In or Out?
Despite the movement to promote an indoors-only lifestyle for cats, behaviorists and other experts believe that all cats should still wear a collar with an ID tag, even if they are microchipped. Consequently, manufacturers are taking this catcall seriously and producing collars in a variety of new colors and designs along with matching harnesses and leashes to enhance an outdoor experience.
“Breakaway cat collars that are designed to release if a cat gets entangled are our best sellers,” said Diane Thomas, marketing manager for Coastal Pet Products, Inc. “Our newest merchandise includes glow-in-the-dark and magnetic breakaway collars. The Glow in the Dark line charges during the day, even indoors, to glow all night and features a pivoting breakaway buckle. The magnetic buckle breakaway collars self-align and provide a consistent breakaway point for maximum safety.”
“Cats love texture, and so do people,” Thomas said. “Indoor cats in particular can indulge in the luxurious comfort of collars that are fuzzy or made from velvet or suede. Jeweled and glittery options add dazzle to the indoor cat’s wardrobe.”
“Bright colors and festive patterns are in high demand,” Thomas continued. “Many people gravitate toward colors that complement a cat’s coat and even eye color. Blues and greens are particularly popular, and animal prints are traditional favorites. Fish, flowers and fun, fresh designs keep cat owners satisfied.”
“There is increasing demand for leashes and harnesses to have a safe and effective way to take indoor cats outside,” Thomas said. “Harnesses not only allow cats to go for a walk but also to enjoy the outdoors. They are comfortable for the cat and provide the safety necessary when traveling. Our Comfort Soft Mesh harness/leash combo is fully adjustable for the perfect fit; this cozy harness is lightweight and breathable. A metal D-ring helps to ensure outdoor safety. The included leash features our patented E-Z Snap, making attaching to a harness as easy as it sounds.”
According to Tracy McCarthy, marketing manager for Lupine Inc., the company’s range of cat collars with bells remain their most popular items.
“And bright colors remain our top sellers too,” McCarthy said. “I always advise pet specialty retailers to create a cat section in-store, as it generally helps all products in the category. Alternatively, you can cross-merchandise cat collars on a clip strip in the cat food section. Clip strips are a wonderful way to increase impulse buys.”
The company’s Club Collection by Lupine range is inspired by the distinctive look and feel of the classic polo shirt. The collars are available in six rich color combinations, such as purple and green, pink and orange, and pink and lime green. They are made from recycled plastic bottles. The upper layer is a soft woven material with a luxurious silky feel, embellished with the Lupine logo.
McCarthy added that the company has noted that sales of walking harnesses increase during the summer months.
PetSafe is now marketing all their nylon cat collars under the Come With Me Kitty brand.
“Previously, we had a variety of collars under the Premier brand,” said Mandie Sweetman of PetSafe. “We made the switch because they are more in line with our very popular Come With Me Kitty harnesses and bungee leash. The Come With Me Kitty harness has been such an important and successful harness to cat lovers everywhere. We felt it was an added benefit to release a matching collar that provides added safety features.”
“The collars are one size and made of snag-proof nylon with breakaway buckles and also include a bell,” Sweetman said. “They are available in six colors, namely red, royal blue, electric lime, lilac, dusty rose and black that match the Come With Me Kitty Harness.”
The FriendshipCollar line is the world’s first PETA-approved vegan pet product.
“The FriendshipCollar adapts the tradition of giving friendship bracelets and extends the symbol of love and trust to our pet friends instead with matching collars,” said Alessandra Moscucci, American publicist for the British-based company. “They are available in a variety of colors and patterns and are made from animal-friendly and vegan materials. They come packaged together in pouches.”
Finally, the Glow In The Dark range from Petmate also combines fashion and additional functionality.
“At Petmate, we take safety seriously,” said Emilye Schmale, corporate communications manager for the Texas-based company. “Our collars feature multi-directional patented breakaway buckles to make sure that, if the collar gets snagged in a tight spot, the cat is still able to get free.”
Nighttime visibility is becoming a popular selling feature and this line combines this functionality with a variety of fun fashion colors and trendy designs.
Better than Best
The purchase of food remains the biggest expenditure item for dog owners. And, in fact, according to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners’ Survey, premium dog food continues to be the type of food most purchased. Innovation in this category remains unparalleled across the industry as a whole, making it important for pet specialty retailers to constantly refresh their knowledge.
For the Little Ones
According to Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care, small dogs now account for 47 percent of today’s dog population. This growing interest has precipitated a demand for high-quality dog food that’s specially formulated to meet their particular dietary needs.
“Merrick Lil’ Plates is a full line of grain-free dry (and wet recipes) that caters specifically to small breed dogs, formulated to deliver high quality nutrition and tasty mealtime experience,” Brace said. “The kibble has been specially sized to make it easy for small dogs to pick up and chew and the recipes contain probiotics and prebiotic fiber for optimal digestion and industry-leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin for healthy joints.”
Both the Grain Free Real Chicken and Sweet Potato Recipe and the Grain Free Real Texas Beef and Sweet Potato Recipe start with 38 percent deboned chicken and beef, respectively. The Grain Free Real Salmon and Sweet Potato Recipe contains 34 per cent real deboned salmon as the first ingredient and the latter is also poultry free. And, like all of Merrick’s recipes, the Lil’ Plates line is manufactured in the U.S. and contains no ingredients from China.
Royal Canin continues to evolve their line of Breed Nutrition Diets using nutrient-based formulations to provide individualized health nutrition for purebred dogs.
“Breed-specific nutrition is an ideal solution for dog owners who want to proactively support the unique health needs of their dog,” said Brent Mayabb, D.V.M., director of corporate affairs. “Each breed-specific formula is designed for one individual breed’s needs, such as energy requirements, bone and joint health, muzzle structure and eating habits, digestive sensitivities and unique coat attributes.”
Royal Canin currently offers 29 breed-specific dry canine formulas. Some of the most popular diets include those for the following breeds: German shepherd, golden retriever, labrador retriever, shih-tzu, bulldog, Yorkshire terrier and the chihuahua.
“Additionally, we have also developed diets that change and evolve as the dog does—from a puppy formula to and adult diet,” Mayabb said. “For example, our Labrador Retriever Puppy is designed exclusively for pure breed labrador retriever puppies from eight weeks to 15 months. The labrador retriever (America’s most popular dog breed) is a breed that tends to eat quickly without chewing its food. The donut shaped kibble of the labrador retriever formula helps to slow the rate of ingestion and encourage the labrador to chew his food.”
“Once a labrador retriever reaches 15 months, the transition from puppy to Labrador Retriever Adult formula may begin,” he continued. “Labrador Retriever Adult formula helps maintain the adult dog’s ideal weight with an appropriate calorie content, maintain healthy skin and coat, and helps support healthy bones and joints.”
Gains in Grain-Free
The Wellness Complete dry recipes have been popular with dog owners for a long time. The company has introduced three grain-free formulas in line with the growing no-grain movement within the industry.
“The New Wellness Complete Health Grain-Free recipes give dogs thoughtfully balanced nutrition, without grains and fillers, in three delicious flavors, helping support pets’ wellbeing from the inside out,” said Danielle Bernal, a veterinarian with Wellness Natural Pet Food.
“No grains means there are more protein-rich ingredients dogs love and need for an active lifestyle, enriched with whole fruits, vegetables and botanicals to create a satisfying and easily-digested meal that supports health from head to tail,” Bernal said. “And, for pet parents who prefer whole grain diets for their dogs, existing Complete Health dry dog recipes have been improved to include more guaranteed protein for energy, vitamin A for tooth and gum health, and Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids to support healthy skin and coat.”
Solid Gold, who brand themselves as “America’s first holistic dog food company,” has a new CEO and president in Bob Rubin, several new dry dog recipes and new packaging that focus on how the company blends the 20 Superfoods that are the basis of their recipes.
“In 2016, we continue to provide best-in-class nutrition and have improved our packaging and messaging,” Rubin said. “The foundation of Solid Gold’s core dry food recipes is high-quality proteins plus our unique blend of 20 nutritious superfoods, which have been specifically curated for the overall health and wellbeing of dogs and cats.”
“Our new packaging makes a concerted effort to call attention to those ingredients to make it easier for the pet parent to see,” Rubin said. “Consumers want to be able to easily identify the key ingredients and understand if the product is right for their pet. With this in mind, our unique blend of 20 Superfoods will be highlighted in a visually compelling way and the improved message hierarchy will allow for clearer product distinction to aid in shopability.”
Nip and Vine
Mention the word catnip, and it’s not only cats that sit up and get ready to pounce. Kitty crack—a popular moniker for the plant—has a positive effect on pet specialty retailers, too, causing frenzied activity at the cash register because cat owners believe that no cat can have too many catnip toys.
