Playtime is All the Time
They say that necessity is the mother of invention, and it’s certainly been the impetus in developing interactive cat toys to give felines that have an indoor lifestyle the mental and physical stimulation needed for their overall well-being.
The inspiration for the Petzi treat cam from pet technology company Petzila was co-founder Simon Milner’s cat, Cilla. The company’s name was originally PetCilla and morphed into Petzila.
Five years ago, Milner, was a hardcore technologist in Silicon Valley who had gone into retirement. While exploring tracking devices and ways to get updates on his elderly father, it occurred to Milner that it’s not only the elderly who are home alone, but also pets—including Cilla.
“These days, when people leave home and are mobile, they are relying on technology to remain connected. So it made sense to me to use this technology to extend our relationships with our pets,” Milner explained.
He teamed with David Clark and, together, they began to explore ways to get pets connected on the internet.
“I looked at all the gadgets and accessories my cat had, such as a leash, food bowl, toys, a litter tray, and we finally settled on treats backed by the research done with Pavlov’s dog because it could facilitate a mutually rewarding interaction and experience,” Milner said.
“We further discovered that 80 percent of our users used the push-totalk feature on the unit to have fullon conversations with their pets every time they dispensed treats,” Milner added. “The product is simply a point of implementation for a much richer platform that we are continuing to build out.”
The company’s next wave of integrated technology will allow the Petzi treat cam to interact with
gadgets such as Amazon’s Alexa, and Milner promises new ways to connect with other family members are in the pipeline.
Milner said that many pet specialty retailers have been slow to connect the word “tech” with the word “pet.”
“Pet store customers are programmed to expect certain experiences in pet specialty environments and don’t associate a more expensive piece of technology/hardware as part of that shopping experience,” he said. “But these days, pet tech is an established category, and I have no doubt that it will grow in the specialty retail space. This push will be driven by millennials who are caring, responsible pet owners. It’s not about replacing human interaction with pet tech gadgets but ways of integrating this technology to truly enhance the pet experience and improve the lives of our pets.”
The Petcube Play offers pet owners the opportunity to pre-program laser games to entertain their cat when they are home alone. The inspiration for this fun interactive gadget was Petcube founder and CTO Alex Neskin’s Chihuahua, Rocky, who hated being home alone and caused a perennial ruckus.
Neskin created an Arduino-based robot that consisted of a web camera and a remote-controlled laser pointer. He was able to play with Rocky through a web interface and distract him from barking. Next, he took this prototype to a Kickstarter campaign, and the Petcube Play became commercially available in 2014.
“Our software is constantly being updated, and we are always rolling out new features. For example, we have added Facebook live-stream integration, so users can live-stream their pets to their personal Facebook page or Facebook fan page,” Neskin said.
The company will be introducing an interactive treat cam called Petcube Bites. The company has teamed with Wellness, and samples of Wellness dog and cat treats will be included with the purchase of the treat cam, which in fact holds two pounds of treats and has built-in sensors to notify pet owners when the supply is running low.
And, of course, there is no question that cats love interactive laser toys. The very first FroliCat laser toy, the Bolt, was brought to market by Alan Cook, founder of Lucky Litter (ScoopFree and FroliCat products) who ultimately sold the brand to PetSafe.
“Our strategy following the success of the Bolt has been to find innovative ways to encourage the cat to play with the toy, while also maintaining the high-quality and sleek design, similar to the Bolt,” explained Mandie Sweetman, product manager for cat toys at PetSafe.
“It is surprisingly challenging to create electronic cat toys,” she said. “My tuxedo cats Fig and Aro are my inspiration for decisions on many toys because, honestly, they’ve seen it all. Cats can be a tough crowd; they have incredibly high standards! When they snub a toy, I know I need to go back to the drawing board.”
To date, the FroliCat line includes the Pounce, the Whimsy, the Cheese, the Flitter Teaser, the FroliCat Fox Den, the FroliCat Rolorat and the FroliCat MULTI LASER, featuring two lasers for cats to chase.
According to Hannah Rosenberg, research and design development manager of cat supplies for Petlinks by Worldwise, Inc., the company’s e-toys such as the Flitter Fly that allows cats to chase feathers that fly around a bowl, and Stir Crazy Electronic Motion Cat Toy are developed around the premise of how cats intuitively play.
“As a team, our designers and product managers come from diverse backgrounds,” Rosenberg explained. “After the decisions have been made, we look at the limitations (child safety issues and adhering to child safety standards in all toys, pet safety, price and materials). All these factors are taken into account before the product can be prototyped.
That’s when we call in our team of feline testers—Minnie, Bob, Buttons and Anderson Cooper (all cats of Worldwise employees)—along with a variety of awesome cats at our local Humane Society to make sure the toy meets the criteria needed to provide an excellent interactive play experience.”
Pet Tech in Retail
Errin West, co-owner of The Cat Connection all-feline store in Dallas, Texas, agrees with Milner’s opinion on pet tech gadgets in a pet retail space.
“When it comes to interactive toys or pet tech devices, there is no substitute for human interaction,” West said. “Cats know this better than humans do! Electronic toys are fun and we do sell them, but ultimately, my customers know it’s simply a toy along with any other.
“I am certainly not opposed to stocking pet tech gadgets either,” she continued. “But in this age of specialization, I believe that my customers are more likely to shop for them in an electronics store than in a pet retail environment. But it’s very possible as more gadgets come to market, that this will change. And that they will become a viable category within the pet retail space.”
The Future Has Arrived
They call it Moore’s Law: the prediction made by Intel founder Gordon Moore in the ’60s that technology-based products would dramatically increase in power and speed and simultaneously decrease in both size and cost every 18 to 24 months. And this is certainly holding true for wearable dog tech gadgets.
The Whistle GPS and Activity tracker is the perfect example. According to co-founder Ben Jacobs, the current Whistle is the company’s third generation device. It’s 50 percent smaller than the original gadget and weighs .92 of an ounce, making it comfortable for smaller dogs, too. And, along the way, the price has dropped from $120 on its launch to $79.
“We have also simplified the device and app features to focus on what we have learned is most important to pet parents—namely, reliable and affordable GPS and activity tracking for pets. Our main mission is to make pet care smarter and more intuitive,” he said.
One of the tracker’s newest facets is the multiple caretaker feature. According to Jacobs, the idea was to take what’s previously been recorded about our pets on kitchen calendars or with pen and paper by different family members as well as other caretakers, such as pet sitters and dog walkers, and record this information instead on the app.
“Now when you ask, ‘Does the dog still need a walk today?’ or ‘Is Buster sleeping normally?’ we can help answer that quickly and confidently, no matter whose turn it is to be on dog duty,” Jacobs explained.
The Pod Tracker, the invention of Australian Sebastian Langton, was created in memory of Langton’s cat, Rango, who disappeared and was never found. From the get-go, the product has been lightweight and small, but there have been great software improvements. The latest version allows pet owners to customize the device to suit their needs, whether it’s bark control or remote training commands.
“We’ve also improved battery life and nighttime visibility,” Langton added. “There is now something for all owners and all stages of the pet’s life.”
Currently, the Pod Tracker is sold online and in pet superstores. However, Langton stressed that he is always looking to new outlets and would welcome opportunities to work with pet specialty retailers.
Pet Tech Interest
Michael Lasky, president of SLA Brands, a national sales management specialist organization that links manufacturers with pet specialty retailers through their distribution network, confirmed that there is definitely a growing interest in wearable tech pet products in the pet specialty sector.
“Selling high-tech pet products is a great way for retailers to engage with their customers and make their store a pet hub within their community,” he said. “As more products come into the market place and prices continue to drop, they are ultimately more within the financial reach of a bigger audience.
“Research shows that while many people may research a product online, they still like to make such a purchase in a store,” he continued. “I believe that pet retailers can take advantage of this trend because pet tech products promote the human-animal bond and there’s no better way to engage with their customers on an on-going basis.”
One of the tech products that Lasky distributes is the Eyenimal wearable pet cam, introduced to the U.S. market by the French manufacturer NUM’AXES.
The company bought the pet cam idea from a French start-up in 2009 and has since further developed the technology and introduced three versions of the camera: the Petcam, Cat Videocam and Dog Videocam. The Dog Videocam is waterproof and has three recording modes—continuous, when the dog is moving, and when it is pointing— as well as an integrated microphone.
“It’s ideal for outdoor enthusiasts who always take their dogs hiking and camping,” Lasky said.
Protection from Bugs
Because fleas and ticks are becoming a year-round problem in many parts of the country, wearable tags that fend off these pests are becoming more popular and make for a good point of purchase display close to a register.
The CatanDog tag was developed in Spain back in the 1990s, according to Walter Wurnig, president and owner of the company. He says he initially set his sights on the Asian and European markets and, to date, has sold in excess of 2 million tags.
The company is now actively looking for distribution in the U.S.
“The tags are made from aluminum and charged with electromagnetic scalar waves,” explained Ben Poole, international sales manager. “The movement of the tag hanging on a collar creates a bio-resonant field that repels parasites such as fleas and ticks. Russian physicist Heinrich Lenz originally identified the concept of scalar waves in 1834. The Lenz’s Law was named after him.
