Litter Options

Any retailer who has attended a major trade show in the past year will no doubt be familiar with the sight of Ricky the Rescue Cat driving his navy blue car around the trade show floor promoting Cats Incredible litter that bears his likeness on the bag.

It’s turned out to be a great ploy to capture retailer attention, “driving” retailers to the Lucy Pet Products booth where Litter Box Bob is on hand holding a tray of litter as if he is selling snacks at a baseball game, proving that the used litter really doesn’t smell.

To further make the point about the odor capture capabilities of the product, Dr. Karen Halligan, the company’s resident veterinarian, has an ammoniareading meter that demonstrates the zero ammonia odor benefits of the litter.

“Ammonia is toxic to cats and people in the household,” Halligan explained. “Cats that are exposed to ammonia experience symptoms such as runny noses, problems breathing, eye problems and increased upper respiratory disease. Ammonia emanating from a litter box can also trigger an asthma attack in both pets and people. High levels of ammonia can cause severe problems—even death. Toxic ammonia fumes is also a prime reason why cats will stop using a litter box.

“I have been able to take cats off eye medications, antihistamines and even their inhalers for asthma after switching to Cats Incredible litter all because there is zero ammonia,” Halligan added.

The Draw of Coupons

The company’s show-and-tell approach to get its message out extends to in-store demonstrations and special store events for customers. Further, according to Betsy Martin, director of marketing and development, the company offers coupons so that customers can try the products for themselves. Because ammonia is such a big issue with regard to litter box use, Nestlé Purina Pet Care has also added ammonia blockers to all its Tidy Cats litter products, including the lightweight variety.

“Our Tidylock technology is guaranteed to prevent ammonia odor for two weeks when used as directed,” explained C.J. Campeau, brand manager for Tidy Cats.

The company is currently experiencing record sales in the lightweight litter category and cites its top-selling lightweight product as Tidy Cats LightWeight 24/7 Performance followed by Tidy Cats with Glade Tough Odor Solutions.

And, according to Campeau, coupons are a very effective advertising ploy as it invites consumers to try for themselves.

“We have focused on the media and promotions to drive people to physically experience the weight of the product in-store,” he said. “Our original ‘Toss Me that Litter’ campaign and ‘lift test’ generated a lot of excitement in-store across the country. And while lightweight litters do well on e-commerce sites due to lower shipping costs, brick and mortar outlets are great for giving consumers the surprise and delight of lifting the product and feeling how light it is.”

Lightweight: A Heavyweight

Lightweight litter is also proving to be a very popular addition to the Fresh Step litter category line-up.

“We have had a great response from consumers for whom the heavy nature of regular litter is a pain point,” said Lauren May, brand manager of Clorox Pet Products. “It’s great for cat owners living in urban areas in apartment blocks with no elevators and for people regardless of age who cannot lift heavy objects. Lightweight litter is worth the premium price. These customers seem to be more than happy with the additional options evidenced by their repeat purchases.”

And across the category, Fresh Step also confirmed that litter products scented with Febreze are the biggest sellers.

“However, these days, there is a litter option available for all cat parents out there,” May added.

Au Naturale

On the natural litter front, ökocat reports that sales have continued to increase in all parts of the country. “We have doubled our sales team in the last few months, and they have been working very hard to support and grow ökocat distribution at pet specialty stores,” said Leslie Ellis, consumer communication manager for Healthy Pet, manufacturer of ökocat. “The original ökocat Wood Clumping Litter in the blue box continues to be the top seller at most retailers but the newest formula, Super Soft, is rapidly gaining ground. It’s very lightweight and soft, making it the perfect litter to transition to from traditional clay litter.”

Further, the company has been conducting in-depth consumer research and will be using the insights learned to make brand awareness a major initiative in 2018.

Diagnostic Litters

Apart from improved odor control and lightweight products, the introduction of diagnostic litters has also given consumers more options in the litter marketplace.

“Diagnostic litters are a fantastic idea and can provide tremendous assistance for cat owners in determining proper care for their pet. Unfortunately, the general public hasn’t completely embraced this idea yet, and I think part of that is due to no presence from the national brands in this category,” said Trevor Russwurm, national sales manager for Pestell Pet Products, makers of LifeMate Health Alert Clumping Cat Litter. “If Arm & Hammer or Purina were to launch a product of this nature, their massive advertising campaigns would immediately draw more awareness to the concept, and companies like Pestell would benefit from that increased exposure.”

Russwurm confirmed that most diagnostic litters are marketed by smaller companies that are not household brands, and getting the word out is not easy. Many cat owners will make that incremental spend on healthier food, but are much more resistant to a value-added litter of this nature.

“It is definitely an uphill battle to reach out to consumers without spending an enormous amount of money,” he added.

A Vibrant Litter

UltraPet, manufacturer of various silica gel litters, has turned to social media to spread the word about its NEON Litter, which is specifically being marketed to millennial cat owners.

According to Tom Atyeo, marketing manager for UltraPet, NEON Litter is very active on Facebook and Instagram.

“Customers are now posting and tagging photos they take of their cat’s litter boxes, displaying the ‘litter art’ they do for their cats. It’s a very engaged community,” he added.

According to Atyeo, the first pet retailer to really embrace NEON in its stores is Centinela Feed that has 16 stores in southern California, primarily in the Los Angeles area.

“They, like other pet retailers now successfully selling NEON, have discovered that opening a bag and pouring out litter for customers to see and touch has resulted in better sales,” he said.

Store managers and employees at various Centinela Feed stores all confirmed that it’s a popular choice for their cat customers not only because of the colors, but also because of its functionality, as gelbased litters don’t track outside the box and are dust-free. Further, they concurred that it’s not only millennial cat owners who are purchasing the brand (the original target market).

