Happy Habitats: Retailers Shouldn’t Overlook Small Animal Pet Category

By Ethan Haber//May 5, 2023//

Happy Habitats: Retailers Shouldn’t Overlook Small Animal Pet Category

By: Ethan Haber//May 5, 2023//

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If you ask anyone in the pet industry to break down the sales allocated to each type of pet, they will nonchalantly tell you it’s 90 percent dog and 10 percent cat. It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that people say the main focuses in the industry are on these two animals, with a heavy focus on canines. If this were true there wouldn’t be any companies that sell equine, reptile, bird, aquatic, exotic and small pet. In truth, the pet industry is a large growing segment of the American market, with several niche pockets that, while small in comparison, are large in size and revenue. 

According to IBISWorld.com, as of 2023 there are 12,807 pet stores in the United States, the majority of which, just sell dog and cat products. If these stores are doing so well only selling to dog/cat customers, why bother expanding? The answer is simple. By stocking small pet products, pet retailers can grow their customer outreach and increase basket size. Before, diving into the logistics, let’s establish exactly what segment small pet addresses. 

Small pet can be a catch-all phrase in the industry that refers to the small caged mammals, mostly rodents, people keep as pets. This includes, but is not limited to: hamsters, gerbils, rats, mice, guinea pigs, ferrets and rabbits. There are roughly 131.2 million households in the U.S., 70 percent (90.5 million) of which own one or more pets. Last year, the American Pet Products Association (APPA) determined that 6.2 million households have at least one small pet, with roughly 1.5 million specifically, being hamsters. That’s a lot of potential customers that could be buying  small pet products from your store. 

The small pet market translated to about seven percent of American households. Meaning seven out of every 100 Americans are a potential customer for the small pet segment. This might not sound like a lot, but when you consider that there’s 331.9 million people in America, and that most small pet owners also have a dog or cat, you can quickly see how a store that sells dog products can benefit from expanding to include small pets. Another reason is that small pet ownership is trending upwards. 

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 many people were forced to sequester into  their homes for long periods of time. To combat their loneliness, they turned to pets. 

Small pets specifically were popular thanks to their ease of care, lack of mess and  accessible living requirements. Whether you lived in a studio apartment in New York  City or a 100-acre farm in Oklahoma, you could comfortably keep a small pet in your  home. Aside from being easy pets to manage, these animals were able to capture the hearts of people everywhere due to their spotlight on the world news. 

In January 2022, Hong Kong issued a hamster massacre after 11 hamsters in a pet shop tested positive for COVID. Roughly 2,000 hamsters were sent to the guillotine, and the public outcry was enormous. Worldwide, consumers showed their solidarity against this hamster culling regime. People took to the internet to show their disdain for Hong Kong’s actions and offer their support. Many individuals offered to take in small pets from families that could no longer care for them. New small pet owner growth hasn’t slowed down since. 

Kaytee, a subsidiary of Central Garden Home and Pet, is the big player in the small pet space. Small pet is one sixth, roughly 17 percent, of their consumer pet segment. The small pet market helped Kaytee experienced 25 percent growth from 2020 to 2022. 

Despite small pet’s increased hold on the market, there’s been little in the ways of innovation. That is, until Happy Habitats. Happy Habitats’ debut product, the Halo, is the first innovation in the small pet space in over 40 years. The Halo is a safer, well-engineered small pet exercise ball and unique carrier. The Roam is an exercise ball with two-millimeter ventilation holes to prevent paw trapping, the lid has a two-step locking mechanism to ensure it stays closed and the ball is screwed shut. The Roam then snaps into the Halo, and it becomes a mobile small pet carrier. The Halo has a carrying handle and magnetic kickout stands, allowing your small pet to run alongside you at home or on the go. 

Happy Habitats won best in show at SuperZoo in 2021. This past March, the brand exhibited at Global Pet Expo, marking the first pet industry trade show with product for immediate distribution.


Ethan Haber is the founder and CEO of Happy Habitats. He is a small pet industry expert and hamster enthusiast. 



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