Services are the Cat’s Meow
Word is out: cats are the official pet of the millennial generation and it’s becoming apparent that retailers need to start planning unique services they can offer to these feline fanciers.
Pet services, such as full-service grooming, dental care, boarding, training and day camps, are the fastest-growing product segment for the industry over the last five years.
According to a recent report from IBISWorld, “the emerging trend of pet parents has bolstered demand for price premium pet products and services.”
“Because pets are treated as family members, pet owners frequently lavish them with all-natural and organic pet foods and treats, in addition to high-end services,” the report reads. “As the economy continues its upward trajectory and consumers have more discretionary income, revenue from premium products and services is projected to increase.”
That’s all fine for dogs, but how do our traditionally shy cats find their place in the pet store? It turns out that there is plenty of room for our feline friends in the service industry and those who are the first to embrace this new trend will benefit the most.
From in-store cafes that serve raw organic meat meals to acupuncture clinics, specialty services are where it’s at for cat owners.
Pussy & Pooch call themselves an urban oasis for pets and their people, offering a signature in-store pet cafe for modern pets. A daily selection of raw meat meals, simmered stews and meaty bones are prepared fresh to order, in addition to gourmet treats, snacks and specially designed drinks. Custom divider seating for up to three cats at once help facilitate a safe environment.
As cats move from roaming the yard to exploring cushy catios and homes designed specifically to meet their individualized needs, there is more need than ever for in-store design services.
Thanks to cat-centric designers like Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther working with feline behaviorists like Jackson Galaxy, environmental enrichment (referred to as “catification” by the pair) is going mainstream with more consumers seeking out feline-friendly designs they can easily integrate into their homes.
Retailers have a unique opportunity to implement these products into store design to demonstrate unique ways to help pet owners maximize their home environment. Innovate by offering in-store design services or virtual workshops and webinars. This will translate into an opportunity for the sale of unique products from smaller manufacturers, giving the smaller retail stores a leg up in this segment.
Social media will continue to be the key to driving traffic into stores. The millennial generation is one of the most informed, and with easy access to internet and online data, it’s important to give them a reason to come into your brick and mortar store.
This can be accomplished by encouraging nutritionists to visit and offer in-store classes, training seminars, and even having a room designed specifically for feline agility courses, play areas, or even adoption centers where cat owners can try out new toys and products.
Be sure to consider loyalty programs and take advantage of the ability to offer food and treat samples from distributors.
Grooming As a Mainstay
There will always be room for full-service grooming services. However, as most cats are notoriously shy of water, there should be plenty of options available for calming cats, as well as providing stress-free environments.
For example, Petsmart now offers grooming services for cats that include aromatherapy to help keep cats calm during and after services. The package includes avocado, sunflower and lavender oils and lemongrass extract, which help soften the skin and relieve dryness.
Offering nail trims and nail caps application not only help encourage proper care, but can help educate cat owners that declawing procedures are cruel and unnecessary.
For the cat-centric store, there are plenty of opportunities in the cat cafe market. The industry is experiencing extraordinary growth worldwide.
Cat Town Cafe in Oakland, California, was the first to open in the U.S. in late 2013. Since that time, dozens of other cat cafes have begun operation across the U.S., from California to New York.
Fan favorites include Meow Parlour in New York City, where cat loving patrons can rent time to relax with dozens of free-roaming cats or just have a bite to eat in the Meow Parlour Patisserie with a furry friend.
Koneko cat cafe is another great locale, offering Asian-style refreshments in a relaxing bar devoted to those who enjoy watching cats but not necessarily interacting. Large windows allow patrons to enjoy a glass of sake while watching cats play. For the adventurous, enter the two-story cat condo and interact with lucky rescue cats who lounge around both indoors and on their outdoor patio. If you happen to make a special connection with one or more, the cats are all adoptable.
The cat cafe concept is quickly being applied to other species, with dog adoption cafes opening as well. In Japan, the founders of the cat cafe concept continue to innovate and now patrons can find dog, owl, turtle, reptile and even falcon cafes across the country.
Focusing on the Cat Owner
Services don’t have to be the only thing you offer, but specific events for cat lovers are something you should add to your calendar. These include cat-centric book signings with local celebrities and authors. Design services can be easily offered in workshops or in the customer’s own home, by partnering with cat-centric designers.
Health screenings, vaccination days, and services focused on specific “holidays” (such as “National Dental Week” or “Hairball Awareness Day”) are easy to support and can draw into your store people who normally wouldn’t be there.
Other events that stores should look into include CPR certification courses, behavioral consultations, cat yoga classes and more. The only limit to what your store can offer is your imagination.
Chew It Over
Consumers are invested in selecting eco-friendly products that are good for their pets. According to a report from Packaged Facts, combined sales of natural pet care products will grow by 10-15 percent over the period from 2014-17. Sales are projected to reach $9.4 billion by 2017, doubling from an estimated $4.1 billion in 2012.
Yet with an expanding industry comes popular buzzwords such as “all natural” and “organic.” These terms can be misleading and create distrust among consumers.
“Virtually every pet food and treat calls itself ‘all-natural’ these days,” said Anthony Bennie, co-founder and chief nutrition officer of Clear Conscience Pet. “But there are no regulations that define these terms, and mega corporations have learned to employ these buzzwords, which has put consumers in the position of not knowing what is really the best for their pets. That’s why we came up with the CleanLabel line, which respects consumers by giving them information that is easy to understand.”
Making Better Choices
Consumers demand high standards and quality control in manufacturing, sourcing and packaging processes, and make it clear that they expect the same standards for their pets’ treats and chews, too.
“Treat selection is a natural extension of these better food choices,” said Bette Schubert, co-founder of Bravo.
Chewing is natural for pets and can help behavioral health as well as their physical health.
“Dogs have a natural instinct for our type of products,” said Suzanne Madenis, who works in marketing at Jones Natural Chews. “Gnawing on bones and munching on meat treats is what they would do in the wild. It’s something that dogs not only enjoy, but need to do to be completely content.”
As more pet owners watch their pets battle obesity or have reactions to common proteins, there is a call for leaner alternative proteins. Whether it’s alligator jerky, bison bones or naturally shed elk antlers, there are plenty of exotic proteins available to pets.
However, stocking all-natural chews that pets love and pet owners will buy is not always simple.
“When it comes to keeping dogs of any size happy, engaged and occupied, it all comes down to the aroma, texture and taste,” said Bill Chilian, marketing vice president at Barkworthies. “Our Goat Horn chews offer pet parents a new, enduring way to keep their dogs occupied and happy. They’re composed of a dense keratin outside layer with nutrient-rich marrow inside, so they’re durable, appetizing and challenging enough to offer even aggressive chewers.”
Barkworthies offers a natural kangaroo steak made of all-natural, free-range Australian kangaroo that is rich in iron, zinc and vitamins B6 and B12.
“Whimzees are long-lasting chews made from potato starch, a highly digestible, gluten-free source of energy,” said Lion Houkes, global marketing director at Paragon Pet Products. “The limited, natural ingredients in Whimzeez offer a high quality vegetarian option to your pet that promotes dental/oral health, but with a taste and texture dogs adore.”
“I think we’ll continue to see a trend toward simplification and minimization of ingredient decks,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “As customers become more attuned to their pets’ food sensitivities and allergies, they’ll seek out food solutions that are formulated without the ingredients their pets can’t tolerate.”
“We’ll also continue to see a trend towards pet owners being more in charge of what they put in their pets’ bowls, meaning an increase in customization of mealtimes, mix-in and topper products that add variety and nutritional elements that may not exist in their pets’ basic core diets,” Postins said. “This trend is another element of the humanization of pet food, and wanting to feed cats and dogs a more varied diet rather than a monotonous diet of ‘fast food’ every day without any variations.”
For pet owners who want an alternative to meat, Himalayan Dog Chews are a favorite. The chews utilize an ancient recipe of yak and cow milk to create an extremely hard cheese that dogs love. The company reports that these products last, on average, five to seven times longer than bully sticks.
Copper’s Classics products are minimally processed, single ingredient chews that are made with no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives. Program products are exclusively sourced from animals born and raised in the U.S. and are produced and packaged solely in U.S. plants that uphold the highest standards in food safety.
“Being trusted with the welfare of our customers’ pets is a responsibility we take very seriously,” said Rebecca Deveau-Greene, program development manager at JBS USA, maker of Copper’s Classics. “We only offer products that we feel comfortable feeding to our own dogs.”