UltraPet also has a very successful rewards program to promote customer loyalty among its other brands.

“The Rewards Clubs for Ultra Pearls and Litter Pearls are used by many customers,” Atyeo said. “The program works by customers remitting six UPC tags from our products and we send them a coupon for a free bag. The program is a great way to reward customers. Coupled with the reward programs by companies like Pet Food Express in California [Buy 3, Get 1 Free], customers’ savings can be substantial.”

Fresh Step also boasts a vibrant rewards program and is further using it as a tool to engage with their growing Fresh Step online community.

“Our Paw Points program is a fun and easy way to earn rewards just for buying the litter,” May explained. “Paw Points rewards consumers regardless of whether they choose to shop online or in stores. However, shopping in-store is still the most popular way for consumers to purchase their litter. We estimate that approximately only 3 percent of cat litter purchases are currently made online.”

Interactive Dog Toys that Provide Fun for Dog and Owner

According to a March 2017 survey by Packaged Facts on durable dog and pet care products in the U.S., 40 percent of dog owners base their toy-purchasing decision on what they perceive would offer their dog the most enjoyment.

Toys, for both dogs and cats, comprise the largest category of durable pet care products, representing 28 percent of the overall market and racking up retail sales of approximately $1 billion in 2016. Consequently, interactive/fetch toys offer perennial revenue for retailers.

And while canine enjoyment is a key element of a successful toy, designers and manufacturers are notching up the importance of this enjoyment factor, saying it also has to offer an enriched play experience between pet and owner, ultimately enhancing the human-animal bond.

A Better Connection
“Current sales trends indicate an increased interest in interactive toys that allow both pet and pet owner to get more exercise and be active together,” said Tim Blurton, CEO of Hyper Pet. The company’s PETLOGIX line is designed specifically and exclusively for the pet specialty channel.

“The future of interactive toys is definitely in developing toys which are fun for both the pet and their owner to play—ones that enhance the interaction between the pet and the owner,” Blurton added.

The PETLOGIX Zinger, the company’s newest launcher was well received by retailers attending trade shows such as Global Pet Expo and SuperZoo.

“It allows the pet parent to launch tennis balls as well as a range of other toys 40 feet and more, thus enriching the game of fetch and making it more interesting for both the pet and the owner,” Blurton explained.

The FX Launch is a tennis ball launcher that allows the owner to fire a tennis ball over a range of distances and is designed for multiple-dog interaction. It features storage for two balls and hands-free pickup and is designed to allow pet owners to have fun and effortlessly play while their pet both plays and exercises with them.

Kitter Spater, chief creative officer at Kurgo, concurred with Blurton on interactive toy design goals.

“It’s all about shared experiences,” he explained. “We define interactive as a fetch toy, a puzzle, training toy—anything that reinforces that ‘together’ moment. We steer away from toys that are handed to the dog when you walk in the front door and they take it to their bed to chew on [it]. And there is no doubt that outdoor interactive dog toys are growing in popularity.

“It goes without say that durability is also important,” Spater continued. “When creating our line of backyard game toys, we focused on products that would primarily inspire an emotional response from the owner; after all, they are the ones making the purchase. The backyard games conjure up memories of good times in the back yard growing up, and who wouldn’t want to share that with their dog? They embody our ‘Go Together’ philosophy inspiring dog owners to get up and get active without limiting the fun to dogs.

“On top of being a blast to play with, all toys in this line are made of non-toxic TPE material and are PVC free, they float in water, and are dishwasher safe,” he concluded.

All in Good Fun
According to Damian Hall, marketing manager for RC Hagen, all toys should be interactive.

“With that in mind, all fetch toys are interactive but not all interactive toys require fetching. Further, play should be supervised by a pet parent at all times,” he said. “The list of appealing qualities for toys and activities is as diverse as dogs themselves. We need to remember that ‘first rule of play’ is it has to be fun! Some dogs love a simple game of fetch where they can run around and do crazy fun dog things. Other dogs crave mental stimulation so puzzles and hide-and-seek activities rule the day.”

Hall described the Dogit Treat Twister as a toy and dog treat dispenser in one.

“It hones a dog’s natural hunting and foraging instincts, providing fun and exercise as well as mental stimulation,” he said. “The Dogit Mind Games Interactive Smart toy is a 3-in-1 gaming system that includes Hide-and-Seek, Spin-a-Whirl and a Sliding Puzzle.”

Colleen McCracken, CEO of Planet Dog, which produces the Planet Dog Mazee among other toys for canines, explains the value of the interactive category.

“Interactive is a broad and continuously growing space and it’s important to understand and identify what category you’re creating a toy for,” she said. “We have several toys in the fetch category, specifically designed to be thrown and fetched, and we also have several toys that fall more in the ‘brain stimulation/puzzle’ category like our Snoop and Link. Th e design of these is to keep dogs engaged and thinking.

“Lastly, we have a few toys in what we’d call ‘sensory,’” she continued. “Those would be our Squeak and Whistle Balls. They literally engage a dog’s senses. We consider them different categories under the umbrella of interactive.”

Mental Stimulation

According to Lars Lund, sales director of the Americas for Danish company Kruuse, pet owners may be surprised to learn that their dogs are smarter than they think. They also might be surprised that mentally stimulating dogs is a great way to contribute to their overall health and happiness.

“Consequently, we have designed several challenging interactive toys in our BUSTER line which includes the ActivityMat, the Flex Range, Strong Range and Crunch interactive toys, all designed to stimulate the brain,” Lund said.

“People often overlook the importance of providing their pets with mental stimulation,” he continued. “Everyone is aware of the need for proper exercise, but it is also important to provide for your pet’s mental needs.