Whether you call it by any one of its other names, such as catmint or catswort, the plant officially known as Nepeta catania has a powerful effect on felines revving up their play skills and prey drive by instantly turning snoozing couch potatoes into ecstatic flipped-out balls of fur.
Catnip is becoming quite an industry, with manufacturers going to great lengths to include pure organic catnip in their products and owning their own catnip farms.
Now there is a new plant garnering interest in the herb garden. Known as silver vine or matatabi, it originates from Asia and is now being farmed commercially in the U.S., too.
“The secret of silver vine, which is a member of the kiwi fruit family, is that it not only contains nepetalactone that creates the feline ‘high effect’ in catnip, but that it also has actinidine and dihydroactinidiolide that cause similar reactions in felines,” said Pascal Bedard of From The Field.
Based in Seattle, Washington, Bedard has been growing silver vine and using it in his toys for quite some time. He’s also started mixing the two plants together to really capture feline attention in hemp toys, called Jacques le Sock and his latest, Suzy, a large hemp mouse.
“Suzy is also filled with buckwheat hulls for a crinkly effect and is fully biodegradable,” Bedard said. “This mix has proven very successful for cat owners who like to keep their cats engaged but whose cats are not interested in catnip.”
Worldwise, Inc., has just introduced their proprietary blend of catnip and silver vine under the name HyperNip. The company has also produced a number of new catnip toys.
Cuckoo Catnip is a pull-and-peek hanging catnip toy with dangling feathers that attaches to a window or hangs from a door. There is a large selection of refillable toys in different shapes along with new multi packs of cute critters with dangly rope legs and bugs with iridescent wings–all made from different textures to create different sounds and ultimately different pounce and play reactions from their feline playmates. The Petlinks range also includes compressed catnip balls and cigars, and roly-poly toys for kicking and cuddling.
Worldwise owns its own catnip farm and also produces USDA-approved catnip in shaker containers and bags as well as in spray form and bubbles so that kids can interact with their cats, too. All their scratchers come with a bag of catnip to initiate play and scratching.
Petstages, now part of the Outward Hound family, has also introduced a lot of new cat toys. However, the company’s most popular catnip toys are longstanding favorites–namely the Catnip Chaser, a toy that combines the scent of catnip with movement. The peek-a-boo openings at the top of the toy give an added glimpse of the ball and the open-and-close vents are for desired scent strength.
“This toy is designed to keep cats engaged for hours of independent play,” said publicist Krista Lamp.
The Petstages Catnip Chew Mice does double duty as a toy and dental teeth cleaner as the netting on the catnip-filled mice helps remove soft tartar and massages gums to improve dental health.
Imperial Cat has introduced several new shapes to their product line-up, including the new two-in-one nesting designs The Purr Lounge and the Purr Fish. They are available in a variety of prints. Each scratcher features sleek curves designed for scratching and snoozing, a scooped top for napping and tunnel areas for play—and of course catnip to rev things up.
Also new is the Scratch ‘n Cuddle, a design that features a corrugated cardboard tray and high edges to provide kitties with plenty of room for scratching plus a cozy place to sleep. The honeycomb texture of the Scratch ‘n Shapes corrugated cardboard imitates natural tree bark, so cats instinctively want to sink their claws into the scratchers.
According to Kristie Hamilton, director of sales for Imperial Cat, all the toys are made in the USA from postconsumer recycled materials and are 100 percent recyclable after use.
British company Beco Pets, who recently acquired national distribution in the United States, has a variety of eco-friendly cat toys in their product line-up, including Freddie the Fish, Bertie the Budgie and Millie the Mouse, all made from recycled plastic bottles and stuffed with alluring catnip to provide hours of chasing and cuddling fun.
According to Toby Massey, the company’s co-founder and design director, all the toys are named after members of staff. Freddie the frog, Beatrice the butterfly and Huma the hummingbird are all catnip wand toys with an elasticized bungee to allow the toys to fly around, encouraging a cat’s natural hunting instinct and providing hours of entertainment.
In the past decade, ordinary pet bowls have been elevated to the status of pet “dinnerware” with both fun and functional designs. But the innovation hasn’t stopped here; the latest trends in food, water bowls and feeders have produced a bounty of great new products that certainly deserve space on the retail shelf.
Fresher Food and Water
The SureFeed Sealed Pet Bowl is the latest design from British company SureFlap that introduced the microchip-activated food bowl to the market place.
“The SureFeed Sealed Pet Bowl is motion-activated, meaning it opens when a pet approaches the bowl and closes once they have left,” said Piers Hampson, head of consumer marketing for the company. “This enables pet food smells to be locked away and also keeps flies at bay, especially as the warmer weather approaches.”
“Food freshness should be a priority for pet owners,” Hampson said. “If food is left out in the open, it provides a good environment for bacteria to grow and may cause illness. We’d never leave leftovers out at night and feed them to our family the next day. The same holds true for your pet’s food.”
Research conducted by the company in Great Britain found that the average dog owner wastes 25 percent of wet food. This is because wet food does not stay fresh for long and subsequently becomes unpalatable. The research also showed that, like cats, some dogs do not eat all their food in one sitting and like to graze throughout the day.
“The SureFeed Sealed Pet Bowl is designed for single pet households, whereas our microchip feeders are designed for multipet situations,” Hampson said.
New Zealand-based company Heyrex Ltd. has introduced their Torus watering system to the American market.
“Torus bridges the gap in price between a fountain and a standard water bowl but offers the functionality of both as well, including portability,” said Kim Goldsworthy, general manager for marketing and sales.
“It’s a hybrid, allowing the consumer to have a step between a standard water bowl by incorporating water storage for travel, water filtration and automatic water dispensing without power source or batteries,” she added.
The Torus bowl stores water inside its reservoir walls, filtering the water as it automatically dispenses. It has a lock, fill and drink function that makes it ideal for travel and does not require batteries or power source. Each bowl comes with a filter and additional ones are sold separately. The bowls are available in two sizes and in a variety of colors.
The company is currently working on a line of soluble animal health supplements that dissolve in the Torus watering system to add additional functionality to the bowl.
The new Outward Hound 3in1 UP Feeder that debuted at the Global Pet Expo this past March is designed so dogs of any size can dine at three different heights. The legs simply fold and slide to raise the dish to a dog’s natural feeding position.
“Like all of our products, the 3in1 UP Feeder was co-created with pet parents to solve a problem,” said Michael Parness, Outward Hound’s chief marketing officer.
“Pet parents who loved and used our award-winning Fun Feeders were reaching out to say that they needed a way to raise it up,” Parness said. “We realized there was a need in the market that was not being met for a slow feeder that works for any size dog. From that feedback, we created the world’s first height-adjustable slow feeder.”
“Raised feeders reduce back and neck strain while offering improved hygiene and cleanliness,” Parness said. “Many vets recommend raised feeders for the comfort and convenience they provide for the dog. Additionally, when combined with our award-winning slow feeding ridges and valleys, the 3in1 UP Feeder provides a healthy and convenient solution for pet parents. The ridges in the 3in1 UP Feeder turn feeding into a game rather than making it a difficult challenge. We study the way the food will distribute and move while a dog is eating to ensure the experience slows them down while still being enjoyable.”
The bowls, which are currently available in white and pink, have a slip-resistant base, are BPA, PVC and phthalate free and are also dishwasher safe on the top rack. The 3in1 UP Feeder holds up to four cups of food.
According to Nicole Fuller, director of strategic relations for Unleashed Life, the company’s up-market designer raised feeders sell well across the board of all pet owners, from millennials to baby boomers.
Unleashed Life has introduced seven new collections in 2016, including the Soho Nickel double feeder with a black granite top and a polished nickel finish.
“We try to introduce something new each year and keep the collections that are doing well to ultimately have around 40 active collections,” Fuller said. “The Phuket collection, which debuted when the company launched in 2007, is still our best seller.”
The bowls, which are designed primarily for indoor use, can be used outdoors on covered patios. The stainless steel bowl inserts are removable and can be placed in a dishwasher.
Beco Pets, a leading manufacturer of eco-friendly pet products in the United Kingdom, recently signed a national sales and distribution deal with Chicago-based Pet Product Innovations to distribute their products in the United States. The deal includes their standard dog bowls and their slow feeders.
“Beco Bowls are made from our proprietary and unique plant fiber plastic that’s produced from waste plant fibers found in bamboo and rice husks,” said company spokesperson Alec Lom. “Designed to be both eco-friendly and functional, Beco Bowls are tough, durable and dishwasher safe. They are completely sustainable to produce and ultimately biodegradable.”
All the bowls also have a rubber rim to prevent dogs from chasing them across a room. The color selection includes pastel shades of pink, blue, green, vanilla and beige and the bowls are available in a range of sizes that includes cats and critters, too.
