In South Africa, pets are more than just animals; they are considered part of the family. This profound bond has significantly shaped the preferences and behaviours of South African pet owners, leading to distinctive consumer trends in the pet industry. From the choice of pets to the booming market for pet services and insurance, understanding these preferences offers valuable consumer insights for businesses looking to tap into this growing market.

Types of Pets Owned in South Africa 

In South Africa, the pet ownership landscape showcases a variety of preferences, with dogs and cats leading as the most beloved companions due to their loyalty and adaptability to different living conditions. The pet market also sees a notable interest in smaller mammals, like rabbits and guinea pigs, along with birds and aquarium fish, each appealing to those seeking lower maintenance or space-efficient options. Even exotic pets like reptiles and spiders find their niche. 

Preferences in Pet Care

South African pet owners are becoming increasingly conscious of the health and wellness of their pets, partly due to ongoing pet humanisation trends. This is evident in the growing popularity of specialised diets catered to enhancing different aspects of pet health, including digestion, joint health, skin and coat health, as well as immune support.

Simultaneously, the uptake of commercially prepared pet food is on the rise, as they are designed to specifically cater to the varying nutritional needs of pets. Alongside this, there’s also a growing interest in natural diets and pet supplements to promote overall health and vitality. For example, products such as Nutritional yeast, Atlantic seaweed, and Bflora are recognising a surge in popularity due to their benefits for wellness, joint strength, and immune system support.

Commercial pet food manufacturers are responding to these trends by introducing targeted food products, such as those advantageous for animals with health conditions, nutritious on-the-go snack bars, and special diet foods for pets with digestive issues. Furthermore, they incorporate optimal levels of fats, proteins, and other essential nutrients to ensure the well-being of pets.

In terms of hygiene and grooming, pet owners show a preference for products and services that not only keep their pets clean and well-groomed but also enhance their health. This aligns with the overarching trend of humanisation of pets, where pet owners seek to provide their pets with care similar to the attention they would grant to any other family member.

This data-driven analysis indicates a gradual shift towards quality and specially formulated diets, meticulous grooming, and increased focus on maintaining pet health, thereby underscoring the evolving pet care preferences of South African pet owners.

The Rise of Pet Services

As pet ownership gains popularity and the human-pet relationship deepens in South Africa, there has been a remarkable surge in the demand for specialised pet services. In particular, dog walking, pet sitting, and pet accommodation services have experienced a noticeable growth.

Dog walking services, once perceived as a luxury, have become increasingly essential in urban areas where pet owners might lack time or suitable space for regular walks due to demanding work schedules or compact residency. These services ensure pets receive regular exercise, which is crucial for maintaining their physical and mental health.

Additionally, pet sitting services have evolved beyond a casual favour from a neighbour or friend. Professional pet sitters offer reliable, day-to-day care for pets, particularly when owners are away or unable to fulfil the regular care routine. These services are highly sought-after, providing a personal touch and peace of mind to owners that their pets are in good hands.

Lastly, pet accommodations including doggy daycares or pet hotels have emerged as a thriving sector. These establishments offer a safe and stimulating environment for pets during the day or overnight stays, while also ensuring their needs are catered to with professional care. 

Shopping Preferences in South Africa’s Pet Market

The South African pet market is robust, contributing significantly to the local economy with a valuation of over R8 billion annually, as elucidated by the BrandMapp insights. A substantial portion of this market is driven by the middle-income demographic, highlighting the integral role pets play in the fabric of South African families. Pet products encompass a wide array, from food and veterinary care to grooming services and accessories, reflecting a comprehensive investment in pet welfare.

Key Highlights from the BrandMapp Insights show:

  • Pet Foods Dominance: The majority of the pet market expenditure goes towards pet foods. This aligns with the growing awareness and concern for pet nutrition and health among South African pet owners.
  • Veterinary Care and Meds: Another fast-expanding sector is veterinary services and medications, indicative of the premium pet owners place on healthcare.
  • Market Variety: The market also thrives on pet grooming and boarding services, nutritional supplements, pet toys, beds, and a myriad of accessories.
  • Travel and Recreation: There’s a noted increase in demand for pet-friendly travel options and accommodations, underpinned by a broad shift in consumer perceptions towards more inclusive experiences for pets.

This brings us to the findings of our recent poll “What is Your Biggest Spend When It Comes to Your Pet?” Our respondents highlighted where their pet-related expenses predominantly lie, reinforcing the trends noted in the Bizcommunity article:

  • Pet food and nutrition: 77.3%
  • Veterinary care and medical expenses: 54.5%
  • Grooming services and products: 33.8%
  • Pet accessories and toys: 32.8%
  • Pet insurance premiums: 29.3%
  • Training classes/programs: 27.3%
  • Specialised equipment or gear (harnesses, crates): 18.2%
  • Pet-sitting services: 13.6%

The South African pet market is both vibrant and expanding, with pet owners not hesitating to invest heavily in their pets’ well-being. The diverse range of expenditures underscores the depth of the human-pet bond. 

Pet Insurance

Pet Insurance

The value of pet insurance in South Africa is continuously growing, reflecting an increasing number of pet owners’ desire to secure ample healthcare for their pets without unnecessary financial burden. The market’s competitive nature, evidenced by the number of service providers, highlights the growing popularity of pet insurance.

The average cost of pet insurance can vary vastly, guided by factors such as the type of policy, the pet’s age and breed, and any pre-existing medical conditions. Policies range from comprehensive coverage to accident-only plans, creating a price spectrum that accommodates different budgetary needs.

According to an article on MedicalAid, South Africa currently has five major pet insurance providers, offering a diverse range of products tailored to the unique needs of pet owners. These established institutions include Dotsure, OnePlan, MediPet, 1st for Women Pet Insurance, and OUTsurance Pet Insurance.

Enhancing understanding and awareness about pet insurance can ensure more South African consumers make informed decisions that best suit their financial situation and their pets’ well-being. Overall, the pet insurance industry promises a proactive approach to ensuring pet health is within reach for South African pet parents.


The South African pet industry, shaped by the increasing ownership and affection for pets, has shown significant growth over recent years. Key expenditure areas include pet food, veterinary care, grooming services, and pet accessories, underlining the seriousness with which South Africans approach pet care.

The upward trend in pet insurance uptake reflects a growing understanding of pets’ healthcare needs and financial risk management. With a range of providers offering various policies, the pet insurance landscape is poised for further expansion and development.

As the human-pet bond continues to deepen, it seems that the pet industry, particularly non-essential and luxury services, will witness a significant evolution. Future trends are likely to encompass an extended integration of pets into the family circle, with potential growth in pet-friendly travel, accommodations, recreational facilities, and tech-advanced pet care solutions.

South Africa’s pet industry is on the edge of innovative growth and diversification, giving both new entrepreneurs and established businesses a chance to explore, innovate, and grow their offerings to match the changing trends in the pet market.