Over the years, I’ve heard numerous references to becoming a “crazy cat lady,” or jokes that I need the sweatshirt reading, “cats are purrrrrrrfect.” And if owning a cat makes me crazy, then I’m in good company, because 45.3 million other U.S. households also own cats, with most owning more than one feline. In total, U.S. households own 95.6 million cats, compared to just 83.3 million dogs[i]. (And just to clarify–I only have one cat–but I still want the sweatshirt.)
The rise of the cat was evidenced at this year’s Global Pet Expo, where the new product showcase featured nearly as many new items for cats as for dogs, a striking change compared to previous years, when the new product section for cats was almost an afterthought.
So what’s driving this upward trend of cat ownership? One factor is the urbanization of the United States. As more people move from rural areas into cities, and often into smaller living spaces, cats become a more viable option for potential pet parents than dogs. It’s hard to imagine living with a medium-to-large size dog in a city apartment, but it’s easy to picture oneself with a small 8 lb. cat. Urbanization is also a main reason why we have seen an increase in small dog ownership.
And for potential pet parents–meaning the more than 90% of pet owners who consider their animals an integral part of the family–cats offer an added flexibility in terms of lifestyle, as cats can be fairly self-sufficient and independent. A cat does not come with the added responsibility of taking it out for a walk or to use the bathroom, but still provides the companionship and social support that pet owners are looking for.
Most recently, cat ownership has become more socially acceptable in pop culture. Taylor Swift is frequently seen walking about New York City with one of her cats, and she famously tweeted a photo of a cat scratch, saying her cat Meredith Grey cost her $40 million. Katy Perry, Kesha, and Ricky Gervais are other celebrities who are not bashful about owning cats. In late March, the NY Times ran an op-ed that portrayed female celeb cat owners as the new face of women’s independence.
For brands and marketers, an upward trend in cat ownership doesn’t mean that you automatically need to start creating cat-sized versions of your products. However, cat ownership is becoming an increasingly important aspect to consider when building a robust consumer profile of your target audience.
To learn more about Martino Flynn’s animal healthcare and pet marketing programs, please contact Rose Feor at 585.421.0100.
[i] MINTEL, America’s Pet Owners, September 2014