Census figures signal changes in Brazilians’ demographic and socioeconomic profiles
Mylene Lovato and one of her seven cats — Foto: Rogerio Vieira/Valor
In front of strangers, bulldog Jacques does what looks like Olympic leaps, cat Jovelina watches intently, and fish mates Peixoto and Aguinaldo wander to and fro. Each with its species characteristics, this small group is part of a Brazilian pet population that already exceeds 168 million individuals — one of the largest in the world.
Brazilian kitties exceed the sum of the four largest groups of soccer fans — soccer teams Flamengo, Corinthians, São Paulo, and Palmeiras have about 100 million fans. There are almost two pets in each of the country’s 90 million households; in short, they are practically “another Brazil” in the territory. The 2022 IBGE census counted 203 million inhabitants .
According to sources consulted by Valor, one can list a series of behavioral changes over the past few decades that help explain the increase in pets in Brazilian households, from the choice made by women and couples for a smaller number of children, through the natural aging process of the population, to other factors that lead to changes in lifestyle, such as living in smaller homes.
Despite the different assessments of the scenario, the common perception is that the relationship with nature — whether through the company of animals or by growing plants — is a necessity for human beings, especially for those who live in big cities, suffocated by the process of verticalization, which in many cases takes away even the possibility of seeing the horizon.
A survey conducted by IBGE in 2013 showed that the country had 132 million pets, according to the Pet Brazil Institute (IPB). The most recent data from the institute points to a population of 150 million in 2021. The institute hires statisticians and economists to make the calculation.
Euromonitor indicates that “pets” already totaled 168 million last year, according to the website of the Brazilian Association of the Pet Products Industry (ABINPET). These are the most recent data.
Consultation of the Ministry of Health archives indicated that between 2013 and 2021, 26 million children were born in the country. In the same period, the number of pets increased by at least 18 million — 69 pets per 100 children.
Dogs, cats, fish, and rodents, among other animals, are the targets of continuous adoption campaigns by NGOs and companies.
The love for pets drives a billionaire sector to the point of including representation in the National Congress that seeks to reduce the high tax burden on the chain. The industrial link alone projects revenues of almost R$50 billion in Brazil in 2023, 10.6% more than last year. Combining retail and services, the sector reached just over R$60 billion last year.
It is a business ecosystem that brings together all sizes of companies — from microentrepreneurs to those acquired by international funds — and goes beyond selling pet food, collars, clothes, toys, and shoes, among other animal paraphernalia. The sector today also sees the expansion of service offerings, a universe that includes caregivers, daycare, and even health insurance.
“Having a pet at home is an old habit. But we noticed that in the last ten or 15 years, that has increased in larger cities, such as São Paulo, as people chose to have fewer children,” said José Edson de França, President of ABINPET.
“There are several factors for such growth,” pondered Nelo Marraccini, Chairman of the Advisory Board of the IPB, which represents retail. “I avoid making the parallel with children because they are totally different responsibilities.”
“Families with fewer children are adopting or buying pets as companions for their children so they can have a healthier childhood,” he explained. In addition, the country’s elderly population is expanding, and many older folks are also opting for pets.
Mr. Marraccini also said he takes into account changes in religious behavior. He recalled that cats, for example, suffered much prejudice in the past because they were identified as evil animals, “a thing of the devil.” That has changed. “People had many beliefs,” he added. “In my family, it was believed that turtles helped improve asthma. So I had a pet turtle, which slept under my bed.”
Of the 168 million Brazilian pets, reports Euromonitor, there are 68 million dogs, 42 million birds, and 34 million cats. There are also 22 million ornamental fish and 2 million other animals, such as rabbits and rodents, not to mention “exotic” pets. The cat population rose by 6% between 2020 and 2021, according to the IPB census, helped by the pandemic, when pet adoption grew above average.
Fortunately for cats, the time of prejudice is behind us, and they have been winning more and more admirers in all age groups. This is because they do not demand as much attention as dogs and are generally smaller, which is better for people living in apartments.
The occupation of increasingly smaller spaces and verticalization are an adjustment to the process of reducing the size of home families — a trend that has been occurring for some decades.
The concept of “home family” for IBGE considers only the members of the same family that share a residence. It differs from concepts of family in other fields of study, such as anthropology or sociology, said Márcio Minamiguchi, IBGE’s manager of population estimates and projections.
According to him, the 2010 IBGE Census showed that year that, for the first time, the country did not have the predominance of families that until then had been the most common profile in society. The portrait of the couple with children represented less than 50% of the population. “And this family profile is less and less prevalent,” he said. He recalled that in 2000, couples with children accounted for 56.4% of the population.
Today, the average number of people per household is less than three, with a 34% growth in the number of households, to 90.7 million, according to the 2022 Census published in June of this year. “The current picture results from people’s life cycles and choices,” he concluded.
*Por Érica Polo — São Paulo
Source: Valor International