“The ActivityMat is fun for both dogs and their owners. It consists of a heavy fabric mat on which there are 35 press-on snaps. Dog owners can choose from a series of different tasks that snap into place on the mat. Most of these tasks have varying levels of difficulty that present the dog with different challenging and motivational drivers. Pet owners should always be present with their pet when playing with the mat,” he cautioned.

Todd Tietz, manager of one of the Two Bostons stores in Naperville, Illinois, confirmed that many of his customers spell out their requirements when shopping for dog toys and toys that allow people and pets to spend quality time together is high on the list.

“As a retail store, we are not only dealing with pet parents who know their dog’s play strategy,” he said. “Often people come in to buy a gift for someone else’s dog and are not very familiar with the category. Nevertheless, they still spell out that they are looking for something that will provide people and pet enjoyment. And while we always stock bestsellers such as the Planet Dog Mazee, we do change out our inventory throughout the year so that our customers will always find something new that fits the bill.”

Feeding Cats for a Better Life

Feline nutrition is a work in progress as scientists and researchers continue the quest to provide the right formulas to feed senior cats and also address the increasing problem of feline obesity. Consequently, there are some very innovative recipes on the market that deserve shelf placement in the pet specialty marketplace.

Backed by a pioneering nine-year study, the nutrient blend found in the new Purina Pro Plan PRIME PLUS Adult 7+ has shown to improve and extend the life of cats ages 7 and older by a year.

“These findings were based on cats exclusively fed a complete diet with the proprietary blend vs. cats fed a complete and balanced diet alone and showed the proprietary formula extended their lifespan,” explained Kurt R. Venator, DVM, PhD, director of veterinary strategy and programs for Nestlé Purina PetCare North America.

This unique feline formula was introduced to retailers at Global Pet Expo earlier this year and formally introduced to media at an event hosted by Nestlé Purina PetCare at its St. Louis headquarters this past September. The event outlined the company’s innovation in nutrition and had a focus on healthy aging.

“PRIME PLUS Adult 7+ is the feline equivalent of the BRIGHT MIND Adult 7+ formulas that support brain health in senior dogs. These foods contain MCT oils known to improve cognitive function in both pets and people,” Venator explained. “Cats, (like dogs), begin to experience changes in their bodies around age 7. These changes can affect different aspects of their health such as the immune and digestive systems, body weight and skin condition and their cognitive function.

“The results from the feline aging study were remarkable,” Venator continued. “The blend of nutrients in PRIME PLUS Adult 7+ can positively impact feline health and longevity, extending [a cat’s] life span for up to a year, and that’s something every pet owner can relate to.”

This groundbreaking formula is available in a chicken and rice dry formula and four wet options, including Salmon & Tuna Entrée Classic, Ocean Whitefish & Salmon Entrée, Turkey & Giblets Entrée and Chicken & Beef Entrée Classic.

For older cats with dental issues, the NUTRO Senior Cat Food Soft has been specially formulated for older cats to comfortably chew.

“It has a soft, lap-able texture,” explained the brand’s publicist Lauren Wretman, senior account executive at Weber Shandwick’s Chicago office. “It’s available in a chicken and a cod flavor, and the formula is low in carbohydrates and high in protein, which is the optimum nutrient profile for a senior cat.”

According to Scott Brownell, sales manager of Grandma Lucy’s, the company recently introduced a one-pound bag of its popular Artisan Chicken and Fish Freezedried/Grain-free recipe, which can also help in maintaining senior cats’ health.

“The ingredient panel differs slightly from the three-pound bag option with chicken liver being added as the third protein ingredient listed in addition to chicken and pollock (a fish) as it’s a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals, and cats love it,” he said. “Being freezedried, these proteins stay within the guidelines of feeding older cats fresh food. Pollock is also a great source for Omega-3 essential fats. All ingredients are free of antibiotics, hormones and GMOs as well.”

29th Time’s the Charm

For Rob Downey, president of Annamaet Pet Foods, the pursuit of the right diet for senior cats resulted in him reformulating his new diet 29 times, hence the name of the about-to-bereleased formula called Annamaet Feline Sustain No. 29.

“For senior cats, nutrition becomes an even more important issue since there are many diseases that lead to loss of lean body mass,” he explained. “Unfortunately, one of the knee jerk reactions is to feed lower protein diets to senior cats. While for many of these diseases, a higher protein diet like Annamaet Grain Free Feline or our new product, Annamaet Feline Sustain No. 29, would be an option for aging cats that are losing lean mass and getting thin. Annamaet Feline Sustain No. 29 also has natural turmeric, which has anti-inflammatory actions and could be beneficial in older cats with chronic inflammatory conditions.”

With regard to weight management issues, the company is in the early stages of formulating Annamaet Feline Lean to complement its Annamaet Canine Lean formula.

“It is much more difficult to get the feline product correct, as a normal healthy dog won’t starve himself because he doesn’t like the taste of the food,” Downey said. “The cat is a different animal!

“There is twice the amount of calories in a gram of fat as a gram of protein or carbohydrate. To cut the calories in the diet, you really need to cut the fat. Fat is a major palatability enhancer in cats. So cutting the fat can make palatability more difficult to achieve,” Downey said.  “There are, however, some very good natural palatants available to help  improve palatability without really increasing the  calorie count.  Cats who starve themselves are prone to some very serious health problems that dogs are not, making palatability of utmost importance in cat foods.”

Weight Management

According to the latest American Pet Products Association 2017-2018 National Pet Owner’s Survey, 14 million cats of all ages in the United States are obese. The survey highlights that overweight cats are owned by all generations of cat owners with baby boomers reporting the lowest percentage (10 percent), compared with Gen Y owners (21 percent) and Gen X owners (20 percent). This is a heavyweight statistic that pet food manufacturers are not taking lightly.

