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Pet Population and Pet Owner Trends in the U.S.: Fish, Birds, Reptiles, and Small Animals


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Pet Population and Pet Owner Trends in the U.S.: Fish, Birds, Reptiles, and Small Animals


There is a lot more to the pet industry than dogs and cats. While research into the human-animal bond tends to focus on the special relationship between people and dogs that has evolved over thousands of years, today’s pet owners do not limit their connection with animals to dogs—or cats—alone. A wide range of other animals have found their way into the households and affections of pet lovers.

American pet owners live in the company of 116 million fish, birds, small animals and reptiles. Fish tanks can be found in 7.2 million households and bird cages in 4.6 million households. Reptiles are pets in 1.8 million households. Tens of millions of adults—and their kids—enjoy the companionship of non-canines and non–felines. For example, 15.6 million adults reside in households with fish and 10.4 million take pleasure in the company of birds. Rabbits warm the hearts and engage the children of 2.5 million adults.

These pet owners represent big business for the pet industry. They groom and board their birds, buy toys for their iguanas, purchase medications for their turtles, take their gerbils to the vet, light and decorate their fish tanks and, of course, buy food for all of the tens of millions of pets that they own besides their cats and dogs. The spending power of owners of pets other than cats and dogs has a significant impact on the bottom line of marketers and retailers of pet products and services.

This all new Packaged Facts report shows why owners of pets other than dogs and cats represent a key segment for a pet industry beleaguered by the recession. After a noticeable recessionary slump, the report offers strong evidence that ownership of fish, birds and small animals is on the rebound. The report highlights how marketers can take advantage of an improving market and suggests what they can do to leverage the connection consumers have with these pets.

The report offers timely insights into consumers who maintain a diverse and often exotic collection of pets and provides a road map that marketers can follow to connect with them. Owners of birds and fish, for example, tend to be young and multicultural and are much more likely to be urban cliff dwellers residing in apartments, condos or co-ops in large cities, especially in the Northeast. Marketers will find these Gen-Y pet owners to be highly engaged with social media. Bird owners, for example, are 37% more likely than the average pet owner to purchase products advertised on a social sharing website and are 24% more likely to place greater trust in product information they get on a social sharing website.

Another recurring theme of the report is the critical role parents and children play in this segment of the pet market. Compared to pet owners who have cats and dogs exclusively, owners of fish, reptiles and small animals are much more likely to have children under the age of 18 in their households (57% vs. 34%). Nearly 90% of households with hamsters have children, and 87% of these have children under the age of 12. Around 60% of households with fish, rabbits and reptiles have children under the age of 18. Thus, children and their parents are at the heart of the market for fish, reptiles and small animals and represent a key factor in the post-recession recovery and long-term growth prospects of the pet industry.

Scope & Methodology


This report focuses on pet owners with fish, birds, reptiles and other pets besides dogs and cats. It is important to note the differences in the way the two principal primary data sources used in the report categorize data on pets other than cats and dogs.
  • The main source of primary data is the Summer 2012 Experian Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS), which was fielded between August 2011 and August 2012. Trend data are derived from the Spring 2007 Experian Simmons National Consumer Study and the Summer Experian Simmons National Consumer Studies from 2008 through 2012.
  • The Experian Simmons NCS questionnaire asks respondents to identify the number of pets they own in the following categories: dogs, cats, fish, birds, reptiles, rabbits, hamsters and “other” pets. Small animals such as gerbils, ferrets and guinea pigs likely account for the preponderance of pets included in the “other” category, although “other” pets could also include animals as diverse as horses and poultry.
  • The report also cites data from the American Pet Products Association 2011-2012 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. This industry source uses the following categories for owners of pets other than dogs and cats: bird; fish (including saltwater and freshwater); small animal (including rabbit, hamster, guinea pig, chinchilla, ferret, gerbil, hermit crab, mouse/rat, pot-bellied pig and “other” small animals); reptiles (including frog/toad, iguana, newt/salamander, lizard, turtle/tortoise, snake, scorpion and “other” reptile); and equine.
Other data sources used in the report include the 2012 edition of the American Veterinary Medical Association U.S. Pet Ownership and Demographics Sourcebook, the 2011-2012 Pet Age Retailer Report and the 2012 State of the Industry Survey of Pet Product News International published in the 2013 PPNI Buying Guide.The report is also based upon data collected from a wide range of industry sources, including company websites, trade publications, business newspapers and magazines and consumer blogs.


