in human terms.” This fortuitous quotation was part of a 2007 Business Week article, called 'The Pet Economy,' written by Diane Brady and Christopher Palmieri. Five years ago people spent a mere $41 billion with a billion per year on their pets. It’s more now.
In the years since, and even with the recession, luxury pet hotels, pet spas, organic pet food, pet jewelry, pet clothing, luxury outdoor dog and cat domiciles, pet orthodontia, rhinoplasty and dentistry, high end pet hospitals, pet insurance, medications for everything including pet psychological problems, and Dannies (dog nannies) all have brought prices up, up into the HNW (high net worth) realm. (Photo courtesy of I Love Dogs, Inc.)
According to the Market Research firm, Packaged Facts, a source for market research on the pet products and services industry in 2010, U.S. pet industry sales were $54.56 billion, and in 2011, it reached $56.67 billion. The stats are not out yet for 2012, but it may be getting close to $60B, more than the gross national products of many small European countries.
According to the 2011-2012 APPA (the American Pet Products Association) National Pet Owners Survey, 62% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 72.9 million homes. Still, this $56.67B amount of seems breathtaking, and so it is good to remember and expand on what Mr. Vetere said about rewarding pets in human terms. (Photo courtesy of I Love Dogs, Inc.)
The taproot is the word “reward.” The owner rewards the animal for not only good behavior, but for its existence, its loyalty, its unconditional love, its beauty, playfulness, cuteness, and its sense of humor. The owner becomes the parent, bonded to the pet, and the pet becomes a beloved family member.
In Packaged Facts’ March 2012 Pet Owner Survey, nearly nine out of 10 pet owners said they consider their pets to be part of the family (61 percent strongly agreed). Nearly two-thirds of survey respondents view their pet as their best friend, are spending more time with their pet, and enjoy purchasing products to pamper their pets. And how they pamper! (Photo courtesy of Global Pet Expo)
It is not a complex cognitive or affective leap to understand this care allows pet owners to buy products and services that reflect their own needs and wants, as often care of the pet is an accurate reflection of the owner’s values. If a pet is ill, veterinary treatments include procedures like chemotherapy, MRI, hip replacements, and cosmetic procedures, including rhinoplasty, full facelifts and eye lifts.
And then there’s pet food, an $18.9B as in billion, dollar a year business, according to a witty March 2012 Bloomberg/Business Week article. Some of those human-grade pet foods they tested were Honest Kitchen’s Embark (a dry food that, with water, becomes a spinach and celery porridge); Weruva’s Cirque de La Mer (Tuna chunks, pumpkin soup/carrots and sweet potato); and Michael’s Soul-Stew (carrots, yams, potatoes, rice, peas celery). Another interesting one, found at The Global Pet Expo (more on this Expo later) was Petcurean Pet Nutrition, a Canadian company that sells food containing mountain trout and fresh salmon. (Photo courtesy of Global Pet Expo)
Those who purchase food like this may also be worried about pet odors and cleaning. For them, homes stay cleaner with automatic, self-flushing litter boxes, cleaning cloths for dirty paws that mimic traditional baby wipes, and scented gel air fresheners to keep dining rooms and other rooms free from non-human scents.
Many of these products, and literally thousands of others are highlighted at the yearly Global Pet Expo, where Pet owners, or “parents” as they are called by many, can see and taste for themselves the best of the best dog food, dog treats, test pet mouthwash, and see the strongest evidence of this V.I.Pet Culture: neuticles. (Photo courtesy of Global Pet Expo)
These are prosthetic testicles for neutered dogs, which, according to the website, help “your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with altering,” at $1000 a pair. The idea, says inventor Gregg A. Miller, is to "let people restore their pets to anatomical preciseness" after neutering, thereby allowing them to retain their natural look and self-esteem. "People thought I was crazy when I started 13 years ago," says the Oak Grove (Mo.) entrepreneur. But he has since sold more than 240,000 pairs.
There are also designer pet supplies such as Burberry apparel, Hermes leashes and collars, diamond collars, including a 52 carat diamond and white gold collar from I Love Dogs, Inc. for $3200 and Simmons BeautyRest pet beds. (Photo courtesy of Harrods Pet Spa)
One of the most famous Luxury Spas for pets is the Pet Spa at Harrods (above is the Pet Spa Menu at Harrods) in London, that takes up most of the fourth floor. Here, clients can have a Full Body Massage, Blueberry & Vanilla Facials, Pedicures, Reiki Healing, Thalassotherapy Mud Baths, Deep Conditioning Treatments, Blowouts, Aromatherapy Bath & Body Massage, Weight Management and Nutrition Counseling—just a few of 42 pet treatments offerings. (Photo courtesy of Harrods Pet Spa)
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