Agriculture & foodtech Artificial intelligence Startups Venture

Of Felines And Funding

Illustration of Zoom meeting on Laptop.

Over the years, venture capitalists have poured billions into pet-focused startups. But what about cats, specifically? Cat people want to know.

As it turns out, feline-focused startups receive far less funding than those targeting the canine crowd, Crunchbase data reveals. A large portion of funding also goes to more generic pet startups, which market to households with dogs, cats and other critters.

So, who’s betting big on cats? Using Crunchbase data, we put together a list of 11 companies funded in roughly the past couple years with a full or major focus on felines.

Altogether, they’ve pulled in nearly $140 million for offerings ranging from human-grade cat food to microbiome-based supplements to an AI-enabled movement-tracking collar.

Full bellies

Next-gen cat food comprises the largest segment. Here, the biggest funding recipient is KatKin, a meaty, grain-free brand that markets under the catchphrase: “Carnivores don’t eat kibble.” The London-based startup has pulled in $28 million to date for flash-frozen meals it claims can reduce hairballs, enhance energy and even produce less stinky poop.

Celebrity chef Bobby Flay also has a startup, Made By Nacho, named for his orange Maine Coone cat, Nacho, which landed $14 million in a Series A last year. In addition to pet duties, Nacho served 1 as “chief taste tester” for the company, which only mass-produced recipes he liked.

The other large funding recipient is Smalls, which makes ultra-high-protein, human-grade food customized to an individual cat’s tastes. The New York company picked up $19 million in March.

Health, fun and surveillance

Now that your cats are well-sated with some premium carnivorous eats, it’s time to teach them to talk.

Right now, you may be thinking: What??? But seriously, this what seed-funded Fluent Pet suggests you attempt with your cat or dog using its recordable talking buttons, aimed at providing a communications bridge between pets and pet parents.

Or perhaps you’d rather surveil your cats from a distance. To help, Japanese startup Rabo has raised over $13 million for a product called the “Catlog.”

The offering consists of an app paired with a sensor-laden collar that lets you know what your cats are doing even when you’re away from home. (Spoiler: It’s a safe bet they are sleeping, grooming, staring out the window, or clawing the furniture.) Customers can also purchase a device for under the litter box that tracks cats’ activities there and monitors their weight.

For those worried about the state of their pet’s microbiome, meanwhile, there are products for that. Oakland-based AnimalBiome has raised over $12 million for cat and dog supplements aimed at restoring a healthy gut.

A growth market

The target market for cat products is rather vast. U.S. households alone are estimated to house more than 58 million cats. Globally, the population is in the hundreds of millions.

Cat lovers in many countries have also shown a willingness to shell out for their pets. Spending on pets surged during the pandemic, as did venture funding for pet-focused startups. Data indicates we aren’t scaling back, either.

The percentage of American households with cats has actually kept increasing, even after  pandemic restrictions waned. Perhaps it helps that even if we’re at home less, cats are pretty content to be on their own.

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Illustration: Dom Guzman

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  1. Sadly, in October Flay wrote that: “It is with an absolute broken heart that I report Nacho has passed away peacefully.”

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