According to Alex McKinnon, founder and CEO of Kinn Inc., which manufactures Kinn Kleanbowls, research done by the company detailed that there are over one million dangerous germs in pet food and water bowls, including E.coli, salmonella and mold that can make pets sick and take four years off their lifespan.
“Simply scrubbing with soap and water does not kill all germs, and dishwashers do not get hot enough to kill them either,” McKinnon said. “Our research showed that about 67 percent of bowls still had salmonella after cleaning in a dishwasher and 75 percent of bowls still had salmonella after scrubbing with soap and water.”
It was these facts and figures that prompted the development of the company’s Kinn Kleanbowl with Nourish-Pet Refills, which are paper inserts that are removed from the bowl and discarded after each meal.
“Nourish-Pet Refills are a germ-free system and are also biodegradable,” McKinnon added. “We believe that pets prefer to eat and drink from a Kleanbowl versus an ordinary pet bowl. That’s why we back Kinn Kleanbowl and Nourish-Pet refills with a money back guarantee.”
The bowls are available in three sizes with a fourth jumbo size being introduced later this year.
Beyond the Brush
For many cat owners, brushing a cat’s teeth ranks alongside giving a cat a pill on the list of impossible tasks. One way retailers can grow the category is by adopting an educational role and highlighting the importance of feline dental health and the options available to their cat-owning customers.
Toothy Health Problems
“The general rule of thumb is that, by three years of age, both dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease,” said Kurt Venator, DVM, Ph.D. and director of veterinary strategy and programs for Purina. “Every cat and household is different. Some cats accumulate tartar faster than others.”
Apart from periodontal disease, more than 50 percent of felines have at least one feline odontoclastic resorption lesion (FORL) by the time they are three years-old. Like human cavities, they are extremely painful and can cause difficulty in eating.
In humans, tooth decay causes the tooth to disintegrate from the outside inwards so that the cavity is visible to the dentist. However, the exact opposite happens in cats. FORLs cause the tooth to decay from the inside outwards. Consequently, the damage isn’t visible until it’s very advanced and irreversible, which means the tooth has to be extracted. FORLs are said to be even more painful than human toothache because the decay attacks the nerve.
Dental Health Solutions
Because dental disease is a veterinary issue and the bacteria in the mouth can cause other medical issues, most dental food formulas are exclusive to veterinarian offices.
However, according to Dr. Brent Mayabb, director of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, that company makes a product sold in specialty retail stores called Oral Care that offers the same oral health benefits as the company’s veterinary prescription dental formulas.
“Oral Care is for adult cats with dental sensitivities,” Mayabb said. “The cube shaped kibble has a special texture that encourages chewing and promotes a brushing effect that helps reduce plaque formation. We have seen an improvement in the reduction of dental plaque formation in seven days with Oral Care kibble size, shape and texture when compared to the same recipe with a standard kibble size, shape and texture.”
There are also a variety of over-the-counter products that can help promote dental hygiene from water additives to chew toys.
According to Alexa Taddeo of Ark Naturals Products for Pets, the company’s Plaque Zapper is a brushless toothpaste for cats. The product is a water additive that can be added to a standard water bowl or sprinkled onto wet food.
New from Tropiclean is their Fresh Breath Cat Drops designed to keep a cat’s mouth healthy and promote fresh breath. It comes in a bottle with a simple pump action. The dosage is three drops added to the water bowl every time it is refilled.
“Our Clean Teeth Gel for cats works fast and naturally to help reduce plaque and tartar, no toothbrush required,” said Brian Collier, the company’s marketing and key accounts manager. “The product contains a proprietary blend of natural, holistic ingredients formulated to produce a healthy oral environment. It kills the germs that cause bad breath, plaque and gingivitis. It also soothes minor gum irritations.”
According to Lucia Wagnerova, a marketing specialist for SynergyLabs, the company’s Dental Fresh Original Formula for Cats is also a water bowl additive and is the company’s top selling feline dental product.
“It kills bacteria that causes bad breath, reduces plaque and tartar, prevents gingivitis and periodontal disease, and whitens teeth,” Wagnerova said.
“One teaspoonful added to eight ounces of drinking water daily is designed to properly manage your cat’s oral care,” Wagnerova said. “However, we are also working on new oral healthcare products including toothbrushes, a dental spray and a dental gel. The plan is to introduce them towards the end of this year.”
The Sentry Petrodex VS (veterinary strength) Dental Care Kit from Perrigo Animal Health contains a hydrogen peroxide-producing enzymatic toothpaste formula to help reduce plaque and tartar, a toothbrush developed by a veterinarian with ultra-soft bristles for gentle application and a finger toothbrush that gently removes plaque and food debris while simultaneously massaging the gums.
The Virbac Corporation’s feline dental products that include toothpastes, brushes and dental chews are sold primarily in veterinary offices. However, according to Michael Albo, Virbac Corporation’s vice president of communications and customer service, they can also be stocked by pet specialty retailers who wish to expand their feline (and canine) dental care range.
According to Jennifer Crotty, director of product development and marketing for Petstages, toys designed to promote dental health—namely, the Catnip Plaque Away Pretzel and Fresh Breath Mint Stick—have been on their bestseller list for the past several years.
The chew toys are designed to help clean teeth and massage gums to improve dental health and have a unique net covering that removes soft tartar and will not unravel when chewed. The pretzel is filled with catnip and fibrous catnip stalks to satisfy the natural desire to crunch and chew. The Fresh Breath Mint Stick is filled with sweet smelling mint leaves to freshen feline breath. As cats press and play with the stick, this action releases the minty scent. The dental toys are part of the company’s pledge to producing products with a purpose.
Oldies but Goodies
Considering the fact that many dogs lead active social lives, crates and carriers are a well-established category in the market place. However, interestingly, there isn’t much new to be found in this category. Instead, it’s a case of the best-selling products continuing to pull in the big bucks. It may also be a question that, apart from a few tweaks here and there, manufacturers have pretty much thought of it all—for now.
“We do not have information on how long people keep their crates and kennels, but most do tend to keep them a long time,” said Courtney Landry, senior product manager for the kennels and carriers category at Petmate. “We attribute this to the tried and true design of our products, based on consumer insight and advanced trend research.”
“We have no plans to release any new items this year in this category,” she added. “However, we continue to see much success in our Ultra Vari Kennels that were originally launched at Global Pet Expo many years ago. They continue to be a consumer favorite, featuring tough durable construction with an easy-open squeeze latch and an interior moat to keep pets dry. The tie down strap holes on the perimeter make an ideal kennel for zip-tie installation and extra security during airline travel. The kennel was designed with 360-degree ventilation, while providing safe haven in the home for pets.”
The Tried and True
When it comes to best sellers, Sleepypod is also not adding to its bestselling carrier line-up.
According to Michael Leung, Sleepypod’s lead product designer and co-founder, the airline-approved Sleepypod Air is their top selling model. It’s available in six colors with the most popular color being black.
“One of its key features is that the compressible ends fold from 22 inches to 19 inches and finally to 16 inches to fit the requirements of all under-seat airline requirements,” Leung said. “Further, the top compresses down to eight inches if required and it has large mesh windows on the top and both ends for excellent ventilation.”
The rest of the bag is made from tough ballistic nylon and the whole top unzips for full access, which makes it easy to place a pet inside and zip them in comfortably.
“The carrier has been crash-tested in tests comparable to crash-testing a baby seat at 30 miles per hour,” Leung said. “And these days, pet parents are looking at high industry safety standards to give them piece of mind.”
Kurgo, the Massachusetts-based company that has a large footprint in the pet travel market, also has no new additions to their carrier line-up. The company’s Wander Carrier continues to be a top seller because of its versatility.
“It’s a pet carrier, booster seat and travel dog bed all in one,” said publicist Kerry Sutherland, whose company K. Sutherland PR recently acquired the Kurgo account.
“It’s popular because it’s so versatile,” Sutherland said. “It’s great for walking, driving or biking, as all you have to do is slip the strap over your shoulder and off you go. The lower waist strap provides stability at your lower back area.
“When you need to switch to your vehicle for longer trips, the bag can be set up in your car, acting as a booster seat,” she added. “The same straps that helped you carry the bag now attach around your car seat.”
Recently, Sherpa, now part of Worldwise, Inc., conducted an in-depth research survey on pet travel to better understand what consumers are looking for in soft sided carriers and what types of quality, features and benefits are most important to them.
“The results were very important to review and have served as a very important guide for our company to continue to innovate and be a leader in this category,” said Sarah Stone, director of marketing for Worldwise, Inc. “We found that the airline approved and guaranteed on board feature [of the Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier] was the most important feature for consumers in choosing a soft-sided carrier. Next, removable and washable inserts, mesh ventilation windows and multiple entry points for easy access, loading and unloading were ranked the most important.”
“Further, respondents indicated that they use their soft-sided carrier the most for trips to the vet, but in-car travel and airline travel were almost equal in the second position of popularity,” she said.
