Pet owners’ perceptions of food quality

10 August 2020 – News

Owners’ concerns about the health of their companion animals are increasing with nutrition often seen as an important tool in managing their health and well-being.  Studies have shown that owners prefer to spend money on pet nutrition they perceive to be of a higher quality than on pet accessories.  Many of them search for information on optimum nutrition but, unfortunately, not all of the sources they turn to are reliable.

To better understand the decision-making process of owners when purchasing pet food, a questionnaire was distributed in Italian pet stores and trade fairs.  935 surveys were completed by cat and dog owners – mainly females (61,8%).  A social-demographic pet owner population analysis, together with queries about the purchasing habits of the surveyed pet owners, was also conducted.

Most of the participants bought both dry and wet food and the survey results showed that owners relied more on brand websites then on the advice of their veterinarian.

Some differences were noticed between cat/dog owners participating in the survey and between people of different ages.  Cat owners, for instance, appeared more concerned about the appearance and smell of the food, while dog owners concentrated more on the quantity of the meat and on the appearance of healthy stools.  Elderly respondents seemed to prioritize the price of food over its palatability, appearance and healthy stools.  Respondents younger than 35 years old were more interested in stool quality, the percentage of protein in the food and whether its packaging was recyclable.

The level of education was another element in owner choice.  For instance, a ‘cruelty-free’ claim was a key factor in the choice of food selected by participants with a degree but was not regarded as a priority by participants who had not achieved the same level of education.  The study also points to a direct correlation between pet food buying behaviors and human nutrition.  Just as in human food, the presence of ‘natural ingredients’ is perceived as the most important indicator of pet food quality.

Vinassa M. et al. Profiling Italian cat and dog owners’ perceptions of pet food quality traits. BMC Veterinary Research (2020) 16:131.