18 Ideas for Starting a Pet Business
Turn your love of animals into a thriving small business
Do you love pets? Are you looking for a small business opportunity? With the pet industry growing rapidly, starting a pet business can be very profitable. More and more people are willing to put their money where their hearts are. Maybe you could be one of them?
A Growing Opportunity
According to the American Pet Products Association:
- 67% of U.S. households own at least one pet.
- Approximately 89.7 million dogs, 94.2 million cats, and 139.3 million freshwater fish were owned in the United States in 2017-2018 (the three largest categories of pets).
- Americans spent $72.56 billion on their pets in 2018, up from $69.51 billion in 2017. This number has been rising steadily since 1994.
- The pet services segment, including grooming, boarding, pet hotels, pet sitting, day care and other services, has been the fastest-growing category; Americans spent $6.11 billion on pet services in 2018 and this figure is expected to rise to over 6$.31 billion in 2019.
In Canada, households spent $8.85 billion on pets in 2018, according to Statistics Canada. Another study showed that around 41% of households have at least one dog, and 38% of households own at least one cat. Internationally, China is experiencing compound annual growth rates in pet ownership of more than 7%.
So how might you get into the pet business? This article presents 18 pet business ideas that might appeal to you.
The ideas below range from pet-based products to providing pet services that involve working with animals, but you won't find any pet business ideas on the list that involve the retail breeding and selling of animals. Both the American and Canadian Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are opposed to this practice.
Pet sitting makes the top of the list because there's nearly a universal need for it and it's a very flexible business. For instance, if you live in a suitable place out of town, you can run a pet sitting business as a kennel operation with people bringing their pets to you and dropping them off.
But you can also go to people’s homes and look after their pets' needs. Or you can combine a pet-sitting business with a house-sitting business and look after everything while your customers are away. Retirees, in particular, tend to travel regularly, making pet and house sitting a popular business for catering to seniors.
This is a riff on the pet-sitting business idea, where you have a facility set up where dogs and cats can be dropped off and looked after while their owners are gone. The main challenge with this model is zoning. You may not be able to do it where you are, so be sure you check your local bylaws and zoning restrictions first.
Doggie Day Care
Another pet business idea on the same theme, the doggie day care has very similar pros and cons. There is an increasing need for this kind of pet service as more working people are discovering that dogs left alone day after day while the owner works can bark and be destructive. On the downside, though, you may find this a difficult business to locate because of zoning regulations and municipal bylaws.
If you can offer dog obedience training—and it well—you can probably write your own ticket. There are an awful lot of people out there who don't have enough time or skill (or either one) to train a dog properly but for some reason, they've bought one anyway and now need someone to train it. The venue is not necessarily a problem; facilities to run dog training classes can be rented.
If you're a skilled animal trainer and have an interest in media, a pet business specializing in training animals for film and TV may be for you. Remember Morris the cat? Lobo? Moose, the Jack Russell Terrier on the TV show Frasier? Some animals become huge stars. Hollywood Paws (based in Los Angeles) is an example of a business that trains animals and their owners to work in the entertainment industry.
Are you the kind of person who enjoys solving puzzles? Maybe you've even thought of being a detective at some point. If so, you might put your sleuthing skills to work running a pet-finding business. You can help distraught pet owners get their loved ones back and make money while you're at it. Pure Gold Pet Trackers is one example of a business that uses the tracking skills of Golden Retrievers to find lost pets.
Another dog-related service that busy pet owners need is to have their dogs walked regularly. The key to success with this pet business idea is time management. You'd definitely want to have enough clients in close proximity so you could take a number of dogs out for a walk at once, rather than cycling through them one at a time.
Dog grooming is a popular pet business, since grooming is one of those chores of dog ownership that many would rather pay someone else to do than do themselves. Another reason for its popularity is that, like pet sitting, it's quite a flexible business concept. You could operate a dog grooming business as a mobile service or run it out of a retail shop, for example.
While we're on the subject of chores related to dog ownership that people would rather avoid, don't forget poop scooping. This involves visiting customers' properties on a weekly or monthly basis and collecting and disposing of dog feces.
Yes, it's dirty, messy work, but so are lots of things that people do to make money. On the plus side, there's no special training or equipment needed and you can easily operate this business from home.