“Because it is a non-toxic solution, the tags can be used on puppies and kittens and are effective for 24 months, making them both a time-saving and substantial moneysaving option over more traditional treatments,” he added.
Well-known pet accessory manufacturer Worldwise, Inc. is the latest company to enter the wearable tech space with the introduction of their Pawscout at Superzoo this July.
“The Pawscout Pet Finder is the next-generation digital pet tag and tracker that creates a community of pet protectors to keep all of our pets safe—no ‘lost dog’ flyers required,” explained Worldwise’s founder, Aaron Lamstein. “There has been very little change in pet ID tags in over 150 years, so we are proud to be transforming this category with the technology-based security our pets deserve.”
Weighing only 10 grams, the tags can be custom-engraved on a scratchresistant nameplate with a pet’s name, home address and owner’s phone number. They are available in a number of color combinations and cost a onetime fee. Th e app is free of charge to download and use.
The radar-styled honing technology uses the owner’s phone to locate the pet within a 200-foot radius, and a map shows his last known location. Th e long-term concept of the product is to build a community of pet protectors by inviting friends, family, neighbors, dog walkers and pet sitters to install the free app to help protect the pet. If a pet goes missing, by sending out a digital SOS, it relies on the community linked to the pet tags to begin searching immediately.
“We believe that the Pawscout Pet Finder is the next-generation, community-supported way to find lost pets and reunite them with their families,” Lamstein said.
Just Add Catnip
The same way that many restaurateurs have worked out that they can sell just about any dish if they simply add bacon, cat toy manufacturers have discovered that they can really expand their product lines by simply adding catnip, and cat lovers will respond and purchase on behalf of their felines.
The selection of toys for cats has been further expanded with the introduction of other feline herbal stimulants to the U.S. market, such as silver vine and valerian mint. And of course, they are being blended together, too, for maximum feline interest.
Catnip Gets Creative
According to Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe and The Dog Store in Nashville, Tennessee, her customers come in regularly to buy new catnip toys the way dog owners come in for specialized dog treats.
“I sell refillable products, but generally my cat customers like to purchase all new ones for their felines,” she said. “The Ratherbee El Gato Muy Loco Catnip Cigars from Blue Rat are my biggest sellers. From a retailer standpoint, they are beautifully presented to look like a box of real cigars. That attracts customers, and they keep coming back because the cigars are so potent. Cats love them, too!”
Blue Rat owner Judith McCullogh, who is the designer behind all of the Ratherbee catnip products, explains that she supports local farmers in Philadelphia for her catnip supply.
“I release new toys when creativity strikes, but I take a lot of time perfecting them before they are released,” she said. “Our labels have always featured one of our own cats on them.”
Apart from a selection of fun shapes, Blue Rat also does seasonal shapes for popular holidays throughout the year.
Worldwise, Inc., calls its proprietary blend of catnip and silver vine HyperNip. The company has also introduced a huge selection of cat toys incorporating the new blend.
The Wild Wooly is a furry and feathery critter with a long rope tail for picking up and batting about. The Playful Peacock is all feathers and ribbons plumped up with HyperNip and the Crinkle Crawly is a crinkle toy with floppy rope legs. The Nutty Nester is a wobble toy “powered” by a ball of compressed HyperNip.
First-time exhibiter at this year’s Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Florida, Meowijuana won the New Product Showcase Award for Best In Show/Pointof-Purchase Display with its display of catnip buds, leaves and toys styled to look like they belonged in a human marijuana pharmacy.
Currently, the company has two catnip toys: a Catnip Blunt and the Freshly Rolled Catnip Spliff. “We are planning to expand our toys with some cat joints and other toys,” said Marc A. Adams, head of business development for the company.
“We’ve had a lot of interest from retailers in our premiere buds and grinders designed for cat lovers to keep their cat’s toys constantly refreshed.”
Something to Scratch
OurPets Snag-ables is a new range of door hangers and floor scratchers from the company designed to provide cats with a play e
xperience that simultaneously fulfills their hunting instinct and naturally grooms their nails. Made with looped, durable, textured materials, the play experience is further enhanced with crinkling sounds and catnip.
New from Petstages, which is now part of the Outward Hound family, is a fun range of catnip-infused puzzle pieces called Mix & Scratch Play Stations. The pieces can be set up separately or interlocked together to create a big board of different activities and fun.
“Each puzzle piece is catnip blasted to keep their interest as they scratch releasing the scent of the herb,” explained Michael Parness, chief marketing officer for Outward Hound. “And each of the four bright pieces has individual features designed to keep cats engaged. So it’s ideal for both single cat and multi-cat households as it offers both vertical and horizontal scratching surfaces.”
The Channel Scratcher consists of strips of corrugated cardboard and sandpaper strips, ideal for filing feline nails. The Ball Chaser & Scratch has a circular field with a ball in the middle for cats to bat about. The Wavy Corrugate and Brush has a raised brush section for cats to self-groom themselves against and interact with a wavy corrugated surface on the square. The fourth piece, the Mix & Scratch Treat Pockets Scratcher with Post, features a corrugated square with numerous treat pockets and a corrugated scratch post.
Kong Catnip Botanicals Refillables is a line of cat toys from the Kong Company filled with U.S.- grown catnip and other herbs, such as lemongrass and valerian mint. The latter is popular in cat toys made in Europe to entice feline activity and play and is now being introduced to the American market, too.
The range includes a pig, frog and a hedgehog. All have easy-to-open pouches to refill, and there is a variety pack of the herbs so that cat owners can make their own blend when it’s time to refill.
Rolf C. Hagen has produced a line of all-natural catnip products called the Catit Senses 2.0 Catnip, which is designed for use with various products in Hagen’s Catit Senses 2.0 line of enrichment accessories. One such product is the Senses 2.0 Wellness Center, which is described as a relaxation and self-grooming center with dual self-groomer brushes to collect loose hairs. The design allows a cat to massage its head, neck, face and other areas of the body. The Catnip Shaker. which dispenses 100 percent Canadian-grown dried catnip leaves, is recommended for use with the Wellness Center. There is also a spray and a roll-on that can be used on soft toys as well as on items such as the company’s Vesper line of cat furniture.
Out and About With an Active Dog
Last year, when Margaret Millspaugh, owner of Wagon Train Feed & Pet in Orange, California, attended SuperZoo in Las Vegas, she was so intrigued by the outdoor camping display that pet lifestyle brand P.L.A.Y. did to promote its Scout & About Outdoor Dog Tent and accessories, that she decided to re-create the setting to display the products in her own store.
“We have a monthly open house in our store and invite vendors to give away free product and promote certain lines, and the Scout & About Outdoor tent was a huge hit, especially amongst dog owners who had kids,” she said. “It’s very easy to set up and take down, and it’s very lightweight. I have stocked up again for this summer.”
The tent is made from a durable high performance 600-Denier PE fabric that is commonly found in outdoor and camping products. It is waterproof and Intertekcertified UV-resistant to prevent water seepage and discoloration. Other accessories in the line include a chill pad filled with an eco-friendly filler made from 100 percent post-consumer, certified-safe recycled plastic bottles. It is machine washable, and the toys include the Scout & About Toss and Float that is ideal for water play as well as general fun and available in two sizes.
“The toys are lined with 3M reflective stripes for evening playtime,” explained Natalie Hennessy, public relations and integrated marketing manager for the San Francisco-based company. “And they are made to the same strict quality standards for manufacturing infant and children’s products.”
A Better Walk
The GLOPUP LED leashes and collars that light up are available in six fun colors and can be seen up to a distance of 1,000 feet, making them an ideal accessory for nighttime activities.
“They are powered by two replaceable 3V Lithium batteries and [are] low maintenance, offering 48 hours of blinking,” explained Brad Locke, founder of the company. “While they are sold separately, the feedback I’ve received from retailers is that they’re popular sold as sets. I believe it’s really an important
safety feature to be able to see a dog and a dog walker from a distance after dark.”
When it comes to outdoor activity accessories, comfort for both the dog and the owner is important. For this reason, the right leash for a particular activity can really enhance enjoyment on both ends of the leash.
Kurgo’s Springback Hiking and Running Leash is a bungee-styled leash that is 48-inches long but stretches to 54 inches when fully extended. This stretchy extension removes any jolting or pulling action on the dog and the owner. It has a D-ring for accessories, a quick-grab handle and even a bottle opener. Th e sixfoot Quantum leash is a versatile accessory that converts into six different styles. With a carabineer adjustment, the leash switches styles to better serve a particular outdoor activity. It can also go around the waist so that the walker is hands-free. It’s available in several colors in nylon and a reflective nylon. And, like all Kurgo products, it has a lifetime guarantee.
The K-9 Ruff n’ Tuff Indoor-Outdoor Pet Bed is new from K&H Manufacturing for this summer. Made from an extra-durable 1260 denier polyester fabric, it is being marketed as ideal for puppies, chewers or diggers.