“Ingredient purity and integrity are paramount,” Postins agreed. “Customers should seek out treats that are free of added chemical preservatives, artificial palatants and sweeteners. Wishes are a pure fish treat made from wild, line-caught Icelandic haddock with nothing added at all, and can easily be snapped into smaller pieces for smaller pets.”
Natural Chews for Pocket Pets
“When stocking natural chews, it’s important to remember that all species can benefit from chewing, particularly rabbits and other cavies, whose teeth continuously grow,” said Lisa Kniceley, marketing director of Vitakraft Sunseed. “Rabbits need to chew, both for physical and psychological reasons. Vitacraft Sunseed provides interactive treats and chews that help all small animals keep their teeth. Our Vita Prima Garden Pops Strawberry is a toy and a treat, and our new Sunsations Brain Teaser is a way for pet parents to interact with their guinea pigs.”
Super Chews from Marshall Pet Products are a favorite among ferret owners.
“Our Super Chews help satisfy a ferret’s natural chewing instinct and prevents destructive chewing,” said Linda Cope, marketing director for Marshall Pet. “Best of all, they are protein-based and free of sugar and preservatives, making them a fun and healthy treat.”
Probiotics for Pets
With all of the talk about natural pet food in the industry, there is relatively little time devoted to information about probiotics. While feeding a pet nutritious food is an important way to gain probiotics, supplementation can make an obvious difference in an animal’s health.
Better Digestion, Better Health
At their most basic, probiotics help support a healthy digestive function. Supplementing a pet’s diet with beneficial microorganisms is a way to help make the digestive process more efficient, which in turn can help increase immunity, offset reactions to medications (especially antibiotics) and reduce the effects of stress in pets.
“Probiotics are beneficial bacteria, such as Bacillus coagulans found in Plant Enzymes and Probiotics by Animal Essentials, which add to existing microflora in the intestinal tract,” said Greg Tilford, CEO of Animal Essentials. “A prebiotic on the other hand is a substance that serves as functional food for pre-existing microflora in the gut.”
Beyond promoting good intestinal health when used on a regular basis, veterinarians and retailers recommend keeping a supply of reliable probiotics on hand for pets that are prone to stress, such as animals in stores or rescue environments and those who are prone to stomach upset and digestive tract issues such as diarrhea.
“Just like humans, dogs can suffer from a variety of digestive disorders that can be triggered by many different things,” said Joe Petracca, vice president of business development at Lifes2good.
“Whether your pet suffers from a diagnosed chronic disorder like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or simply ate something that they shouldn’t have, it is easy to recognize when they are not feeling well,” Petracca said. “By introducing the Pettura Digestive Health supplement into their daily routine, you are providing them with GanedenBC30, a lactic acid producing bacteria that will support their daily digestive health by producing a wide spectrum of enzymes that help maintain proper gut flora. This drug-free chew is an easy and quick solution to supporting dog’s digestive health. It is for dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds and the once-a-day digestive health chew comes in a resealable bag for extra freshness.”
When selecting a probiotic, it’s important to remember that they are species-specific. Humans and animals have very different prebiotic and probiotic needs, so simply adding a human probiotic is not an efficient way of helping pets.
LICKS’ Pill-Free supplements are individually packaged for easy storage and help consumers avoid measuring out powders. They are also simple to administer by mixing into food, giving it to them directly, or placing on a dog or cat’s paw and allowing them to lick it off.
“When used at mealtime, LICKS’ digestive supplements utilize a proprietary blend of digestive enzymes to help relieve gas and bloating from food transitioning or just everyday stomach upset,” said Amy Paris, founder of LICKS Pill-Free, which offers an extensive line of species-specific supplements. “By providing your pet with a natural digestive supplement, you can help boost their immune system and give them optimal digestive health.”
Probiotics are also available in chews, which are healthy ways to reward your pets during training.
Tomlyn Multi-Vitamin Chews Plus Probiotics and Enzymes come in pet-friendly flavors, and each is scientifically formulated with a comprehensive blend of vitamin E, digestive enzymes, omega-3 for inflammation and selenium for antioxidant/immune support.
Drinking to Health
Heyrex, manufacturers of the Torus innovative and award-winning pet water bowl system, recently announced the launch of Torus supplements: four new soluble animal health supplements for dogs and cats. To help maintain a healthy digestive tract, the Probiotics formulation contains 200 million colony-forming units of live (viable), naturally occurring microorganisms. All of the new supplements are veterinarian-formulated and backed by scientific research to help provide essential nutrients for dogs and cats.
“The pet supplement market is experiencing unprecedented growth due to a strengthening of the human-pet bond,” said Kim Goldsworthy, general manager of sales and marketing at Heyrex. “Pet parents continue to seek out unique products that address specific needs and that are easy to use. Our supplements are formulated to meet what pet parents expect in terms of quality ingredients and convenience of use. With the addition of these new products, we’re able to offer a more complete line of pet care options, so that it’s easier for retailers to select the ideal mix for their customers.”
When selecting probiotics, it’s important to understand what to look for on the labels.
Each species and strain of probiotics should be noted. A good supplement will usually contain at least ten strains; this ensures better diversity of good flora. The label should also include the number of colony-forming units (CFU) per serving and per gram. This is a measurement of the viable microbes in a probiotic. The better supplements will include at least 20 million CFUs per gram.
The only downside to stocking probiotics is that individual animals may respond differently to a specific brand. This may make it necessary to carry several brands that you can recommend customers try for each of their pets. Stocking a variety of probiotics and prebiotics will allow stores to recommend alternatives to pets that may not respond to one specific brand.
The Great Outdoors
Summer has arrived and that means cats are going to want to be outdoors at least part of the time—even more so than usual. Letting cats outside has some risks, but there are safe ways to allow cats outdoors. Plus, it can help alleviate behavioral problems and promote good health. Retailers should be aware of solutions and have the ability to make recommendations to keep cats safe when they’re outdoors by stocking up on plenty of cat harnesses, natural approaches to pest control, outdoor enclosures and even cat-proof fencing.
Outdoor Fun and Safety
Cat enclosures (a.k.a. “catios”) and fencing can go a long way toward protecting indoor cats who want to prowl a backyard. Companies like Purr…fect Fence now allow consumers to screen off a porch with nearly invisible fencing, install freestanding fencing to enclose an entire backyard, or add fencing to an existing fence in order to make it cat-proof.
For those who choose not to fence their yard, a free-standing enclosure may work best. Companies like Habitat Haven and C&D Pets offer enclosure kits that can be ordered online or stocked neatly in larger stores.
While stocking fencing or entire enclosures may prove challenging in a small brick & mortar store, there are plenty of other options.
Despite hailing from the desert, cats are very susceptible to heatstroke and precautions should be taken when installing or using any outdoor shelter. Shade should always be provided throughout the day.
The Green Pet Shop Self Cooling Pet Pad helps solve the problem of overheated cats. The pads require no refrigeration and are self-activated by weight. Cats love them because they offer gentle, long-term cooling that fits naturally with a cat’s comfort level.
“The Cool Pet Pad is a great product for both cats and dogs, especially during the summer/warm seasons,” said Brian Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop. “Even though cats typically tend to gravitate toward warmth (which is one of the reasons we’ve also brought on the Achy Paws Warming Mats), the cooling pads offer a cool sensation for your cat to help prevent overheating and dehydration. As the spring and summer season approaches, your cat needs this safe and reliable solution to protect itself from the heat.”
Specialty cat harnesses are all the rage in the cat world, and most cats adjust to their wear quickly and easily. Crazy K Farms offer a Velcro close on their walking vests for cats, while Sturdi Products offers vests that use a snapping closure. Petsafe also offers a unique line of harnesses specifically designed for cats.
While enclosures can protect cats from escape or large predators like coyotes, there are other risks that need to be considered. Stocking up on pest control items is an important consideration. Beyond a cat’s monthly heartworm protection, stores should have a variety of safe, natural pest control items at the ready.
“When formulating Wondercide Natural Flea & Tick Control for Pets + Home, we knew it needed to be safe and effective for cats,” said Stephanie Boone, Wondercide CEO. ”To do this, our cedar oil is steam-distilled and tested to ensure all phenolic compounds have been removed, providing a safe, pesticide-free and non-toxic solution for unwanted fleas and ticks for our cats and other pets.”