  • Executive Summary
    • Highlights of the Report
    • Scope and Methodology
    • Topline Insights
      • Americans Own More than 100 Million Pets besides Cats and Dogs
      • Most Dog and Cat Owners Do Not Own Other Pets
      • Rebound in Pet Ownership May Be Underway
      • Strength of Recovery Varies Across Different Types of Pets
      • Many Owners Maintain Diverse Collection of Pets
      • Owners Develop Bonds with All Kinds of Animals
      • Fish, Bird, Small Animal and Reptile Owners Key Consumer Segment
      • Pockets of Affluence among Pet Owners Offer Targets of Opportunity
      • Parents and Children Play Critical Role
      • Marketing Strategies and Tactics Need to Acknowledge Youthful, Multicultural Profile of Owners of Pets other than Cats and Dogs
      • Marketers Can Tap Into Social Media to Engage Owners of Fish, Birds, Rabbits and Reptiles
      • Pet Owners Receptive to Multiple Sales Tactics
    • Demographic Highlights
      • Major Demographic Differences between Owners of Dogs and Cats Only and Pet Owners with Birds, Fish, Reptiles and Rabbits
      • Different Pets Engage Different Folks
    • Profiles of Fish, Bird, Reptile and Small Animal Owners
      • Population of Fish Owners Begins to Rebound
      • Saltwater Fish Require Significant Expenditures by Their Owners
      • Number of Households with Birds on the Upswing
      • Latinos Love Birds
      • Bird Owners Also Favor Fish. . .Cats Not So Much
      • Cages Most Expensive Item for Bird Owners
      • Reptile Ownership on the Decline
      • Turtle/Tortoise Top Choice of Reptile Owners
      • Reptile Owners More Likely to Be Young and Single
      • Lizards and Iguanas Cost the Most to Maintain
      • Rabbits Favored by Small Animal Owners
      • Rabbit Owners More Likely to Be Young and Female
      • Food and Supplies Biggest Expenses of Small Animal Owners
  • Overview of the Pet Population
    • Millions of Americans Look beyond Dogs and Cats for Animal Companionship
      • Table Pet Ownership of Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Rabbits, Hamsters and "Other" Pets, 2012 (in thousands)
      • Table Percent of All Pet Owners Owning Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Rabbits, Hamsters and "Other" Pets, 2012
      • Most Dog and Cat Owners Do Not Own Other Pets
        • Table Percent of Pet Owners by Ownership of Cats or Dogs and Other Pets, 2012
      • Americans Own More than 100 Million Pets besides Cats and Dogs
        • Table Number of Pets and Average Number of Pets per Household by Category of Pet (Excluding Cats and Dogs), 2012 (in thousands)
      • Wide Diversity of Pets Found in Many Households
        • Table Number of Households Owning Pets by Type of Pet, 2012 (in thousands)
        • Table Number of Adults in Households with Pets by Type of Pet, 2012 (in thousands)
      • Dog Owners More Likely to Welcome Other Pets
        • Table Percent of Households Owning Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Rabbits, Hamsters and Other Pets by Ownership of Cats and Dogs
      • Pet Owners without Dogs and Cats Represent Small but Important Segment
        • Table Type of Pet Owned by Pet Owners without Cats or Dogs
      • Owners Maintain Diverse Collection of Pets
        • Table Household Cross Ownership of Pets by Type of Pet
  • Trends and Opportunities
    • Pet Ownership Trends
      • Pet Ownership Still Shows Impact of Recession
        • Table Number of Households with Pets by Type and Number of Pets, 2007 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
      • Rebound May Be Underway
        • Table Number of Households with Pets by Type of Pet, 2011 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
      • Strength of Recovery Varies Across Different Types of Pets
        • Table Number of Households Owning Pets by Type of Pet, 2007-2012 (in thousands)
      • Pet Ownership Patterns Undergo Shift
        • Table Number of Households with Pets by Number and Type of Pet, 2007 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
    • Marketing Implications
      • Owners of Fish, Birds, Small Animals and Reptiles Are Vital to Pet Industry
      • Ownership of Other Pets Affects Pet Supply Shopping Patterns of Dog and Cat Owners
        • Table Where Dog and Cat Owners with Other Types of Pets Buy Dog and Cat Pet Supplies, 2012
      • Families and Children at the Core of Market for Fish, Reptiles and Small Animals
        • Table Presence of Children under 18 in Households of Pet Owners by Type of Pet Owned
        • Table Presence and Age of Children in Household by Type of Pet Owned
      • Marketing Strategies and Tactics Need to Acknowledge Youthful, Urban, Multicultural Profile of Owners of Pets Other than Cats and Dogs
        • Table Demographic Highlights of Pet Owners by Type of Pet Owned
      • Marketers Can Tap Into Pockets of Affluence among Pet Owners
        • Table Pet Owners with a Household Income of $100,000 or More by Type of Pet Owned
      • Social Media Influence Owners of Fish, Birds, Reptiles and Small Animals
