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The pet theory of management


Fresh figures reveal that the US spent over $52 billion on pets in 2019. That’s about $155 per human head, by far the world’s highest, though it does not seem much higher than what well-off Indians spend on their furry friends—er, sorry, family members. By the same Euromonitor data, Britons rank next, with $93 spent per capita, followed by the French, with $87. The Chinese are on 12th spot, and Indians are next, both with figures that pale in comparison with Westerners. What makes Britons stand out is that they seem to love their cats and dogs equally, if the UK’s nearly 1:1 pet ratio is an indication of that emotion. Americans display a canine bias on this measure, while the French are relatively feline focused. Russians show a marked preference for cats, while Mexicans are among the most dog happy.

So, what does this analysis tell us? Nothing that would make us burn our management books. Those MBA degrees are safe, too. But in industries dependent on creativity and innovation, an old legend has long held that cat lovers make better managers than dog lovers. The reason offered is that while dogs are slavish in their loyalty, cats are the opposite. And those who love untamable creatures given to purring only on their own whim are more likely to manage creative egos well enough to get the best out of people.

At the aggregate level, though, that pet theory doesn’t seem to hold. Russia is hardly a creative powerhouse. And America loves dogs more. Or do we need data for California?

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