Kittens in a BedIf you love your pets as much as me, I know that you treat them like family.

That means nothing but the highest quality food, toys, and care for them regardless of the cost. You know they deserve it! It turns out that people like you and me are not alone in our love for pets, and our willingness to spend our hard earned dollars on them. Despite the economy, the pet industry continues to show resilience and demonstrates America’s great love for our pets.

The pet industry continues to show resilience despite the economic crisis: Spending increased 6.2 percent in 2010, and is expected to grow another 5.1 percent this year to top $50 billion, according to a comprehensive review of spending data by the American Pet Products Association (Greenwich, Conn.).

“Pet owners are searching for more ways to enhance their pets’ lives with products and services similar to those that humans enjoy,” said Bob Vetere, president of APPA. “And the industry has answered that call with a more diverse array of offerings than ever.”

In fact, year-over-year spending increased in every pet-related category except live animal purchases.

Pet food remains the largest category, up 6.8 percent in 2010 and accounting for more than $18 billion in sales. However, APPA expects to see far less growth in this category this year.

The veterinary care category continued to show the greatest growth, up 8.1 percent in 2010.

Supplies and over-the-counter medications showed steady although slower-than-anticipated growth: The category increased 5 percent in 2010.

Pet-related services—a category that has more than doubled in the past decade—increased 4.5 percent. Its growth is fueled by high-end grooming salons, luxury pet hotels and specialized day care centers. Affluent pet owners travel with their pets when possible—but like to pamper and spoil them when it’s not possible.

“The pet industry continues to demonstrate similarities to other major industries, particularly the baby industry, in that more and more products are introduced each year in response to consumer demand. It seems many pet owners have accepted that their pets are like children and they enjoy indulging their pet more than ever. It is easier for pet owners to spend on their pets than other relationships in their lives because pets have no expectations,” Vetere said.Papillon Close-up

APPA sees pet insurance, included in veterinary care figures, as a huge area for potential growth. Improved policies that cover more conditions, even at increased premiums, may make pet insurance more attractive for pet owners and more lucrative for insurance carriers and veterinary hospitals.

“An ever-present interest in technology, increased efforts in research for pet health care and a steady interest from entrepreneurs and investors in the pet industry is going to translate into tremendous growth,” Vetere said. “Pet owners are hungry for the next big thing, and will continue to shower their pets with purchases intended to make life easier for pets and their owners.” [June 2011 PET AGE]

Credit: Pet Spending: $50 billion in 2011 by