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Are you a dog or cat person? An example of audience research

Cats or dogs? It’s an age old question.

Animal adoptions have surged over the past year as the COVID pandemic drives the lonely and home-bound to seek companionship. Nearly 900,000 rescue pets were adopted from shelters in 2020, and that doesn’t even include the number of animals purchased from breeders and pet stores.

In the wake of this pet adoption bump, we used text analysis to uncover the unique concerns and values of dog owners compared to cat owners on forums. This understanding allows brands to target specific consumers based on their pet preferences. 

Relative Insight’s technology employs the power of comparison in our approach to text analysis. Comparing the language used by two audiences or written data sets uncovers the unique characteristics of each. This method weeds out the language you would expect to see when talking about pets, revealing the distinct issues faced by dog and cat owners alone. 

Dog lovers

Dogs require a lot of attention, and that’s no surprise – but what we saw was how dog owners frequently discussed medical issues and treatment their pets required, much more than cat people. Words we saw on dog forums – like surgery, insurance and meds – were not used at all by the sample of language used by cat owners.

Frequent medical treatment isn’t cheap, and dog owners discussed money and costs significantly more than cat owners. Some forum users even openly discussed their inability to financially provide for their pet. Expenses like training, food, medical treatment, boarding, grooming and equipment can add up to $15,000 over a pet’s lifetime.

A well-trained dog is a priority for many owners. Forum conversations were more likely to include words relating to a dog’s education such as training and obedience. Many sought advice as to how to teach their pet to perform tricks like fetch or tips on adjusting their temperament to interact better with others.

Breed significantly impacts dog choice, as different breeds possess different physical traits and personalities. Dog owners included the breed of their pet in nearly all forum inquiries, and many conversations centered around pet DNA tests and choosing the correct breed for the soon-to-be owner’s lifestyle. Cat owners showed little to no interest in their cat’s heritage.

When discussing personality traits of dogs, the three main adjectives we saw were friendly, smart and occasionally aggressive. 

Cat people

Those looking to own a cat typically have different needs and desires as to how the pet will fit into their lifestyle. When discussing ownership on forums, we saw cats described as calm, affectionate and territorial. Often self-sufficient, cats provide a lower maintenance pet option. 

Surprisingly, the biggest complaint we observed from cat owners is the noise they create. Meowing, hissing and other loud noises were a cause for concern. Some owners found this annoying, while others were worried it could be due to a larger issue with the cat.

Cats were often described within the context of their living environment, using words relating to specific furniture or rooms. Many owner complaints concerned the cat’s treatment of home furniture or their environmental preferences – ie. indoor vs. outdoor. Man owners mentioned their cat’s favorite spots throughout the house like the bed or a specific window sill. We also observed issues with cats scratching or peeing on furniture.

Pet ownership is not one size fits all. Understanding the unique pros and cons associated with different pets gives us the necessary insight to target audiences with informed communications. By addressing the specific concerns and values of dog and cat owners, brands can better resonate with those select consumers. 

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