Natural Chemistry, which has been acquired by Muntech, also has an extensive line of natural flea and tick products.
“While fleas themselves are irritating, some cats may even be allergic to the saliva they contain, which can result in a hypersensitivity reaction and more discomfort for your pet,” reports their website. “Natural Chemistry Pet provides a full line of flea products to help provide relief and treatment for your furry friend!”
Despite our best efforts, the occasional tick may find its way onto a pet. That’s where the Tick Releaser Spray and Test Kit from Marshall Pet Products will provide security for owners.
“The number of people who have contracted Lyme disease has increased two-fold, leading consumers to seek out solutions to help protect them against this disease,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products. “Our Tick Release Spray uses all-natural essential oils to encourage the tick to quickly release itself from you or your pet. Once it has disengaged, simply drop it into a vial that is included in the Tick Release Packet and mail it in for testing. Our laboratories will test for up to seven tick-borne diseases, including Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia.”
Each kit includes an all-natural releaser spray, tweezers, a collection tube, an alcohol prep pad and a mail-in testing order form. Testing fees range from $25 for three tests to $65 for all seven tests.
Food and water should always be provided when cats are outdoors, but that can often result in ant invasions. These days, there are a number of specialty bowls available to keep ants and bugs from entering a cat’s outdoor area. Sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) around a cat’s food and water bowls will often keep ants at bay. There is no need to stock large bags of this bulky item and take up precious shelf space. The Diatomaceous Earth Dust from DERMagic is available in handy “sprinkle jars” that are attractive and very simple to stock.
Despite the popularity of cats, not everyone welcomes the idea of outdoor cats and you’ll likely have plenty of people wander into your store asking how to repel feral and stray cats from their yards and gardens. This also provides a unique opportunity to cross-sell yard supplies.
America’s Finest organic cat repellent is one of the more popular all-natural repellents on the market and is available in a 3.5 lb. shaker bag. The active ingredients include dried blood, garlic, cedar, rosemary, peppermint and citronella oils. It’s safe for outdoor use and organic gardens as it contains no dangerous chemicals and actually trains cats to stay out of yards.
No matter what you choose to carry in your store, it’s important to be aware of the safety needs of cats in the great outdoors and make recommendations based on what is best for each individual cat.
The land has always provided for humans and our pets, and with the increase in popularity for natural products, there’s little wonder that products sourced from the land are getting most of our attention these days.
Food and Supplements
While natural, eco-friendly materials are being sourced in more innovative ways, pet food is also seeing growth in traditional land-based products. We know that human trends are almost always followed by pet trends and we’re looking at some of the ways this holds true.
Turmeric is a plant from the ginger family that is taking center stage in helping all species with everything from digestive issues to inflammation and helping with joint health. Last year, The Honest Kitchen introduced Bone Broth with Turmeric. This dehydrated broth for cats and dogs is a gourmet mix of beef bone broth, parsley, pumpkin and turmeric, which is a powerful antioxidant for pets and people alike.
Treat manufacturers are also breaking the mold on traditional proteins, including a new treat from Awesome Possum Dog and Cat Treats made in New Zealand. According to Awesome Possum, “these eco-conscious dog and cat treats are made from a destructive invasive opossum.” These treats are free of grains and GMOs, and are great for pets with food allergies.
Wild boar is another trendy canine culinary treat. This year, Tasman’s introduced Natural Pet Wild Boar Chews. These long-lasting premium wild boar hide chews are sourced in the U.S. and are antibiotic- and chemical-free.
For those craving a different taste, the new bite-sized alligator, rabbit and wild boar Soft ‘n Tasty treats from Caru are made with USDA-inspected meat as the first ingredient plus healthy blueberries and cranberries.
We’re also seeing new sources of supplements from a variety of companies. Ewegurt is an all-natural supplement that features sheep’s milk.
“Sheep’s milk contains about one-third more energy than cow or goat milk,” said Jennifer Erdman, founder of Ewegurt, LLC. “It has double the protein and much more of the right kinds of fats, vitamins and minerals—particularly calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and zinc—while being lower in sodium. It has more than twice as much vitamin C and double or triple the other essential vitamins. Importantly, it also has more folic acid.”
Companies continue traveling the globe to find unique ingredients. Natura Petz Organics just added a new, premium organic supplement collection that each contain proprietary Master Rainforest and Andean herbal blends from the world’s richest biospheres.
Pain management for pets is also seeing green with the legalization of medicinal cannibis and hemp products. One of nature’s best sources of plant-based protein, the hemp plant is quickly starting to be recognized as a superfood.
“Pet Releaf’s products have quickly received a wonderful reception from customers and retailers alike,” said Pet Releaf founder and CEO Alina Smith. “We’re looking forward to sharing our healthy new offerings with our consumer base, as it was our consumers’ voices that led to the creation of the new products.”
Toys and Accessories
The benefits of other products require a little more research, but once you understand the interest, you’ll be purchasing for your own yard.
Dog Rocks were discovered in Australia and have been selling in the Aussie and U.K. market since 2000. Recently introduced to the American market, they’ve become popular, as dog owners have seen the rocks keep yards green and free of dog urine marks.
Land-based materials have always been a staple in manufacturing pet products, but these days, materials are being sourced from unusual locales. For instance, the cork oak tree has bark that regenerates itself every nine years. The smooth, pliable bark is durable, lightweight, waterproof, buoyant, hypoallergenic and stain-resistant.
Pelcor pet products are crafted in Europe using the highest-quality cork skin harvested from the sustainable cork oak forests of southern Portugal. With cork’s organic, dappled appearance, no two Pelcor pet accessories are exactly alike.
Sustainable materials are also important to those in the pet toy categories. These companies typically use a short list of ingredients and materials, affording a high level of transparency to consumers. For example, Jax & Bones uses nontoxic vegetable dye and cotton rope to manufacture toys.
Bamboo continues to be the darling of the pet industry. Hypoallergenic and naturally resilient against pests, bamboo is easily grown in nearly any climate. Since it does not require the use of pesticides to thrive, plantations can be kept organic and replanted each year to replenish stocks with a minimum of effort.
Companies like Loving Pets are taking full advantage of the flexibility of bamboo and have created Bambú Bowls, an eco-friendly option for pet feeding dishes.
Beco Pets was founded by British duo George Bramble and Toby Massey. The company has also embraced bamboo as a sustainable material for pet products, along with recycled plastics and natural rubber.
“Our dog and cat bowls are made from bamboo fibers taken from off-cuts when chopsticks are made and our Beco Beds contain stuffing made from recycled plastic soda bottles,” said David Levy, founder of Pet Product Innovations and distributor of Beco Pets. “We are also bringing to the U.S. a new range of eco-friendly toys, including the brand new Beco Flyer, a flying disc dog toy that whizzes through the air to the delight of its canine catchers. All our rubber chew toys, including The Beco Flyer, are made from 100 percent natural rubber and rice husks, which are toxin-free and extra tough.”
Better Boxes, Lighter Litters
Cats have also captured the attention of the millennial generation and that means it’s more important than ever to expand your knowledge of the many new products available. New additions to the litter/waste category include diagnostic cat litters, lightweight and portable litter boxes, as well as a vast array of organizational options that keep cat owners purring.
Diagnostic cat litters are the newest addition to health-monitoring, early-detection litter. Checking your cat’s urinary pH levels can go a long way towards solving problems before they start. In fact, according to Pretty Litter, the average American cat owner spends an average of $600 on veterinary bills every year—mostly due to emergency visits for urinary issues.
“The importance of monitoring pets’ health is critical to good pet parenting,” said Daniel Rotman, CEO of Pretty Litter. “Cats, for example, are stoic and resilient creatures. They can hide illness for weeks before you see any signs or symptoms. Using a tool like Pretty Litter, which is a cat litter that will change color if it detects certain health issues with your cat, was built because early detection is key in preventing serious issues from spiraling out of control.”
Pretty Litter changes color when it detects the most common feline illnesses. Cats are genius at hiding pain and this makes early detection of problems nearly impossible. Their new litter makes it possible to catch the problem before emergency surgery is required and it’s as easy as changing the litter.
Environmentally Friendly Litter
Made from sustainably harvested, extra-lightweight fine wood granules, ökocat Soft Step is perfect for senior cats and kittens, as well as any cat with sensitive paws. Similar to the texture of clay litter, Soft Step makes it easy to transition cats to a natural, eco-friendly litter. This biodegradable line of natural cat litters offers up to 500 percent absorption, seven day odor control and a lighter weight and environmentally friendlier alternative to clay litter.