Building on the popularity of the Sherpa Original Deluxe Carrier and the in-car SHERPA Safety Suite that keeps any soft-sided carrier securely in place inside a vehicle, the company launched the newly upgraded and redesigned SHERPA Ultimate On Wheels this year.
On the topic of road trips, Solvit Pet Products continue to have success with their popular Tagalong Dog Booster Seat that comes in three sizes with the extra-large size designed to hold pets up to 25 pounds.
“Giving pets a window seat eliminates the danger of them traveling while sitting on a passenger’s or driver’s lap,” said Patrick Hoffman, Solvit’s president and owner. “It’s designed for easy installation and can even be secured in a back seat position.”
While new ideas for carriers and crates may not be on the drawing board right now, there is fresh focus on accessories such as crate cushions.
“We offer a variety of different crate cushions in universal sizes,” said Ian Weiss, vice president of sales for Arlee Pet Products. “People are beginning to address the specific comfort needs of their pets while they are crated. Our Rover crate mattress offers overall comfort similar to a pet bed. It’s our top seller. However, there is growing interest in memory foam crate mattresses and those with thicker orthopedic cushioning. Our Lucy bolstered crate cushion has Thermatic self-warming technology as a special feature. Most people think that self-warming is only important in the winter months but dogs can be sensitive to drafts from air conditioning in the warmer months, too.”
While there may not be a lot of innovation in the carrier and crate category, it is still an important segment for dog owners and, therefore, for your store.
Supplements Get Specific
Eighty-eight percent of all cat owners surveyed do not give their pets vitamins or supplements. That’s according to the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners’ Survey published by the American Pet Products Association (APPA). This definitely leaves the door open for pet specialty retailers to start the conversation with their customers and grow the category.
“Supplements are vital to the feline diet because our cats are so far removed from a truly authentic and natural species appropriate diet,” said Heidi Nevala, president of Natura Petz. “Even the very best foods we feed our cats cannot mimic raw nutrition, and most cats are fed dry kibble, which cannot replicate the health benefits they would obtain from live prey, such as connective tissues, and primary and secondary metabolites, all of which play a critical role in delivering truly balanced nutrition to our cats.”
“Additionally, kibble and canned food usually contain processed meats and synthesized vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fatty acids that do not necessarily metabolize and assimilate in our cat’s bodies appropriately,” Nevala said. “Adding in supplements helps create a stopgap and a bridge between nutritional deficiencies and unknown diseases and conditions that are commonly experienced.”
Go With the Flow
Natura Petz sources their ingredients from the rich biosphere of the Amazon rainforest and offers a large selection of feline products. Their Break It Up is formulated to address stones and urinary infections. Cats Love Suma is a nutritional meal topper designed to be used for all aspects of feline health: to help boost immunity, balance body systems, enhance energy, protect against cellular mutations and support healthy pancreatic function.
Recently, the company introduced their Urinary Tract Infection Starter Pack designed for short term use to help address commonly experienced bladder and kidney infections and related pain. It can also be used long-term to attempt to break up chronic UTI cycles.
Veterinarian Chris Bessent of Herbsmith, Inc., concurred with Nevala about feline bladder issues.
“I think bladder care along with joint support are the most important issues for cats today,” Bessent said. “One of our most important products for cats is our herbal formula called Herbsmith Bladder Care. Most cats receive nutrition that is relatively high in carbohydrates (for a carnivore), which sets up an inflammatory environment in the body. In cats, that inflammation is often reflected in bladder issues such as recurrent bladder infections or inflammation and bladder crystals and stones.”
“Supporting bladder health by maintaining normal function of the urinary tract is key to developing the proper urinary environment,” Bessent said. “Bladder Care helps maintain a normal pH, which may reduce the likelihood of crystal and stone formation. Herbsmith Bladder Care contains cooling and draining herbs that help to balance the bladder and maintain a proper urinary environment. Cranberry extract and d-mannose help to protect and support the bladder wall.”
Bessent said that apart from bladder issues, joint issues stem from the need for additional glucosamine ingredients in the daily diet.
Picking Solutions for Picky Eaters
According to Tabitha Cromer, associate product manager for Tomlyn, hairballs continue to be the number one issue addressed by the company’s product line-up.
“Our hairball remedy called Laxatone is available in a gel and chew form,” Cromer said.
“However, there has been growing interest from consumers for products in the behavior category. We have a Relax and Calm chew that helps to calm pets naturally.”
According to Cromer, Tomlyn was the first supplement manufacturer to bring to market a product for sick or picky eaters to promote a healthy appetite nearly four decades ago.
Currently, there is the Tomlyn Nutri-Cal High Calorie Nutritional Supplement for adult cats and the Tomlyn Nutri-Cal High-Calorie Dietary Kitten Supplement.
“It’s a tasty gel that supports a healthy appetite and is a concentrated source of vitamins and minerals, ideal for sick or choosy eaters,” Cromer said. “While veterinarians often prescribe it, it is also available over the counter and is sold in specialty stores nationwide.”
According to Tony Lewis, head of product innovation at RPG Innovations, which is behind the Vet’s Best line of supplements, the company has new cat supplements “in the works” to add to the current lineup that includes their popular Hairball Relief Digestive Aid and Urinary Tract Support supplements.
“Vet’s Best supplements for both dogs and cats were originally formulated by a veterinarian,” Lewis said. “While we have always marketed our products for dogs and cats, many people consider supplements to be ‘a dog thing.’ But fortunately, we’ve seen growing awareness amongst cat owners, too. In fact, both our Hairball Relief Digestive Aid and Urinary Tract Support supplements for cats now rank amongst our top sellers.”
“Our tablets are very palatable and accepted and chewed by many cats,” he said. “For finicky cats that refuse to chew tablets, they can be crumbled and added to their food.”
Product placement in a store is key to a product’s sales performance.
“Profiling brands together helps create better merchandising on the shelf,” Cromer said. “End-caps are great and so are counter displays. We just created a POP counter display for our retailers to use that includes our appetite-enhancing products as well as the Laxatone gels.”
On the Go
Because dogs are game for anything, they make great buddies for outdoor activities. Manufacturers across a broad spectrum of products are all clamoring for a piece of the outdoor action—from the retractable patent-pending ThunderLeash that converts from a standard retractable leash to a “no-pull” solution in seconds, to RC Pets packable rain ponchos, Kurgo’s backpacks, coats and life vests and a myriad of Insect Shield products from PetEdge. It’s definitely a category for retailers to highlight and watch.
“Customers are increasingly recognizing that, like humans, dogs need the proper gear for comfort and safety outdoors,” said Gordie Spater, co-founder and chief business officer for Kurgo Products. “The recent success of companies like L.L. Bean and Patagonia has also put quality outdoor gear in the spotlight, and customers have started demanding this same quality and service for dog products as well.”
“General fashion is trending toward rugged, outdoor styles,” Spater said. “All of this adds up to immense growth in the outdoor category.”
According to Spater, a simple rule to follow with dogs is that if the dog’s owner is cold, the dog is, too. The right dog coat keeps an outdoor canine toasty.
“Coats like our three-season North Country Coat with LED safety light and waterproof Loft Dog Jacket protect dogs from the elements for maximum comfort,” Spater said.
“We design our products to help make getting out and about with your canine family member easier than ever,” said Jill Connolly, product development manager at RC Pets. “Dog coats are a great example of something that helps encourage you to get outside even on less desirable wet days, as it helps make the after walk clean up more manageable.”
Apart from many other on-the-go products such as travel bowls, coats and buoyant life vests, RC Pets has done very well with their Packable Rain Poncho, which is available in a variety of bright colors. It comes in a convenient carry pouch that clips onto a leash.
A leash is a necessity when taking dogs out and about. Hands-free leashes are popular with active owners.
“A concern for overall pet wellness is encouraging people to be more active with their canine companions,” Connolly said. “Our active leash is a perfect example of a product that encourages you to get outside, as its hands-free design allows you to bike, run or walk with your dog while still having full arm motion. The leash has reflective stitching that is visible up to 25 meters.”
According to Todd Cantrell, vice president of marketing at ThunderWorks, both the standard ThunderLeash and the retractable version “are both selling surprisingly well.” The company has taken to TV advertising to explain how the leash mimics a dog training trick called the Dutch half-hitch. The hitch involves looping a leash around the flank or belly and tightening it to distract and help settle an overactive or leash aggressive dog that may pull hard or become agitated at the sight of other animals or strangers.
Keeping Them Safe
A number of products are available to make outdoor adventures safer for dogs, including sun protection, insect repellants and first aid kits.
Gold Paw Series new Sun Shield Tees are stylish UV-blocking t-shirts designed for warm weather comfort. The light-weight jersey fabric is UPF50 rated, which means it blocks 98 percent of the sun’s UV rays.
