There’s a reason why small children sometimes think that cats are girls and dogs are boys. From our earliest years we are all exposed to cultural messages about different types of animals, the meaning of wild versus domesticated, the role of animals as workers and pets. These messages, which vary somewhat from one region of the world to another, shape adult experiences with their domestic animals – not just what they feed them but how they care for them and how they experience an emotional relationship with the animal. Internal, psychological experiences are set up within a cultural framework. Semiotics shows how all of that works and helps brands and pet care organisations communicate more effectively with owners.
Our pet care clients include Lily’s Kitchen as well as the Veterinary Marketing Association.
Did you know?
- Dogs and cats are the subject of a rich fantasy life for humans. This exists not just at a household level, where pets are routinely anthropomorphised and invested with human cognitive abilities and personalities. It also exists at a societal level, where pet owners co-operate in a shared fantasy that is manifest and sustained in places like YouTube and Twitter.
- In these group fantasies about pets, fascinating differences between dogs and cats emerge. Dogs are portrayed as lovable buffoons – they are goofy, have a silly sense of humour and are regularly featured in absurd costumes or situations, apparently willingly. Cats are snooty, remote and occasionally tyrannical. In the popular imagination, cats condescend to be fed and cared for and think they are doing humans a favour by permitting it.
- Some of the research we do is ethnographic and here we learn how some people arrange their lives and homes around their pets. We’ve also done lots of creative work with consumers in which they draw panel cartoons, depicting the emotional challenges and rewards of pet ownership. Some of these are similar to the challenges of being a parent. Are you a good cat mom? Is your pet fully involved in family occasions?
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