“The summer months can mean more allergens, dirt and bacteria being brought in and out of your house, so choose ökocat naturally dust-free cat litter to keep the home healthy and clean,” said Jane Wasley, brand manager of Healthy Pet, maker of ökocat litters.
Other natural litters include those from Swheat Scoop Natural Wheat Litter, which utilizes the power of natural enzymes in renewable wheat crops. This low-dust and low-tracking litter is completely biodegradable.
Next Gen Pets uses recycled wood and green tea leaves to make their eco-friendly cat litter.
World’s Best Cat Litter is another favorite that is made from whole kernel corn, while Benevo Cat Litter is made from non-genetically modified maize and other vegetable derivatives.
Yesterday’s News Cat Litter, which is made from recycled paper, creates a dust-free option and their new package design is even 100 percent recyclable.
Latest Litter Boxes
Thinking outside of the box has its rewards. The KatPak from The Green Pet Shop is a water-resistant litter box made of heavy duty paper that stores flat. To use, simply unfold it and pour a week’s worth of litter inside. The KatPak measures a generous 13 inches wide by 18.9 inches long by 15 inches high when opened. Cats are intrigued by the privacy and design, which is just like climbing into a box. Clean up is as easy as replacing the box.
“The KatPak is ideal for apartment dwellers, seniors, travelers and pregnant cat parents,” said Larry Wright, The Green Pet Shop’s president and CEO. “In fact, it’s great for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with kitty litter mess ever again.”
The industry is also seeing innovation in the form of crowdfunding as more people jump on the bandwagon and retailers can see what will potentially do well in their stores. The Luuup Litter Box has raised over $1.1 million (CAD) for the development of a simple yet ingenious system that allows for a lift and sort process.
“After selling almost two million units of the original version, we knew we had a great product,” wrote Luuup founder Nicholas Petty. “The goal of the redesign was to make the best litter box, period. We improved functionality, the quality of materials and construction along with the overall aesthetics.”
While it may seem that some boxes are becoming simpler, others are becoming high-tech. The Litter Robot Open Air III has been completely redesigned with a larger, upward-facing entryway and an improved self-adjusting weight sensor. Litter is automatically cleaned after each use and waste is deposited into a convenient drawer.
When stocking litter boxes, retailers are presented with an opportunity to cross-sell other helpful accessories.
“We all love our pets, but cleaning up after them can be a really messy chore,” said Fernando Becattini Jr., founder and president of Neater Pets. “The Neater Scooper’s attached waste bin and trap door design make cleaning the litter box so much neater and easier. When litter boxes are cleaner, cats are more comfortable and much less likely to have accidents outside the box so everybody is happier.”
The Litter Genie Plus Cat Litter Disposal System reduces odor, hygienically seals soiled litter clumps and reduces trips to the garbage. The Litter Genie can hold up to two weeks of waste before emptying, eliminating the daily need to go to the outside trash and making it a convenient way to keep litter boxes clean.
SmartyKat offers a variety of stylishly designed and functional waste management, scatter control and odor control products that improve the litter experience for pets and pet parents. Litter mats become important products when upselling a customer, but knowing which accessories to recommend require an understanding of feline behavior—products like Clean Exit, a scatter control mat that keeps litter off of the floor to decrease tracking.
Organizing products are just as important.
“We think that cat owners will really appreciate the PurrfectOrder and VaporVault,” said Shannon McWilliams, vice president for product development at Worldwise. “No more searching through cabinets and drawers—now everything you need for litter box maintenance and waste storage is in a neat and stylishly organized modular system.”
In the Raw
Pet owners are spending more time dishing out grain-free, organic and all-natural foods to their pets. According to GfK, from 2014-2015 retail sales of raw freeze-dried dog food jumped nearly 64 percent, while raw frozen pet food increased from $52 million to $69 million. A study by Research and Markets stated that the total North American pet nutraceuticals market was valued at over $1528.4 million in 2015 and is projected to continue to grow significantly between the years 2015 and 2020.
While raw diets are rapidly increasing in popularity, there is still confusion about what raw means and how best to define the term. Lacking an official definition by the FDA, retailers will need to become more educated than ever on pet nutrition and diets if they want to succeed in this category. A change in terminology may help, as consumers tend to be more inclined to understand “species-appropriate” or “ancestral” diets.
Convenient and Healthy
Most agree that there are many benefits of a raw diet, including healthier skin and coat, stronger teeth and bones, and an overall improvement in health. But raw diets have traditionally been difficult to feed, and lacking in guidelines and nutritional analysis. These days, prepared foods in the dehydrated or frozen category are sweeping the industry for their ease of use and nutritional benefits. It’s important to let consumers know that raw is more accessible and easier to feed than ever.
Bravo’s Canine Cafe Grain & Gluten Free Dinners are raw meals that come in three different protein options. They are packaged in cans for easy feeding. Complete and balanced nutrition for dogs of all ages and breeds, Canine Cafe meals feature prime cuts of meat as 95 percent of the ingredients. There are no artificial preservatives, flavors, colors or grains of any kind in their foods.
Primal Pet Foods also has a long history in this category. According to the company’s website, all Primal Formulas contain fresh ground bone for calcium supplementation. This combination of ingredients offers optimum levels of the amino acids (protein), essential fatty acids, naturally-occurring enzymes, and vitamins and minerals that are necessary building blocks for your pet’s healthy biological functions. They also offer a full line of raw meaty bones for dogs and cats to have as part of their daily feeding or as a treat to enhance their tooth, gum and jaw health.
For those seeking alternative proteins, Sojos recently introduced their line of shelf-stable raw dog food called Sojos Wild. This high-protein, ultra-premium diet is made with freeze-dried, exotic meat or fish as the number one ingredient. Sojos Wild is available in free-range venison, wild boar or wild-caught Alaskan salmon varieties.
“2016 is an exciting year for us,” said Chanda Leary-Coutu, senior marketing communications manager at WellPet. “We started the year off by welcoming Minneapolis-based raw pet food company, Sojos, to the WellPet family to expand the breadth of WellPet’s offerings, as well as to reach pet parents interested in the benefits of raw nutrition. Combining more than 100 years of pet nutrition experience, this acquisition brings a commitment of excellence to Sojos and WellPet’s consumers, both through our distribution facilities and quality of our products.”
Expect to see a variety of unique protein combinations throughout the industry in 2016.
“Our Totally Different! Duck, Mango, and Wild ocean-caught tuna fish are hand packed and consist of a hand-selected blend of unique proteins and superfoods to serve your cat the most healthy and palatable complete and balanced dinner,” said Chelsea Sher, co-founder of Against the Grain. “Mangoes are ‘The King of Fruits’ and are loaded with vitamins C and A and carotenoids, which help support a healthy immune system, kidney health and bladder health.”
Top it Off
Not every consumer will be ready to convert to fully raw diets. That’s where the new toppers trend comes in.
“Our brand new Proper Toppers product addresses the customization/mix-in trend,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen. “Proper Toppers are a dehydrated, crispy whole food solution that can be sprinkled or crumbled onto meals for added variety as well as to boost nutrition and palatability. They’re 90 percent meat plus dehydrated whole superfoods, vitamins and minerals. Proper Toppers are also nutritionally balanced and complete, so they can also be fed as the sole diet if desired (for example, for smaller breeds or when traveling). We’re launching two flavors to begin with (chicken and turkey) and plan to add some new recipes as well as a feline version, in the future.”
The Honest Kitchen also offers a line of epicurean pet food and new minimalist lines, as well as a variety of premium treats and supplements, including ProBloom, a dehydrated raw goat milk that contains probiotics and digestive enzymes that help settle sensitive stomachs.
Other notable raw supplements on the market include Ewegurt, a relatively new addition to the market that uses sheep’s milk to provide a nutrient rich powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and polyphenols. Owners sprinkle it on a pet’s food to reap the benefits of this superfood and calming agent.
“I created this product out of a need to help my golden who suffers from anxiety that caused him to have seizures because his cortisol levels spike during stressful situations,” said Jennifer Erdman, founder and managing partner of Ewegurt, LLC. “Ewegurt has helped him be almost seizure free!”
Selling raw foods and treats successfully depends on educating the customer.
