In our increasingly urbanized and civilized society, pampered pets have never been so numerous to accompany our daily lives. Thus, half of French households have at least one pet within their walls, according to the latest study carried out by Sofres for the trade union chamber of manufacturers of food for dogs, cats, birds and other pets (Facco). This situation places France at the top of European countries for pet owners. Today, only the United States is doing better.
So much so that, for several years, June 21 has not been, across the Atlantic, the day of the music festival but that of pampered pets… On that day, the latter have the right to accompany their masters or mistresses to their place of work. We are not there yet in France, even if February 12, Saint-Félix’s day, has been promoted as Cats’ Day, at the instigation of the eponymous brand.
Another parallel with the American situation (even if the phenomenon is not yet as marked in France), the number of cats exceeds that of dogs. There are 9 million in France, against 8.1 million dogs. Above all, their number is progressing, that of “teddy bears” remaining stable. More independent, cats require less availability. “It’s also more common to have more than one cat,” notes Daniel Noury, external relations manager for Masterfoods .
The bigger the household, the more animals
The cat would be more suited to the urban lifestyle, which now concerns the majority of the French population. This demographic evolution explains two other phenomena: the success of rodents, which are easy to keep in apartments, and the tendency to reduce the size of dogs. Nearly half of them now weigh less than 10 kg. “Very prosaically, canine pollution is a concern in large cities. It is better to have a small dog when it comes to picking up its droppings, otherwise you will be fined 183 EUR in a city like Paris,” point out the organizers of the Parisian Animal Expo show.
The feline and canine populations have evolved a lot over the last ten years. The era of the “dog-dog to his mother” is over. The larger the household size, the higher the likelihood of owning a pet. The ownership rate is thus only 35% among single people, compared to 75% in households with five people. “For years, my daughter has been asking for a dog. For his tenth birthday, we gave in, but we took a rabbit to limit the constraints,” testifies Michel, a 55-year-old marketing manager. In this area, children are formidable prescribers!
The presence of cats and dogs is also greater in the countryside. Their proportion decreases as the size of the agglomeration increases, with a plateau, however. The rate of ownership of dogs and especially cats is thus rising in cities with more than 100,000 inhabitants, with the exception of the Paris area.
The size of the dwellings partly explains these figures: an animal requires space. Logically, nearly three-quarters of pet owners live in single-family homes and most of the time have a garden. Dogs come first because they are part of the “ideal” family in the collective imagination. Which is composed of two children, lives in a house, has two cars, and therefore a dog. We must not neglect the function of guarding the animal against intruders. Tellingly, farmers remain the leading pet owners. “A farm without a dog is no longer a farm!” exclaims Marc, a young farmer in Brittany.
The values of defending property and people make the dog an animal rather preferred by traders, craftsmen and the military, according to sociologist Gérard Mermet. For its part, the cat, associated with the idea of independence, is more present among teachers and civil servants.
Behind the leading tandem of cats and dogs, fish are also one of the great passions of the French. But the aquarium hobby, after years of progress, has reached a point of stagnation. Their function is more decoration than companionship. To establish different relationships, the choice remains wide if we refer to the growing share of NAC, an acronym which designates new pampered pets.
Dogs and cats convey different values
The French therefore love company! According to ethnologist Jean-Pierre Digard, director of research at the CNRS and author of the book the French and their animals, “what is striking is the family status that the French grant to their pampered pets, status of members of the family in its own right, where they are both mothered, materially and emotionally, and educated, in short, treated like children of whom they are, basically, substitutes”.
This behavior encourages the development of the anthropomorphic tendency. What pet owner has never talked to him, lending him his way of thinking? This phenomenon finds its most successful expression in the “dog attitude”. It is the masters or mistresses who attribute their functioning to their four-legged companions. They consult his horoscope or even buy him perfume. In this respect, the success of the perfume Oh! My dog is exemplary. “It made an impression and should pave the way for the development of a broader hygiene and beauty offer,” notes Éric Giqueaux, group manager at Oxides. His brand manufactures toys for animals. “It is true that, to please consumers, we are strongly inspired by the world of children’s toys. We segment our offer in the same way, by age groups and types of activities. We are inspired by the codes of the world of toys right down to the packaging ,” he adds.
The trend is for human first names
Is the marketing going too far? Not really. “It’s true that I gave my dog a toy for Christmas,” admits Marie, an electronic engineer in Auvergne. And she is far from the only one. According to a recent survey carried out by Aniwa on behalf of 30 million friends/ BVA , carried out in January 2002, 32% of dog owners and 23% of cat owners did like her.
The organizers of the Animal Expo show also point out that the current trend is to choose “human” first names, and not just any names! “There are snobs and urban first names such as Robert, Marcel, Arlette, Raymonde or Germaine; the virile like Max, Tom and Louis, or the glamorous like Marlène and Daphné. Like what has been happening for a long time in England, race is becoming a carrier of social status in a country where bastards roamed the streets. The Labrador is still very popular, the Dalmatian is popular, as well as bulldogs.