“The tees are super comfortable and ideal for wear indoors and out,” said Alyson Brodsky, public relations spokesperson. “Additionally, they’re perfect for all sorts of applications beyond sun protection, including skin conditions, wound care, topical medications and as an anti-anxiety calming aid that can be worn all day.”
According to PetEdge president and CEO Andy Katz, the company’s large range of products that are infused with Insect Shield are “our best-selling products, ever.”
The variety of products available are treated with a patent-pending process that tightly binds a proprietary permethrin formula to fabric fibers, repelling mosquitoes, ticks, ants, flies, chiggers and midges.
Katz said that the company’s best-selling soft line products include a t-shirt, a lightweight hoodie, a neck gaiter and bandana. New items that debuted at Global Pet Expo last month include a mesh tank top and a sling carrier.
If a dog is going to be near the water, make sure the owner knows that a life vest is essential.
“Not all dogs are great swimmers, and all the conditions that could cause a person to fall off a boat or dock into the water apply to dogs as well,” Spater said. “[Kurgo’s]
Surf N Turf life vest not only ensures safety, but also acts as a three-season shell in one, so customers have the right jacket for every excursion.”
And, it behooves owners to be prepared for mishaps.
“[RC Pets’] Pet First Aid Kit is well stocked to allow owners to be prepared for any situation,” Connolly said. “As more people bring their dogs on road trips and further afield adventures, it’s nice to know you have the proper supplies and instructions to keep your dog safe and comfortable in an emergency situation.”
After a walk, hike or swim, a dog may need some clean up. Quick Bath Wipes by International Veterinary Sciences solve this problem.
“Our Quick Bath Wipes are pH neutral and formulated to conveniently and safely remove bacteria and odors from your pet’s skin, coat and paws,” said Ara Bohchalian, new co-owner and CEO of the brand. “They are great for using after a general walk irrespective of the weather, as they will reduce allergens tracked inside the home.”
Dog packs make carrying canine gear easier, and Kurgo and Outward Hound have this need covered.
“All dogs are bred for a specific purpose and can get restless and destructive without a job to do,” Spater said. “Backpacks like [Kurgo’s] Baxter Pack make dogs feel like they have a job on the trail, allowing them to carry their own food, treats, toys and travel essentials.”
One of the products that Outward Hound presented at the New Product Showcase at Global Pet Expo last month was the company’s new Pal Pak Harness.
“Not every pet parent is a serious hiker; that’s why we’ve designed our Pal Pak Harness to be more fun and functional for regular walks and trips to the park,” said Paul Banker, Outward Hound’s senior manager for content marketing.
The whimsical harness is available in three sizes and five fun characters, including a unicorn and a pirate.
“We partner with retailers to provide exceptional educational material around our products as well as rich content to help market these products,” said Banker. “With any gear item, robust sizing info is essential. We provide infographics, videos and bold graphic packaging so our retail partners are better equipped to answer sizing and product questions from their customers.”
Solvit Pet Products has introduced a dog step that mounts to the trailer hitch on a vehicle, making it easier for older pets to access the back of a SUV so they, too, can enjoy the outdoors. The Hitch Step folds flat against the vehicle when not in use and its convenience speaks for itself.
The Fun Stuff
“We had a lot of people ask for soft interactive toys that are easier on teeth and gums and also better for smaller dogs,” said Lanette Fidrych, president of Cycle Dog, which produces a variety of fun toys hand-sewn from post-consumer recycled products. “Consumer input resulted in our new line of Fuzzy Flyers. The dura-plush construction combines a soft plush that outer dogs love with bonded inner laminate for durability. The toys have double stitched internal seams for additional protection. They are soft enough for indoor or outdoor flight and tough enough for extended play sessions.”
“To date, our most popular outdoor toys are our interactive toys such as our Ecolast SuperFloat water toys that float above the surface of the water, making it easier for dogs to find in the water,” Fidrych said.
Interactive Cat Toys
Cats are not supposed to be couch potatoes—and the pet industry is doing a lot to get this message out there by focusing on feline enrichment products. Retailers who endorse this message can educate cat owners and increase their profits through the sales of interactive cat toys.
Tunnel of Fun
The latest product to come to market from Nekochan, the UJI Tunnel system is specially designed for interactive play between cats and their owners and gives cats an opportunity to rev up their own self-play.
“I wanted to design a tunnel system that is stylish and safe for cats with the goal of encouraging cat owners to interact with their cats—a kind of amusement park for cats,” said Ellen Tsuyuki, Nekochan’s owner and product designer. “By offering different combinations, cat owners can set up what best fits their living environment in terms of size. The tunnels have peek holes, and the idea is to use other toys such as our wand toys so cats can engage with the wands and hone their hunting skills.”
The tunnels compress down easily and come in a stylish carry bag with handles for convenient storage and travel and the interior is ultra-soft, durable polyester. All of Nekochan’s cat toys have been endorsed by The International Cat Association (TICA).
Bonding through Play
“Interactive toys are a great way for pet parents and cats to establish strong relationships,” said Brittany Green, product manager at Petmate. “We believe that wands are the best toys in this category because they encourage playtime together, provide exercise for the cat, engage natural instincts and encourage bonding.”
“The Air Prey Wand features a feather that spins and attracts cats that prefer to watch birds fly through the air,” Green added. “For those cats that prefer chasing bugs and other critters, the Ground Prey Wand comes with a toy that mimics the movement of different bugs. Finding a wand that appeals to your cat will encourage play and build relationships, unlike toys that are only meant for solo play.”
According to Mandie Sweetnam, Knoxville, Tennessee-based product manager for the interactive cat category at Petsafe, the Pounce remains one of the company’s most popular interactive cat toys.
“The motion and settings are perfect for feline play. The stop and go action of the mouse on the track drives them wild!” Sweetnam said. “However, The Bolt remains our most popular cat toy, globally. I would go as far as to call it a classic since it has been on the market for more than five years and is still going strong.”
“PetSafe has been hard at work developing new cat toys to satisfy the wide array of feline play styles and we have some great toys to feature at the Global Pet Expo this month,” Sweetnam said. “The Whimsy is an automatic teaser toy that can be clamped nearly anywhere for your cat to bat and jump at. The Flitter is a two-armed rotating teaser toy that is great for multi-cat households. Both toys feature a Play-While-You-Are-Away mode, which means there is a setting that allows the toy to activate multiple times throughout the day for random playtime.”
“We consider both toys to be competitively priced,” Sweetnam said. “Cat parents are continuing to see the value in long lasting toys for their cats. The added Play-While-You-Are-Away function is making these toys even more popular.”
Worldwise, Inc., has various activity-boosting toys in their Petlinks line, including the Mystery Motion, an interactive toy that redefines the cat-and-mouse game. The toy replicates the mesmerizing movement of hidden prey with feathers peeking out from under a fabric cover. The whisper-quiet motor spins the enticing feather-tipped wand in an unpredictable pattern, keeping cats fascinated and poised to pounce.
New from Petstages is the Scooting Mouse, a small colorful mouse that scoots across the floor when its tail is pulled. It’s an ideal size for cats to bat about and wrestle with and the ears are made of a crinkling material to pique feline interest.
Bergan has revved up its Turbo Scratcher cat toy to produce the Mega Turbo Scratcher. The toy now has two interactive sides, a 14-inch scratch pad on one side and a “peek-a-boo” game with ball on the other. It is packaged with the ball and some catnip to ramp up the fun and keep cats engaged. Such toys are ideal for multi-cat households.
Harnessing the Latest Trends
According to Angela Wharton, Petmate’s product manager for collars, leashes and containment, “while pet parents also want fashionable collars and leashes for their large dogs, safety and functionality will always be the top priority for bigger breeds.”
“However, small dogs are growing in popularity and at 51 percent, have the highest rate of ownership in households,” she said.
“With small dogs, one of the trends that we are seeing is the use of embellishments and alternative, fun materials for collars and leashes,” Wharton said.
According to Wharton, the popularity of harnesses is growing in part due to their greater safety for dogs that pull on their leashes.
“Collars and leashes are made for each other, but when you have a ‘puller,’ your best bet is a harness or your pet may suffer from continued stress that can result in a collapsed trachea,” Wharton said.
“Overall, roughly 41 percent of pet parents own a harness,” she added. “The interest in and use of harnesses has increased 35 percent over the last two years and this can be traced back to primary use by small dogs. This also relates to the fact that small dogs are growing in popularity.”
Recently, Coastal Pet Products conducted an in-store consumer research project and discovered that consumers’ main concerns are durability, comfort and safety. The research conducted by Vox Capio also indicated that consumers want reflective properties “built in” to the collar, such as reflective stitching and patterns.
