An Authored article by Isha Barve and Moulika Mandal
Move over humans, furry friends are taking over as the new family members! With their unconditional love and ability to alleviate anxiety and depression, pets have become more than just companions to their owners, resulting in a significant surge in the number of pets and animals in households. In 2022, Amazon had sales of pet care products of around 23.3 billion U.S. dollars worldwide, predicted to surpass 39 billion dollars by 2027. The pandemic-induced lockdowns of 2020 only added fuel to this trend as people turned to their furry friends for comfort and companionship. The rise of new pet care businesses and products, such as pet spas, hotels, touch boards, and more, only solidifies the fact that pet owners are willing to go the extra mile for their furry friends. Pet humanization is taking the world by storm, with pet owners treating their furry friends like humans, dressing them up in the latest fashion, and decking them out with fancy accessories and technologies. They put in the same conscious thought and planning into caring for their pets as they would for a human baby, cooking nutritious and hygienic meals for their pets, much like new parents who prefer to feed their babies with home-cooked food. Join the revolution of pet humanization and explore the ways in which pet owners are blurring the line between human and animal relationships.
Is the Pet Industry Really About Our Pets?
The bond between humans and pets is one that is built on pure, unconditional love. But with all the love and joy that pets bring into our lives, it’s only natural to feel a sense of guilt when we aren’t able to give back to them. It’s clear that pet parents are more than willing to go above and beyond to provide their pets with the best possible care and attention, treating them just like members of their own family. But are these services really for the pets or the parents who feel indebted to them for their unconditional love? What about the impact on the pets themselves? That’s a question that still needs to be answered.
Making pet owners’ lives easier
Looking at it closely, the industry focuses on marketing and branding strategies that appeal to pet owners, such as cute packaging and celebrity endorsements, to increase product sales. Pet products and services aim to satisfy the desires and needs of pet owners rather than solely on the well-being of pets. Pet food companies have started producing organic, nutritious, and chemical-free pet food due to pet owners’ concerns about the quality of packaged food. Pet care businesses and products, such as dog walking services and behavior training, aim to make pet ownership more convenient for pet owners, rather than just improving the pet’s quality of life. As instance, bathing cats or clipping their nails is not a simple task, and finding someone to take care of your pet when you’re away can be challenging. With the emergence of pet spa and services, cats can get their grooming done without any hassle for the cat owner. And if you’re interested in teaching your pet to communicate with you, a click on a search engine can provide you with a list of new technologies and specialists to help. Owing to such services, owning pets has become much more convenient.
The role of human emotions
In a way, these services truly are more for the parents than the pets. The industry offers pet owners a range of services such as pet spas, hotels, touch boards, and other specialized products that cater to the owners’ desire for a luxurious and indulgent experience for their pets, rather than focusing on the pet’s actual needs. While pets require baths, and might sometimes need to be kept in kennels when the parents are away, the “luxury-fication” of these services is targeted towards the parents. We interviewed a pet parent for this piece who talked about her experience of taking her dogs Tyson (German Shepard) and Coco (Labrador) to a pet spa, where they were given baths, shampooed, massaged, and dressed up in bows. She also added that while her dogs would’ve been just as happy if they had been given a bath at home, taking them to a pet spa definitely delighted her. She said that, psychologically, it made her feel like she was giving her ‘children’ a good life. Moreover, the industry promotes indulging pets in human activities such as dressing them up in costumes or buying them luxurious accessories, despite the fact that these may not be necessary for the pet’s well-being. It plays on every human’s desire to parent a child through their pets. Many pet owners are willing to pay a premium for pet products and services that make them feel good or alleviate their own stress, rather than focusing on the needs of their pets. The industry also markets products and services as a way for owners to show their love and affection for their pets, often playing on human emotions to sell products.
When it comes to pet care, it’s important to remember that the industry is ultimately aimed at satisfying human desires rather than just meeting the needs of our furry companions. It’s easy for pet owners to get caught up in wanting to provide the best for their pets, but we must remember to prioritize what our pets truly need: love. Expressing our love can take different forms, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. We should focus on finding what works best for our unique pets and our relationships with them. Whether it’s cuddling with them, buying them toys, or simply spending time together, what matters most is showing them love in a way that works for both of us.
Isha Barve is a III year BA(psychology) student at FLAME University.
Moulika Mandal, PhD is an assistant professor of Psychology at FLAME University.