        • Table Percent Agreeing "I Talk about Things I See On Social Sharing/ Networking Websites in Face-to-Face Conversations" by Type of Pet Owned
        • Table Consumer Use of Social Media by Type of Pet Owned
      • Fish and Rabbit Owners More Likely to Buy Online
        • Table Internet Orders in Last 12 Months by Pet Owners by Type of Pet Owned
      • Cross Ownership of Pets Creates Opportunity for Cross Selling
      • Rabbit and Fish Owners Most Likely to Buy from Catalogs
      • Fish and Bird Owners Head to Strip Malls More Often
        • Table Percent of Pet Owners Visiting Shopping and Strip Malls Four or More Times in the Past Four Weeks by Type of Pet Owned
      • Direct Sales Efforts Work
      • Cents-Off Coupons Entice Pet Owners to Buy New Products
      • Cable TV Channels Offer Path to Many Pet Owners
        • Table Pet Owners Viewing Animal Planet and National Geographic Channel in Last Seven Days by Type of Pet
  • Demographic Highlights of Pet Owners
    • Demographic Characteristics of Pet Owners by Type of Pet
      • Major Demographic Differences between Owners of Dogs and Cats Only and Pet Owners with Birds, Fish, Reptiles and Rabbits
        • Table Demographic Highlights of Pet Owners by Type of Pet Owned
      • Different Pets Engage Different Folks
        • Table Demographic Profile of Owners of Fish, Birds, Reptiles, Rabbits and Other Pets
      • Pet Owners Drawn to the Outdoors
        • Table Sports Played or Participated in by Pet Owners in Last 12 Months by Type of Pet Owned
    • Owners of Fish, Birds, Reptiles and Rabbits by Demographic Characteristic
      • Pet Owners Are Young
        • Table Pet Ownership by Age Group and Gender
      • Multicultural Pet Owners Like Fish, Birds and Reptiles
        • Table Pet Ownership by Race and Hispanic Origin
      • Wide Regional Differences in Pet Preferences
        • Table Pet Ownership by Region of Residence
      • Pet Fish Swim in the Midst of Affluence
        • Table Pet Ownership by Educational Attainment
        • Table Pet Ownership by Household Income and Type of Residence
      • Singles Drawn to Reptiles
        • Table Pet Ownership by Marital Status
      • Children Most Common in Households with Hamsters
        • Table Pet Ownership by Presence and Age of Children in Household
  • Fish and Bird Owners
    • Fish Owners
      • Population of Fish Owners Begins to Rebound
        • Table Number of Households Owning Pet Fish by Number of Fish, 2011 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
      • Fish Owners Are Well Educated and Affluent
        • Table Demographic Highlights of Fish Owners
      • Many Fish Owners Also Favor Rabbits
        • Table Cross Ownership of Pets by Fish Owners
      • Saltwater Fish Require Significant Expenditures by Their Owners
        • Table Specific Expenses in the Past 12 Months for All Freshwater and Saltwater Fish Owned, 2010
    • Bird Owners
      • Number of Households with Multiple Birds on the Upswing
        • Table Number of Households with Pet Birds, 2010 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
        • Table Number of Pet Birds and Average Number of Pet Birds per Household Owning Pet Birds, 2007 vs. 2012
      • Owners Bond with Their Birds
        • Table How Pet Owners View Their Pets by Type of Pet, 2011
      • Latinos Love Birds
        • Table Demographic Highlights of Bird Owners
      • Bird Owners Also Favor Fish . . . Cats Not So Much
        • Table Cross Ownership of Pets by Bird Owners
      • Cages Most Expensive Item for Bird Owners
        • Table Specific Expenses for All Birds Owned, 2010
  • Reptile and Small Animal Owners
    • Reptile Owners
      • Reptile Ownership on the Decline
        • Table Number of Households with Reptiles, 2007 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
        • Table Number of Reptiles and Average Number of Reptiles per Household Owning Reptiles, 2007 vs. 2012
      • Turtle/Tortoise Top Choice of Reptile Owners
      • Reptile Owners More Likely to Be Young and Single
        • Table Demographic Profile of Reptile Owners
      • Reptile Owners Also Like to Have Fish
        • Table Cross Ownership of Pets by Reptile Owners
      • Lizards and Iguanas Cost the Most to Maintain
        • Table Specific Expenses for All Reptiles Owned by Type of Reptile, 2010
    • Small Animal Owners
      • Rabbits Favored by Small Animal Owners
      • Rabbits Multiply
        • Table Number of Households with Pet Rabbits, 2007 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
        • Table Number of Pet Rabbits and Average Number of Pet Rabbits per Household Owning Pet Rabbits, 2007 vs. 2012 (in thousands)
      • Rabbit Owners More Likely to Be Young and Female
        • Table Demographic Profile of Rabbit Owners
      • Rabbit Owners More Likely to Own Variety of Pets
        • Table Cross Ownership of Pets by Rabbit Owners
      • Food and Supplies Biggest Expenses of Small Animal Owners
        • Table Average Expenses for All Small Animals Owned by Type of Animal, 2010

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