By Saquib Pathan*

In 2019, the pet sector in India expanded at the rate of 19 percent and crossed the mark of INR 4.1 billion. India is witnessing a tremendous change in the cat sector owing to its young demography, urbanisation and the rising disposable income in the middle class. There is an increased inclination of people towards keeping cats, given the urban scenario of the nuclear family where a pet is seen as completing the family or making the house a home. Cats lower anxiety levels and reduce stress in today’s hectic work schedules. Hinduism has many animal deities which are worshipped on a large scale. The Cat Goddess, Shashti is the deity of vegetation and reproduction and is believed to bestow children and assist during childbirth. Barren women desiring to conceive and mothers seeking the protection of their children worship Shashti and request her blessings and aid.

Even the Ramayana and the Mahabharata reiterate the involvement of cats with the human society. Superstitions are quite prevalent in our society even today, however the perception around the cats is changing steadily. Earlier cats were considered as a bad omen. As our cities grow, cats have become an ideal pet.

Space is a huge concern in the metropolitan cities and this makes cats convenient pets as they require less space. In comparison to bigger animals like dogs, cats don’t require walks and human attention. Cats are much more suited for an apartment than dogs. Cats provide a sense of companionship in this fast paced world. Personally, when I return home after a long day at work, I look forward to spending time with my cats as they are great stress busters.

There are around 5.5 million domestic cats in India. Feline Club of India (FCI) has a database of more than 21,000 cats registered across India.

Cat Food The increase in the feline population has brought about a change in the market as well, with an increasing the number of products catering to cats’ well-being being introduced in the Indian pet food market which is chiefly dominated by dog products. The cat food market alone was worth INR 663 million in 2013 and has risen to INR 1320 million in 2019 with a record growth of 95.8 percent. This segment is estimated to rise to INR 2590 million by 2024. Despite these statistics, the percentage of cats being fed proper cat food is only 1.2 percent, with the rest being fed home-made cat food. Thus, the cat segment presents enormous potential for growth. Cat owners need to be made aware of the importance of proper nutrition in cats’ overall health, activeness, and fur and skin condition. This will help them make the decision of switching to scientifically prepared cat food which perfectly suits their particular nutritional requirements. People are also gaining awareness about cat care which is evidenced by the increased demand for cat products like litter box, litter sand and cat toys.

Cat Litter Cat litter holds massive potential for growth as its use is on the rise amongst urban consumers. However, it is still primarily price-driven as consumers tend to be on the lookout for brands that offer large quantities of cat litter at lower prices. Many cat owners in India still recycle and reuse cat litter, restricting sales. Despite this fact, the potential for greater penetration and usage is high. The cat litter segment possesses an overall sales volume of INR 2.6 million, which rose to INR 4.5 million in 2019 with an overall growth of 42 percent and is estimated to reach INR 6.1 million in 2024. While cat litter is still essentially a commodity item, the focus is to encourage people to trade up from not using cat litter to buying it more regularly. Owing to the small but rising cat ownership rate in the country, there is colossal potential for companies to introduce higher margin cat litter products. Some of the latest inventions include low odour, less sticky, faster clumping and lightweight formulations.

Healthcare and Dietary Supplements Cat healthcare and dietary supplements division is gaining prominence as it helps extend life expectancy of felines. The pet humanisation trend along with rising awareness about health and wellness has soared the sales for pet dietary supplements. Pet owners are increasingly becoming interested in skin supplements and products infused with vitamins as well as Omega-3 and Omega-6 amino acids that are good for the wellbeing of their cats. Owners progressively monitor their cats’ health through regular visits to veterinary clinics and take advice on adopting the correct diet for their cats to prolong their healthy lifespan. Dietary supplements can improve the quality of life and extend life expectancy, especially those that target particular health problems such as gut health, liver and bone strength. They can also help to develop their immune systems against the most common ailments.

Cat Accessories Cosmetic products and cat accessories such as toys and apparel are gaining significance and are becoming more widely available via online platforms such as Amazon and Flipkart.

Veterinary Clinics Veterinary clinics remain the most important channel for sales of pet products, especially cat healthcare and dietary supplements. Younger generations are fully embracing pets as part of their family. They also regularly take their cats to veterinary clinics to have them examined and take advice on healthcare and dietary needs. Awareness regarding feline diseases and infections has increased among the vets with the growing number of cats visiting their clinics. The focus in the near future should be on establishing specialised clinics, which would cater to the critical and specific health related aspects of the cat.

Technology Driven Products Leveraging on technology can help industry players boost sales of other cat products as many such devices help take care of cats. Examples of smart cat products include GPS-enabled tags, leashes and smart feeding machines as well as cameras that help the pet owner to connect with their pets when they are away from home.

Cat Grooming and Spas The rise in demand of cat grooming has furnished a huge scope to manufacturers to explore new opportunities in the field of grooming products and services.

Many pet spas and salons have opened across India in response to growing interest in pet grooming among pet owners. Much of this stems from the ongoing pet humanisation trend, where pets are treated as part of the family.

Conclusion A large number of people buy specific breeds as status symbols, and want their cats to look the best. Leading manufacturers of cat food, in association with animal welfare organisations like The Feline Club of India, sponsor and organise cat shows, exhibitions and similar events in the country’s major cities, where all the latest pet products are showcased. Overall, the cat grooming products category is expected to continue performing well during the forecast period as cat owners are likely to be increasingly influenced by Western culture.

There is increasing awareness among cat parents owing to the efforts of the Feline Club of India which regularly conducts educational seminars and conventions on cat health, management, nutrition and diseases by prominent experts from around the world such as Allan Raymond (Australia), Douglas Myers (USA), Dr. Martina Naceradska (Czech Republic), Dr. Anthony Zambeli (South Africa), Adilah Roose (Malaysia).

* Saquib Pathan is the President and Founder Member of the Feline Club of India (FCI).