Commenting on the new products, Dawn Buffington, the company’s marketing manager, explained that the liner inside the bed is channeled to keep the polyfil stuffing in place and that the bottom of the bed closes with hidden fasteners so there are no zippers to pique canine curiosity. This is the third indoor-out bed that the company has released in the past year. The other two models are the Just Relaxin’ and the Comfy n’ Dry that has a removable core that doesn’t absorb water and dries quickly. The cover is made from mesh and an outdoor fabric that is UV coated and water-resistant.
Safety in the Sun
For dog owners who are cognizant of the dangers of the sun during outdoor activities, protective clothing can off er great protection for dogs of all sizes. Gold Paw Series has added new colors to its Sun Shield Tee range, which launched at SuperZoo last year. Not only is the T-shirt great for sun protection, but it also helps with heat mitigation. To test the product, the company used an infrared temperature gun to measure the surface temperature of a dog’s fur at its office with and without the T-shirt. Th e company reports that the difference was nearly 50°F.
When it comes to all-weather protection, the company also added a new waterproof raincoat, called Rain Paw, to the product line. It’s available in all sizes and five colors, namely red, yellow, pink, beetroot burgundy and navy blue. Also new is the Gold Paw Series’ CoverAll Waterproof Blanket. It’s made of a waterproof Gore-Tex type fabric and is being marketed as a multipurpose product to be used as a seat cover as well as for outdoor outings.
The Travel-Tainer by GAMMA2 is a complete transportable pet feeding system that eliminates the hassle of packing up bowls and filling bags with food. It is ideal for a weekend away with the family pet. The system includes an airtight, clear plastic food container that keeps food fresh while keeping pests out. Two food/water dishes slip on the ends of the food container and a convenient carry handle holds it all together.
“We designed it to be a convenient way to bring along everything your dog will need for those quick getaways,” said Curt Leland, president of GAMMA2. “The airtight container keeps food fresh, allowing pet owners to keep the Travel-Tainer ready to go at a moment’s notice. Whether it’s a picnic in the park or a weekend camping trip, you can just grab it and go knowing that your dog has everything it needs.”
Building the Bond
Feeding pets can be a great bonding experience. Consequently, the type of food and water bowls used play an equally important role in enhancing meal time—and they should be not only functional, but also attractive.
PetSafe unveiled both new fountains and feeders at Global Pet Expo this past March in Orlando, Florida, adding to an already large range.
The new ceramic Seascape Fountain, like its predecessor the Sedona, is whisper quiet and designed for dogs that like water that bubbles upwards as well as those that like to lap water as it trickles down to the bowl. The rectangular bowls holds 70 ounces of water and can be placed on the top shelf of the dishwasher for a proper maintenance cleaning.
The company’s latest Digital Two Meal Feeder can be programmed to serve two kibble meals over a 48-hour period. The battery-operated feeder is set on a timer to open and comes with a lifetime guarantee. Closed bowls allow kibble to remain palatable for longer periods.
The latest collection of stainless steel food bowls from PetRageous Designs is the Fiji collection, which features a plastic-rubber design on the sides and along the bottom to help hold the bowl in one place during meal times.
For Anne Fitzgerald, owner of The Dog Park pet store in Alexandria, Virginia, the weight of a dog bowl is its most important functional “feature.”
“This really matters to my customers because dogs tend to kick and nudge their bowls all over the place,” she explained.
Gretchen George, co-owner of PetRageous with her husband, George, agreed with Fitzgerald.
“We took weight into account in designing the Fiji collection; it is very important,” she said. “Our most popular design for both food and water bowls is our Vintage ceramic collection that sports the words ‘food’ and ‘water’ as a design. Being ceramic, they are solid, too.”
Fitzgerald added that her customers also love heavy ceramic bowls that have words or sayings on them.
“They feel more connected to their pets with a bowl that says ‘One Spoiled Dog Lives Here,’” she added. “Another popular PetRageous bowl in our store is the one that says ‘Yummy.’ And my customers love bright colors, too. They are perennially popular.”
For dogs with long ears, mealtime may sometimes pose an issue, as liquid food can stain the ears and leave a smell that’s less than favorable. To combat this and other problems from improper eating patterns, there’s the BUSTER IncrediBowl from KRUUSE.
“These bowls are an attractive and sensible solution for dogs whose ears regularly flop into their food bowl,” said Lars Lund, Americas sales director for KRUUSE. “They’re built to last, easy to clean and designed to suit different size dogs and their ears. If you have a dog, then we have a bowl for you.”
The IncrediBowl is available in gray, navy blue and lime green, and its design includes durable floor stabilizers to keep the bowl in place while dogs eat.
Feeding the Brain
According to PAW5 co-founder Dennis O’Donnell, he designed The Wooly to offer pets an entirely unique eating experience. The kibble is thrown randomly onto the mat and allows dogs to engage their powerful sense of smell to snuffle, snort and sniff their way through dinner.
“Rather than make a better dog bowl, we started by asking what would be the best way to feed a dog,” O’Donnell said. “The answer we found was to replace the idea of a bowl, which is the perfect tool for a human, with a solution created specifically from the dog’s point of view. And by combining a dog’s natural foraging instincts with mealtime, you’re feeding their belly and their brain.”
The mats are hand-woven from upcycled, pre-consumer fabrics and are machine washable. They are suitable for dogs of any breed, age or size.
The other more traditional bowl from this company is the Rock ’n Bowl, a slow-feeder bowl that rocks in arbitrary patterns so that dogs have to work to eat as it rolls in random directions.
“The bowls can hold up to four cups of food and come apart into two pieces for dishwasher cleaning,” O’Donnell added.
The O2Cool is a special portable hydration system that allows a pet owner to carry one water bottle that can be shared with his or her pet. The bottle has a removable dog bowl and a special easy-squeeze spout to pour water into the dog bowl and simultaneously allows the owner to drink directly from the bottle.
It also has a removable treat compartment and a built-in ID, money and key holder, and by utilizing the clip, owners can walk hands-free. The bottles are available in four colors and in a ½-liter and one-liter size.
According to Barry Prehodka of AA Pet, the manufacturers of the Dog H2O Pet Water Fountain, his company makes the only fountainstyled bowl that offers dental care for pets, as most dental products are not designed to work with fountain systems.
“The fountain has special filters and dental tablets that dissolve in the water to help protect teeth against plaque and tartar build up, to promote healthier gums and ward off ‘doggy breath,’” he explained.
The tablets are formulated, made in Australia and sold separately.
“This encourages repeat visits by the consumers to the pet store to stock up on the tablets,” Prehodka said.
All Day Play
Cats that live indoor lifestyles can benefit from the growing variety of interactive cat toys designed to keep them engaged and boost both their mental and physical activity. Many are designed to keep pet owners engaged with their cats, too.
Consequently, pet specialty retailers have lots to choose from to keep consumers coming back for more.
Ellen Tsuyuki is the owner of Nekochan and the product designer of the Nekoflies cat wand toys, which offer seven interchangeable bug toys.
“Cat owners often buy more than one toy to keep their cats engaged,” Tsuyuki said. “They are all popular; we don’t have a runaway favorite. I think giving [cats] a choice to hunt critters and bugs that are crawling or flying gives their owners more options for their cat’s play enrichment.”
According to Maureen Avant, manager of Kriser’s downtown Denver location, the Nekoflies wands and accessories are perennially popular with her cat-owning customers.
“My customers love that they are brightly colored, have different textures and shapes, and are interchangeable,” Avant said. “I’ve had customers tell me these toys allow them to play with their cat while doing other activities such as reading a book. Also, they have the option to place the wand at a slightly elevated position so the cat can play alone. One customer says their cat drags the wand around all day. She prefers one particular attachment to the rest and actually sleeps with the toy.”
Electronic and Programmable
PetSafe recently added three new electronic toys to its popular Frolicat toy line that can be programed for play throughout the day and keep cats busy, especially when they are home alone.
Added to the lineup are the FroliCat Fox Den, the FroliCat Rolorat and the FroliCat Multi Laser, featuring two lasers for cats to chase. All have a variety of play modes to keep the action going throughout the day.
“They have been specifically designed for cats that spend long hours home alone,” said Toni Mark, training and behavior education specialist for the company. “Anyone who has ever seen a
cat on duty outside a hole in a skirting board into which a mouse has scurried will understand that the Fox Den replicates a cat’s modus operandi waiting to pounce when the fury tail in the toy suddenly appears in random movements.”
The Fox Den has several play modes that can be pre-set to play for 10 minutes and then turn off. During play all day mode, the toy will play every two hours, three times, for 10 minutes each. In between automatic play sessions, when the toy is resting, the motion sensor detects nearby motion within several feet and turns on automatically. If no motion is detected, the toy will rest until the next automatic play session or motion is detected again.
The third new toy, the RoloRat, has crazy red eyes and a long tail that whips around while making fun sounds to let cats know it’s on the move.
The Mix & Scratch from Petstages are corrugated play stations in different shapes offering cats different activities. They clip together to create a fun interactive play board.
“The corrugated areas have been catnip-infused and are designed to work with small balls and other toys that can be fitted into the cut-out sections and groves,” explained Michael Parness, chief marketing officer for Outward Hound, which now owns the brand. “Rearranging the squares of individual games will keep cats intrigued and engaged.”