“Our Pet Attire Pro and Lazer Brite lines offer bright, sporty colors and are currently trending in retail,” said Angela Ramsay, assistant merchandising manager at Coastal. “Because of growing concerns about comfort and safety, we have found mesh harnesses to be hugely popular.”
“We’ve determined that harnesses perform better when they’re a focal point [in dispays],” Ramsay added. “Color-blocking can also be aesthetically appealing.”
Over recent years, dog owners have come to enjoy a wide range of materials for both collars and leashes. A push for the use of more eco-friendly materials has brought hemp and bamboo into the spotlight, but now there are such accessories manufactured from cork, too.
Pelcor’s new collection of collars and leashes for dogs is imported from Portugal where the company is headquartered.
“The collection was inspired by my Portuguese water dog, Corky,” said Sandra Correia, founder of Pelcor. “We use a fine-quality cork skin made from the regenerating bark of the cork oak tree grown in sustainable cork oak forests in southern Portugal. We find it to be the ideal material because it’s smooth and lightweight while being very strong and durable. Plus, it’s hypoallergenic and stain-resistant.”
Pelcor offers collars in five sizes, along with a 46-inch leash and a choice of four colors. Because cork is waterproof, the collars and leashes are easy to maintain.
Kinn, Inc., has introduced a line of synthetic fleece-lined collars and leashes with a fleece-lined handle called Healthier Pet.
“The idea behind the fleece liner on the Koala Plush-Comfort Collar is to help prevent neck skin irritations, allergic reactions, infections and injuries,” said Kinn’s founder and CEO, Alex McKinnon.
“The Kangaroo Plush-Comfort Leash has a fleece-lined handle designed to act as a shock absorber when there is pulling on the leash by the dog on the other end,” McKinnon said. “We designed the products with input from veterinarians.”
The company’s products are designed in California. They have sub-assembly operations in China and final assembly, packaging and quality control back in Southern California at OPARC, a non-profit organization staffed by people with disabilities—a fact that has become an indirect selling point for the company.
A Cat Needs to Scratch
Across the country, living spaces are becoming smaller. For this reason, it has become almost a necessity that certain pet accessories such as cat scratchers do “double duty” in the home by providing a place to scratch and possibly snooze as well as being an attractive decorative feature.
Furniture to Scratch
“Today, pet parents no longer have to put up with unattractive cat trees covered with outdated shag carpeting in their living rooms in order to give their cats a functional scratch solution,” said Hannah Rosengarten, research and design manager for Worldwise, Inc. “Our Kathy Ireland Loved Ones collection is designed to be solution-based, fashionable and functional. When creating the Loved Ones cat furniture collection, we took inspiration from popular home décor styles, incorporating rich faux-wood finishes and muted colors, so these pieces blend seamlessly with existing furnishings.”
“Of course these pieces also incorporate functional and fun details for cats,” Rosengarten said. “Multiple scratching surfaces, fun toys and rest spots are a must in any cat furniture, and our Scratch and Climb Tower, Covered Groom & Hide Scratch Perch, and Scratch & Seek Tower incorporate them in clever and practical ways to make these pieces perfect for cats and their families.”
Shelley and Joe DelRocco, owners and designers of Pet Tree Houses based in Florida, label themselves “purveyors of feline fun.” Their trees are topped with branches of silk leaves and have a combination of real bark and sisal scratching zones incorporated into the design. The company recently introduced branches of autumn-colored leaves to their collection so that owners can change out branches to add a seasonal touch to their home environment.
According to DelRocco, the company has been working on new ideas in order to evolve their Trees into “a total life habitat.”
“We are now making them with integrated food and water bowl inserts as well as vertical sisal scratchers, which can be located just about anywhere on the tree, providing another scratching alternative to the real bark,” DelRocco said. “Our ultimate goal is to offer our feline companions a place where they can safely eat, drink, sleep and play while we humans can enjoy the natural beauty that instinctively lures them.”
The company also specializes in custom designs to meet individual cat owner’s needs.
“We recently designed a 12 feet tall tree that balances on a pole and sits in a vase on a nine-inch wide base in order for it to work in the home of its owner,” DelRocco added.
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp has a line of cat furniture called Vesper V-line also designed to satisfy daily feline activity and scratching needs and meet the aesthetic tastes of cat lovers.
Made of New Zealand pine and other wood veneer finishes, the furniture features varying combinations of cozy cubes, platforms and tunnels, as well as strategically placed scratching areas made from durable seaweed.
Up, Down and Across
According to the 2015-2016 National Pet Owners Survey, published by the American Pet Products Association, the majority of households with cats have two or more. Thus, products for multi-cat households have to meet both vertical and horizontal scratching needs to match the preferences of different felines.
“The most popular horizontal scratchers are simple corrugate scratchers,” Rosengarten said. “A cat who turns up its nose at a flat corrugate scratcher may love a carpeted scratch post or a sisal-covered ramp. That’s why it’s essential for retailers to offer their customers a selection of scratchers that represent a wide range of not only scratching materials but also shapes and angles. Our color-coded Petlinks System helps to educate consumers about the different types of scratchers and why a cat might prefer one type over another.”
Corrugated cardboard replicates bark that cats like to scratch. The popularity of these products is also linked to their relatively low price point, and they can serve multiple purposes in the home. PetFusion’s Jumbo Cat Scratcher Lounge offers multi-tiered scratching surfaces as well as places for cats to sit and relax.
“We call it a playscape,” said Kevin Krueger, head of business development for the company. “And it’s reversible for twice the usage.”
New from the company is the PetFusion Modern Cat Activity Tree, a crossover between a scratching post and a cat condo that offers a 30-inch sisal scratching post along with both a platform and a cubbyhole for cats to hang out in.
“It’s constructed from premium grade furniture materials in neutral colors to blend into most home interiors, and it comes with a catnip stray to attract feline interest,” Krueger said.
Decorative and Functional
Imperial Cat also offers a variety of multi-functional scratching shapes in the Scratch ‘n Shape collections. There are animal designs such as their giant tigers, turtles, iguanas and dogs. For car enthusiasts, there are car shapes. Imperial Cat even offers sports-themed scratchers in different sizes with designs on the edges so that they will fit into any room. Behaviorists say that you can never have too many scratchers in your home.
For cat lovers who really like for their cat scratchers to be decorative features, the FelineYogi scratching mat should have appeal. The mats are made out of the same material used for human yoga mats, and they each come with an add-on toy such as twine ball stuffed with catnip.
“The mats are available in a variety of fun colors such as red, green and purple,” said Paige Hodges, the mat’s creator. “They are very multi-functional in that many cats like to sleep and scratch on them, while in other households they are used as a food mat. I have even had customers take them with them for a vet visit to place on the examination table to make cats feel more secure in a medical environment. And it gives them something to scratch out their anxiety on, too.”
Reducing Puppy Pounds
A healthy weight is key to a dog’s overall good health. As dog obesity is on the rise, pet food manufacturers are targeting the issue with special weight management formulas and are taking the lead in addressing the role that exercise plays in the weight management equation.
Eating Better, Moving More
“Diet and exercise go hand in hand for dogs, too,” said Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA. “For weight loss, we always focus on controlling the caloric intake, but we often ignore caloric use side of the equation. This is where increased exercise can play a role.”
“Many pets lead less active lives today, and just as with people, this can result in weight gain,” Mayabb said. “For that reason, combining increased activity with controlling calories can improve the effectiveness of a weight loss program. And it’s a good idea to discuss both a weight management and exercise problem with the dog’s veterinarian, so that the advice can be tailored to your dog’s specific needs.”
According to Mayabb, obesity is more common in small dogs.
“Our mini formulas have decreased caloric densities compared to our medium and maxi formulas,” he said. “However, it’s possible for any dog of any size to become obese, so we have weight control diets for each size class.”
“Also, certain breeds, such as dachshunds, English bulldogs and Labrador retrievers, are prone to obesity,” Mayabb added. “For this reason, we formulate our Breed Health Nutrition for these breeds with lower caloric intake, kibble designed to slow down ingestion and L-carnitine to help their body burn fat.
The newest products on the shelf from Merrick Pet Care are the Merrick Backcountry Ancestral Diet and their Limited Ingredient Diets, which feature different proteins.
“Choosing a grain-free, high-protein diet for your dog can often lead to improved energy levels, helping to naturally maintain their active lifestyle and healthy weight—a virtuous circle,” said Betsy Berger, communications manager at Merrick Pet Care.
“Feeding a diet rich in quality animal protein and choosing more nutrient-dense recipes allows pet parents to spoon out smaller portions overall,” Berger said. “That’s why even recipes like our Merrick Backcountry Ancestral canine diet, or our Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet recipes for pets with food allergies, can still contribute to optimal weight for your dog.”
According to Chanda D. Leary-Coutu, senior manager of marketing communications for WellPet, the company has seen a shift in consumers’ purchasing habits.
