Americans love their pets which has translated into a growing business trend over the past decade. Last year, Americans spent $61 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), and the industry is expected to reach $91.72 billion by 2019, as reported by Packaged Facts.
79.7 million U.S. households own a pet, including 71 percent of Generation X and 65 percent of Millennials. Overall, there are 85.8 million cats, 77.8 million dogs, 14.3 million birds and 9.3 million reptiles nationwide. High-income households are a profitable demographic for pet-related businesses; Packaged Facts says three-fifths of pet spending comes from upscale pet owners, who prefer premium products, such as organic and natural pet foods.
Here are 7 hot pet business ideas to get you started on a pet business of your own.
1. Pet food and treats
A massive recall of pet food made in China in 2012 and 2013 has made pet owners more willing to spend on premium pet foods—some $9.5 billion annually on dog food and $4.9 billion on cat food, according to a Nielsen/Harris Poll. Pet owners want "human grade" pet food, including pet energy bars, pet food incorporating superfruits and pet food for special diets. For example, grain-free, gluten-free or other limited-ingredient diets are popular for pets with food allergies.
Other growth areas include food for senior pets (about 40 percent of pet owners have a dog or cat in the senior age bracket) and diet pet food (more than half of dogs and nearly 60 percent of cats are overweight). Concern about pet health is also sparking growth in nutritional supplements for pets, including glucosamine and Omega 3’s.
Don't forget about pet treats. Dog treats account for $2.6 billion in annual sales, and cat treats $476 million, Nielsen reports. In upscale areas, some entrepreneurs are finding success by opening bakeries that specialize in pet treats.
2. Pet products and accessories
The possibilities for pet products and accessories are endless, from basics like leashes, pet beds and collars to discretionary products like pet clothing, pet toys and designer pet furniture. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. pet owners buy holiday gifts for their pets, and 45 percent purchase pet birthday presents, Nielsen says. Millennials, in particular, like to buy clothing for their animals. Specializing in clothing for particular breeds, such as English bulldogs or Chihuahuas, can help you find your niche.
The growing popularity of small dogs has created opportunity for products tailored to tiny breeds. Since small dogs are typically kept indoors, their owners need pet training, odor prevention/removal and cleanup products, just like cat owners do. There's also a demand for attractive pet beds, pet furniture, dog crates and litter boxes that fit in with home decor.
Senior pets provide a growth area, too: Products to help them get around more easily, such as steps and ramps, or make them more comfortable, such as orthopedic beds, are in demand.
3. Pet grooming services
Americans spend some $166 million annually on pet grooming, according to Nielsen, and this industry offers several opportunities for local entrepreneurs. You can either rent a storefront location or set up a mobile van and visit clients in their homes. Another option is a self-serve dog wash that lets customers wash their pets without making a mess at home.
4. Dog day care
Doting dog owners worry that animals left home alone all day will get lonely (or destroy the house), creating demand for dog day care centers. At these locations, dogs can socialize and play under your watchful eye. Set up pet-cams so owners can watch their pets remotely and ease their minds. You can also promote your service as a way to keep dogs at a healthy weight.
5. Pet sitting or at-home boarding service
Pet sitting is a low-cost startup, since you don't even need a location — you watch pets in their own homes when their owners are out of town. Offer to pet-sit for friends and acquaintances; then build your clientele from referrals. You can also start a pet boarding service keeping animals at your home, although this is more capital-intensive and requires a fairly large property.
6. Dog walking service
Dogs need exercise, and sometimes their owners don't have the time or ability to provide it. Offer your services as a dog walker, and both you and the animals will get a workout. You can market your business by word-of-mouth and through co-marketing with related businesses, such as groomers, dog day care and pet stores.
7. Pet portrait painter/photographer
Pet lovers are willing to pay to have their furry friends immortalized on film or canvas. If you’re artistic, start a portraiture business painting pets from photos that you either take yourself or have customers send you. If photography is your preference and you are good with animals, start a business taking pet portraits. A photo shoot in the animal’s home will generally get the best results, so you don't even need a studio to get started.