LOS ANGELES — Americans spent nearly $56 billion on their pets in 2013, and estimates for this year are nearly $59 billion.
Since the American Pet Products Association started keeping track of spending in 1996, the industry has never had a losing year.
If you follow the money, you find the bulk of it goes to the dogs and cats.
Divide the animals that are called pets in this country into two groups: There are 178.9 million pet dogs and cats and 217.2 million birds, horses, freshwater fish, saltwater fish, reptiles and small animals.
1. Dogs and cats out-eat, out-dress, outweigh, outgrow and outlast the second group (so many fish skew the comparison). They get more vet time and definitely snare the lion's share of training, grooming, boarding and pet-sitting. The services category showed the largest percentage of growth in pet spending last year at 6.1 percent.
2. Pet insurance is included in the veterinary-care category of pet spending. There is an estimated $650 million being spent on policies now, and it is expected to top $870 million next year.
3. Manufacturers and businesses are staying up late to come up with new products like interactive and innovative toys and new services like pet-friendly hotels, restaurants and airlines. Cats make good hotel guests, but they are usually outnumbered at restaurants and in the air.
4. The biggest category, food, is expected to reach an all-time high with nearly $23 million in sales estimated for this year. However, specific kinds of food are in demand — allergy-free, gluten-free, grain-free or calorie-free. Or human consumers want the best for their pets — natural, organic, age-specific or breed-specific, not to mention baked, flaked, raw, wet, dry, frozen or freeze-dried.
5. The only spending area expected to see a decline this year is live animal sales. The sale of dogs and cats by breeders and adoptions at shelters and rescues around the country are expected to continue strong. But sales of the rest of the animals went down last year, and forecasts expect them to drop another 2 percent this year.