Cats are now surpassing dogs in population across various Asian countries, following a trend seen in Europe. This surge in cat numbers directly contributes to the growth in cat food sales. Matthias Koch, founder of Anibene and keynote speaker at Petfood Forum Asia 2023, described this shift as “the time of the cat.”
In several Asian nations, including China, cats began outnumbering dogs in 2021. This shift can be attributed to the pandemic, followed by increasing urbanization and a subsequent move towards smaller living spaces, making cats a favored choice for pets. Meanwhile, the population of medium to large dogs has either remained steady or declined in some Asian countries.
An increase in cat ownership directly translates to higher sales of cat food, including a surge in premium cat food, depending on the market. Koch pointed out that premiumization in the pet food industry in Asia is hitting a limit due to inflation. Therefore, economy and mid-priced cat and dog foods still hold their significance, especially in countries with smaller pet food markets.
At the Pet Fair South East Asia, a pet trade show held in conjunction with Petfood Forum Asia, there was visible evidence of cats gaining prominence. The number of stands showcasing cat food and related products was notably substantial. Some companies were even dedicated entirely to cats, like Kit Cat International from Singapore.
This trend isn’t unique to Asia. In Europe, where smaller dwellings are more common, cats outnumber dogs, with 127 million cats to 104 million dogs, according to FEDIAF. In the U.S., households with kittens are on the rise, while those with puppies are declining, as per David Sprinkle, director of pet market research for Packaged Facts.
Sprinkle cited MRI-Simmons data, which showed that the number of U.S. households with puppies under 1 year old decreased from 5.6 million in 2014 to 4.4 million in 2023. In contrast, households with kittens increased from 3.1 million to 3.9 million. This shift has led to a significant rise in the ratio of kitten households to puppy households over the last decade, from 54% to 89%.
Similar to Asia, cats are not only growing in numbers but also in their impact on the market. While U.S. sales for dog food and treats remain higher than those for cats, the cat categories are exhibiting higher growth rates. For instance, cat food saw nearly 25% growth compared to around 20% for dog food in the 52 weeks ending June 17, 2023. Cat treats showed even more remarkable growth at over 40%, more than double the 20% growth seen in dog treats.
Even in Latin America, where dogs traditionally hold more sway, cat food sales have seen a compound annual growth rate of 7% through 2023, compared to 5% for dog food, according to Euromonitor International. In Mexico, this difference is even more pronounced, with Euromonitor projecting an 11% growth in cat food sales versus 1% for dog food over the next five years. This trend is driven by increasing urbanization and the preference for cats and smaller dog breeds among pet owners.