Robots and Mice
Hexbugs, manufactured by Innovation First International, are nano robotic cat toys that can navigate around objects, get out of tight corners and flip over from its back to its feet in an attempt to escape a feline captor.
The toys are popular children’s toys and recently crossed over into the pet space. They are available in a variety of bright colors and designs for cats to enjoy on their own or together with children in the household.
Hexbugs caught the attention of America’s Veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker at the recent Global Pet Expo. Becker named it a product he deemed suitable to engage cats when visiting the vet’s office in an attempt to make the visit “fear free.” Because of their size, the Hexbugs are ideal to place near the register and sell as an impulse buy.
Another product that attracted Dr. Becker’s attention for interactive feline play was the Mouse in Pouch toy from OurPets that has patented RealMouse sound that mimics a wild mouse.
“The unpredictable pattern the mouse scurries inside the pouch is designed to stimulate a cat’s hunting instincts,” explained Rachelle Rabasi, director of marketing for the company. “Cats can also play with the mouse outside of the pouch.”
The company has also added a variety of other new electronic interactive cat toys to its product line. Apart from the Mouse in Pouch, the Bird In The Cage, which features the realistic movements and chirping sound of a small bird, is also destined to be popular with felines.
Fun From the USA
Like their feline toy manufacturing counterparts, the list of companies now producing dog toys in the U.S. is growing, and their home-based entrepreneurial spirit and commercial success is being recognized and winning them awards.
Last year, West Paw Design, headquartered in Bozeman, Montana, was voted one of America’s Best Small Companies by Forbes magazine. Then, this past February, the company was named the top manufacturer in the state by the Montana Manufacturing Association.
Coinciding with this latest accolade, the company launched its newest Zogoflex toy called the Qwizl, a flexible toy that can be filled with various treats, such as bully sticks and dental chews. The idea is to keep dogs engaged and make those expensive treats last longer. Made from West Paw’s proprietary non-toxic Zogoflex material, the product is dishwasher safe and is available in two sizes and the bright colors of aqua blue, tangerine and apple green. The Qwizl joins the Tux, Toppl and Tizzi in the Zogoflex product line-up.
Colleen McCracken, owner and CEO of Planet Dog, describes her Portland, Maine, company’s toys, the Orbee-Tuff Nooks, as a “‘hole’ new ball for a ‘hole’ new ballgame.”
The balls feature whimsical cutout designs, such as the peace sign, a shamrock, a heart and a smiley face. The cutout areas can be filled with tiny treats and other favorites, such as a liver paste and peanut butter.
Planet Dog’s proprietary non-toxic Orbee Tuff material is known for its durability and bounce, making Orbee Tuff toys great fetch toys and distraction toys for dogs that have to spend hours home alone.
Popular with Pet Owners
Regarding both Planet Dog and West Paw Design toys, AdreAnne Tesene, who owns the Two Bostons Pet Boutique & Gourmet Bakery stores that are located throughout Illinois, has endorsed their products’ durability with her customers who enjoy supporting U.S.-made pet products. Tesene explains how consumers have taken to the two brands.
“Consequently, we merchandise them next to one another since they share other similar traits,” she said. “The designs from both toy lines keep dogs both mentally and physically stimulated. Also, the fact that both toy lines are fully guaranteed, and the respective companies replace damaged toys if necessary, is also a huge selling point with our customers.”
Tesene added that one of her own Boston terriers, a pooch named Beamer, has made himself a self-appointed ambassador for Planet Dog toys and always has a minimum of three different items within his reach at all times.
“He is a great sales associate, and our customers often buy what he is playing with at the time,” she said.
Jerry Moffett, vice president of sales and marketing for Ruff Dawg, a division of Jefferson Rubber Works, confirmed that the company’s American-made dog toys are all manufactured in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“Our rubber throw and retrieve toys are designed to withstand rugged interactive play both indoors and outdoors,” he explained. “Our Ruff Bone chew toys come in three sizes and five flavors, such as roast turkey, grilled steak, smokehouse bacon, peanut butter and mint. They are made of FDA-approved inert recyclable thermoplastic polymer and flavored with natural flavors.”
The retrieval toys include several catapult launcher-styled toys in different shapes, such as a football and a spiked ball. They are designed for fun in the water, too.
Something to Chew on
Pet Qwerks‘ 100 percent nylon antler chew toys are inspired by real elk and deer antlers. The products are available in three sizes and the three flavors of peanut butter, chicken and liver.
“We consider these chews to be a safe alternative to genuine antlers as no shards can break off, leaving sharp points,” said Jeff Fowler, the company’s director of sales. “There’s also significant cost savings to consumers versus real antlers.”
New from the company are BarkBones, chew toys made from nylon and maple wood. The new products have a patented curved design for easy pickup. The nylon BarkBones are infused with peanut butter and chicken mesquite flavors and are designed for aggressive chewers. The wooden BarkBones are mint-flavored and designed for moderate chewers. The wooden chew bones also allow dog owners to fill the flavor cells on the products with their dog’s favorite spreadable treat, such as peanut butter, cheese and banana.
All the products have a “sniff here” feature to allow consumers to “smell test” before purchasing.
Fuzzies Duraplush Bones, which are toys that are hand-sewn in Portland, Oregon, are the newest products from Cycle Dog. The company owes its name to the fact that it uses bicycle inner tube rubbers that would normally end up in landfills for its products.
“We like to draw attention to the fact that they are designed and manufactured in America by stating it on the label,” said Paul Fidrych, co-owner of the company.
Retailers are always welcome to visit the company’s showroom and factory in order to see the products being made by the sewing team. Cycle Dog also produces special custom products on request that are specifically tailored to the needs of a beloved pet.
When it comes to cat toys, there is a growing number of local manufacturers who are proudly putting “Made in the USA” on their labels and producing a variety of products with feline appeal.
Kitty Boinks are small, flexible mesh tubes that cats can roll and toss and that, when compressed, can spring into the air and fly over 30 feet. They were originally created for children, but the item found its way into pet stores back in 2008.
“For years, we were told that cats loved them and, during the 2008 recession, we decided to put a cat on the label and change our marketing strategy,” explained Joyce Murphy, president of Endless Possibilities, the company that manufactures Kitty Boinks. “And we’ve never looked back.”
“They make a great impulse buy,” said Doug DuBrock, owner of Don’t 4 Get About Me, a pet gift store in Branson, Missouri. “We are situated in a high tourist trade area and, as the name of our store implies, people love to buy gifts to take home to their pets when they’re traveling. The Boinks are lightweight and lots of fun. And because kids love them as well, they are a great toy for children to interact with their cats, too.”
The products are manufactured in a factory in Southfield, Michigan, that is staffed by special needs employees. Following the success of the Boinks, Murphy designed the Bamboozler, a wand toy that utilizes a length of the same mesh fabric attached to a bamboo wand. And, according to DuBrock, they are also popular with customers gift-shopping for their cats.
DuBrock, who also has a wholesaling arm to his business, has collaborated with Murphy’s company and, as a result, Boinks and Bamboozlers are now sold in more than 300 locations nationwide through his distribution network.
Fred Ruckel, owner of SnugglyCat, Inc., and the inventor of the Ripple Rug, works with 10 companies in four states that collectively transform recycled plastic bottles into his polyester Ripple Rugs, which support a cat’s need to hunt, stalk, pounce and hide.
The rugs are designed to create ripples and tunnels when placed on the floor and have holes cut into them so cat owners can interact by dangling toys over them.
“Apart from being manufactured locally, our marketing and sales is strictly focused on supporting individually owned pet specialty stores,” Ruckel said.
Cat Dancer Products, headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, has introduced new products to its popular Cat Dancer line. The new Cat Dancer Pro Model has been designed to be used as an interactive wand in a cage or carrier. It comes with a special clip so that it can be attached to a cage or carrier for trips to the vet’s office.
“It’s also ideal for cats in shelters, too, so that they can get a bit of exercise while they are confined,” explained Jim Boelke, president of the company.
The Kong Company’s Kitty Kong, the feline version of the ever-popular rubber canine distraction treat toy, is also made in the U.S., along with the Easy Treat filler that can be squeezed into the toy to keep cats engaged.
“It’s an equally popular treat toy for cats as it is for dogs,” said Kathleen Ives, a member of the company’s marketing team. “Because it’s lightweight and rolls around unpredictably, it has great feline appeal as its taps directly into their need to pounce and play.”
Feline veterinarian Lisa Bahr is the creator of the Dezi & Roo line of cat toys, the most popular being The Hide And Sneak, a tunnel made from recycled paper materials.
The expandable cardboard tunnel is ideal for single and multi-cat households. It has re-enforced openings on both sides and appeals to cats that love the sound of paper being crinkled.
When it comes to catnip toys, Duckyworld Products, Inc., is known for the quirky designs in its Yeowww range of “nip toys,” such as the cigar and banana shapes. New to the line-up are the Chubby Mouse and the Lady Krinkly Bug, both of which are bright yellow and well-stuffed with catnip.
