According to the American Pet Products Assn., pet owners spent $18.28 billion on pet food alone in 2010, up almost a billion dollars over the previous year. About 62 percent of U.S. households own a pet, some 71.4 million homes, reports the Lempert Report. Increased awareness of what's in our food and a more stringent label reading population has translated to the pet food market including higher sales of premium, organic, natural and locally sourced brands.According to an exclusive Supermarket Guru consumer panel, 95 percent of those surveyed have a dog or cat, and 76 percent feed it store bought natural, organic or gourmet pet food. Twenty-four percent serve their pet a mixture of people and pet food, while merely 21 percent reach for generic pet food. Forty-three percent purchase their pets food at a specialty pet store while less than a third buy pet food while shopping for groceries at the local supermarket.Over half of respondents say they sometimes feed their pet from the table, while 35 percent say they never do. A third feed their pet people food and say they do it for a change, to stimulate the pet. Twenty-three percent say their pet likes people food more, and 18 percent say it's nutritionally superior. Another 18 percent just don't want their foods to go to waste. Perhaps that's partly why a study by the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention and Banfield Pet Hospital, the nation's largest general veterinary practice, released in mid March indicated that one-fifth of dogs and cats are 30 percent above their normal weight, putting them in the obese category, and 19 percent say their pet is overweight.
A word of warning for pet owners. According to the ASPCA pets should never eat: chocolate, coffee, caffeine, avocado, macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, yeast dough, undercooked or raw meats, eggs or bones, the sweetener xylitol, onions, garlic, chives, milk, salt, and never any alcohol - even at those summertime BBQs.