“As natural pet foods become a staple in many pets’ diets, it is important for retailers to know the benefits specialty lines can offer cats and dogs,” Leary-Coutu said. “Pet parents interested in making the switch to feeding their cats natural treats have high standards when it comes to ingredient quality and sourcing. It is important to provide consumers with clear and accurate information regarding their pet’s food so they are able to make a well-informed decision on what food or treats would work best for their pets.”
The Changing of the Treat
Cat treats are growing in popularity as consumers realize that their pets are just as inclined to be trained as they are to be delighted with delicious treats. This is a category that continues to expand with delicacies to please even the most finicky of felines, with the big trends continuing a focus on single-ingredient and raw snacks. According to a 2014 report from Euromonitor, cat treat sales have quadrupled since 2000 from $12 million to $59 million.
Pet food companies are developing new single-ingredient products from new sources. The single-ingredient trend is here to stay and that means even the smallest retailers can save space by stocking treats that can be marketed to both dog and cat owners.
According to a recent Gallup News Service poll, over 17 percent of U.S. households own both dogs and cats, so it makes good economic sense to market toward both. One set of treats means less shelving space, more conversation and an opportunity to educate consumers on the benefits of single-ingredient treats.
The Honest Kitchen offers Smittens, made of grain-free, wild caught haddock from the coastal region of Iceland; and Wonders, a pollock skin treat for dogs and cats sourced from the Faroe Islands.
“Single ingredient cat treats are gaining in popularity, as pet owners seek out simpler and more pure treat solutions for their animal companions,” said Lucy Postins, founder of The Honest Kitchen.
“Ingredient purity and integrity is paramount; customers should seek out treats that are free of added chemical preservatives, artificial palatants and sweeteners.”
Loving Pets has recently expanded its line of U.S.-made boutique-quality treats, allowing pampered cats to indulge in single-ingredient beef lung or chicken treats. Purrfectly Natural is Loving Pets’ first cat treat. The main focus of these freeze-dried treats for retailers and consumers alike is simplicity—the “Power of One,” as the company refers to it. Each of the four varieties offers one single ingredient: chicken, beef lung, buffalo or shrimp. There are no additives, preservatives or by-products and each is sourced and manufactured in the U.S.
“Our goal is always to stay true to our foundation that healthy, all-natural, delicious and high-quality treats do not have to be expensive to the retailer or to the pet-loving consumer,” said Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets. “We are thrilled to offer our retail partners and pet parents everywhere this commitment through our new Purrfectly Natural cat treat assortment.”
Not Just a Novelty
Novel proteins are those which a cat has not yet experienced. Studies suggest cats can develop food sensitivities when eating the same proteins for a long period of time. Exotic novel proteins may include duck, rabbit, trout, venison or pheasant.
Natural Balance Pet Foods introduced L.I.T. Limited Ingredient Treats Crunchy Cat Treats. The treats complement the company’s L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets lines, which are scientifically formulated to provide high quality nutrition and to optimize skin and coat. The treats are for cats of all ages and feature limited protein sources. The cat-shaped treats are grain free and come in three flavors: Chicken & Potato, Salmon & Potato and Rabbit & Potato.
Bravo Pet Foods offers Healthy Bites & Healthy Medleys freeze-dried treats for cats. Available in several flavors, these treats are packed with protein and are naturally low in fat. Sourced and manufactured in the U.S., their Chicken Medley and Turkey Medley recipes include nutrient-rich organs as well as muscle protein. Mariner’s Medley is made with three different types of seafood muscle protein: salmon, cod and shrimp.
Japan’s most popular feline brand introduces Ciao natural treats for cats to the U.S. market. Created by Inaba Foods, Ciao’s Churu Purées and Grilled Fillets are distinctively moist and come in several flavors that cats crave, like grilled chicken fillet in crab-flavored broth and many others.
“They are much higher in moisture than conventional snacks, so they help provide the vital hydration cats need,” said Don Tomala, managing partner of Matrix Partners, the brand’s U.S. marketing firm.
The biggest changes in the industry are coming from the natural side and this includes CBD oil from the hemp plant. The hemp plant is recognized as a superfood across the industry and has taken the pet industry by storm. While many of the products have been aimed at dogs and horses, Pet Releaf, a company that specializes in CBD oils for the pet industry, is also adding cat treats to their line of products.
“The oil used in Pet Releaf’s products is 100-percent organic CBD hemp oil from Europe and is made from the whole plant (not just hemp seeds which contain no CBD) in order to provide the full spectrum of cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids,” said Steve Smith, co-founder of Pet Releaf. “Edibits is our speciality cat treat, which will be available in April. Even if your cat is absolutely healthy, using the recommended dosage is like giving your cat a superfood smoothie each day.”
“Pet Releaf’s products have quickly received a wonderful reception from customers and retailers alike,” said Pet Releaf Founder and CEO Alina Smith. “We’re looking forward to sharing our healthy new offerings with our consumer base, as it was our consumers’ voices that led to the creation of the new products. We are also quite pleased to announce our international partnerships in two very important markets. Both partners are very well known and respected in their home countries and will expand on Pet Releaf’s mission to change what healthy means for pets.”
Naturally Pest-free Pets
Flea” and “tick” are the four-letter words in the pet industry. No one likes to talk about them, but nearly everyone has some type of experience with them.
While chemical-based flea repellents may seem like the most effective method of eliminating these pests, it’s really not necessary for pet owners to wage chemical warfare on their pets and families. Natural remedies have come a long way over the past few years, and most are just as effective as chemicals. There are even ultrasonic methods to protect your pets from pests.
First in the lineup is Wondercide. This innovative company offers a full lineup of indoor and outdoor products formulated with organic, food-grade ingredients. Each of the products is safe, effective and easy-to-use.
“The pest repelling qualities of essential oils are exceptional, but cats don’t have the liver enzyme needed to break down phenols, which are commonly found in many essential oils,” said Stephanie Boone, Wondercide CEO. ”When formulating Wondercide Natural Flea & Tick Control for Pets + Home, we knew it needed to be safe and effective for cats. To do this, our cedar oil is steam-distilled and tested to ensure all phenolic compounds have been removed, providing a safe, pesticide-free and non-toxic solution for unwanted fleas and ticks for our cats and other pets.”
“While fleas themselves are irritating, some cats may even be allergic to the saliva they contain, which can result in a hypersensitivity reaction and more discomfort for your pet,” reports their website.
“Natural Chemistry Pet provides a full line of flea products to help provide relief and treatment for your furry friend!”
While ticks don’t form infestations like fleas do, they can carry serious diseases, including Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. In the event a pet does fall victim to ticks, it is important for owners to know what the ticks could be carrying. That’s where the Earth’s Balance Tick Releaser Spray and Test Kit from Marshall Pet Products comes in handy. The kit includes all-natural releaser spray, tweezers, a collection tube, an alcohol prep pad and a mail-in testing form.
“The number of people who have contracted Lyme disease has increased twofold, leading consumers to seek out solutions to help protect them against this disease,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products. “Our Tick Release Spray uses all-natural essential oils to encourage the tick to quickly release itself from you or your pet. Once it has disengaged, simply drop it into a vial that is included in the Tick Release Packet and mail it in. Our laboratories will test for up to seven tick-borne diseases, including Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme Disease, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia.”
Supplements, Sounds and Soap
For those who are sensitive to odors or prefer nothing on their pet’s coat, TickZ is an herbal product created by Petzlife that helps to repel ticks and other biting insects. Since it does not contain any chemical insecticides, it is ideal for dogs or owners who are allergic to chemical sprays. Owners sprinkle TickZ on their pet’s moist food twice a day for five days, and it provides two to three months of protection. It’s made of all-natural ingredients, such as quassia bark, anise and brewer’s yeast.
Earth Animal offers an all-natural and safe Flea and Tick Program that includes a water additive and a topical spray.
“At Earth Animal, we encourage pet parents to consider a safe organic approach, such as herbs and specific nutrients, for flea and tick prevention, as opposed to the use of insecticides, which have known side effects,” said Susan Goldstein, founder of Earth Animal.
Ultrasonic devices are making a strong showing in this category. These types of products emit a series of ultrasound pulses that are both imperceptible and harmless to pets and people. One need only attach it a pet’s collar. Continuous wear provides several months of safe protection against parasites. Options include the TickLess Pet Ultrasonic Repellent and Love2Pet Ultrasonic Flea and Tick Shield.
