The pet products industry takes itself very seriously, which likely reflects how seriously we take our own pets. We have anthropomorphic tendencies – attributing human traits to nonhuman things; believing our pets think like we do – and the pet industry knows it.
So we see things like this ad:
“Surprise your pet with the perfect holiday gift.” It’s a ceramic food bowl customized with the animal’s name in cute letters. Now think about this for a minute. Think of the scenario it suggests. It’s Christmas or Hanukkah and people are opening gifts. “Here George, something for you!” George the cat trots over, eyes agleam. You help him open it. He’s excited! What is it?? Here it is: a food bowl with his name on it. His eyes get wide. Oh … my … GOD!, he thinks (you always know what he’s thinking). This is adorable! It’s got my NAME on it! It’s PERFECT! I can’t wait to use this!
More likely – if your holiday is anything like ours – if George gets excited about this day at all, it’s only because of the wrapping paper under which he’s hiding, and he won’t come when you call him (in cognito; can’t reveal my location…). The bowl will be unwrapped by you, and you will transfer the kibble, and you alone will admire the cute bowl from here on out.
Even for those of us who know our pets can’t read their names, we still want the best for them. The pet food industry knows we do; just look at the back of the bag. There, a more thorough description of nutritional benefits than on most packages of our own food. We get lists of ingredients and some enticing words like “crunchy” and “organic” and “garlic flavored.” For our animals, though, a near thesis. Why don’t our meals come with the same information? Imagine if the following description from a catfood bag was [modified] for the menu at a restaurant:
“The innovative nutrition in this [entrée] promotes healthy skin and lustrous [hair]. Our great-tasting, nutritious
I’m as guilty as anyone for thinking animals think like little people. George and I have been together for a long time and I do believe I know what’s in his fuzzy heart by now. We also have a lizard to whom I ascribe thoughts and dialogue she does not actually have or say, let alone in a childlike voice.
As for exaggerated language for average things, though, not so much. I’m more amused than seduced, in thinking my pet recognizes a perfect gift as I might. But they’ve got products to sell, and from a marketing perspective, if you had that job, what could be more fun than playing up catbowls and kibble?