Small Dogs Present a Big Opportunity in Cat Litter Market’s Future

November 1, 2017

Cat ownership and cat litter go hand in paw. Survey data by market research firm Packaged Facts reveal that 87 percent of cat owners purchase litter. Further, Packaged Facts reveals in the brand new report, “Cat Litter: U.S. Pet Market Trends and Opportunities,” that despite the $2.8 billion cat litter market’s maturity, there are opportunities for sales growth that don’t depend exclusively on any anticipated growth in the number of cat-owning households.

In fact, looking ahead to 2021, one of the most intriguing growth opportunities has nothing to do with felines at all and instead predicts growth will come from America’s other favorite furry household pet—dogs.

Small dogs (those weighing under 25 pounds) are the most popular by far among U.S. households. Packaged Facts’ September 2017 National Pet Owner Survey shows that 12 percent of U.S. households have toy/very small dogs (under 8 pounds) and 43 percent have small dogs (8-24 pounds). Additionally, among new dog acquisitions, 9 percent were toy/very small and 38 percent were small dogs.

Presently, Purina markets SecondNature dog-specific litter, and Mars’ Pedigree website devotes a page to litter box training small dogs. Packaged Facts’ survey data show that 14 percent of toy dog owners and 12 percent of small dog owners have purchased litter for use by their dogs (although the survey does not indicate frequency of purchasing or whether they continued to do so). Given the number of small dogs that could potentially use litter as an alternative to outdoor elimination, this percentage could be significantly higher.

“Litter for dogs is an opportunity for cat litter marketers to expand into an entirely new demographic and attract a growing number of pet owners,” said David Sprinkle, Packaged Facts research director.

Packaged Facts suggests more cat litter marketers take advantage of the growing trend toward small dogs in urban settings by developing products specific to dogs. Marketers should hone in on convenience, pointing out that litter-trained dogs do not need to be taken outside as often.  The trend also opens up opportunities for marketers to push environmentally-friendly litters that are biodegradable and flushable, which would ease the mind of dog owners (or the mind of cat owners who also own dogs) concerned about their dogs potentially ingesting the litter.

“The shift to smaller dogs should continue in the years ahead, driven by both older and younger pet owners,” Sprinkle said. “For older pet owners, smaller dogs can be much easier to manage, lighter to lift and requiring less outdoor time. As living situations change, smaller pets are more easily admissible to apartments and other group dwellings, including assisted living communities. Also favoring the smaller dog shift are preferences among younger pet owners, along with increased urbanization and apartment/condo ownership. In addition, for pet owners young and old alike, smaller dogs are easier to travel with and care for in vacation environments.”

Beyond cat litter, the smaller dog movement definitely has numerous ramifications for the U.S. pet market. Since smaller dogs eat less, pet food marketers may find it harder to buck up volume sales, although size- and breed-specific foods should help to pick up any dollar slack, an angle brands like Mars’ Cesar and Royal Canin have been working successfully for many years. Some animal hospitals such as Banfield are already predicting that the smaller dog trend could also shift the veterinary focus, since large breed dogs are more prone to arthritis, hip dysplasia, and twisted stomachs, and small breed dogs are more prone to diabetes mellitus, periodontal disease and dislocated kneecaps.

About the Report

“Cat Litter: U.S. Pet Market Trends and Opportunities” analyzes the factors driving market growth and product innovation, shaped primarily by consumer demand desire for convenience, efficacy, ease of use, environmental concerns, and retail accessibility. The report explores the features most in demand among cat litter users and identifies opportunities for marketers in new product development, strategic retailing including internet and consumer engagement.

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