City Pet Owners Stand Apart From Their Country Cousins

City Pet Owners Stand Apart From Their Country Cousins

Packaged Facts’ May 2017 report Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.: Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets, 2nd Edition uncovers stark differences among pet owners that may pose significant challenges for retailers and marketers.  The way pet owners view their pets and the criteria they use when deciding which pet products to buy are closely tied to whether they live in urban areas, suburban or outer suburban locales, or rural parts of the country.

Urbanites More Concerned About Stress/Anxiety of Pets

First, urban, suburban and rural pet owners hold widely divergent views of their pets’ health.  In what may stand as an affirmation of how pets can mirror their owners’ emotional life or perhaps how pet owners can unwittingly project something of themselves in their pets, more than 70% of dog or cat owners living in urban areas agree they have a dog or cat that sometimes has anxiety/stress issues.  Only 55% of dog owners and somewhat more than 40% of cat owners living in suburban or rural areas say their pet has these problems.  Thus, urban pet owners likely will be much more receptive to efforts to market products such as calming shirts/suits or calming sprays/diffusers.

Stark Divide Regarding Role of Cat & Dog Food in Pets’ Health

Differences in the degree to which pet owners are concerned about the interplay between their pets’ health and diet—and the criteria they apply to evaluating pet food ingredients—fall on a similar geographic spectrum.  Urban dwellers are nearly twice as likely as rural residents to assert that their pets have special nutrition needs (45% vs. 24%) and they are even more likely to be concerned about their pets having food allergies or intolerances (51% vs. 22%).

Shopping Online vs. Brick-and-Mortar Visits

The shopping habits of pet owners also differ significantly.  Nearly two in three (63%) urban pet owners buy pet products online compared to just 42% of pet owners living in suburban/outer suburban areas and only 32% of rural pet owners.  There also are substantial differences in the bricks-and-mortar shopping behavior of pet owners, which probably reflect the choices open to rural and urban pet owners as well as their preferences.  More than half (52%) of rural pet owners buy pet foods at Walmart, compared to just 37% of urban pet owners.  Just 18% of rural pet owners buy pet foods at PetSmart, compared to 42% of urban pet owners.

Opinions on Pet Welfare, Rescue Causes, and Corporate Responsibility Differ

Pet product marketers might take note of other aspects of the consumer behavior of urban, suburban and rural pet owners that may reflect differences in their underlying political sensibilities or social values.  Around seven in 10 (69%) pet owners living in urban areas assert that “the participation by pet product brands in pet welfare and rescue causes and events plays a significant role in which brands I buy.”  Only 32% of rural pet owners and just 39% of pet owners living in areas categorized as suburban/outer suburbs feel the same way. 

Suburban/outer suburbs pet owners are much more likely to agree that “corporate responsibility on the part of the manufacturer plays a role in which pet foods I buy (67% and 59%, respectively).  However, these percentages are significantly lower than the 88% of urban pet owners who ascribe to this belief.

Still Opportunities to Market to Pet Owners’ Common Ground

Nonetheless, the Packaged Facts report also finds that when it comes to certain bedrock beliefs about pet ownership the great majority of pet owners inhabit common ground.  No matter where American pet owners live and whatever their age or ethnicity, they stand united in believing that their pets make a positive contribution to their lives.  For example, more than 90% of dog owners across a wide range of demographic segments agree that their dog has a positive impact on their mental or physical health. 

For more information on Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.: Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets, 2nd Edition or to purchase the report visit:

-- by Dr. Robert Brown and Ms. Ruth Washton