THE CURRENT economic climate is proving to be tough for pet-related businesses and pet owners.
While some pet businesses are struggling to stay afloat with a decline in profits, pet owners are also feeling the pinch as keeping pets is set to get even more expensive since most of their necessities are imported.
ABC Pets Sdn Bhd manager Brian Wong said that all the pet food sold at his shop is imported from countries like the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, China and Taiwan.
“There are no local companies producing quality pet food. Now with the steep decline of our ringgit, prices are going up.
“By the end of this month, there will be another increase in prices for pet necessities because our suppliers have already faxed us the price list saying so.
“We have no choice but to do the same, or else we can’t cope at all,” he said.
Wong lamented that business had already been slowing down since the goods and services tax (GST) came into effect this April, pointing out that there had already been an obvious drop in his profits by 20% to 30% then.
“We did an evaluation of our sales every month since April, and what used to be consistent is now in free fall as our turnover at the end of every month is unpredictable.
“With fewer people coming in, our sales of animals like puppies, kittens, birds and hamsters, have dropped at least 50%.
“Times are tough, and people need to think twice or thrice before spending on their own daily necessities, let alone on buying or caring for pets,” he said.
Wong also said he has never experienced such poor business before in his 15 years in the pet business.
“It wasn’t this bad during the economic crisis in 1997. This time, it’s worse.
“If things don’t turn around soon, I am very scared for the future of pet businesses in Malaysia,” he said.
I Pet Centre sales manager Puan Chee Wai also said his suppliers sent him a notice on an impending price increase for pet necessities at the end of this month.
“I usually order my stocks from Thailand. The Thai currency, which used to be 10 baht to RM1, is getting stronger now and is 8 baht to RM1.
“Naturally, I expected this to happen when the ringgit declined so sharply this year,” he said.
As his business does meet the threshold of RM500,000 in annual sales for mandatory GST registration, Puan said for now, he can still cope with business conditions thanks to his regular customers.
“I’m okay with being unable to claim GST back from my customers for now.
“I’m just taking in less stock. I’ve even completely cut out a variety of pet toys because they were getting too expensive,” he said.
Pet owners such as lecturer Yeoh Shen-Hoei said prices for pet necessities have gone up about 20% since he got his first cat in 2009.
“It does get easier as they mature. Kittens are expensive; mature cats cost less to maintain because their food and supplements are not as expensive.
“But medication and vaccinations are where it gets costlier. A kitten that needs its essential shots will set you back RM200 to RM300 at least for the first three months.
“Cat vaccinations will cost about RM50 per cat per year now. It used to be RM30,” said the 36-year-old.
Yeoh, who owns two cats, pointed out that he does not need to spend on cat litter, as he has toilet-trained his cats.
“Cat litter might cost other owners more money because it’s about RM30 a month for a bag of litter.
“My cats just poop and pee in the toilet, and all I have to do is flush,” he said.
Yeoh also said leaving his cats at pet hotels when his family goes on a holiday is more expensive now.
It used to cost RM15 per day per cat; it is now about RM25.
“While I grumble about rising costs, I have no choice but to fork out the money.
“Pets are family, so once you pick them up, you are responsible for them,” he said, adding that cats are a minimum commitment of 15 years.
Marketing executive Lydia Sim, 40, is spending at least RM400 a month on her three dogs now, compared with RM250 a month previously.
“With GST on pet food and our weak ringgit, everything is getting more and more expensive.
“Canned food, which used to cost RM9 is now RM10.50 each. I buy at least 15 cans a month for my dogs, in addition to the RM170 that I’m already spending on their other pet food.
“I also buy dog treats, which cost RM25 now when it used to be RM20. Without the treats, it’s hard to get them back into their cages when I need them to,” she said.
Sim, who also cooks chicken and eggs for her dogs, is thinking of feeding them less meat and eggs, and giving them more canned food and dog biscuits instead to cope with rising costs.
Similarly, media practitioner Nor Sadrina Ismail is trying to cut down on cat litter and food to save money. The 25-year-old lives with 10 cats.
“My mum and I used to feed them whenever we noticed their food bowls were empty, but now we only feed them twice a day. The cat litter, which we used to place in four different locations around the house, has been reduced to three now so we can save a bit,” she said, adding that she is now spending at least RM300 a month on her cats compared to RM200 previously.
Nor Sadrina said if things get worse, she might have to give some of the cats away as she can’t afford to look after so many anymore.
M. Priyadashini used to cook for her dog when it was younger. But now that it has grown, she has to pay for expensive dog food to ensure it gets the right nutrients.
“So I’m spending around RM310 a month on my dog’s food and treats. It’s difficult, but I think it’s okay because my dog is like a son to me,” said the 24-year-old teacher.
“I cope by cutting down on its grooming expenses. My dog is a Golden Retriever so its fur can grow quite long if left unattended.
“I will still send it to the groomer, just less frequently now,” she said.