January 2018 will see the release of the Purina Pro Plan Simply Fit weight loss system for cats in pet specialty stores. This patented eating plan is based on an alternative-feeding schedule of two foods—one with a base calorie amount (Metabolic Maintenance) and one with 25 percent fewer calories (Fat Burn) per serving. The concept is designed to promote a continuously active feline metabolism, so that a cat can slowly lose body fat while maintaining lean muscle mass. The diet can be fed until the cat has reached its optimum weight.

Merrick Pet Care addresses both senior cat diets and weight issues with designated products in its Purrfect Bistro product line.

Deboned chicken is the first ingredient and, along with chicken and turkey meals, comprise a 70 percent protein level of meat sourced ingredients in the Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Healthy Senior Recipe. It’s also formulated to be highly digestible, rich in essential fatty acids and fortified with vitamins, minerals, probiotics and antioxidants. The Purrfect Bistro Grain Free Healthy Weight Recipe is also a grain-free recipe and formulated for cats one to seven years of age.

With regard to weight management, the NUTRO Weight Management Adult Cat Food Chicken & Whole Brown Rice Recipe cuts unneeded calories without cutting nutritional benefits. The formula is specifically for overweight cats, with real chicken as the first ingredient to promote strong muscles and lean body mass. It contains 28 percent less fat and 14 percent fewer calories to help manage weight compared to the brand’s standard adult formulations. In addition, it has whole grain fiber to help cats feel full longer, which can play a role in helping cats reach their ideal weight

Bedtime and Beyond for Dogs

A recent report called “Durable Dog and Cat Petcare Products in the U.S.” produced by Packaged Facts, a division of MarketResearch.com, cited pet beds to be the second largest category of durable pet products, registering retail sales of $683 million in 2016 and representing 18 percent of all pet durables.

The report stated that, apart from quality, value and style, consumers based their decisions on:

  • function
  • temperature control
  • portability/travel
  • innovative design
  • fashion/humanization
  • natural/eco-friendly

The human-animal bond is a driving factor for mushrooming sales as there is a growing trend for dog owners to purchase more than one dog bed, placing them in various rooms throughout the home so that the dog has numerous comfort zones and can hang out with their favorite people in different places.

Inspiration for the latest innovative dog bed designs certainly comes from different places, too. Martello forts, impenetrable stone structures built throughout England and Ireland to protect against a Napoleonic invasion, were the inspiration for Harry Barker’s latest design, the Martello dog bed, according to Carol Perkins, founder and creative director for the company.

“I’ve been mildly obsessed with Martello forts for several years,” Perkins said. “I love them as architectural gems; they are symbols of strength, security and protection.

“A dog’s bed is his castle, and what better way to make a dog feel loved, safe, comfy and protected like in a fort, as opposed to a bagel or donut which are common names for similar designs,” Perkins continued.

Perkins, who recently sold her company to Mission Pets, replicated the fort design, creating a wide solid bolster that offers pets all-around back support. Further, the plump bolsters have been designed so they are the perfect height for pets to rest their chins on top of them. The base mattress consists of two inches of memory foam with an additional removable memory foam pillow top on the base, offering supreme comfort, especially for elderly or infirm canines.

The bed comes apart into three sections so that the filled sections can be removed and the cover washed and tumble-dried. It’s available in three sizes.

Ease of Use

Dog Gone Smart recently redesigned its popular Lounger design to also have removable bolsters.

“They are filled with cotton wadding— making bed bolsters firmer. This means that pet owners can machine-wash the cover without losing bed firmness,” explained Veronica Nunez, marketing manager for the company. “However, we kept all the benefits and technology from our old style, including our RepelzIt nano technology, which repels dirt so that they don’t have to be washed frequently.”

With functionality on the top of the list compiled by Packaged Facts, the company’s new NINJA Beds combines the Repelz-It Nanoprotection with a ballistic nylon, chew and scratch resistant cover.

Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the NINJA beds come with a 90- Day Chew-Proof Guarantee and are designed to also fit most standard-size crates and carriers.

The non-toxic nylon is also 100 percent waterproof.

With regard to easy clean-up, Canadian-based Messy Mutts has patented what it calls EVERFRESH technology that uses probiotic microbes bonded to the fabric of the beds to provide continuous natural odor control.

“This is a completely new way to control odors in our dog beds,” said Christopher Shipton, president of Messy Mutts. “These natural and safe probiotic microbes activate on contact with moisture and bacteria and then work to break down and eliminate odors. The microbes then go dormant until the next time they come into contact with moisture and bacteria. This is not a perfume or masking agent and contains no pesticides.”

The Messy Mutts line of beds featuring EVERFRESH technology is available in a variety of styles.  Th e Loft Bolster is rectangular and features raised cushioned sides with a reversible bottom cushion designed for the dog that likes to curl up and nap. And among the various mattress-styled beds is the Loft Standard, suitable for pets that like to stretch out when they snooze.

Comfortability

From a comfort standpoint, memory foam mattresses are becoming a very important selling feature for dog beds. Admittedly, there are different grades including off -cuts from the human bedding industry infused with gel and this reflects in the price structure which, overall, has made such beds more competitive price-wise and available to a wider consumer base.

Worldwise Inc has used memory foam in its beds for several years. Its latest design, the Petlinks Soothing Escape, uses a combination of gel and memory foam to off er pets all-around body comfort that simultaneously supports joints and relieves stress on pressure points on the body.

“The bed is available in a medium and a large size and has a plush machine washable cover,” said Sarah Stone, the company’s marketing director.

The pet brand mollymutt is synonymous with DIY dog beds with their stuff sack design, which allows dog owners to create a bed using their own pillows and clothes for the mattress insert. Recently, the company introduced a traditional styled mattress bed called the sheepy, which is available in various sizes and seven patterns.