Catnip toys are ideal to hide in a product called Catty Stacks, designer cardboard boxes in fun patterns and colors that can be stacked in various combinations to build a fun amusement center for cats.
Made from industrial-strength recycled cardboard, they are colored using vegetable-based inks. The boxes have holes on all sides, and the newest addition to the line is a pack of two boxes and a bridge that links the two boxes together. This addition to the line makes Catty Stacks’ configurations even more appealing to felines.
A Canine Senior Center
As a result of great nutrition, grooming, lifestyle products and state-of-the-art medical care, dogs are living longer than ever before. Currently, more than half the dog population in the U.S. is considered senior (7 years of age or older).
The array of products that cater to these dogs gives pet retailers an opportunity to establish themselves as a go-to wellness center for senior dogs.
Solvit Pet Products, headquartered in Texas, has long been in the forefront of senior pet care, producing home and vehicle accessories as well as special body and rear leg lift harnesses that aid an older dog’s mobility both in and outside the home.
“There is no question that people are pandering to their dogs and purchasing such accessories, but also they are buying out of need,” said Patrick Hoffman, president of the company. “Accessories such as stairs and ramps facilitate convalescence after a surgical procedure and also offer general extended independent mobility for older pets. Stairs are the more popular of these two options, and pet owners often purchase more than one set so they can position them alongside the bed as well as their dog’s favorite seat in the living room.
“Many people initially purchase a rear lift when their dog first has issues standing up and then consider the full body design as an overall better option for their dog,” he said, adding that the Deluxe Telescoping ramp is the company’s most popular senior dog travel accessory.
Making Life Comfy
Many veterinarians and veterinary orthopedic specialists are recommending memory foam beds for pets recovering from surgery as well as for the overall comfort of senior pets.
“Our Petlinks TheraMax is a great bed for a senior dog,” said Wonjung Song, the company’s director of innovation and product development. “It’s filled with reclaimed human-grade memory foam that would otherwise end up in landfills. It features a patented channel liner for even foam distribution that conforms to body contours and supports joints and pressure points without losing its shape. It also has the convenience of a machine washable cover for odor control and any accidents.”
A lot of science and research went into the design of Worldwise’s newest goDog RhinoPlay toy line.
“The patented durable yet non-toxic soft foam material called PopFoamNT used in the goDog RhinoPlay toys is ideal for senior dogs with aging teeth and gums,” said Neil Werde, managing director of canine toys and accessories. “Also, blue and yellow are the colors on the color spectrum that dogs can see the best. That is why we selected these colors for this toy range, so that older dogs will still be able to locate their toys even if their vision is challenged.”
The Pet Therapeutics line from Enchanted Home Pet features four therapy pads offering pets therapeutic relief for conditions such as post-operative inflammation as well as general support for aching joints and aiding improved blood circulation. There is the TheraCool gel cooling pad, the TheraWarm self-warming pad, the Orthopedic Foam Comfort pad, and the company’s top seller, the Magnetic Powered Relief Pad. They are available in standard crate and flat dog bed sizes.
“The legendary properties of magnets have been studied for centuries as a natural way to help ease chronic pain and discomfort,” said Fred Silber, company founder and president. “Our magnetic mat is engineered with 180 magnets that are strategically placed to help relieve all-over discomfort. In addition, it’s padded with memory foam for comfort and support.”
According to John Sandiford, CEO of Gen7Pets, the company’s Monaco stroller accommodates pets up to 60 pounds. The Regal Plus pet stroller is the most lightweight in the company’s line, weighing only 11 pounds.
“Pet owners purchase strollers for a number of reasons, including as an aid for older dogs who enjoy going places but can’t walk long distances,” Sandiford said. “Strollers are also great for older owners who may have difficulty walking a dog on a leash, too. Our strollers all have safety tethers and zipped canopies, which enable pet owners to take their pets to places that restrict access to pets that are not contained.”
Ken Wilks is director of marketing and sales for W.F. Young, Inc., whose pet division manufactures the Missing Link line of supplements. He says older dogs can no longer absorb and metabolize vital nutrients as efficiently as they did when they were younger.
“This can lead to diet-related health problems,” he explained. “Some of the signs of poor nutrition in a senior dog can include listlessness reducing mobility, itchy skin and a dull coat. At The Missing Link, we believe that the raw, unprocessed trace nutrients that come from superfoods and are added to the food bowl are more easily absorbed by the body than from a cooked daily pet ration.
“While any of The Missing Link superfood supplement formulas can be beneficial to senior dogs, we’ve created a Senior Formula that specifically addresses their needs,” he continued. “We put an extra level of nutrients in the formula to help with less efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients, and also added green lipped mussels in this product to naturally support joint health. We guarantee that pet parents will notice improved attitude and energy levels in three days, improved mobility in seven days and will see improvements in skin and coat health within 30 days.”
The company offers a 30-day trial sample so pet owners can gauge for themselves how their pet can benefit by adding supplements to their diet.
The Ark Naturals Grey Muzzle products are designed specifically to target issues facing aging dogs. The products are in the form of soft chew treats. Brain’s Best Friend supports cognitive issues associated with aging such as disorientation, recognition, memory and learned behaviors. There are treats to promote heart health and joint issues for both big and small breeds, while the Grey Muzzle No Shampoo! Shampoo is a waterless formula for older dogs that have difficulty standing and find the grooming process tedious and stressful.
Food for Thought
With regard to the latest innovation in senior dog foods, a recent article on VetVine, an online educational resource, addressed the issue of the classification of life stages in dogs and the differentiation of an adult dog from a senior or a geriatric dog. These age categories have been considered arbitrary over the years and linked to various pet/human age analogy charts.
However, because the lifespan of dogs can be associated with breed type—toy breeds typically live longer than giant breed dogs—it’s been suggested that the classification of life stage should be associated with the weight of the dog and not its age.
Carbon Paw Print
For retailers keen to promote a green and eco-friendly lifestyle for cats, this task has been ameliorated by the large variety of products being designed to reduce a feline’s carbon paw print manufactured across numerous cat-orientated categories.
Illinois-based The Green Pet Shop is an example of the diverse selection of products available, as its inventory includes biodegradable litter boxes, pet wipes, bamboo food bowls, charcoal mats designed to offer relief for aching joints and hemp products that tap into the growing trends of cannabis products that offer pain and stress relief for pets.
“The KatPak is a hooded tray made from heavy duty recycled paper that folds up like an accordion and is 100 percent biodegradable,” explained Larry Wright, president of the company. “It’s designed for apartment-living convenience and, because they pack flat, are ideal for travel.”
Last year, tapping into the growing trend of cannabinoid products for pets, the company introduced its CBD Pet Care Calming and Soothing Lotion. Designed in the form of a gel pen that contains 50 pump applications, the product dispenses 50 “pumps” of precisely 1 milligram of purified CBD that is applied to the cat’s inner ear or any exposed, venous skin.
“Our product is derived from 100 percent organic hemp plants grown in Colorado and has been very well received by both consumers and members of the holistic veterinary community,” Wright said. “A transdermal application allows for complete and much faster absorption compared to edible products that lose a large percentage of the dosage through the digestive process.”
Worldwise, Inc., headquartered in Novato, California, has been committed to environmentally responsible materials since the 1990s.
“Our cat beds and soft toys are manufactured from our proprietary EcoRest fiberfill made from post-consumer recycled plastic bottles,” said Sarah Stone, the company’s director of marketing. “Some of our beds include BeneFoam, a soybean-based foam that is a resilient and comfortable alternative to the petrochemical-based foams typically used in pet bedding.”
The company uses natural sustainable materials such as sisal, jute, seagrass and coconut husks for many of the scratchers in their feline catalog.
“Durable seagrass is an ideal alternative because it is rarely found on furnishings in the same form that it’s found on scratchers, so cats are able to differentiate,” Stone explained. “Woven coconut husks have the same texture as coir doormats and are another scratching surface that cats love.”
Petfusion uses recycled corrugated cardboard on a wooden frame to create their functional feline furniture like their figure eight-shaped Ultimate Cat Scratcher Lounge.
“Apart from scratching, the curved double-decker design makes it easy for cats to nap on it and also play,” explained Kevin Krueger, one of the co-founders of the company.
The company also makes a scratching triangle, which gives a cat options to scratch both vertically and horizontally. It is available in two sizes and gives felines an opportunity to get a good stretch in, too.
Green’s the Future
According to Jane Wasley, brand manager of ökocat litter manufactured by Healthy Pets, the popularity for green cat products is set to sky rocket as it’s being driven by millennial cat owners.
“Millennials are now the largest group of cat owners and research has shown that natural and organic products are very important to them,” Wasley said. “And further, they are willing to pay a premium to give their cats a green lifestyle to match their own. As more and more consumers are educated about the importance of sustainable, biodegradable products that are good for the planet, the natural cat litter category will continue to grow even more. In just two short years, ökocat is now on-shelf in more than 5,000 retail stores. This growth demonstrates both consumer demand for natural, high performance choices and the retailers’ better understanding of the trends and expectations of what today’s cat owners are seeking.”