Having bathed dogs before, I can definitely see why some people don't want to do this in their own homes. Wet and messy only begins to describe it. A dog-bathing business could be operated as a standalone business or as an adjunct to a pet-grooming business. Or you could run this as a do-it-yourself business, where all you provide are the facilities and the equipment.
Pet Massage Therapy
So far I've written about pet services related to pets' basic needs. But there's a whole growing sector of pet businesses related to their not-so-basic needs, as pet owners look for more ways to help their pets lead longer and healthier lives. Pet massage services are one of these niche markets that seem to be growing. I’ve also seen pet businesses offering acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and even psychotherapy. In many of these fields, there is specific pet-related training required to become a practitioner.
And speaking of upscale pet services, what about restaurants devoted to dogs? No, not just restaurants that allow you to bring dogs with you, but restaurants where the dogs are the diners. Is this a pet business that would be allowed where you are? You'd definitely need to check both health regulations and municipal bylaws before moving forward.
Just as with the food they put into their own bodies, pet owners have become increasingly concerned about the quality of the food their pets eat. People are continually on the lookout for pet foods that they feel have additional health benefits. There are basically two approaches to pet food businesses: You can either produce the pet food yourself or become a distributor for a particular type of food. Dog bakeries, homemade healthy dog treats, raw foods, gourmet foods—any of these could be extremely lucrative if the pets (and the owners) like what's on offer.
Pets or children? The difference between them has blurred considerably in the eyes of many pet owners. Many dog owners like to dress up their pets, which creates all kinds of pet business opportunities to supply dogs with fashionable, good-looking gear. (Cat owners know that they'll be lucky to get away with putting a collar, let alone anything else, on little Tiger, so the opportunities for creating and selling cat gear are much more limited.) Once again, you can create the couture yourself or distribute someone else's.
All kinds of pets need supplies and gear, and pet owners seem to like the convenience of being able to "one-stop shop". This kind of pet business seems to be dominated by franchises, but it is still possible to start your own company from scratch. Such a business could also supply pet-related services as well, such as dog grooming. Picture an in-house "dog spa," for example, surrounded by products for sale.
The key to success for many small businesses is to find and fill a niche market. Pet-business marketing is an example of this. There are so many pet businesses now that it's possible to run a successful marketing business that caters to the needs of pet-business owners exclusively. FWV Fetching, for instance, provides everything from blogging placement and social media to trade show campaigns exclusively for pet businesses. If you have the marketing expertise, pet marketing might be the business you’ve been looking for.
If you have artistic talent and love animals, you might start a business painting portraits of people's pets. Along these same lines, you might start a pet photography business if that's where your talents lie. You'll probably need a lot of patience during the sittings required when you're working to portray an animal, though. Be that as it may, as people give their pets greater importance in their lives, they seem to have an increasing need to commemorate them.
Being a veterinarian is the original pet business. And nowadays, veterinarians are able to make good livings specializing in treating pets of all kinds. The downside is that this is a business that requires years of training and, like being a human doctor, has strict accreditation and licensing requirements.
Is a Pet Business the Right Business for You?
To run a successful pet business, you have to love and be knowledgeable about the animals you're going to work with, and, as you see from the descriptions of the businesses above, that can sometimes involve years of specialized training.
But you also have to bear in mind that even that isn't enough. A pet business is just like any other small business; the key to success is choosing the right business for the right time and place. You may be a wonderful dog groomer, but if you live in a small town and there are already three dog grooming businesses operating there, you're going to have a tough time of it.
Before you start a pet business, do the research and work through a business plan, just as you would for any new business venture. The planning process is an important step in determining if your pet business idea will be a success.
American Pet Products Association. "Pet Industry Market Size & Ownership Statistics," Accessed Dec. 5, 2019.
Statistics Canada. "Detailed household final consumption expenditure, provincial and territorial, annual," Accessed Dec. 5, 2019.
Kynetec and the Canadian Animal Health Institute. "Canadian Pet Population, Changes from 2016 to 2018," Accessed on Dec. 5, 2019.
Euromonitor International. Cited in China Pet Market, "China Pet population and ownership 2019 update," Accessed Dec. 5, 2019.