“Wool is enjoying renewed popularity with creative uses in shoes, clothing and other home decor items as customers have focused in on the natural properties that make wool so great,” explained Art Simon, co-founder of mollymutt. “Our sheepy bed is made from sustainably produced wool encased in natural cotton and covered with our mollymutt 100 percent cotton canvas covers, creating a bed that meets our vision for sustainability, durability and performance, while also providing unparalleled benefits for pooch and owner.”

According to Stacy Busch-Heisserer, owner  of Busch Pet Products & Dog Wash in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, the mollymutt stuff sack and duvet cover combination was the first dog bed she brought into her store when she opened seven years ago.

“People love the sustainable aspect of being able to recycle their clothes and pillows for the pets to use and it remains a top seller,” she said. “We also have an arrangement with the Campbell Mattress Company to produce customized mattresses to fit if customers prefer a more typical mattress. So the sheepy beds have been well received in-store too. It expands their choices for sustainable products.”

Body Temperature

With temperature control of secondary importance on the Packaged Facts list, manufacturers have been addressing the issue of providing both warmth and cooling features in the form of mats sold separately and designed to be placed on top of any bed.

K&H Manufacturing introduced several new beds in 2016 that are intended to keep pets warm or cool.

“Our patented Deluxe Lectro-Soft Outdoor Heated bed is the only soft outdoor heated bed on the market,” said Dawn Buffington, marketing manager for the company. “Because of its versatility, it’s suitable for porches, garages, doghouses or barns. The beds thermostatically control warmth to the pet’s normal body temperature.

“The Thermo-Pet Mat can be used as a bed or a crate mat and has dual thermostatic controls,” Buffington added. “Th e heater is removable for machine washing. However, the K&H Pet Bed Warmer is undoubtedly our top-selling indoor product. It comes in various sizes and can be placed inside any pet bed to heat it.”

All the company’s heated products have been rigorously tested for safety by MET Labs, global service leader for product safety approvals, and also work on a very low voltage to control electricity consumption.

Products that Help Owners Battle Hairballs

Hairballs: cat owners know only too well problems regarding ingested hair and its subsequent projectile ejection around the home as well as any medical issues that can ensue.

Although National Hairball Awareness Day is celebrated on the last Friday in April, every day is hairball day in many feline households due to the fact that indoor cats are exposed to more artificial light, which promotes shedding. And this is something on which retailers can definitely capitalize.

Products dealing with hairball issues span several feline categories and lend themselves to successful cross-promotion in store. A perfect example is product placement in the food and treat aisle as well as in the grooming department.

The Diet

There are several cat food formulas specifically focused on the hairball issue.

Royal Canin’s over-the-counter formula is Indoor Intense Hairball formula.

“It’s our top formula for cats who have hairball issues,” said Brent Mayabb, vice president of corporate affairs for Royal Canin. “In fact, all our feline formulas address hairballs, even if we don’t list it as a specific feature on the packaging.”

The company also has taken care of the problem in some of it’s breed-centric formulas such as the food for Persian cats as this breed has a unique coat.

CANIDAE has been promoting its farm-to-table food experience for pets with the announcement that the company now has its own farms in Kansas to grow and harvest its own fresh produce for their recipes.

CANIDAE Grain-Free Pure Control is a hairball control recipe made with fresh chicken as the first ingredient and formulated for cats with sensitive stomachs to aid their daily digestion.

“This recipe is ideal for cats with hairball issues and the one in our lineup that we recommend,” said Scott Whipple, co-founder of the company.

Since discontinuing the feline Trufood recipes, WellPet has introduced a formula to target hairballs called Wellness Natural Hairball Control. This vet-formulated chicken meal and rice recipe is scientifically proven to help manage hairballs, as the formula features a special natural fiber blend that helps move swallowed hair and already-formed hairballs through a cat’s digestive system.

“Our natural ingredients and unique supplements provide whole-body nutritional support in the tastiest and healthiest way possible,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, director of consumer experience and marketing.

Apart from treats and foods, there are a growing selection of hairball supplements and gels that once again can be placed in different places within the store apart from the supplement/treatment shelf.

NaturVet’s Hairball Aid plus pumpkin is a soft chew suitable for all cats over the age of 12 weeks. It’s a preventative and also helps cats digest any hair they may have already ingested. NaturVet’s Natural Hairball Aid Cat Gel, which is petroleum–free and catnip flavored, is a practical solution because a little can be placed on a paw or along the jaw line for cats to lick off themselves.

Maintenance Programs

Grooming plays a really important role in hairball control because, although cats are efficient self-groomers, regular brushing can drastically reduce the amount of hair ingested on a regular basis.

The Catit Design Senses Massage Center 2.0, which is part of the Catit interactive cat products line 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 for cats to rub up against. The ripple massager provides intense rubbing pleasure to head, neck and facial areas, and the body stroke groomers are designed to offer easy-access and an intense massage to the cat as it rubs against it, removing loose hair in the process. The product comes with a sachet of catnip to initially help attract a cat to the product.

While cats are efficient self-groomers, there is no question that many cats need additional grooming help as they age and are not flexible enough to reach their nether regions.

Although Clark Feed and Seed in Bellingham, Washington, doesn’t have an in-store grooming salon, it has a large selection of grooming tools for home use including the Eazee by Foolee Click & Brush de-shedding tool and attachable grooming accessories. This system has been available in Europe for some time and is now widely available in the United States.

“I have been recommending it to cat owners and been getting excellent feedback,” said Sarah Fisken, the store’s manager. “People prefer the plastic teeth of the de-shedder over other metal tools that can be harsh on a cat’s skin and fur. The massage brush is also very popular as a separate purchase to attach to the handle.”