She added that, while ökocat is available in a variety of different litters, the Natural Clumping Cat Litter in the blue packaging remains the most popular.
From The Field, based in Seattle, Washington, is an eco-friendly cat toy company that uses hemp material for its catnip-filled toy products.
“Many of our toys are filled with a blend of catnip and silver vine, a plant that is popular in Asia with similar stimulating effects to cat nip in its toys,” explained Pascal Bedard, the company’s owner and toy designer. “Interestingly, many cats that don’t react to catnip will react to silver vine instead.”
Catnip is fast becoming one of the most popular organically grown products in the pet space. Many companies, including Bedard’s, are selling it in bud form in containers, in packages to refill toys and also in sachets attached to scratchers to entice cats to try the products for themselves.
“American-grown catnip has a reputation for being ranked amongst the best catnip grown in the world,” Bedard confirmed.
The Newest Kibble
In the category of dog food, 85 percent of dog owners used dry food most often in 2014, according to the 2015-2016 APPA National Pet Owners Survey. What’s more, the level of use is even higher (91 percent) among owners of large dogs.
However, according to the American Kennel Club, there has been a steady increase in the popularity of small breeds (dogs under 20 pounds) in the past decade. Currently, they account for about 47 percent of dogs in American households. Further, a report published by Wakefield Research indicates that the small dog population is still on the increase, as more than 60 percent of all millennials are looking for “portable dogs” to match their lifestyles.
“With this trend comes a growing demand for high quality dog food that’s specially formulated to meet their particular dietary needs,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care. “We launched Merrick Lil’ Plates to cater specifically to the big appetites of these small dogs. This line of dry (and wet food) contains probiotics and prebiotic fiber for optimal digestion and industry-leading levels of glucosamine and chondroitin, which help promote healthy joints.
“Further, the kibble is small in size to make it easier for small dogs to pick up and chew comfortably,” Brace said. “And, like all Merrick recipes, Lil’ Plates start with deboned meat, fish or poultry as the first ingredient and include fresh fruits and vegetables. There are three grain-free kibble recipes and they mirror current trends in the dry food category, namely a variety of protein options as well as products that are completely poultry-free.”
Health Extension will be showcasing a number of new additions to the company’s food line at Global Pet Expo. Following the recent packaging updates made to its Grain Free Line, it will also introduce revamped packaging for its Original Line. The company is also releasing a new line of dog food specifically for large breeds.
“We will be launching our first breed specific product, a highly palatable large breed recipe formulated as a complete and balanced food,” said Brad Gruber, Health Extension’s president and COO. “With this product, calcium and calorie content can be monitored by the provided feeding guidelines that also prevent over feeding. This recipe was formulated to help lower the risk of skeletal issues while helping a large breed puppy cope with issues associated with rapid growth periods.”
Dry Food Predictions
When it comes to dry dog food, Gruber believes baby boomers, which he views as a growing generation, are driving current and future trends.
“I believe that the trends we have seen in 2016 will continue into 2017 and beyond,” Gruber predicted. “Recipes in pet foods will continue to mirror the trends driven in human diets. This includes local sourcing of premium ingredients and customized recipes, and addressing issues such as allergies and obesity. Also, the entire grain free category will continue to explode as well as growth in raw and limited ingredient category diets.”
Building on a Brand
According to Heather Hickey, national sales director for Nature’s Logic, the company has no current plans to add to the line but instead is focusing on creating a larger retail footprint for its existing products. Its K9 beef recipe, she notes, remains a top seller.
“It meets all the needs pet parents consider important in a food,” she added. “Further, it’s produced from beef sourced in the USA, contains no GMO fruits or vegetables and offers great value as a whole food diet.”
The family-owned company’s website notes that the food it manufactures provides all the amino acids, vitamins and minerals listed in the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Nutrient Profile for dogs without using synthetic fortification. The AAFCO states “it would be false and misleading to use the term ‘natural’ if any chemically synthesized ingredients are present in the product.”
The focus for Evanger’s Dog & Cat Food Co Inc. at the Global Pet Expo will be the debut of the new packaging for its Hi-Bio line, dubbed by the company as “a new generation ‘Super Food’ for dogs that combines the benefits of raw food, the convenience of kibble, and the deliciousness of real meat.”
“Promoting this packaging is our goal for the first quarter of this year,” said Holly Sher, president of the company. “The idea is to make it easier for the consumer to better understand the content and benefits of the recipes.”
Sher says her company prides itself in its ongoing educational efforts that first and foremost are aimed at retailers so they are better placed to pass this information on to their customers. The company is hosting a dinner/workshop in Orlando just before the start of the Global Pet Expo that will highlight the Hi-Bio line (which stands for High-Biological) and explain the benefits of this high-nutrient food that contains nine essential amino acids for robust canine health throughout all life stages.
Canadian company Petcurean launched its Gather product line in response to the growing consumer expectation for manufacturing transparency of pet foods and sustainable and organic ingredients. The recipes are free from rendered or genetically engineered ingredients and feature single source, fresh and dehydrated primary proteins.
Endless Valley is a vegan recipe in this Gather lineup that features the Certified Vegan trademark, which guarantees that the recipe does not contain any animal ingredients or animal by-products, and has not been tested on animals.
“Endless Valley provides all of the essential amino acids and complementary ingredients that provide complete and balanced nutrition,” said Jenna Fortin, the company’s marketing manager. “It is a great option for dog owners who want to switch to a plant-based diet. Unlike cats, dogs can meet their nutrient requirements from a plant-only diet. We consider this recipe as a possible solution for dogs with sensitivities to animal proteins, too. The response from retailers and consumers has been overwhelmingly positive.”
Last year, Royal Canin launched a nationwide TV campaign that will continue through 2017 that focuses on individual breed nutrition with new formulas debuting in the coming months.
“I think we’re moving beyond ‘one size fits all’ nutrition, towards more and more specialization,” said Brent Mayabb, DVM, vice president of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA, forecasting trends in pet nutrition. “Instead of ‘dog food,’ the focus will be on ‘your dog’s food.’ It’s a very exciting time!”
Another company intending to make a splash at Global is Lucy Pet Products, which is debuting Formulas for Life. Using the latest advanced science on gut health, the company has created its Prebiotic Balanced Fiber (PBF) blend, a dry dog food line that creates a healthy digestive system to feed the entire body system. The food includes proteins like duck, salmon and chicken meal, as well as unique ingredients sourced globally from only trusted suppliers.
“I love all my animals and I would never want to be in a position where they were not healthy because I was not feeding them the best food possible,” said Rick Rockhill, executive vice president and partner at Lucy Pet. “And that is the driving force behind everything we do here at Lucy Pet Products.”
Cats Love to Lounge
When it comes to beds, a cat has a lot in common with Goldilocks. They both desire the ultimate comfort zone.
From a retailer’s standpoint, however, there is a variety of innovative choices to build an inventory that will offer consumers plenty of options to meet their felines’ needs.
While cats traditionally like to sleep “in the round,” many also enjoy stretching out. In multi-pet households, cats are not shy about sharing a sleeping area with a housemate, so there is definitely some crossover from the dog bed category that will appeal to cat owners, too.
From Firm to Soft
“Nearly all of our products are appreciated by both cats and dogs,” said Bill Parsons, sales manager at P.L.A.Y. (Pet Lifestyle and You), in San Francisco. “Our Lounge Bed line is a particular feline favorite. They seem to like our Pet Teepees, too, and the classic canvas color and the denim remain firm favorites. While in our specially designed feline Snuggle Bed Collection, the most popular color has always been charcoal gray, because it offers such a rich selection of color shades.”
Snuggle Beds feature a plush velvet on one side and a smooth, sturdy canvas on the other, with the cotton-mix canvas being breathable and light for summer while the velvet keeps pets warm in the winter. Stuffed with a high-loft, eco-friendly PlanetFill, the Lounge Bed collection is crafted with furniture-grade materials that include natural cotton canvas and ultra-soft velvet materials.
Meanwhile, Pet Teepees offer a stylish sanctuary that is constructed of 100 percent natural cotton canvas and pine wood poles. The ergonomic inner foam cushion has a removable washable cover.
When it comes to designs, hooded beds offer felines comfort and the privacy to temporarily opt out of household activities. Albeit, other cats prefer being able to see around and above them or snoozing in a raised position.
“Cats enjoy materials like soft, plush fabrics,” said Nancy Waters, marketing manager for R2P Group Inc. “But, ultimately, apart from being comfortable, if they don’t feel secure, they are not likely to use the bed. Thus, our selection includes hideout options such as hooded bed tents, igloos and designs like our Stuft Snuggle Sack. We also have a large selection of couch-styled beds as well as round designs with high sides, which give cats the option to stretch out or sleep with a fury friend.
“It’s our policy to always cater to season demands in terms of fabric selections,” she added. “Consequently, we will be debuting a lot of new designs at the Global Pet Expo this month.”
In keeping with criteria such as comfort and privacy, Josh Feinkind of The Refined Feline, headquartered in New York, confirmed that his new A-Frame cat bed, available in mahogany and espresso brown, was created after seeing photographs of customers’ cats lying on top of home heating vents.
