Published July 10, 2006

Animal Business Opportunities: Small Businesses for Animal Lovers

Pets are big business. People spend so much money on their pets each year. Pets are a trusted friend and a part of the family and sometimes people feel even closer to their pets than to people because they are so loyal. With the exception of my cat, pets seem to generally regard their owner quite highly and love to spend time with them.

The businesses you read about here are not your average pet store. With the Internet and classified ads and "big box" stores, I'm not convinced that "mom and pop" pet stores have a huge future. However, I think pets are a growing business and if you love pets, maybe you want to start one of these businesses. (If you're not a pet lover, you'll likely look at this list and wonder what is going on in the world.)

1. Animal training. Dog training is fairly common but there is room for cat training. I just recently spoke to (believe it or not) a man who use to make a successful living as a horse whisperer. It's not just in the movies.

2. Pet housing. Once, pet housing was just a kennel: when you went away, you brought your dog to a kennel and they kept it in a small cage with an occasional walk; probably more like doggy prison. But pet housing is taking a new approach with ideas like pet "B n' Bs" (which stand for Bed and Breakfast in the people world but Bed and Bone in the dog world). More attention and love is paid to the dog so traveling pet owners don't have to feel guilty by putting their dog in a kennel.

3. Pet wellness. Once, people would pop a can of Purina Dog Chow into their cart as they walked around the grocery store. Today, pet wellness is a growing industry, gaining ground like the huge people-based "nutraceutical" industry. In increasing amounts you can get pet-friendly herbal supplements to help your dog's hair shine or your cat's attitude to improve. I predict this will be one of the biggest growth opportunities in years to come.

4. Pet spa. Spot doesn't just get a haircut anymore, spot needs a manicure and pedicure and a soothing massage. Pet spas, which may seem ridiculous to non-pet-lovers can be a real opportunity for pet lovers to pamper their pets with loving care.

5. Pet-friendly business. Most businesses have fairly strict rules about "no pets allowed" in the store. But a pet friendly business, like a cafe where dog lovers can go with their dogs to buy coffee (and get a free dish of water for the pooch) can attract a niche of visitors who are as loyal to the business as they are to their animal friends.

In years to comes, animals will play an increasingly large role as an additional member of the family. Animals provide the companionship that people crave and loyalty that is rare. Because of that, people want to give back to their pets just as they would want to do nice things for their close family and friends. If you like animals - and business - choose one of these businesses or combine a couple to create a spot for loyal animal lovers to frequent.