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Beyond the Bone: The Cat-Centric Product Gap

A high angle view shot of a cute bengal cat playing with cat toys at a home in Northeastern England.

Think of your favorite pet store. The aisles are filled with an array of pet products—colorful toys, high-tech gadgets, and stylish accessories, but all for dogs. As we wander further, it becomes clear that our little lions often have far fewer options than their canine counterparts, despite having unique needs and preferences. 

This lack of cat-centric products is a gap that needs addressing. Cats, with their independent spirits and specialized requirements, deserve better. This gap in the market represents an opportunity to create innovative products and services that could greatly enhance the lives of our cats and our enjoyment of the cat-human bond. With a little creativity and a compassionate understanding of our feline friends, we could discover solutions that cater to their natural behaviors and preferences. 

The Feline Product Shortfall

Though offerings for cats are significantly smaller than those for canines, the need for more cat-centric nutritional products is steadily rising as cat ownership levels flourish globally. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), there are approximately 90 million dogs and 94 million cats in the United States.  

The pet product market still heavily favors dogs despite the nearly equal numbers. A recent survey by Packaged Facts shows 44% of cat owners feel like cats are treated as second-class citizens by pet food and treat companies, an increase of 6% compared to January 2022. 

Uneven Playing Fields: Cat Aisle vs. Dog Aisle

The disparity between dog and cat products is staggering; canines have the market wrapped around their paws. Walk into any pet store or browse online, and you’ll see overwhelming numbers of products tailored for pups. From interactive toys and advanced tech to chic accessories, dog parents have no shortage of options. But cat parents? The choices are far fewer and often less innovative. In fact, in 2022, Pet Food Processing covered 94 new product announcements for dogs and just 21 new products for cats. 

Why such a disparity? Why are there so many more dog products than there are for cats? 

Historically, dogs have been seen as more mainstream—the more popular household pet—leading to aggressive marketing of dog-related products and services. Research has also shown that we tend to associate dogs with a promotion focus, given their typical openness and adaptability. Conversely, cats, with their independent, aloof vibe and somewhat weary demeanor, are seemingly harder to design for, and they make consumers more cautious and risk-averse, less likely to spend money on a product they’re unsure about. This difference contributes to a smaller and less varied market for cat products. 

For example, dog toys include tennis balls, frisbees, interactive fetch toys, puzzle toys, chew toys, squeaky toys, and automatic ball launchers, to name a few. Cats, on the other hand, are limited to simple feather wands, laser pointers, catnip, and basic scratching posts, with catios only recently gaining popularity. High-tech gadgets for dogs, like GPS trackers and activity monitors, are plentiful, but similar products for cats are rare. From car seats to fashionable wear, dog accessories abound, yet cats have far fewer options tailored to their discerning needs. 

Understanding Cat Behavior

When it comes down to it, a lack of understanding of cats may contribute to lower spending by cat owners and less cat product and pet food development by manufacturers. Creating products that resonate with cats requires a deep understanding of their behavior and why they are the way they are.  

Cats are often labeled as independent, aloof creatures who don’t need humans around to survive. These misconceptions can lead to a devaluing of cats and a deep misunderstanding of their unique needs. We must remember that cats are intelligent, curious beings with their own set of physical and emotional requirements. Cats are natural hunters, climbers, and explorers. They need stimulation, comfort, and opportunities to express their instincts. They also have nutritional preferences and biological systems that need to be considered. From stimulating toys that cater to their natural hunting instincts to cozy hiding spots that provide a sense of security, cats thrive when their environment is enriched with products tailored to their feline nature. 

One issue in creating products for cats is their unique eating behaviors, often described as “finicky,” which stem from their distinct sensory systems. Unlike dogs, cats cannot taste sweet flavors due to a nonfunctional sugar taste receptor and have a stronger umami taste receptor that responds to amino acids like aspartate. Not only do cats’ taste receptors differ — so do their eating style and the essential nutrients they require. Cats have higher needs for many different essential nutrients, whereas dogs can adapt to life on very little.  

And unlike dogs, cats do not chew their food, preferring instead to swallow it whole. As a result, selecting the right texture and shape is imperative when formulating cat food, as cats take longer to assess and understand their food before they’re willing to consume it. This makes creating foods and treats for cats a bit more difficult — but not impossible. 

Moreover, neglecting the needs of our feline friends can lead to behavioral issues and health problems, ultimately impacting their overall well-being and the bond we share with them. We must raise awareness about the importance of providing cats with appropriate products and resources, just as we do for dogs. 

Watering the Cat Tree: Missing Market Innovations

We dream of a world where cats have as many options as dogs—where innovative products cater to their unique behaviors and preferences. The potential is vast, and the market is ripe for exploration. The lack of cool brands for cats is a missed opportunity that savvy entrepreneurs can capitalize on. 

As highlighted in the article “Where are all the cool brands for cats?” by Thingtesting, there’s a growing demand for innovative, stylish, and functional cat products. Brands that understand and cater to feline behavior can set themselves apart in a market hungry for new ideas. Imagine stylish, ergonomic scratching posts that blend into our home decor or interactive toys that stimulate a cat’s innate hunting instincts. Perhaps there are even services that could make caring for our cats more convenient and enriching. 

We came up with a few ideas of our own that may appeal to the cool cats who mean so much to us: 

  • Cat Meal Kits: Dog meal kit services and subscriptions are a dime a dozen. It’s much harder to come across the same for cats, despite their unique nutritional needs and tastes. 
  • Cat Wall Furniture: Stylish, modular wall-mounted furniture that allows cats to climb, perch, and explore vertically, enriching their environment and saving floor space. These can be customized to fit any decor and provide mental and physical stimulation for cats. A few brands are tackling these design features for our height-loving felines, but we hope to see more on the horizon.
  • Cat Chew Toys: Chew toys designed specifically for cats to satisfy their natural chewing instincts and promote dental health, with flavors and textures appealing to felines. 
  • Cat-Safe Agility Equipment: Agility training sets scaled down and modified for cats, including tunnels, hurdles, and climbing frames to encourage physical activity and mental stimulation. 
  • Cat Car Seats and Seatbelts: Secure and comfortable car seats or seatbelt harnesses specifically designed for cats to ensure safety during car rides. 
  • Cat-Specific First Aid Kits: Comprehensive first aid kits tailored to the specific health and safety needs of cats, including items like nail clippers, wound care supplies, and emergency contact information. 
  • Cat Spa Services: In-home spa products or mobile spa services offering massages, grooming, and pampering tailored to the unique preferences of each cat. 
  • Cat Socialization Apps: Platforms that connect cat owners for playdates, socialization opportunities, and community events, fostering a sense of community among feline enthusiasts. 

The possibilities are endless when catering to our cats’ unique needs and quirks. If we get creative and think outside the box, we could level up the game for our discerning felines. Do you have any brilliant ideas for cat products? Follow us on social and share your thoughts and wishes for innovative ideas!

Leading the Feline-Forward Charge

As for us? Think of Felix as a rebellion against the pet status quo. In a world dominated by dog-centric options, cats have been woefully overlooked. Not anymore. Founded by a crew of die-hard cat enthusiasts, Felix is flipping the script on pet insurance. Dogs may have their day, but we’re exclusively, unapologetically, all about cats. With policies designed to fit your cat’s specific needs and a team of feline-fluent experts, we’re here to help provide coverage for your kitty and protection you can trust. 

Let’s make history by putting cats first— where they belong. Join us!

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By Annie Turner

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