Debuting the grooming tools to retailers at SuperZoo in July, Eddy Cathaud, CEO of the company, explained that his design features rounded teeth on the de-shedder that are specially designed to only remove 100 percent dead, loose hair and no live hair.

“As its name proclaims, the Eazee tool was designed to be a home grooming tool that’s both comfortable and convenient to use,” he said. “The additional grooming options such as a comb and a massage brush simply clip on, making it a very versatile performer.”

The handle of the grooming tool is available in six bright fashion colors.

Specially formulated cat wipes do double duty because, apart from removing any dust and detritus from the fur, they also remove any loose hair and prevent it from being ingested. Quick Bath Cat Wipes, manufactured by International Veterinary Sciences (IVS), are pH-neutral and alcohol-free so that they can be used frequently without drying out the skin and are suitable to be used on young cats as well as seniors to remain hairball-free.

A Natural Solution

Some cats like to nibble on grass for pure enjoyment while others use grasses to aid their digestion and help regurgitate hairballs.

The Catit Design Senses Grass Garden Kit is also part of the Catit interactive play line and offers felines a mixture of wheat and barley grasses to munch on.

The Wood Planter from Pioneer Pets is a buffet of green nibbles consisting of oats, wheat, rye and barley seeds that germinate in four to six days.

“The frame is sturdy to prevent cats from knocking it over,” explained Shannon Supanich, director of marketing for Pioneer Pets. “And there are refills to ensure that cats are never without their greens.”

Pioneer Pets also manufactures attractive little ceramic containers of wheat grass that make ideal gifts sold year-round.

“They can be placed anywhere in a store to garner attention but we always suggest the food section and of course a counter near a register,” Supanich added.

Dog Training Tools for Any Behavioral-Fixing Need

When it comes to dog training, there are several philosophies that can be followed. One of the most popular styles involves positive reinforcement. And when it comes to rewarding a dog for following a command, nothing says “well done” quite like a treat.

Dr. Dalton’s Premium Treats were originally created by Dr. Sue Dalton as a training treat to be used at her dog training school, California School for Dogs, Inc., in Santa Barbara, California.

“I was looking for something that I could easily break into different-sized pieces and that wasn’t greasy so that I could keep them in my pocket,” she recalled. “I couldn’t find anything, so I started making my own and using them at the school. Then people started asking where they could buy them as a general treat, and I started manufacturing on a larger scale and supplying them exclusively to pet specialty stores.”

According to Wendy Guyer, owner of the Pet House in Santa Barbara, California, the first pet store to stock the treat line, there is always high demand for pure meat, non-greasy treats.

“Treats are such an important training tool, and I find myself often putting together training packages for new dog owners that include a harness, treats and other essentials,” she said.

The Caru Pet Food Company has introduced two new protein treats to its baked Soft ‘n Tasty Treat line.

“We were inspired to create them in response to rising public demand for more novel, exotic proteins, so we have added USDA inspected pheasant and tuna,” said Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of the company. “These tender treats are perfect for dogs with common food allergies or digestive sensitivities and great for training because they can be easily broken into smaller pieces without creating crumbs and they are not greasy to the touch.”

Leads and Harnesses

PetSafe, manufacturers of the popular Easy Walk Harness, has introduced some fun new patterns featuring bones, donuts and poppies in bright fashion colors in the new Chic Easy Walk line. The easily adjustable harness comes with a matching four-foot leash and is available in four sizes.

“We have had a lot of success with this style because it stops leash pulling quickly and comfortably, and the front chest leash attachment, a unique Martingale loop, redirects the dog’s forward motion,” explained Nicole Backus, product manager for the toys and behavior product categories. “So we decided to give it a fashionable look. We did the same with our Gentle Leader product, too.”

In addition, the company has introduced the PetSafe 3 in 1 Harness, which, as the name suggests, offers three harnesses in one. The design includes a front leash attachment for no-pull walks, a back leash attachment for more comfortable runs and a car safety restraint for safer trips as you can slot a seatbelt through it to prevent a dog from interfering with the driver. The 3 in 1 Harness comes in black, plum and teal and is available in four sizes.

“The idea is for the dog owner to get long-term benefits out of the product that goes well beyond the training phase,” Backus said.

Celebrity behaviorist and dog trainer Dr. Roger Mugford has added more training products under the Halti label that falls under the umbrella of The Company of Animals, including the Halti All-In-One Lead, which has a reflective strip for nighttime visibility and a bungee section to absorb any pulling on either end of the leash. It has a soft neoprene handle and the multi-functional design can be used hand held, serve as a tie-out tether or be used belt-style around the waist for hands-free control while running.

Dr. Roger Mugford’s Clix training products replicate what he uses at his own Training and Behaviour Centre, and the comprehensive training range includes everything from two-tone whistles to target sticks and clickers, enabling owners and trainers to teach a dog anything from a simple sit through advanced tricks. The Clix Puppy Line is specially designed for house training a puppy.

Dog trainer Jennifer Arnold, the creator of the Bond-Based Approach Choice Teaching method, which focuses on dog owners building strong relationships with their dogs through bond-building exercises rather than through more traditional dog training methods, has designed and brought to market a new leash design called We Leash that has two handles—one handle for the dog owner to hold, and the other handle on the opposite end of the leash for the dog to carry in its mouth. And, on the dog’s end, there is also a special connector to attach a toy, the doggie equivalent of a comforting baby blankie.

“Taking a dog for a walk should be an interactive exercise,” Arnold said. “By holding something, a dog feels more secure and is less likely to feel restrained and to react inappropriately on a leash. It’s about the dog feeling he is in charge, too. It’s as if he is taking his human for a stroll.”

