People are treating pets like members of the family. It's a trend
that is leading many companies to cater to consumers who want to pamper Fido
or Fluffy with everything from hotels for cats to liposuction for dogs.
"In the last 10 years, more people are turning to pets for comfort, companionship
and therapy," says Bob Vetere. He's the managing director of the American
Pet Products Association. "As the world becomes less secure, we turn to pets
Studies show that animals make people happier and healthier. Some experts
recommend that business establishments have fish tanks. Other studies show
that stressed people lower their blood pressure if they pet a dog. "A pet
is a non-judgmental companion," Vetere says.
People are willing to pay a lot of money for pet-pampering products and
services. High-end services include pet hotels with heated floors, fluffy
pillows and DVD players. Other services include liposuction for dogs, animal
massages, and aromatherapy treatments. Animal psychics will tell you what
your pet is feeling.
Luxury pet care products are popular as well. You can buy a plastic tray
containing real sod. You toss it in the truck for your dog to use on long
trips, or take it with you to the hotel room.
Other products include a treadmill for dogs, automatic timing feeders and
automatic cleanup for cat litter pans. A Japanese company is selling a gadget
that hangs around a dog's neck. It tells you what the dog's bark means. This
item is so popular that they are making a similar product for cats.
"Many of these new products allow working people to keep pets in their
home conveniently. They also allow seniors to have a pet where they couldn't
before," Vetere says.
Louis McCann is the executive director of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory
Council (PIJAC) Canada. He agrees that there is an increasing need for luxury
pet products. "Trade shows have a steady increase in exhibitors showing high-end
products. Especially, you see luxury apparel such as boots, coats, jackets
Our interest in luxury pet products is creating a niche for imaginative
entrepreneurs. In 2002, Julia Oulton noticed that her dog was having trouble
jumping onto his favorite chair. The animal needed a lower chair. But she
couldn't find a suitable item in the stores.
Oulton and her husband recognized the opportunity. They began making and
selling custom-designed animal furniture. Pet owners can order a small sofa
or chair that matches their human sofa and chair.
"Some people spend unbelievable amounts of money," says Oulton. "Our animal
sofas are as expensive as human sofas. Professional upholsterers work on them."
Oulton has expanded her product line to smaller items such as charms for
dog collars and lap mats. She hopes to be distributing a high-end line of
dog collars and harnesses from Italy in time for Christmas shopping. "It's
important to find a niche and come up with unique products," she says. "Don't
try to be everything to everybody."
According to McCann, pet owners are interested in animal health. Veterinary
services are offering expensive treatments like chemotherapy for dogs. Veterinarians
now routinely provide animal dentistry. Similarly, more people are buying
Pet owners also buy nutritional food for their animals. Vitamin-enriched
foods, natural foods, raw foods and foods that promote good dental health
"People want to feed their pets the same quality of food that they eat
themselves," says Dave Prevost. He is the general manager of a natural pet
product store. "And people have better information now about pet food ingredients."
In addition to working as trained veterinarians and veterinary technicians,
people are finding work providing services like dog walking, pet grooming,
and doggie day care.
Pet shops, pet superstores and other big department stores are looking
for certified animal handlers, Vetere explains. Certification is available
through organizations such as the American Pet Products Association.
Those preferring to work in the business side will do best with training
in sales and marketing. A good knowledge of math is essential.
McCann points out that mom-and-pop businesses are on their way out in the
pet industry. Young, aggressive professionals are coming in and redefining
the business plan. They are willing to pay for trained workers.
"A combination of training will be the best fit," says McCann. "If you
combine veterinary technician courses with administration courses, and you
have the ability to provide staff training, then you will be a very valuable
asset on the floor."
You will also need good people skills. You will be dealing with pet owners
who have very strong feelings about their animals. "And if you are not an
animal lover yourself, you might get by, but you are not likely to be terribly
successful," says Prevost.
American Pet Products Association
This association serves the interests of pet products manufacturers
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