When it comes to the endless debate of cats versus dogs, there’s no denying that dogs are at a bit of an advantage. They’re the ones fronting films about animals with prowess on the basketball court, and boast the moniker “man’s best friend.” And that translates into the product market, too: The dog product market has a higher value than cats, and 54% of cat owners have purchased items that were actually designed for small dogs.
Lambert Wang wants to change that. Today, along with co-founder Jimmy Wu, he is launching a new brand, Cat Person, catering to those who prefer felines to canines—and more specifically, their cats.
“If you walked into a store, if you were to go to an online pet site, it really feels like you’ve walked into a dog store or a dog website,” Wang said. “Cats and dogs are pretty different animals, and they have very different needs.”
It’s also about creating a brand that makes sure cat people don’t feel like they’re “second-class citizens,” added Wu.
“We saw the need in the market to create products are actually designed for cats and are highly functional for them,” Wang said. “And we saw this incredible opportunity to create a brand that actually reflects who the modern cat persons are.”
Wang, a cat owner himself, first had the idea for Cat Person while he was working at men’s shaving brand Harry’s. He soon consulted his boss, Harry’s co-founder and co-CEO Jeff Raider, on the prospect of turning the idea into a brand. Raider was so interested that Harry’s Labs, the investment and brand-building wing of Harry’s, put its muscle behind it, providing financial and strategic support.
The hope, Wang said, was to create products that were functional and also aesthetically pleasing. The brand is launching with a range of products including wet food, dry food, treats, bowls, beds and toys. And true to Wang’s vision, they were created with the “pain points” of cat people in mind, discovered through many discussions with cat owners about what they felt was missing from the products they currently use.
That included cutting-edge design. Because the dog market is bigger, from a monetary perspective, “a lot of brands and innovation are focused there for business reasons,” Wang said. And when you look at the buzziest brands in the pet market, like Bark, they’re primarily geared toward dogs.
“The guiding philosophy behind a lot of the products in our portfolio that they are equally designed and thoughtfully designed for cats and cat persons in mind,” Wu said.
That has meant food designed for their diets (heavy on animal protein) and shallow bowls designed for their heads, and particularly one for their sensitive whiskers with a stand to elevate the bowl’s height.
“Cats are physically different than dogs,” Wu said. “They have whiskers that are much more sensitive than dogs, and when they eat out of a deep bowl, they can actually be a little bit traumatic for them. So we designed our bowls in a way that are actually pretty shallow, and that shallowness allows for a less stressful, more comfortable eating experience for cats.”
To fit the needs of not only the cat but the cat owner as well, the products are designed “in a way that fits into modern decor,” Wu said. The bowls and the beds, for example, come in three different colorways, while the food packaging is relatively simple: black and white featuring cartoon drawings of the proteins included.
Although there are plenty of pet products already on the market, Wang said he feels Cat Person is a bit of an outlier because of its variety, which spans household items and food, which includes wet and dry food as well as treats.
“For us, we wanted to be more than just a cat food company; we really wanted to provide the essentials that people need and want to care for their cats, and make that experience of having cat even more awesome,” said Wang. “Having food alone wasn’t really going to solve the wider breadth of need that a cat person has.”
Cat Person is launching at a moment when cat owners are spending a lot more time with their beloved pets, due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. With that, it’s also a time of unprecedented uncertainty for consumers, who are perhaps more wary with their dollars.
But Wang and Wu aren’t worried that the crisis may impact their debut. In fact, Wang believes that because these products are essentials for pet owners, and because of the increased time spent with their pets, they’ll be more willing to spend money on them.
“This is a time where people need cats more than ever,” Wu said. “As they spend more time at home, they’re spending more time with their cat, and looking for ways to be able to connect and bond with them. Having a brand that can provide solutions—and provide it through a direct consumer model where people can order online and they can have things conveniently delivered to them—I think that’s going to be great for the current situation folks are in.”