Pet parenting on the rise
Baby boomers have long worked hard to provide for the wellbeing of their children and today those same children – and their own offspring – are working equally hard to treat their pets like kings and queens.
Thais love their pets and according to studies, more than one-third of households in the country own at least one animal. The love is there as it has always been, but the major change is the shifting trend from pet ownership to pet parenting. The trend is crucial in driving the industry as well as in changing consumer behavior. Pet parents want the best for their “kids”.
“Yes, I do work hard for my cats and dog. I have four cats and one dog and they stay with my mom upcountry. I work and send money to mom to care for them. The pet food alone costs a lot because they are fussy eaters and then there are medications and all that. Grooming is expensive too,” says Pat, a 30-something freelancer in Bangkok.
Pat was the first in her family to own a pet. It all started when a friend gave her a dog when she was 14. “I came to study in Bangkok and didn’t adjust well. So, an old friend gave me a dog. When I had to study in an exchange program for a year, I asked my mom to take care of the dog and she reluctantly agreed. Mom wasn’t a dog or a cat person, but now she loves them all and wouldn’t give any of the dogs back.”
She spends around 15,000 baht a month just on pet food. In fact, the amount she spends on parenting her pets back at her mother’s home accounts for 30% of her total spending each month.
Pat is a good example of her generation and the millennials who call themselves “cat slave” (Tas Maew) or Tas Mah for dogs. They have formed special relationships with and attachments to their pets. Nowadays, the pet market is also expanding to include rabbits and reptiles.
The spike in pet-related business during the pandemic has taken no one by surprise. As it turned out, pets were what kept many Thais sane during the gloomy and depressing lockdowns. Those without pets were reportedly adopting or buying during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The WFH for both the public and private sectors gave people more time to take care of their pets. The millennials with adequate purchasing power bought pets to be their friends which helped grow the pet market by 1-5%. The overall pet market is estimated to increase to 38.5 billion baht this year from 36.7 billion baht in 2020.” said Duangrat Udomsomporn, acting general manager of Pet Expo 2021’s organizer NCC Exhibition Organiser Co (NEO).
The increase in the number of singles, childless couples, LGBTQ couples, and the growing number of elderly people explains why pets have become so beloved. They have been upgraded from pets to real family members and they are very well taken care of.
“As a result, premium pet products whether quality food or good medical care have become more popular because all pet parents want their animals to be with them for a long time,” said Duangrat of NEO.
Neena Neeracha who has four Thai Ridgeback dogs said she didn’t want to be a pet parent at first. Growing up among pets like turkeys and dogs, she loves canines. So when she could afford to have her own, she studied the options and chose her favorite pets. “I didn’t think of them as my kids at first but felt that as we had bought them, we should treat them well as a member of the family. They eat a raw diet which costs me about 5,000 baht a month.”
Pet parents like Pat and Neena are very careful when selecting their pets’ food. Gone are days when you just went to a store and asked for dog or cat food. Pet food has become more premium with tailored nutrition and food for animals with special needs or health conditions, as well as elderly pets. Demand for high-quality pet food is increasing and is being further fuelled by the rise in pet parenting. While human food sales have been growing by 5% on average, the pet food industry has been growing steadily at 10% annually since 2011.
According to the Thai Pet Product Industries Association, the market value of the pet business in Thailand was about US$ 107 billion in 2019, with pet food making up 45%, veterinary care 32%, and the remainder being spent on clothes, accessories, and toys.
Pet-related businesses are expected to continue their exceptional growth thanks to the pet parent trend. The pet pampering will continue and other sectors have also tried to cash in on the trend. At least two mobility applications – In Driver and Grab – offer “taxi” services for pet owners. A number of leading shopping malls have allocated space for pets and their parents while holiday-makers with pets can now enjoy more offers from leading and even five–star hotels in Bangkok and key destinations. And this is likely to expand even further as the number of pet moms and dads continues to grow.
By Veena Thoopkrajae