The Pet Guide: Where Science Meets Love

Increasing numbers of pet owners seeking “peace of mind” drive the sales of pet technology.

Roberto Gonzalez

Where Science Meets Love | High-Tech Tools & Toys | Part Pet, All Tech | Horse Sense About Pets | Cover Pet Contest | Orlando Dogs Get Their Day in Court

Microchips, invisible fences and pet cams once reigned as the height of pet technology. But pet tech has evolved to address virtually every need, from health to entertainment to training. And if we measured our love for our pets by the growth in pet tech, it would be off the charts.

Ten percent of U.S. households—12 million homes—have some form of pet tech, says Steven Hummel, senior research analyst for the Consumer Technology Association. About 8 million additional households plan to buy pet tech in 2020, according to CTA’s 21st annual “Consumer Technology Ownership and Market Potential Study.” Interactive toys, automated feeders or fountains, and grooming devices lead the list of products of interest for U.S. pet owners.

“Pet safety and security are the two biggest concerns pet owners want tech to solve,’’ Hummel says. “In addition, pet owners would like pet tech to ensure their pets do not feel lonely while they’re gone. Taken as a whole, peace of mind for the pet owner is the biggest driver for future pet tech purchases.”

According to another CTA report, pet owners look for simplicity, durability, reliability and convenience in pet tech. Dog owners are most concerned with training, whereas cat owners—who hold no illusions about training their pets—are more concerned with nutrition. Cat owners also rely more on pet tech than dog owners. Prior pet owners are more likely to use pet tech than first-time owners—proof that owners themselves can be trained.

Many pet owners, despite their reliance on their own Fitbits or Apple Watches, miss out on some of the biggest benefits of pet tech, however. Although they indicate that “ensuring the well-being of their pets is of paramount importance, it’s unfortunate that pet owners are least aware of the various types of products which do just that,” Hummel shares. “Less than one-fifth of pet owners have heard of devices that monitor a pet’s health and track their fitness, for example. However, owners of these devices are among the most satisfied and most likely to recommend them to others.” Health-specific devices “have the greatest growth potential in the pet tech category,” he adds.

CTA projects pet tech sales to increase 63 percent in 2019, resulting in almost $378 million in revenue.

Many popular pet products—pet doors, self-cleaning litter boxes and grooming devices, for instance—emphasize convenience. But Hummel expects to see a move toward “more home-integrated, smart pet tech that is less reliant on humans.” Algorithms and artificial intelligence will adapt to pets’ personalities and quirks to meet their needs when owners can’t be with them.

According to the American Pet Products Association, Americans spent nearly $70 billion on their pets in 2017. Hummel expects pet tech, which will be showcased at the CES 2020 consumer technology show in Las Vegas, to draw a growing portion of the lucrative pet market. “As awareness of this technology grows and pet owners better understand all the benefits tech can deliver to their furry loved ones, the potential for this category will continue to climb,” he says.

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