Pet businesses, including pet clinics, food and beauty shops, have continued double-digit growth for the past five years in Korea, and is projected to reach 1.8 trillion won ($1.65 billion) this year, according to industry sources.
The market for pets, which hit 1 trillion won in 2000 for the first time is one of few industries achieving double-digit growth regardless of the economic conditions.
"Considering the speed of growth, the pet businesses are forecast to triple to 6 trillion won by 2020 as the Nonghyup Economic Research Institute projected in 2013," an industry insider said.
More than 2 in 10 households in Korea had a pet as of 2013, a Gallup survey found.
Behind the explosive pet market growth is the rapid rise in the number of one-person households here, according to industry watchers.
Statistics Korea found that single-person households made up a record high of 25 per cent of households last year. The state-run agency said the proportion was expected to grow to 27.1 per cent this year as the number of single-person households is forecast to exceed 5 million by the end of this year.
By 2020, about 6 million households, or 32 per cent, are projected to be composed of one person.
"A growing number of singles are raising a pet to alleviate their loneliness which they consider as a family member," an official from Nestle Purina said.
Deepening emotional attachments of owners to their pets have led to diversification and sophistication in pet businesses, ranging from pet beauty shops to pet cafes and funeral services.
Riding on the growth potential, local retail giants have jumped into the pet food market, once led by multinational players like Nestle.
CJ CheilJedang, the nation's largest food brand, entered the pet food market in 2013.
Dongwon F&B and Sajo Industries, both midsize Korean food makers, launched a cat food brand last year.
"More pet market consumers are seeking upscale services and products as they consider their pets as family members and are willing to open their wallets for them," said Song Hyun-min of Lotte Department Store.