Arnold officially debuted her innovative leash at SuperZoo in July, and she noted that she is focused on working with pet specialty retailers who can best explain the premise of this unique design.

Manufacturers  of high-end leather leashes are also focusing on training products. Angel Pet Supplies has introduced a high-grain braided leather leash with two handles and solid brass hardware. The second handle is situated just above the collar snap hook and designed for ultimate short leash control of the dog during training and also for general use in high traffic urban areas. The leash is available in different lengths and widths and in both brown and black.

Accidents Happen

And there is no doubt that there are a fair amount of accidents in the home as a part of the dog training experience.

“In addition to using the Stain & Odor Remover for cleaning up everyday to severe messes, our Urine Destroyer is also great when potty training a new puppy or newly adopted dog,” said Jenny Gilcrest, director of marketing for Skout’s Honor. “Both can be added to the dog trainer arsenal because they simply make the life of the pet parent easier through the process as they completely remove urine stains and odors—helping to prevent dogs from going pee in the same spots/marking. They can be used on carpeting, upholstery, crates, rugs—pretty much any surface where accidents happen.”

The Patio Cleaner & Deodorizer spray is for dogs being trained to go on imitation grass surfaces outside or on a balcony and also works on concrete, stone and other outdoor surfaces where dogs go to the bathroom.

“Having such products on hand can help solve ‘problems’ more quickly and completely,” Gilcrest said. “[It] minimizes frustration of the pet parent, allowing you to be more focused and effective through the training process.”

The Key to Clean: Dental Hygiene for Cats

Dental hygiene remains paramount for good overall feline health. Apart from the issues of periodontal disease, bacteria left unattended in the mouth, when ingested internally, can lead to various life-threatening diseases such as heart disease, and liver and kidney failure.

Although February has been designated Pet Dental Month, more pet owners are being educated about dental issues and the need for year-round dental care. And to this end, pet specialty stores with an active internet presence via a store website and social media sites have helped enormously in an educational role.

Dental on Display

Experts agree that even more can be done by drawing attention to products that promote good feline dental hygiene.

“The key to promoting and selling feline dental care products year round is to merchandise them in different places within the store,” said AdreAnne Tesene, owner of Two Bostons in Naperville, Illinois. “We carry a variety of dental products, such as Paws IQ and Ark Naturals Brushless Toothpaste, and market them in multiple areas within the store, such as the grooming section and near food and treats in our cat department.

“We also often suggest the Zymox Oratene dental gel as an easy-to-apply option,” she continued. “The gel contains natural bio-active enzymes that effectively inhibit harmful odor-causing bacteria and remove plaque, helping to protect both feline teeth and gums.”

According to Susan Weiss, the founder and owner of Ark Naturals, another tactic is placing dental products close to seasonal ones.

“This way, it ensures that oral health remains in the customer’s peripheral, literally and figuratively,” Weiss said. “Our other feline dental product is our PlaqueZapper, an easy to use drinking water additive that reduces plaque, whitens teeth and helps restore the saliva’s natural balance. It’s colorless and odorless, hence its feline appeal.”

ProDen PlaqueOff Powder produced by SwedencareUSA is a gluten-free, soy-free supplement that contains 100 percent natural and sustainably harvested sea kelp, believed to contain bacteria-fighting properties.

“Dental care is unfortunately one of the most overlooked health issues pet owners concern themselves with,” said Scott Reinhardt, vice president of sales and marketing. “We created a product that is really easy to use. The supplement comes in a granulated form and can be sprinkled onto dry food and also mixed into wet food.”

The same ingredient is used in the company’s Dental Bites, which are also free from additives, artificial preservatives and sugar. The treats are deemed suitable for both cats and dogs.

Dry Food Debate

The debate as to whether the action of eating dry food can actually help prevent tartar build-up has also led to an ongoing discussion among veterinarians.

Dr. Jan Bellows, a veterinary orthodontist who practices in Weston, Florida, said that there are peer reviewed articles on both sides saying one is better than the other and added that he likes to draw attention to food and treats products that have the VOHC seal of acceptance, such as Feline Greenies and ProPlan Dental Crunch Cat Snacks.

“These products have been shown in at least two double blinded studies to decrease the accumulation of plaque and/ or calculus,” he explained.

Most veterinary-prescribed dental foods are prescription diets. However, Royal Canin has an over-the-counter dental formula, Oral Care, made for adult cats with dental sensitivities.

“The cube-shaped kibble has a special texture that encourages chewing and promotes a brushing effect that helps reduce plaque formation,” explained Dr. Brent Mayabb, director of corporate affairs at Royal Canin USA. “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.”

Additional Options

Wellness positions its Kittles cat treats as a dental aid because of the shapes of the treats and has also added three new flavors to the popular line of crunchy low-calorie snacks: Kittles Whitefish & Cranberries, Kittles Turkey & Cranberries and Kittles Duck & Cranberries.

Virbac Corporation’s feline dental products that include toothpastes, brushes and dental chews are sold primarily in veterinary offices. In an attempt to place its products in a bigger pet specialty retail environment, the company had a very strong presence at the recent SuperZoo retail trade show in Las Vegas.

The chicken flavored C.E.T. Cat Chews treat is marketed as home dental care as this product has a dual enzyme system that offers a natural abrasive texture that helps to reduce plaque and loosen tartar. While the company also produces an oral gel and both toothpastes and brushes, the chews are an option to offer some dental care to cats that are completely resistant to the ideas of oral gels and having their teeth cleaned, according to the company’s public relations spokesperson, Kristy Boulos of Matrix Partners.