“Pet parents are becoming hyper-vigilant when selecting the right diet for their pets, often looking for ingredients that mimic their own or one recommended by a veterinarian,” Leary-Coutu said. “Some qualities pet parents look for are lean meats from quality protein sources like turkey, duck, salmon and lamb; wholesome fruits and vegetables; no corn or soy and no added artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. As part of this trend, we’ve seen a growing interest in many of our grain-free and raw-inspired recipes as well as our weight management formulas for dogs of all sizes.”
“All our Wellness CORE recipes are protein-focused with controlled levels of fat, carbohydrates and calories,” she continued. “However, the Wellness CORE Reduced Fat formula has 25 percent less fat than the original CORE formula and is recommended for weight loss [and] management in pets. This formula includes antioxidants, omega fatty acids, glucosamine and probiotics.”
The Holistic Select Weight Management food from WellPet is specifically formulated with the company’s Unique Digestive Health Support System, which includes active probiotics, healthy fiber and digestive enzymes that supports absorption and utilization of vital nutrients throughout the dog’s entire body.
According to Leary-Coutu, the company’s food labels are a good source of nutritional education for both retailers and pet owners looking to better understand what they’re feeding their pets.
“We also recently rolled out an educational campaign for retailers and pet parents alike called The 5 Signs of Wellness,” she said. “This effort aims to educate our partners and customers on the visible indicators of overall health and wellbeing in their pets: skin and coat health, digestive health, energy, immunity, and eyes, teeth and gum health. Balanced nutrition through quality ingredients like protein-rich meats and whole fruits and vegetables is the key to a long, happy life for pets and their parents alike. We also work with retailers to encourage pet parents to talk with their veterinarians about what food and treat recipes best cater to their pet’s dietary and nutritional needs.”
Leary-Coutu added that the company’s research into canine weight management has highlighted that fact that if a dog is leading an active lifestyle and eating a nutritionally balanced diet, they’re less susceptible to weight issues, no matter the breed.
“As dogs age, their activity levels tend to decrease, making them more prone to weight gain,” she said. “It’s also important for pet parents to work closely with their veterinarians to determine the correct portion size for dogs. Despite getting high-quality nutrition, dogs will be likely to gain weight if they’re regularly consuming larger portions than what their body requires.”
Frequently, dogs that eat too quickly are also eating too much because the moment they put on their “hang-dog” look, the owner will replenish the food bowl.
Food cubes are an excellent alternative to a regular food dish because it slows down the consumption of the meal because dogs have to work for their kibble, which gives them a chance to digest and feel full.
Kruuse, the Danish company well known throughout Europe for their inventive pet product lines including innovative food bowls and food cubes, recently established nationwide distribution in the United States. Consequently, their BUSTER SoftCubes are now available in America. The cubes look like large dice and come in a variety of bright colors and sizes.
“If you feed your dog dry food, the BUSTER cube can be an excellent substitute for a food bowl,” said Lars Lund, sales director for the Americas. “The BUSTER SoftCube can be filled with a dog’s daily meal portion. The way in which a dog can push and roll the BUSTER Softcube around allows it to hone its natural instinct to work for food. And because of the way the kibble is dispensed, they are forced to eat more slowly.”
“The SoftCube is made of a non-toxic and recyclable material and is easy to rinse to keep clean,” Lund said. “They work well on all floor surfaces and are not noisy when used on a wooden or laminated surface.”
According to Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, dogs and cats used to be considered seniors when they reached seven years of age. Now, because cats (and dogs) are living well into their teens, seven years is now termed “adult” and 11 years is considered “senior.”
Ingredients for Longer Lives
With cats living well into their late teens and even their early twenties, nutritionists must reconsider older cats’ diet changes as they enter later life stages.
“At Royal Canin, we typically recommend cats at the age of seven switch from an adult diet to a mature diet,” Myabb said. “Nutrients in these diets such as antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids can help support healthy aging. As cats continue to age, additional nutritional adaptations can be even more beneficial, so we recommend the change to a senior diet at age 11. Even if you’re not seeing physical signs of aging yet, there may be aging changes that we should address with nutrition.”
According to Heidi Nevala, president and founder of Natura Petz Organics, it is not uncommon for senior cats to display multiple symptoms related to a variety of health conditions. This makes it difficult for owners to offer palliative care.
“Retailers and pet parents alike are seeking superior feline wellness solutions that are condition-responsive as well as contain more specialized ingredients beyond MSM [methylsulfonylmethane] and chondroitin, such as adaptogens and super foods,” Nevala said.
She further explained, “Our product called Bionic Body contains adaptogens such as camu camu and cat’s claw, which are plants that are naturally coded to identify oxidative, metabolic, physiological and emotional distress in your cat’s body and nutritionally work to help restore balance.”
Many senior pet products incorporate ingredients with high levels of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants—the so-called “super foods.”
“Super foods are another compelling wellness solution for senior cats because, as our cats age, it becomes more difficult for them to assimilate critical nutrients,” Nevala said. “Super foods like maca and sacha inchi are highly nutritious, but also offer innovative joint care by working to limit inflammation and pain. They may also help stimulate collagen production, which directly builds bones, cartilage, joints and connective tissues, and thus can offset symptoms related to degenerative conditions such as arthritis.”
Making Pills Palatable
When it comes to supplements and medication, it is often possible to open a capsule and sprinkle its contents onto food. Unlike their canine counterparts, cats are not known to simply chomp down pills. Using some kind of tasty treat to hide a pill is one solution for many cat owners.
“Our Pill Paste is low-calorie so that it can be used to disguise capsules and pills that have to be given daily,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products.
The paste is bacon flavored and, according to Cope, is a flavor that cats seem to enjoy as much as dogs do.
There are Greenies Pill Pockets from Mars Petcare, which can also be found in the treat aisle. These help pills masquerade as treats and are available in two flavors: chicken and salmon.
The Green Pet Shop has produced a self-warming mat called the Achy Paws Pet Mat, designed to soothe aching joints and increase blood circulation.
“The self-warming mat uses a unique, non-toxic bamboo charcoal technology that is pressure-activated by a pet’s own weight to provide a soothing relief from a natural source,” said Larry Wright, president and CEO of the company. “The pad is soft and durable and made with triple-layered fabric that absorbs odor, moisture and toxins.”
Apart from their soothing effects, the mats are also designed to calm the restlessness, stress and anxiety that go along with discomfort.
“If a pet overheats, the bamboo charcoal can also fluctuate according to the pet’s temperature and provide a cooling relief,” Wright added.
The mats are machine washable.
The senior cats category also allows retailers to expand their horizons by adding to their inventory a variety of lifestyle products that will also enhance the general health and wellbeing of older felines.
Pet steps are one example.
“Petmate offers a wide variety of products to provide solutions for older cats, such as super comfy beds and Pet Steps, which have been designed with older pets in mind,” said Emily Schmale, senior marketing manager for the company. “Our Pet Steps are perfect for cats (or small dogs) that need help jumping onto the sofa, a chair or the bed. They are constructed as one piece but are lightweight enough to move around to different locations within the home. They also have rubber feet so as not to damage flooring.”
Older felines often have trouble getting down to floor or counter level to eat, and raised bowls–even those that are slightly raised–make the eating experience a more comfortable one. The Wetnoz Style Series includes raised oval-shaped bowls made from a high gloss melamine.
“They are designed to be skid-proof and dishwasher safe,” Schmale said.
The oval design is also cognizant of whisker stress that occurs when the cat’s whiskers touch the sides of a food bowl.
“This shape allows whiskers to remain untouched by the bowl and thus helps to make the eating experience an all the more enjoyable one.”
Treat Them Right
If you adapt the saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” to apply to dogs, there’s no question that the way to win canine love is with treats and chews. Judging by the exploding product variety in this category, it is definitely time to rethink the treat jar.
“The ultimate dog chew is one that is healthy and fun, contains human-grade limited ingredients, is easily digestible, and offers dogs a chewing experience that helps remove dangerous plaque and tartar as the result of a functional, mechanical chewing movement,” said Lion Houkes, global director of marketing for Paragon Pet Products, manufacturer of WHIMZEES.
“Our best-selling product is the WHIMZEES alligator. It’s a fun chew that not only offers great functionalities due to the grooves and ridges that help fight tartar in a dog’s teeth and gums, but the unique shape also helps dogs to ‘hold’ it between their paws in order to chew,” Houkes said.
With a strong focus on canine dental health, the company has just launched its new WHIMZEES Veggie Collection in sausage shapes and strips.
“The products have the same vegetarian ingredients as our original WHIMZEES but with important additions such as calcium and clove bud oil,” Houkes said. “In addition to treating common health challenges like indigestion, toothaches, stress and blood disorders, clove bud oil also has antimicrobial, anti-fungal, antiseptic and antiviral benefits. Cloves are also rich in important minerals such as iron, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.”