To help prevent fleas completely, natural solutions are the way to go. DERMagic Skin Care for Animals released the first Diatomaceous Bar that provides all-natural protection from pests. Formulated with food-grade diatomaceous earth, this bar is safe for use on both dogs and cats and can help keep insects away between baths.
Pyrethrins, from the chrysanthemum flower, help give Bioderm Laboratories’ Bio-Groom Flea and Tick Shampoo its pest repelling power. Bio-Groom rinses out quickly and provides maximum effectiveness in killing fleas, lice and ticks.
For extra hiking or camping protection, there are several great topical sprays available. UltraShield Green Natural Fly Repellent from Absorbine has been proven to repel fleas and ticks with their unique combination of ingredients that includes citronella, lemongrass, rosemary and cedar oils. According to the website, it provides up to eight hours of protection against biting flies, mosquitoes and gnats. It has also been proven effective in repelling dog and deer ticks.
When selecting a natural remedy that contains essential oils, be certain you’re choosing companies that use the purest oils. BuzzGuard, Mad About Organics, NatuRepel, and JSE Enterprises’ Flixx All Natural Insect Repellent are a few fan favorites. Each is highly effective and safe for nearly all species. Remember to read the label—certain species, such as cats, reptiles, fish and more are sensitive even to many natural products.
While chemical flea and tick topical treatments will always be an important part of the pet industry, natural solutions to pest control are gaining momentum as consumers seek safer ways to treat pets.
The Cats of Summer
Summer is right around the corner. And while it may seem that dogs grab most of the summer attention, it is important to remember cats need extra care as well. Cats are just as susceptible to heat stroke as any other species and often need help cooling down during the long, hot days. In addition, their dietary needs change and they tend to require fewer calories. There is also the all-important pest control issue that plagues all pet owners during warm days.
Keeping a cat safe during the hot summer months often means monitoring weight, keeping them indoors and learning to identify the often subtle signs of heat exhaustion.
Lead a Cat to Water
Ensuring that cats have a clean source of water that appeals to them is of critical importance, especially during summer. Cat fountains are appealing because they keep water moving and attract cats who prefer to drink running water. Not only do fountains keep water cooler, but they also keep it cleaner with carbon filters such as those from Drinkwells or the NatureSpa Premium Pet Fountain, which uses UV Light Purification to eliminate bacteria and microorganisms. The water stays illuminated by LED light to entice cats that embrace their crepuscular nature.
“Stainless Steel Wicker Dolce Diners from Loving Pets not only compliment your home decor and help keep a cat’s water cooled down, but the stainless steel also helps keep water and food fresher longer by offering bacteria resistant and veterinarian recommended stainless steel interior,” said Eric Abbey, president and founder of Loving Pets.
Hydration is crucial to a cat’s health and retailers can educate customers on ways to keep cats hydrated. A clean water source is very important, but so is providing a high-quality diet.
“Ideal for promoting hydration from the inside out, Evanger’s Exotic USA Game Meats for cats such as 100-percent USA made and sourced Rabbit & Quail, Holistic Pheasant and Duck give cats premium nutrition through highly nutritious and delicious meats that cats love,” said Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company.
Remember that during the hot summer months, most cats also require fewer calories. Leaving food out for long periods of time is not only unsanitary, but it can also attract insects. For slow eaters or homes with multiple cats, retailers suggest an automated feeder. The SureFeed Microchip Feeder uses RFID technology to make sure each cat is eating the proper amount of food. It also helps keep food fresh when not in use.
Pests become another challenge around food bowls, but natural products can help keep ants at bay.
“DERMagic Diatomaceous Earth Dust is made with USDA food-grade diatomaceous earth,” said Steve Cady, vice president of sales for Mendota, owner of DERMagic Skin Care for Animals. “The handy sprinkle-top makes it easy to safely apply it to your cat’s bedding, carpet, and furniture or around food bowls. Diatomaceous earth helps keep ants and other pests out of food, but is completely safe for pets.”
Catching Some Rays
For cats who prefer to soak up the sun in milder summer climates, an outdoor enclosure can be a big benefit for pet owners. There are dozens of new enclosures designed specifically to help pets enjoy the great outdoors without becoming a target for wildlife.
“All of our enclosures are self-enclosed and can either be used indoors or outdoors,” said Scott Russman, owner of CDPets. “Each of our units comes with two to three lounging shelves so cats have plenty of opportunity to soak up the sunshine or lounge in the shade.”
Cooling mats can also help cats better regulate their temperature in extreme climates. The Green Pet Shop Cool Pet Pads are pressure-activated, needing no electricity.
“The Cool Pet Pad is a great product for both cats and dogs, especially during the summer,” said Brian Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop. “Even though cats typically tend to gravitate toward warmth (which is one of the reasons we’ve also brought on the Achy Paws Warming Mats), the cooling pads offer a cool sensation for your cat to help prevent overheating and dehydration. As the spring and summer season approaches, your cat needs this safe and reliable solution to protect itself from the heat.”
Harnesses and leashes are another way to provide outdoor access. Crazy K Farm created the Kitty Holster, a secure cat harness that utilizes Velcro to keep a cat secure. For those with cats who react badly to the sound of Velcro, Sturdi Pet Products offers a lightweight vest made of microfiber that snaps closed. PetSafe’s nylon Come With Me Kitty Cat Harness & Bungee Leash is another option for taking cats out in the sun.
Outdoor play sessions in the heat, grass, pollen and other allergens can cause skin irritations and a dull coat. A grooming wipe may alleviate these problems.
“A great item to stock for in-line grooming section as well as point of purchase clip strip or at the register, QuickBath Cat Grooming Wipes from International Veterinary Sciences are formulated with gentle yet effective cleaners that remove bacteria and odors from a cat’s sensitive paws and skin,” said Ara Bohchalian, the company’s CEO. “Indoor cats track dust and bacteria from their litter box, and outdoor cats bring in allergens and dirt from the yard, so choose a convenient wipe that contains vitamins A and E and aloe vera, which promote an overall healthy skin and coat while leaving your pet clean, shiny and prevent them from tracking a mess all through your house. Quick Bath Wipes are pH neutral, alcohol-free, extra thick and heavy duty.”
Summer should be a time for owners to have fun with their cats, both indoors and outdoors. However, their felines must be protected from the risks that can accompany outdoor play. Fortunately, the pet industry has made it very simple to keep them safe year-round.
King-Sized Business Opportunity
According to a recent survey by Nestlé Purina, over half of all millennial respondents (those in the age range of 18-34) stated that they have cats. In fact, 57 percent of millennials believe that their cat is as important to them as their friends, and two out of five say their cat is their “best friend.”
This provides a unique opportunity to retailers, particularly in the area of cat beds. Our crepuscular cats snooze their days away, with the average feline sleeping 12 to16 hours each day. That makes finding a bed that their cat approves a priority among cat owners.
While big box stores still prefer larger vendors with multiple SKUs, smaller retailers can take advantage of the opportunity to differentiate by carrying smaller, more stylish brands. Beds are becoming a priority for cat owners, but retailers often have challenges in finding enough floor space for bulky beds. Manufacturers have taken this problem to heart and are focused on providing store-friendly packaging. New packaging solutions for bulky beds, collapsible beds and easier to stack cartons allow smaller retailers to carry a wider selection.
Two for One
Manufacturers have mastered the art of creative design with thoughtful multi-purpose beds. No matter where a cat prefers to lounge, there is an option available for them that will fit the style of any home, office or outdoor enclosure. Many cat beds even double as carriers, which make trips to the veterinarian much more comfortable for both animal and human.
“The advantage of a mobile pet bed is that a cat will be in its own bed on short trips to the vet or on longer trips away from home, thereby helping to reduce anxiety,” said Michael Leung, co-owner of Sleepypod. “Our carriers are everyday pet beds designed to be used at home and on the go. When cats use Sleepypod beds and carriers at home, they become acclimated to the bed that transforms into a carrier. Since a pet is traveling in its own bed, travel is easier and less stressful. Also, the quality of the materials are the best in the industry. Sleepypod uses ballistic nylon for durability, tear resistant mesh, and ultra-plush bedding.”
NekoChan, home of the popular NekoFlies cat toy, recently introduced Cat Nappers to their line of products. These luxurious napping spots cater to the cat that prefers to burrow into a chic “sleeping bag” (complete with ears and a tail) or a collapsible pet house.