Because they are a nutraceutical company, Vermont-based VetriScience Laboratories focuses on the benefits of probiotics and natural ingredients to help create a healthy dental environment in a cat’s mouth. The company has two feline dental products, namely Perio Plus Feline Bites, a chew dental formula, and Perio Support, a food additive in powder form that can be sprinkled on both dry and wet food. For a cat up to 15 pounds in weight, as little as ¼ teaspoon needs to be added to every meal to promote good feline dental health between professional teeth cleaning sessions at the vet’s office.

Carry On, In Style

With the holiday season only months away, now is the time for retailers to ensure they are well stocked with the latest carriers and crates. And there are a lot of new styles and colors with functional, innovative features from which to choose.

Sleepypod has added a beautiful purple shade called True Violet to their colorful range of carriers and mobile pet beds.

“Our research has shown that purple is the most requested color by Sleepypod customers,” said Michael Leung, Sleepypod co-founder and lead product designer. “We responded by creating a lush True Violet color that blends elements of purple with blue, Sleepypod’s most popular color.”

The company’s carriers are all crash-tested to the standard set for child safety restraints (the current industry standard) and have received a five-star rating from the Center for Pet Safety. And for the second time, the Sleepypod Mobile Pet Bed has been nominated as a Best Buy in the premium carrier category by Consumer Digest magazine.

Two-in-One

Carriers that convert to pet beds are becoming a new trend.

Gen7Pets has introduced the Carry Me Sleeper, the first carrier that actually converts into an open soft padded fleece bed for comfort at home and while travelling.

“The goal of all our products is to make life easier for pet parents,” said Jeremy Buckley, sales manager for the company. “And in doing our research, we learned that many parents don’t travel with a bed because it’s cumbersome in terms of additional luggage but would really like to have one for their pet. Hence, our latest design.”

Also new from the company is the Gen7 Commuter, a carrier that can be buckled into a car using the vehicle seatbelt latch and strap system in order to restrain the carrier in a moving vehicle.

Another pet carrier that does double duty is the Petmate Jackson Galaxy Double Extend.

Both sides of this navy blue carrier with green trim have zip-out plastic coated mesh vestibules that provide a pet with an additional 34 inches of space to stretch out. The carrier also has five points of entry: all four sides and on top, providing pets with excellent ventilation. There is a spacious pocket for documents, treats and travel accessories. It has a removable, washable foam pad with fleece on one side. When closed, the carrier meets most airline specifications.

With the idea of crates also doing double duty, the Hagen Dogit Design Cargo Carrier comes in five sizes and the specially designed double Latch mechanism on the sturdy carrier allows for the removal of the front door from the unit without actually taking it apart.

“This feature allows the carrier to be converted to a living area/doghouse to be used at home as well as on your travels,” said Damian Hall, marketing communications manager at Hagen.

Apart from a secure locking device to deter escape artists, the design has a large contoured front entrance with no sharp edges. This line also has a reversible door and a slide-locking assembly system, eliminating the use of easy-tolose screws. Additional accessories are available, such as a portable accessory compartment and a snap-on water bowl to help make the crate a home away from home.

The Dogit Voyageur line also has this slide-latch assembly system. The smallest size meets certain airline specifications and is ideal for trips to the vet as well as general travel because it has “bonus” features such as a petting door on top to soothe a pet without having to open the main door. There is also a treat compartment on top with a small food and water bowl included. It’s available in a number of bright, fun color combinations.

Long-term Investment

PetSaver Healthy Pet Superstore has just opened its fourth store in Victor, New York, and offers customers a variety of carriers, including the Dogit and Petmate brands.

“For our customers, price is always the important criteria, followed by size, features and whether the brand is airline compatible,” said Lora Sturm, operations manager for the company. “We have found that our customers do a lot of research online before they actually walk into a store to make a purchase. Carriers are a long-term investment and, interestingly, color is not always an important prerogative.”

Contour, the newest crate line from Midwest Homes for Pets features the company’s latest Laplock technology.

“It’s a patented, superior locking system which reinforces the door with multiple locking points, plus it has a Safe and Secure Slide Bolt Latch,” explained Tara Whitehead, marketing manager for the company.

The doors on both the single door range and the double range feature a low threshold and a large opening, making it easy for pets to access and also for pet owners to reach inside. The crates are available in six sizes and come with an ABS plastic pan and a crate divider panel, ideal for a growing puppy.

There is a new carrier and accessories from Sherpa, too. The new Sherpa Comfort Ride is best described as a slightly “egg-shaped oval” and is available in two sizes. Both sizes comply with the Sherpa’s Guaranteed On Board program that guarantees airline compliance based on each airline’s specific rules and regulations. Th e top zips off to make it easier to place a pet inside and to clean the base. Th e design also folds flat when not in use.

Carrying a carrier can, literally, weigh heavily on the shoulders. Consequently, the company has also introduced the Comfort Strap, designed to relieve the discomfort of carrying a heavy pet. This patented, extra-wide fabric strap distributes pets’ weight evenly across the entire shoulder area and works with all Sherpa carriers as well as other brands.

Just released from Kurgo is the K9 Courier carrier that has an Armor-sole waterproof bottom.

“Airlines have always required waterproof carriers but are beginning to enforce this requirement,” said Gordie Spater, co-founder and CEO of the company. “Apart from this special waterproof base, the K9 Courier easily wipes clean, and is constructed from a water-resistant, rip-stop material with a machine washable liner.”

This versatile carrier is designed for dogs up to 15 pounds and allows them a place to stick their heads out of the carrier. It also converts into a booster seat for road trips. Currently, it’s available in red.

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.”

Dispensing Treats
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.

Laser Toys
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.

Smart Tracker
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 lCatit-43153W-2.0SensesWellnessCenter-B1emongrass 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, makingGLOPUP 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.

Outdoor Naps

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.

Fresh ChowGamma2 Travel-tainer

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.

Smart Feeders
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.

Drinking Options
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.

Engaging Wands
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.

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