On my radar this week

Alain Giguère

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Are you a dog person or cat person? Whether you have a dog or a cat says a lot about who you are!

Categories: On my radar this week

Posted on 06-19-18 at 4:56 p.m.

For my last post of the season (I take a break for the summer), I am turning my attention to the "guardians" of dogs and cats by analyzing their hot buttons in the same way we do for consumers of brands and products. Let's have some fun!

Nearly one in three (31%) Canadians have a dog and an equivalent proportion (32%), a cat.

These pet guardians are over-represented by people under 55 years of age, particularly 18-24 year olds, residents of small municipalities and rural areas, as well as by people living in households with children.

Interestingly, people with higher incomes tend to have dogs, whereas the opposite is true for cats.

A lever for personal fulfillment!

Aside from their sociodemographic and socio-economic traits, what truly distinguishes these pet owners are their mentalities and values, their motivations. The "hot buttons" prompting people to share their lives with one (or more) of these animals are particularly telling.


What dogs and cats have in common is their ability to connect us on an emotional level to life, to nature. People with pets express a strong need for this type of "BioManist" connection-a feeling of symbiosis with nature and life in general.

Dogs and cats also respond in a fundamental way to people's desire for personal fulfillment. Their presence provides the kind of emotional support and psychic balance that predisposes their guardians to pursue personal fulfillment and development. In fact, many studies over the years have shown that animals have a significant and positive impact on people's overall health.

Dogs: a social marker and a social lubricant!

In addition to the traits they share with cats, dogs have their own identity. They cohabit with people who need to achieve and who have a strong desire for social validation and status recognition. Dogs are a way of signalling our social standing in the world. We "wear" our dogs like we wear a designer label -as an expression of "conspicuous consumption." Dog owners are particularly strong on this hot button, which we normally associate with brands!

Hence, dogs function as a "social marker." They say something about us to other people! We've also found that dog owners enjoy violence in the media (movies, games, etc.), as if they are proud of the "power" of their animal! (Without in any way justifying the cases of canine violence, which are fortunately rare occurrences considering the high number of domestic dogs. Hopefully, we are only talking symbolically!).

Dogs also function as a "social lubricant." They come to us. They go to other people. They are gregarious. They have relationships with their human guardians. They contribute to our socialization. They encourage people to meet. Dog owners express a strong need to socialize, to connect with others. Dogs seem to encourage these connections and encounters by mediating some of our relationships with others.

As a marker and social lubricant, dogs contribute to our social life, to the way we live together!

Cats: a more intimate relationship with life

Cats are more intimate creatures. They generally invite a closer and more respectful symbiosis with life and nature. They are more independent. We go to them. They encourage this response in their guardians, who also express this particular way of connecting more intimately with life and others around them.

It is fascinating to observe that cat guardians are particularly sensitive to environmental protection, to mutual aid and social commitment, and to society's ethical issues. Cats express this same sensitivity to life.

Moreover, cats tend to have guardians who are more individualistic and idealistic, who are concerned with their uniqueness and need for personal fulfillment, in similar fashion to their pet's independent character (a sensitivity to themselves that does not exclude others; far from it).

Cats also provide intense "polysensorial" experiences in response to our strong need for enjoyable stimulation through all our senses. (We want to touch cats, smell them, snuggle with them, etc.). Cats are sensual creatures who like to rub against the "things" they like.

It's not quite that black and white!

You might object that many dog guardians have relationships with their dogs that are closer to what I have described for cats, and vice versa. True enough. What I have described is the average profile of pet guardians, their predominant characteristics, without any specific segmentation. (I, too, have a dog with whom I have relationships that is similar in many respects to the one many people have with their cats, even though my dog is the size of a bear!).

Here's to more inclusion of animals in our society

This brief analysis leads me to a quite obvious conclusion: as a society, we need to make more room for animals. As a social project and in our personal lives (for those who don't have pets), we should promote more inclusion of animals in our society, in our communities.

Pets contribute to personal development; they connect people more intimately to life and to nature generally. They help us live together, etc.

Numerous studies have demonstrated the physical and mental health benefits of domestic animals. That is why animal therapy is often recommended for the relief of all types of ailments.

In Paris, you can eat at a restaurant with your dog, and more and more companies are accepting dogs in the workplace.

It is interesting to note that, in Canada, it is the smaller municipalities and rural areas that have the highest proportions of homes with dogs and cats.

Urban living tends to exclude domestic animals. We need to reintroduce them!


La Traviata by Giuseppe Verdi

For my musical clip of the week, I searched in vain for an opera excerpt with an animal. However, the concept of social marker that dogs represent evoked an obvious choice. One unequivocal example of a social marker is the courtesan for the Parisian bourgeoisie of the 19th century. For a bourgeois, having one of these beautiful young women on his arm was a way to enhance and show off his status.

A dramatic example of the fate of these women is Verdi's La Traviata, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas, fils, La Dame aux Camélias (The Lady of the Camellias), where death is the only possible outcome. (Traviata signifies a fallen woman in Italian.)

In this magnificent excerpt, the courtesan, who has fallen in love for the first time, realizes that she has no right to this love because of her status as a fallen woman (madness, madness!).

Many thanks to all my loyal blog readers for the stimulating conversations.

Happy summer!

Giuseppe Verdi: La Traviata, Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazón, Thomas Hampson, Wiener Philharmoniker, Carlo Rizzi (dir.), Willy Decker (prod.), Deutsch Grammophon, Salzburg Festival, 2005.