Why do counterfeiters target cats and dogs?

Ed Seaford

One reason; money. Lots of it.  

According to the American Pet Products Association, there are over 85 million cats and 77 million dogs in the 54 million households in America. It is estimated that the US alone will spend over $62.75 billion on their pets this year.

To put that in perspective, if the US pet industry was a country, it would be 73rd wealthiest in the world in terms of GDP, making it richer than countries such as Croatia ($49.2 billion), Jordan ($39.8 billion) and Iceland ($18.6 billion).

Some 38% of this expenditure is on pet food. Mars Petcare features 41 brands in total, including billion-dollar dog and cat brands such as Pedigree, Champion Petfoods, IAMS and Royal Canin – all of which are targeted by the fraudsters.

Champion Petfoods recently sent this message to its customers: “Unfortunately we have once again discovered that counterfeit ORIJEN Six Fish Cat food in 2.27 kg bags is being produced and sold in China. The counterfeit bags look very similar to our original bags.”

Champion advised its customers on how to spot the counterfeits:

  • Look for our two authenticity labels
  • The color and background pattern are different
  • Check the size of the kibble (ours is not uniform in shape or size)
  • There are spelling mistakes in the ingredient panel and in the copy
  • Check the Best Before stamp (the format is different).

The process of counterfeit pet supply is not overly complex. Often Chinese manufacturers advertise through online marketplaces such as Taobao or Alibaba, selling huge quantities of branded pet food and extremely low price points. 

Counterfeit cat food

The above image taken from Alibaba is an example of a seller advertising Royal Canin Indoor cat food at a minimum order of 300 bags, with a supply capability of one 20-foot container per week. Pet food purchased in bulk can be as cheap as a few dollars a bag.

Re-sellers or distributors looking for a cheaper option will buy these boxes, crates and, in some cases, containers of pet food to sell online through stores on Amazon and eBay at several hundred times mark-up.

The risk to pets

Imported counterfeit pet foods from countries such as China and Taiwan have proven harmful − even deadly. There’s no way of telling what exactly goes into the ingredients and given the very low price points, it is unlikely that they use the same ingredients, or quality standards, as the brand owner. A big issue with counterfeit pet food is the use the ingredient Melamine, which is used to make plastics, insulation, soundproofing material and cleaning products. In 2007, this killed many pets around the globe.

So be careful where you buy your cat and dog food. Use authorized and respected pet dealerships. If it seems too cheap to be true, it might very well be too cheap to be true.

If you wouldn’t eat counterfeit food, then nor should your pet.