In the last few years, the chews and treat category—primarily cookies, jerky-styled products and rawhide—has begun to see growing competition from antler chews.
“Antler chews are a good choice for pet parents for a variety of reasons,” said Cindy Dunston Quirk, founder of Scout & Zoe’s, based in Anderson, Indiana. “First, they are very durable—especially for dogs that are big chewers. And antlers are actually good for dogs, as they are a natural source of calcium, phosphorous and other minerals. While calcium is necessary to build strong bones, the necessity of calcium in a pet’s diet doesn’t end with bone health. It also plays a very important part in heart function, supports nerve transmission, muscle building and signaling, and assists with the secretion of hormones.”
“All our antler dog chews are sourced from wild, shed, USA-premium elk antlers,” Dunston Quirk said. “And without a doubt, our most popular antler chews are the large size chew and our antler splits. The latter are perfect for senior dogs. Our antler splits are cut horizontally and expose the marrow on the inside of the antler, which canines consider a delicacy.”
Building on the introduction of the Merrick Backcountry protein-packed ancestral canine diet range, Merrick Pet Care has added new Merrick Backcountry meaty treats to its lineup in the form of jerky, sausage and patties to satisfy carnivorous cravings.
“The Merrick Backcountry treats meet the demand for all natural, grain-free meat treats that are safely made in the USA,” said Betsy Berger, communications manager for the Texas-based company. “They are made with deboned meat, poultry or fish as the first ingredient, thus making them protein-rich and ideal for packing an energy punch when out hiking or on a long walk.”
According to Tana Hersch, marketing coordinator for Riley’s Organics, the company has new organic treat flavors in development to complement their apple, sweet potato, pumpkin and coconut biscuits, along with what dogs have deemed their favorite flavor (in terms of company sales), the peanut butter and molasses recipe.
All the Riley’s Organics products have the USDA certification logo.
“The USDA organic certification is not just a casual seal of approval,” Hersch said. “It’s a signature of trust. We find that consumers are willing to pay for that trust, especially if they understand the production and certification process that the mark represents.”
“However, we are competitively priced to other organic dog treats, with human grade ingredients that adhere to the highest quality standards,” Hersch said.
Castor & Pollux Organic Dog Cookies also have the USDA stamp on their packaging. These all-natural treats feature 95 percent organic ingredients, including organic free-range chicken as the first ingredient.
“They are ideal for training, rewarding good behavior, or because your dog has perfected giving you ‘that look’,” Berger added. “Each one-and-a-half inch cookie contains about eight calories.”
New to the Castor & Pollux Good Buddy treat product range are Dental Chews, available in small- and medium-sized bones.
“Not only are they made without grains, corn, soy or wheat ingredients; they also contain no sorbic acid or sodium copper chlorophylin,” Berger explained.
The treat revolution continues with Loving Pets mimicking human treats with tasty chips and air puffed snacks.
“Barksters emulate chips and Puffsters are air-puffed snacks for dogs. Together, they are creating an entirely new category,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of the company. “We believe what we have called the ‘USA Pet Snack Revolution’ is a way of helping support our retailers drive more incremental sales.”
Puffsters Air Puffed Snack Chips are made with 100 percent natural U.S. sourced chicken combined with U.S. grown fruits and vegetables, and contain 10 calories per chip. They are available in four combinations: sweet potato and chicken, apple and chicken, banana and chicken, and cranberry and chicken.
According to Holly Sher, president and owner of the Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company, “Evanger’s Raw Gently Dried treat line is made onsite at our Illinois factory so we can assure quality control in freshness and taste.”
The flavors include wild salmon, beef liver, beef tripe, beef lungs, beef hearts and beef tongue. To showcase freshness and quality, the Raw Gently Dried treats are displayed in a clear container for convenient stacking or retail display at checkout.
Not Having a Ball
Hairballs are an unwanted bonus of cat ownership. Cats shed and ingest hair as part of their self-grooming routines. Fortunately, there are lots of different weapons of attack to fight the shedding hair wars that collectively will benefit retail store coffers.
Prevention Through Grooming
“Hair is essentially indigestible to cats and can build up in the gut, eventually resulting in that rather unpleasant hairball surprise on the living room carpet,” said Dr. Adelia Ritchie, CEO and founder of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals, Inc.
“To prevent or reduce the occurrence of these events—in addition to daily brushing—bathing cats can help to remove loose hairs and dander that would otherwise contribute to hairball formation,” Ritchie said. “Because cats can be sensitive to chemicals and perfumes, and even some essential oils, I created a special organic shampoo bar that is safe on all cats and kittens too.”
The DERMagic Rosemary Shampoo Bar for Felines is an all-purpose gentle deep fur cleanser with anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.
“Our special feline formula also helps reduce flakiness and regenerate healthy soft skin and fur. Using a shampoo bar allows the cat owner to hold the cat with one hand, while creating a thick, rich, easily-rinsed lather with the other. This helps make bathing a cat an easy, relaxing experience,” she said.
According to Rikki Mor, founder and owner of Groom Genie, “Plenty of people mistakenly believe that because cats are such terrific self-groomers, they don’t need additional grooming by their humans. But grooming a cat is extremely helpful in removing excess hair, distributing oils, stimulating the skin and more. Of course, the first challenge with cat grooming is making sure the cat will let you groom him!”
“We have had excellent customer feedback that often the Groom Genie is the only brush their cats will tolerate and even enjoy,” Mor said. “Our secret is in the different lengths of bristles, which detangle and remove the hair without pulling. Cats seem to like the feel of the bristles on their skin too. Plus, the handle-less shape of the brush enables a grooming session that’s more like petting.”
There are two sizes with the Teeny Groom Genie, which are 2.75-inch by 4-inch in size, designed specifically for cats.
The Andis Company has a comprehensive line of professional grooming tools for home use as part of its Premium Pet Tools line. The 7.5 steel comb has wide and narrow teeth for working different areas of the coat. It helps remove tangles, mats, loose hair and dirt.
The Premium soft-tooth slicker brush has bent wire bristles that remove undercoat and prevent matting. It stimulates hair follicles to promote growth and healthier hair. The range also includes a large pin brush, a two-sided brush and a large firm slicker brush for cat owners to add to their toolbox. The Andis grooming team cautions about the use of de-shedding tools. because if not used properly, they can damage a cat’s very delicate skin.
There is also a variety of self-grooming accessories for cats such as Omega Paw’s Arch Groomer, a free-standing, hands-free grooming arch that is covered with rubber nibs inside and out for cats to rub up against to remove loose hair.
The Catit Design Senses Massage Center, which is part of the Catit line of interactive cat products from Rolf C. Hagen, Inc., is a self-grooming rubber massage unit that appeals to a cat’s sense of touch by offering a variety of textures that provide a luxurious pampering experience. The ripple massager provides intense rubbing pleasure to a feline’s head, neck and face, and the body stroke groomers on the product offer easy-access and an intense massage, removing loose hair in the process. It comes with a sachet of catnip to attract feline attention to the unit.
Foods, Treats and Remedies
Perrigo Animal Health have two products in its anti-hairball arsenal that specifically target hairball control, namely its Sentry Hairball Relief Gel in a malt flavor which comes in a 4.4 ounce tube and its Sentry Hairball Chewables in a chicken flavor which comes in a 2.5 ounce pouch.
Sentry Hairball Relief gel helps relieve the constipation, dry cough and vomiting associated with hairballs. This product uses the company’s proprietary Petromalt technology and acts as an intestinal lubricant that helps prevent the formation of hairballs and eases the passage of hair that is ingested. It is safe and effective for cats and kittens over four weeks of age.
Sentry Hairball Chewables are also an effective intestinal lubricant that helps combat vomiting associated with hairballs. The company advises that cat owners feed one or two pieces daily as a treat reward after brushing their cat’s coat. The treat formula contains no added salt or artificial colors.
According to Chanda D. Leary-Coutu, senior manager, marketing communications for Wellness Natural Pet Food, the company recently released a new cat food formula to combat hairballs.
“Our new Wellness Natural Hairball Control recipe is made with a precise blend of fiber that helps move hair and already-formed hairballs through the cats’ digestive track,” Leary-Coutu said. “The natural recipe includes wholesome, savory protein sources cats love like deboned chicken and turkey, and also includes vitamins and minerals to support skin and coat health, resulting in fewer stray hairs being ingested.”
“Similarly, our new grain-free Wellness TruFood CocoChia Bakes are treats with salmon, coconut oil that contain a healthy dose of coconut oil and chia seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and probiotics. These tasty treats are great for a cat’s skin and coat while helping promote digestive health,” she said.
These morsels are a colorful slow-baked snack. They contain antioxidant-rich ingredients like beets and spinach formulated to keep cats happy and healthy—and hopefully hairball free.