“Cats are naturally attracted to the soft, plushier types of fabric,” said Ellen Tsyuaki, founder of NekoFlies. “Our houses are quite versatile—you can unzip the roof and use that as a secondary sleeping pad folds flat—for storage or travel big enough to stretch out if they need to. I think cats enjoy houses, as they are places where they can have a hiding spot to view what is going on, sleep in different locations and offers them a sense of protection from the outside. They can also stalk prey passing in front of the opening or just enjoy cuddling in more confined spaces for their nap.”
Innovation Never Sleeps
As owners become more educated on their felines’ individual personalities, they understand that some cats have specific preferences for beds. Whether that be a simple cardboard box or an extravagant tree or a plush bed, this is how design meets function.
Cat Crib Cat Hammocks are space savers for those who reside in small areas. The innovative hammock attaches to the legs of any existing chair, saving floor space and creating a secret sleeping area for cats. The simple packaging and design make it easy for retailers of any size to stock them.
When it comes to aesthetics and creating a beautiful display in your adoption area or storefronts, the Pet Tree House is the most obvious choice. The addition of the new self-assembled KIT-TY trees have helped sales boom.
“The KIT-TY Trees have all the great features like the plush, removable carpet, the removable silk foliage, and the great smelling cedar,” said Joe DelRocco, co-founder of Pet Tree House. “The new KIT-TY Trees are just as heavy, stable and beautiful as our famous Sycamore Tree but at a fraction of the cost.”
Durability is also a concern among cat owners—particularly those who allow their cats to be outdoors or who care for feral cats.
“Our cat beds are unique because they’re designed for inside and outside use, whereas many other brands focus on indoor cats,” said Pascale Duffieux-Pierce, executive vice president of Brinsea. “The KatKabin has a weatherproof shell to keep outdoor or feral cats dry and cozy in adverse weather, as well as shaded in the summer. The unique dome shape makes it easy to hide in bushes, which cats love, and the removable cat door gives them an extra feeling of security while simultaneously blocking wind and weather. Our SkratchKabin is a great indoor activity center because it’s a scratcher and lounge in one, which is a big hit with consumers.”
“Ultimately, we want to provide a safe getaway for cats,” Duffieux-Pierce said. “But if it’s not comfortable for the cats, they won’t go in it for the protection in the first place.”
A recent acquisition of National Consumers Outdoors Corp by Central Garden & Pet has led to the company’s entry into the bedding category.
“We are excited to acquire the industry-leading dog and cat bedding company,” said John Ranelli, CEO and president of Central Garden & Pet. “Bedding is the fifth largest category in dog and cat supplies and is growing at a healthy rate. The acquisition fits right into our strategy of building a portfolio of growing businesses and categories, and is a strong complement to Central’s current broad portfolio of pet products.”
Self-warming beds, such as those available from New Age Pet, are growing in popularity. Their new ThermoCore technology utilizes the body heat from your cat to keep them warm with no electricity, batteries or harmful chemicals. A wide variety of designs is the earmark of ecoFLEX, which is made from a blend of recycled polymers and wood byproducts. EcoFLEX is a durable, naturally insect and rot-resistant, and very easy to clean material.
For a more conservative style that meshes with any decor, the Kathy Ireland Loved Ones collection from Worldwise lends a classic style.
“The line includes a collection of stylish, modular cat furniture that satisfies your cat’s natural needs by providing places for them to scratch, play, groom, stretch and rest,” said Aimee Diskin, director of innovation product development for Worldwise. “With innovative designs inspired by home décor trends, these elegant pieces work perfectly on their own, but can also be combined to create a stylish activity center for your cat.”
As our feline friends gain a larger section of the pet market, it is more important than ever for retailers to carry a selection of cat beds for both indoor house cats and outdoor enclosures. They will find that high quality cat houses, beautifully designed and sourced from environmentally friendly materials, are in high demand.
Keeping a clean home is one of the many challenges of pet ownership. As most animals are highly sensitive to commercial cleaners, it can be difficult to find a cleaner that works while ensuring the safety of the vast variety of species that share our homes.
Approximately 70 million American households own a pet, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. That’s roughly 56 percent of all American households. With allergies on the rise, air quality declining and pet owners becoming less tolerant of that “pet smell,” the natural cleaning products segment of the industry is booming.
In the past, consumers had to choose between safety and effectiveness. However, with the lifestyle industry now becoming driven by the pet industry, we are seeing a change in the quality of natural cleaners. These days, it’s no longer necessary to sacrifice health for a clean home.
“There’s no getting around it,” said Melinda Adamec, director of marketing for Fresh Wave by OMI Industries. “If you have pets, you have not-so-nice odors in your home. You may not smell them, but it’s one of the first things a guest notices upon entering. And just like a hotel room, if there’s an odor, the first impression is that your home is unclean. Rather than covering up those pet odors with fake fragrances, Fresh Wave products make the odor molecules disappear, so your guests will have no sign of your furry family member until he/she comes around the corner to greet them at the door.”
Today’s consumers are focused on the wellbeing of their pets, often taking a holistic approach that encourages a look at everything from nutrition to cleaning products. As a result, they are more conscious about their own health and realize that the natural products are often more effective than others. The humanization of pets is what is driving growth for eco-friendly products. To ensure products are eco-friendly, a manufacturer must be very selective about sourcing and manufacturing processes.
PL360, a company known for their natural grooming and home cleaning products, are focused on using plant-based ingredients.
“PL360 utilizes natural, plant-based ingredients that are free of harsh chemicals that can irritate our pets and harm the earth,” said Katie Rogers, marketing manager for PL360. “Our formulas are biodegradable so that they break down through natural decomposition rather than taking a toll on the environment. Even further, many of our bottles use 25 percent post-consumer recycled material.”
“We are the only manufacturer that produces natural, plant-based household cleaners specifically marketed towards pet owners,” Rogers said. “These products include all natural carpet powder, multi-surface cleaner, plant-based stain and odor remover, and surface wipes.”
The Ava Anderson collection of organic, nontoxic products that contain a strong blend of natural surfactants (compounds that lower the surface tension between two liquids or between a liquid and a solid), minerals and enzymes. They utilize a blend of essential oils such as peppermint, lavender and tea tree oils. Together, these form a strong cleanser without harmful chemicals or synthetic fragrances.
Cleaner Cages and Kennels
Owners especially want their cage cleaning products to be safe and effective because of the amount of time pets spend in their cages, crates and kennels.
Earth’s Balance, a division of Marshall Pet, recently introduced 180XT with moleculift technology that lifts pheromones and eliminates stains and odors in three easy steps. All natural, this formula also uses de-ionization of water to help boost cleaning power.
While most natural cleaners cannot claim to also disinfect, there are several that can. Zoo Med’s Wipe Out 1 terrarium and small animal cage disinfectant, cleaner and deodorizer is one of the few cleaners ideal for cleaning reptile cages and other animal enclosures. Wipe Out 1 kills Salmonella choleraesuis and Pseudomonas aeruginosa and can reduce the spread of bacterial infections among livestock.
ProVetLogic offers effective products to naturally help clean and disinfect kennels, even effectively destroying parvovirus.
Clorox has entered the natural category with their Green Works line of products. All Green Works products are 95 to 99 percent naturally derived. That means all of the active cleaning ingredients in their products are derived from plant-based cleaning agents, essential oils, corn-based ethanol and wood-based fibers.
Ecologically-friendly products are not only preferred for the environment; they are safer, better quality, and these days, often less expensive than resource-draining products manufactured outside of the country in unregulated factories.
Every ingredient should have an easily identifiable purpose. For example, there is no reason to include harmful ingredients like parabens in a product as they create a health risk and also create environmental issues when released into our limited groundwater supply.
BarkLogic, a division of Logic Products, has been carrying all-natural dog grooming, household and kennel products for years. Their products are free from dangerous parabens and are 100 percent plant and mineral based. Their extensive line of HomeLogic cleaning products is not only safe for people, but for our sensitive pets as well.
“In the manufacturing process, our facility uses energy-efficient, high lumen lighting to help conserve energy, VOC-free paint and solar energy panels,” said Jill Taft, founder of Logic Product Group. “The facility also works with a carbon credit company to neutralize energy consumption and has implemented a waste management program, which reuses and recycles materials wherever possible.”
