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Chicago (November 5, 2012)-Pets are not only a man’s best friend, they are often looked upon as a four-legged member of the family. As a result, the retail sales of pets and related supplies and services have produced consistent gains from 2007-12, despite a turbulent economy. Mintel’s latest report estimates the pet market is worth more than $49 billion in 2012, up 15% since 2007.

“Pets have many needs that are similar to human family members, including food and medical care,” reports Bill Patterson, senior market analyst with Mintel. “Therefore, pet supplies and services are often necessities rather than discretionary purchases, which has helped shield this industry from the rocky recessionary environment. The strong bond between owners and pets offers significant marketing opportunities for manufacturers and retail outlets focusing on pet care and supplies.”

Overall, 64% of Mintel respondents own a pet in their household, with dog (43%) and cat (32%) ownership being the most common. Nearly all dog owners consider their dog a member of the family and most agree that their pet provides companionship (89% like to spend time with their dog) and safety (77% feel safer alone in the house when their dog is nearby). Seven out of 10 pet owners feel their dog understands their feelings better than most people and more than half (54%) say they share similar personality traits with their dog.

While most cat owners will disagree, the bond between dog owners and their canine companions appears to be stronger than that of cat owners and their feline friends. In fact, a lower percentage of cat owners agree with nearly every statement asked concerning this bond compared to dog owners, except when it comes to pampering their pet. Some 43% of cat owners say they pamper their pet versus 38% of dog owners.

So, what are all these pet owners spending their dollars on? With a retail value of $18.1 billion, pet food accounted for the largest share of sales in 2011 (37.8%). Veterinary services represented the second-largest segment generating over $12 billion annually. According to Mintel’s insight, only a small percentage of pet owners (8%) do not perform annual/regular checkups for their dog/cat and around 90% pay close attention to the health and behavior of their dog/cat to ensure they keep them healthy.