This “dog attitude” also has its ultra-trendy counterpart. Thus, the jack russell terrier begins to take the place of the labrador among sores. And the most fashionable dog right now is the Afghan hound. “Among a certain population, typically Parisian and a little privileged, the animal is an accessory of life and everything that revolves around it takes a dominating place in consumption”, adds Yannick Deuscher, commercial director of the housing department of Neyrat Peyronie, a company which manufactures cushions for garden furniture and which has just entered the niche of animal comfort. It ranges from the Hermès carry bagat almost EUR 1,400 for a EUR 56 “Labrador” T-shirt in the trendy Parisian boutique Colette. Without being so elitist, Yannick Deuscher adds that “one of the keys that will guide the acquisition of a comfort product is the place given to the animal. It is different if he is relegated to the kitchen or admitted to the living room, or even to the bedroom. Expectations in terms of design are different. »
A boon for luxury brands
Specialized brands have understood this need. In 2001, Truffaut did not hesitate to communicate in the catalog on ecru comfort products with ethnic motifs in phase with the decorative fashion of the house.
The more daily translation of this behavior concerns the care given to the nutritional balance of cats, dogs, rabbits, hamsters “Twice a week, I mix half a can of green beans with his can of mash to give a little green to my dog. He also has the right to a piece of cheese when we eat it and, sometimes, even a yogurt,” says Françoise, executive assistant in Paris. “It is true that all our recipes based on green vegetables, white meats and fish are currently progressing very well,” adds Daniel Noury (Masterfoods). Treats are also on the rise, because giving one away is so rewarding. And this expectation is paramount among the masters.
The brands are very attentive to the expectations of buyers. They have also done a lot of work, over the past ten years, on the nutritional needs of animals and insisted on the fact that they are different from ours. For example, a dog needs 400 times less vitamin D than a child. The end of anthropomorphism? Not really, since this offer based on the concept of nutrition is carried by functional claims as for humans.
Soon an Actimel for our animals?
This growing concern for food balance hints at potential in functional foods. “The sensitivity and expectations of consumers are constantly raising their level of requirement. Functional foods foreshadow the food of the future”, we analyze at Masterfoods.
In the meantime, the promises range from the difference in needs by age group to the “light” versions. Will we have a reality show on pet diets soon? Why not ! The Hill’s brand organizes its diet spring every year with veterinarians who reward the weight loss treatment of a master and his dog. Those who follow the recommendation of veterinarians, strong prescribers, are looking for something made to measure for their animal and go to specialized circuits. “My breeder told me the ideal brand of kibble for my young Australian Shepherd. I follow his advice and I go to a pet store, even if it costs me 60 EUR per month! confirms Mary.
Hypermarkets reach consumers who only consider the nutritional point of view. “In this context, it is up to hypermarkets to find ways to continue to capture this clientele, ” points out a player in the sector. They have the advantage of traffic but the breadth of the offer, its theatricality, and the advice are lacking in the face of increasingly demanding consumers. What the specialized circuits know very well how to do. It is logical that the market rocks with them. Michel’s testimony is revealing in this regard: “I bought my rabbit’s litter from Système U , near my home. But, because of their too frequent stockouts, I discovered Bricomarché. “A loss of purchases that the brands do not want to be fatal.
Matchcreated, six months ago, a dog and cat loyalty card. The program includes offers in the pet department, grooming discounts from local partners and nutrition assistance by phone.
It is difficult to meet growing demands. We are not yet at marriage agencies for pampered pets as is practiced in Japan, but, despite everything, certain initiatives are telling. The Sainte-Rita church in Paris organizes religious ceremonies for animals. Less surprising are the contract offers for aquarium maintenance, grooming, insurance, custodial agencies, burial in specialized cemeteries, cremations. “People are service seekers. For six years, we have been delivering pet food to homes throughout France. And, in addition to the practicality of the service, our consumers ask for a lot of advice from our deliverers”, testifies Mickaël Menes, franchisor of the Swedish “pet food” manufacturer Husse.
The puzzle of going on vacation
The list of services to imagine is far from complete. As leisure time increases, problems regularly arise when it comes to holiday or weekend departures.
If 58% of people sometimes take their dog on vacation, it is not always easy to find hotels or rentals that accept them! “Before each departure, I take an extra day off to drive my daughter’s dwarf rabbit to my in-laws, two hours by car from Paris,” resigned Michel. “Take our cat for the weekend to our friends? It’s not always possible, some don’t want to. There are in particular those with allergies, ”laments Karine.
Manufacturers of vacuum cleaners have understood that the hairs and odors of our companions are among the constraints that are difficult to accept. From Miele to Dyson, all offer models whose argument is based on the power of the device which does not escape a hair! As for the expectations of advice, in addition to the sellers of the specialized circuits, the editorial offer continues to be enriched on these questions. From Frédérick Grasser-Hermé and his book of chef’s recipes for dogs, to online information sites, which number in the hundreds.
The sectors affected by the passion for animals are numerous. Even the toy industry is constantly looking for gadgets that will replace the living animal. It started with the tamagotchi, a small virtual egg-sized animal that dies if neglected or mistreated, and then the robot dog. Tomorrow, will we see a real dog who does not smell and does not need to go out, but remains affectionate? Because, if the animal responds to a need of nature, the owners are tempted to erase its animality. The products and services that help them do so have a bright future.
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