“We knew that, while cats may like a warm surface in the winter or a cool surface in the summer, this couldn’t be comfortable. Plus, they block the airflow of the vent itself,” Feinkind said. “Our goal with this design was to create a raised bed that was comfortable while allowing airflow rise into the microsuede foam-covered cushion as well as out the sides of the bed.
“To complete the piece, we added a large sisal scratch pad and a top platform to create an A-Frame style end table that can be placed against a wall or by a sofa,” he added. “Also, the sisal pad can be swapped out and replaced with a designer carpet floor square for cats that prefer a softer surface and a pattern that will further enhance the room’s décor.”
Functional beds from K&H Manufacturing include the EZ Mount Window Bed and the EZ Mount Kitty Pod that turn a window lookout into an “entertainment center” by tapping directly into the notion that cats love to bask in the sun and observe the activity this viewpoint has to offer. The products attach with a suction cup mounting system and come with the Amazin’ Kitty Pad designed to trap hair, dirt and dander.
K&H is known for its outdoor cathouses designed for outdoor cats and feral communities. Recently, the company introduced the K&H Outdoor Kitty House Extra-Wide to their lineup, which offers additional space for multiple cats to escape the cold.
According to Wonjung Song, director of bedding innovation and product development at Worldwise Inc., cat bed styles offered in the marketplace generally tend to be smaller based on the premise that cats like to sleep “in the round.”
However, concurring with Parsons, Song added that Worldwise is aware of the feline propensity to hijack a dog’s bed.
“We have found that many consumers also consider our Petlinks Supreme Soother dog bed for multi-cat or multi-pet households,” she said. “However, we have developed many designs in our Petlinks line in all sizes and shapes to meet all sleep needs as well as the tendency to hide and play in their bedding.
“In general, cat beds tend to offer additional functionality as opposed to standard dog beds,” Song added. “For example, adding a sachet of catnip to a bed is a popular accessory.”
The Touch Test
According to Song, cat beds is a pet category that many consumers like to shop for in a brick-and-mortar store as opposed to online.
“Pet parents like to touch and feel the fabrics and textures, as they envision the bed as an extension of their furniture and decor in the home,” she explained. “The goal is to blend and complement, not stand out and contrast. Over the last few years, we have continued to use super soft, high pile plush that consumers are already familiar with in comfortable human bedding like blankets and comforters.
“We are seeing the cat bedding market just starting to expand as more options are offered,” Song concluded. “In the past, pet owners have tended to spend less on their cats than on their dogs. This is definitely changing. Our Petlinks design team is excited to launch new technologies and designs in 2017 that address our Complete Needs product policy. And at the same time, the goal is to keep the price point affordable.”
We all know the expression “like a kid in a candy store.” Well, dog owners are probably experiencing that same feeling when they stand in front of the dog treat section in a pet specialty store. The selection is huge, the variety mind-boggling, and manufacturers promise more on the way.
Carnivore to Cookie Lover
Merrick Pet Care’s Backcountry Treats are an addition to the company’s popular Backcountry dog food line designed to tap into the trend to promote a dog’s carnivorous ancestral diet.
“Merrick’s grain-free Backcountry treats are available in jerky strips, sausage cuts and patties,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parents relations. “They meet the demand for all-natural, cooked-in-the-USA meat treats and chews that pet parents are looking for at treat time. And they have a hearty, wood-smoked taste that dogs really enjoy.”
The company’s Jerky Chip Treats are oven-baked cookies for dogs that replicate popular human chocolate chip cookies.
“These grain-free gluten-free ‘cookies’ offer a meaty taste, as they feature jerky chips made from real deboned chicken, beef or salmon,” he added. “They can easily be broken into smaller pieces and used for training, too.”
According to Ward Johnson, co-founder of Sojos Dogs, dog owners are looking for treats that they know are high in protein and low in fat.
“Sojos SimplyMeat treats meet these criteria and are gently freeze-dried to lock in all the natural enzymes, vitamins and minerals,” Johnson said. “They are perfect training treats for dogs of all sizes as they come in small, medium and large bone sizes and in flavors that appeal to pets and humans alike, such as blueberry cobbler and bacon cheddar.”
Paragon Pet Products, maker of WHIMZEES natural dog chews, reports great success with its refillable Variety Value boxes that provide dog owners with a combination of their favorite WHIMZEES Hedgehogs, Alligators, Toothbrushes and Stix.
“Our chews range in size from XXS to XL to cater for every breed and support our mission to offer high quality, healthy ingredients in a taste that dogs love in celebration of our commitment to pet health and fun,” said Jeff Camosci, vice president of marketing and sales for the North American region. “Currently, we are putting greater focus on smaller dog breeds and adding smaller sizes to our value boxes and bags.”
Also following the trend to focus on smaller dogs, Loving Pets, based in Cranbury, New Jersey, has introduced a line called Houndations Dog Treats. They are bite-sized, soft-chew treats for small dogs, or what company CEO Eric Abbey called “little learners,” as they are designed to be training treats as well as for general spoiling.
Houndations are grain-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, soy-free and corn-free and made in the USA. To help promote them in stores, each pack comes with a free carabiner to make it easy to take Houndations on the go for training, hiking or to the park. They are available in five flavors: beef, chicken, duck, lamb and salmon.
According to Jenna Fortin, marketing manager for Petcurean, the duck Spike Jerky is the company’s top-seller.
“What makes Spike stand out is that it’s a snack full of antioxidants, high in micronutrients and filled with superfoods like chia, pomegranate and kale,” Fortin said. “Each treat is made with high-quality protein and all-natural ingredients that are free from by-products, glycerin, added growth hormones, artificial preservatives, flavors and colors. The selection also includes venison, duck, catfish and turkey recipes.”
Last year, Lindy & Company added five new flavors to Lindy’s Bakery line of gourmet pet treats, bringing its total number of SKUs to 10, including two vegan options: Cranberry Supreme and Peanutty Puppers.
“We are responding to consumer demand for healthier treats for their dogs,” said Linda Kramer, CEO of Daybreak, the nonprofit organization that runs Lindy & Company and whose prime focus is to provide emergency shelter, housing and support for over 500 homeless teens and young adults each year. “Daybreak’s employment program helps Daybreak youth develop the skills necessary to get and keep jobs. Thus, many of them work at Lindy & Company producing the treats.”
With regard to more unusual proteins, Bette Schubert, Bravo co-founder and senior vice president of sales, reports that the company’s all-meat Bonus Bites are a big seller with one of the standout flavors being dry roasted Duck Feet.
“Also, we see dog owners becoming very calorie-conscious,” she said. “Our freeze dried Training Treats measure a quarter-inch square in size and provide a lower calorie option for when pet parents are treating frequently during a training session. The two flavors are Turkey Bits and Trail Mix Bits, a combination of turkey, beef, bison and cheddar cheese. They are also ideal for overweight dogs, as it still allows them to have a delicious treat, but without the extra calories.”
Know the Source
Zuke’s has expanded its treats selection with the introduction of PureNZ Jerky Treats.
“When it came to sourcing the primary ingredients for our new jerky treats, New Zealand was an easy choice,” said Chris Meiering, the company’s director of innovation. “This country’s unparalleled commitment to quality and the ethical treatment of animals, along with its rolling hills and pristine waters, make New Zealand home to some of the best natural ingredients in the world.”
The treats are crafted in small batches for ‘farm-to-dog’ freshness,” he added. “The limited-ingredient recipe contains 80 (to) 90 percent real meat protein plus high-quality fruits and vegetables.”
The PureNZ are available in four forms: bites, cords, cuts and steaks. There’s also a map on the back of every bag that shows where each ingredient was sourced.
According to Maggie Marchese, vice president of marketing at Petmatrix, the company is expanding its SmartBone line of treats by adding additional flavors, shapes and novelty chews that include additional chicken wrapped on the outside of the product.
“Our proven flavor winners are always chicken, beef and peanut butter, and classic hand-tied bone shapes and sticks are always our top-selling shapes,” she said, adding that though SmartBone treats resemble rawhide treats in shape, they do not contain any rawhide. “It’s very important to us to convey this message to consumers. Consequently, we have a large ‘No-Rawhide’ seal on every package to visually communicate why this formula is unique and better for dogs.”
Barkworthies recently introduced a line of cannabidiol (CBD) treats for dogs dealing with ailments ranging from mood disorders to pain that can benefit from this naturally occurring compound found in the hemp plant.
“This extract is highly therapeutic and can help relieve many common symptoms, like inflammation, lack of appetite and anxiety,” explained Bill Chilian, marketing vice president of the company. “These all-natural treats are available in two flavors, Blueberry Cannabidiol Treats and Pumpkin Cannabidiol Treats, and offer a spectrum of comforts that can be enjoyed by dogs of all ages, breeds and sizes. And by utilizing ingredients like gluten-free oat flour, organic coconut oil, vanilla, cinnamon, delicious blueberry, pumpkin and peanut butter, these treats combine the curative effect of CBD and hemp seed with healthful, tasty flavors that dogs love.”
