MINNEAPOLIS — Dogs have long held the title of “man’s best friend” as the most popular pet owned by consumers but shifting trends have provided felines with their moment in the spotlight. According to Cargill, 59% of pet parents own a cat and one-third of this group owns more than one. 

These consumers were the focus of Cargill’s latest Cat Parent Survey, which compiles data from 1,068 cat owners throughout four countries: the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany. With cat ownership rising comes increased demand for more cat food, driving growth for this space. According to Euromonitor Passport Data, the cat food segment is estimated to reach $68.7 billion in global retail revenue by 2028.

“The pet food market has traditionally revolved around dogs, but with the number of cat-loving households rapidly on the rise, it’s clear that cats are having a moment — and brands are taking notice,” said Chad Wethal, senior global marketing manager of pet and lifestyle for Cargill’s Animal Nutrition business. “A noticeable gap exists between what is currently on the market and what cat parents are looking for, opening the space for new solutions like postbiotics that can deliver the science-backed health benefits they are seeking.”

Many cat-centric brands have entered the market, aiming to address this “noticeable gap” in the cat nutrition space. In fact, from 2020 to 2022 cat food innovation witnessed a 27% compound annual growth rate, according to Innova Market Insights. The space experienced a sharp spike in new product launches particularly in 2023, outpacing innovation in the dog space. Despite this significant innovation, Cargill found that only 40% of participants surveyed are satisfied with the current cat food offerings on the market, demonstrating opportunities for more product innovation.

Current cat food innovations are targeting specific health benefits, with half of new products from 2020 to 2023 touting proactive health claims. The most popular claims homed in on digestive and gut health, skin health, immune health, Omega 3s and oral health. 

Regarding cat parents’ purchasing behaviors, the survey found that nearly 9 in 10 purchase dry formats for their felines, with two-thirds also purchasing canned foods and one-half purchasing wet foods in pouches, speaking to a trend in combination feeding.

When examining cat food products, cat owners are focusing on what’s inside the formulas, specifically analyzing ingredients. According to the survey, 65% focus on ingredient quality, 50% focus on price and 45% focus on the specific format of the food. 

Additionally, the top health concerns for consumers regarding their cat’s health include vomiting (85%), immune strength (78%), anxiety (72%) and dental issues (67%). According to Cargill’s survey, nearly 75% of cat parents seek foods that help address these specific health challenges, a long-established trend in the overall pet food industry. Fifty percent of survey participants are seeking cat foods touting gut health benefits, 37% are seeking immune health, 32% are seeking skin and coat, 22% are seeking weight control, and 20% are seeking formulas offering vitality and energy benefits. 

With ingredient quality becoming more important, these consumers are also looking for a variety of on-pack ingredient attributes. According to the survey, the most important ingredient attributes include natural (72%), sourcing claims (69%), veterinarian-recommended (66%), scientifically proven in cats (64%), sustainably sourced (55%), organic (47%) and scientifically proven (41%). 

Regarding scientifically proven, scientific substantiation is more important to cat owners compared to other pet owners. Eighty-three percent of these science-minded consumers are seeking evidence from multiple studies. Additionally, 76% of those surveyed desire pet-specific research, 76% also want evidence from in-home studies, 69% want evidence from university-based research, and 65% desire evidence from their specific region. 

With this in mind, Cargill aims to be at the forefront of cat parents’ concerns, offering cat food processors nutritional expertise and quality, functional ingredients. For example, the company’s TruMune postbiotics supports gut, microbiome and immune health, while also providing additional palatability. 

“Our Cargill Cat Parent Survey and new Feline Postbiotic Clinical Research are a testament to Cargill’s commitment to understanding the unique needs of dogs and cats and the role their gut plays in supporting lifetime health and wellness,” Wethal said. “This exciting new research builds on an already strong foundation of pet-specific research showing that Cargill’s postbiotics help pets live more healthy and active days. It means more innovation possibilities for pet food brands and peace of mind for pet parents.”

Read more from Cargill’s Cat Parent Survey

Keep up with the latest pet food trends on our Trends page.