These biscuit-styled treats tap directly into a new and growing trend of cannabidiol products for both dogs and cats that are becoming available in a variety of forms including supplements and transdermal applications.
Snacking Without the Guilt
Freeze dried raw treats made from proteins like chicken or salmon are one of the biggest trends currently being highlighted on the feline treat shelf. They are healthy, neat and do double duty, as they can be added to both kibble and wet recipes to entice finicky eaters to the food bowl.
“Our Merrick Backcountry freeze-dried raw cat treats are available in chicken and salmon and bring together two mega trends in the pet food aisle—namely, freeze-dried raw products and single ingredient proteins such as chicken and salmon,” explained Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations. “And yes, they are perfect to be added to the food bowl in their treat form or crushed and sprinkled onto kibble to enhance mealtimes.”
Scott Brownell, director of sales for Grandma Lucy’s, concurred with Brace.
“We have definitely seen a shift in the cat treat market with customers looking for a single source option with no fillers and overall a healthier option to feed to their pets. Our Singles Chicken and Singles Fish options are currently our most popular treats.
“When it comes to promoting them with our retail partners, we offer in-store discounts, social media boosted announcements, coupons and taste testings,” he added. “We like to take a multi-faceted creative approach to promote our products and introduce them to new customers.”
The company also has new treats debuting at the Global Pet Expo next month but is keeping the information under wraps until the trade show.
Caru Pet Food reports that its Salmon and Chicken Baked Bites Recipes, which are part of their Soft ‘n Tasty line that launched at Superzoo in 2016, are selling well.
“Cat owners are becoming increasingly conscientious about the edibles they select for their felines. They’re migrating toward meaty, limited ingredient treats that are rich in antioxidants, Omega 3s and other healthy nutrients,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food. “There is no question that made in the USA continues to be a purchase driver and now more consumers are further seeking treats that are also made from non-GMO ingredients. Our Soft ‘n Tasty line meets all these criteria. And we have plans to expand the line.”
According to Bette Schubert, co-founder and senior vice president of sales for Bravo, another growing trend in the treat aisle is products specifically formulated to meet unique feline nutritional needs.
“The industry as a whole is more cognizant of the fact that cats require double the amount of protein that dogs do,” Schubert said. “This translates to more treats being formulated with higher protein levels, organs and amino acids, including the recommended levels of taurine and arginine, essential for feline nutrition. We are going to see more treats being made with added organs and less with added vegetables, as cats really have no dietary requirement for carbohydrates.
“Our Healthy Bites and Healthy Medleys freeze dried treats provide nutritionally-sound options for feline pet parents,” she said. “Our top proteins in the Healthy Bites line are salmon and chicken, while the Mariner’s Medley, a combination of salmon, cod, and shrimp, is another favorite among our feline fans.”
It’s important that cat owners take the calories in treats into account in a cat’s overall calorie count for the day.
“That’s why treats should never be considered junk food and wasted calories,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “Healthier snacking is becoming a major priority for pet parents. Similar to the human snack industry, we’re making sure that treats for cats (and dogs) are made with wholesome, quality ingredients that can help supplement their regular diets. Our snacks contain no fillers, artificial colors or flavors or meat byproducts. We’re seeing a growing interest in grain-free treats to help with weight control in training and also to accommodate pets with grain allergies or sensitivities.
“We recently introduced three new flavors of Kittles. They are Duck & Cranberries, Turkey & Cranberries and Whitefish & Cranberries,” she said. “Cats are known for having finicky palates, so these new flavors give cat parents even more options to choose from when it comes to treat time.”
It’s Purely Natural is a single ingredient line of cat treats from Loving Pets and is available in four flavors: beef lung, chicken, buffalo and shrimp.
“This line also promotes the single ingredient protein trend along with ingredient labeling that easily identifies the contents, and, most importantly, shows what is not included,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of the New Jersey-based company. “And, to this end, Purely Natural Cat Treats have no additives, glycerin, artificial preservatives or fillers.
“Our research has shown that cat owners seek out high quality, yet affordable treats on the retail shelf for their feline friends,” he said. “We believe our treat line is competitively priced. Cats need a diet focused on healthy proteins because in terms of their dietary needs, protein is the cornerstone of their nutrition, keeping them both healthy within and looking good.”
The Sky is the Limit
Allowing cats to safely and securely experience the great outdoors is an overall boon to their general health and well-being. With this trend comes increased interest in feline collars, harnesses and leashes, and the selection is growing to meet this need in a variety of materials—from genuine leather, vegan leather and nylon to hemp and bamboo.
“We have seen excellent growth in the cat accessory market and have several new products currently in development,” said Kasumi Forth, technical design manager for RC Pet Products. “Our Kitty Breakaway Collar comes in nine plain colors with cyan and raspberry being the most popular shades. The Kitty Clip Collar line is available in 24 signature RC patterns, with the pirate cat and love birds designs being our best sellers.”
Forth added that the company tries to refresh its products’ pattern assortments twice a year, with the recent fish and bird patterns that were released in August 2016 being very well received by consumers. While the company also produces feline harnesses and leashes, they are not sold in conjunction with collars.
“But our customers do create their own matching sets or mix and match patterns as they please,” Forth explained.
Coastal Pet Products, Inc., offers a large selection of collars for both cats and kittens as well as a line of mesh harnesses sold with attached 6-foot matching leashes in several colors, including red, blue, pink and lime green. The harness sits on the shoulders so that it can be worn in conjunction with a collar. They are also adjustable around the tummy area.
The company’s newest collar selection is a range of glow-in-the-dark designs with a magnetic breakaway clasp.
“The glow-in-the-dark collars charge during the day, even indoors, to glow all night and feature a pivoting breakaway buckle,” explained Brooke Bower, marketing specialist for Coastal Pet Products, Inc. “The magnetic buckles self-align and provide a consistent breakaway point for maximum safety.”
Late last year the company also expanded its Li’l Pals Kitten line, introducing five high fashion safety collars.
“The Ribbon Safety Kitten Collar is available in green stripes and pink stripes and features a fashion forward, color-coordinated bead embellishment and a bell,” Bower added. “The other popular design has a decorative bow and is available in black silk, white silk and pink and grey velvet. They also have bells.”
According to Elizabeth Littlejohn, visual specialist for Petmate, the company’s research indicates that about 30 percent of cat owners put collars on their cats, and that safety features, rather than fashion trends, drives them to purchase a specific collar.
“Reflective prints in glow-in-the-dark ink and breakaway buckles top the list of important features for cat parents, and our various collections offer these important details,” Littlejohn said. “Such patterns not only look fashionable and on trend during the daytime, but glow for added safety and security at night. It’s an ideal combination.”
PetSafe Brand offers a free bungee leash to consumers who have purchased one of the company’s breakaway, snag-proof collars or the Come With Me Kitty harnesses.
“These sets are available in six colors, the most popular being blue, red, then black,” said Mandie Sweetnam, product manager for this category. “The advantage of a bungee leash is that it prevents kitty whiplash.”
Lupine Pet Products is known for its replacement collar guarantee for collars that have been chewed or badly frayed through scratching and exuberant play.
“We mostly get chewed dog collars back but occasionally there’s a chewed cat collar, too,” said Tracy McCarthy, a marketing repesentative for Lupine Pet Products.
According to McCarthy, many of Lupine’s customers who own both cats and dogs purchase matching collars and leashes for their pets. Consequently, the company makes matching breakaway feline collars in a narrower band and in one size intended for cats ranging between an 8-inch and 12-inch collar size.
Lupine’s H-shaped harness is available in two sizes; the 9-inch by 14-inch design is for kittens and svelte cats, while the 12-inch by 20-inch model is for cats with larger necks.
New York-based Around The Collar, which has built a strong reputation on its high fashion, handmade leather dog collars, recently started producing matching designs for cats as a result of requests from pet owners.
“Many of our canine designs cross over well for cats if the patterns can be replicated on a narrower collar that is between ⅝-inch to ½-inch wide,” explained Sharon Romero, creative director for the company. “Our small harnesses for tiny dogs are well-liked by cat owners, too.”
“And we have found that cat owners also love bling in the form of Swarovski crystals,” Romero added. “Flower patterns are very popular, as well as appropriately sized studs and spikes collars for larger cats like Bengals and Main Coons.”
Angel Pet Supplies also produces matching cat and dog collections.
“Our Athens rhinestone collection and our Alpine plain designs are the most popular amongst cat consumers,” said Eran Konorty, CEO of the company. He added that Angel Pet Supplies often offers retailers special promotions by discounting an entire collection.
“This allows us to offer deals on seasonal collections,” Konorty said. “It also gives retailers an opportunity to try a collection from Angel that they currently do not carry knowing they are getting the most popular colors and sizes within that deal.”
“And throughout the year, we also offer ISO deals (Initial Stocking Order) for new customers,” Konorty added. “We realize that new customers still need to familiarize themselves with our products, so we will either offer a certain percentage off of the order or we will recommend a pre-built or custom built collection based on their store type, location and budget. We want to ensure the success of the brand and will recommend our best starting point.”