Skout’s Honor just entered the market in 2015. Their BioKore technology is a revolutionary green cleaning process that breaks down and lifts away stains on contact. All of Skout’s Honor products are nontoxic, rapidly biodegradable, eco-friendly and free of harsh chemicals, chlorine and formaldehyde, and manufactured under the California Green Chemistry initiative.”
Healthy Habitat, an enzyme-based cleaner from Natural Chemistry, is formulated using naturally based SMARTZyme technology and botanicals and is for use within any pet habitat and all surfaces including: glass, heat rocks, artificial plants, and more – it can even be used while pets are in their habitat.
“We make our own enzymes,” said Vin Hourihan, marketing director of Natural Chemistry. “This gives us control over the quality.”
In addition to cleaning sprays are alternative ways to remove hair from the home. Bissell has long been a strong player in the pet industry, and now works with leading retailer Petsmart to offer steam vacuums for rent at select stores. Neato Robotics has also worked with the industry to show the benefits of robotic cleaning. Outside of vacuums, there several new methods for eliminating fur.
SwiPets was created with one purpose in mind: find a solution to the endless battle of removing pet hair from furniture and fabric. SwiPets utilizes a patent-pending, ‘sticky-grip’ technology on the palm of its glove, which are made from a nitrile based formula (not latex). The unique formula and special fabric create an electrostatic charge, while ‘grabbing’ the pet hair and clumping it so you can simply pull it off and throw it away! The gloves are machine-washable and help to naturally eliminate fur and allergens.
Retailers who choose to embrace natural cleaners can see a big increase in revenue. More consumers are seeking out ways to deal with pet mess naturally, which is a big opportunity for retailers.
An Ocean of Products for Pets
Recent studies from Cornell University have found that high-fat diets can significantly increase the already incredible sense of smell in dogs. Other studies have found a positive correlation in offering fish oil to dogs with epilepsy, and another has identified a positive effect of essential fatty acids on pets with dermatitis. Amino acids found in fish have been proven to decrease inflammation, improve immunity, strengthen muscles and improve the fur and coats of pets. Omega-three fatty acids and various antioxidants have become more important in fighting senior challenges, such as canine cognitive disorder.
Seafood for Pets
Fortunately, the majority of dogs and cats can agree on the overall palatability of fish, and since marine life is becoming more sustainable thanks to fish farms, the pet industry is focused on the ocean more than ever. In the January 2015 edition of “Petfood and Animal Nutrition 2.0,” Mars Petcare reinforced its “…commitment to sustainably source 100% of its fish and fish by-products by 2020.”
Other companies are quickly following suit.
Eclectic combinations of ingredients from the ocean can now be found in pet foods. “Duck, mango and wild ocean-caught tuna fish are hand packed in a hand-selected blend of unique proteins and superfoods to serve your cat the most healthy and palatable complete and balanced dinner,” said Chelsea Sher, co-founder of Against the Grain Pet Foods. “Our foods are dolphin-safe and turtle-safe, as well as GMO free, grain free and gluten free.”
“Our Boneless formulas are ‘destination products’ that serve pet parents who need to keep their pet’s food as simple as possible—in most cases a single type of protein,” said Bette Schubert, Bravo co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education.
“We use salmon muscle meat from the fish’s belly to provide a top quality, maximum nutrition option for both dogs and cats,” Schubert said. “The Boneless Salmon is rich in protein, which is great for the cats who are obligate carnivores. It also is great for the skins and coats of both dogs and cats. Beyond our Boneless products, the majority of our formulas are created to provide single-source proteins upon which pet parents can customize the formula to meet the specific nutritional needs of their companion animal.”
“Soft ‘n Tasty Salmon Recipe Baked Bites treats for dogs are made with selected ingredients from approved suppliers,” said Adrian Pettyan, Caru Pet Food CEO and co-founder. ”The salmon is USDA-inspected and is the number one ingredient; like the entire CARU Soft ‘n Tasty Treat line, these treats are a limited ingredient recipe with no wheat, corn, soy or animal by-products, added sugar, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.”
Barkworthies recently launched its new Australian Gourmet line of treats for dogs, focused on minimal ingredient treats and chews. Their Salmon Skin Chews and Twists are all-natural and long lasting, designed to satisfy the needs of all types of dogs and cats.
It is not just food and treats that lead the seafood pack; the benefits of ocean-sourced supplements have been known for years. Fish and shellfish are primary sources of fat-soluble vitamins A and D, and are the best source of omega-threes. Mollusks have an iron content that rivals that of red meat. Not only are shellfish naturally low in fat and high in protein, but they also offer a plethora of minerals, including magnesium, copper, selenium and zinc.
Kelp is an extremely nutrient-rich, edible algae. Its ability to filter and accumulate nutrients makes it a valuable addition to a pet’s diet. According to David Grover, founder of Pet Kelp, it produces the highest nutrient content of any plant or algae, providing access to over 70 vitamins and minerals.
“While containing a large number of vitamins, kelp is best known for containing a full panel of trace minerals,” Grover said. “Minerals perform many key functions in animals, including regulating energy and aiding digestion, and are a vital ingredient in immune, skin, and bone systems.”
Animal Essentials created a line of Green Marine Pet Supplements sourced from organic ocean kelp that is wild-harvested at the edge of the Arctic Circle in northwest Iceland.
“We are making a stand in our industry to only use sustainably harvested and ethically processed ocean-sourced ingredients,” said Greg Tilford, president of Animal Essentials. “This is the right thing to do for the planet and it ensures the highest quality for our pets’ health, too. Our suppliers are as passionate about the environment and quality as we are.”
The benefits are not limited to senior pets. Lifeline Pet offers OCEAN KELP, which contains Laminaria digitata, an expensive kelp generally not included in kelp pet supplements. According to the National Cancer Institute’s website, Laminaria digitata “may have immunostimulatory and anti-cancer effects.” As an added benefit, this kelp promotes dental health by keeping oral bacteria from forming a biocoat that would develop into plaque.
“One in five dogs in America suffers from some form of mobility issue,” said Mark Peltonen, managing director of RxMobility.
This equals out to about 16 million dogs.
“Those 16 million reasons motivated RxMobility to develop a 100 percent natural solution that addresses not only the source of the problem, but has wider ranging health benefits for every canine’s bone, muscle and joint functions,” Peltonen said.
The pet food industry is seeing a clear trend in specialty and alternative pet food ingredients. With every ingredient being a functional, nutrition-focused addition, the pet industry will continue to welcome novel ingredients and high-quality foods.
There was a time when dry cat foods were all the rage and wet or moist cat foods were shunned as contributing to dental problems. Research published in the Journal of Veterinary Behavior suggests that feeding cats exclusively a dry pet food diet may cause cats to be hesitant to eat other types of foods. This makes it more difficult to switch over to a canned or moist diet, which is more beneficial in providing extra hydration.
According to the Precise Pet Foods website, studies show that “cats may need more moisture in their diets because drinking out of a bowl is not a natural thing for them. Canned foods are a great way to ensure your cat gets plenty of water every day. And for kittens, starting them on both canned as well as dry food is an important part of their development.”
Owners are seeking more natural and functional diets, included in the canned and wet market segments. Manufacturers have met this demand by offering more variety in wet foods. Raw foods are becoming much easier to feed and store, canned foods are refocusing on quality and safety, and moist foods are being offered as an alternative to dry cat food diets.
Bravo, known for its extensive history with raw diets, recently introduced its first canned diet options for cats under the Feline Cafe label.
“Bravo has been committed to providing wholesome diet options for pets that support a long, healthy life in the simplest way possible,” said Bette Schubert, Bravo co-founder and senior vice president of sales, new product development and education. “By expanding our variety, we’re helping more pet parents serve their pet the very best. Doing that without sacrificing quality is what Bravo is all about.”
“Moist foods, like those from the Churu Purée line, are made with responsibly harvested and certified dolphin-safe tuna or cage free chicken as the first ingredient,” said Chelsea Sher, co-founder of Against the Grain Pet Foods. “The creamy treats even have antioxidant benefits thanks to their green tea extract.”
“Ciao products are much higher in moisture than conventional treats to help provide the hydration cats need,” Chelsea Sher said. “To ensure quality and taste, Ciao products are made in their own state-of-the-art, FDA-registered plants and use special oxygen-blocking packages to protect the health of cats.”
Variety is the spice of life, and nowhere is that more true than in the cat food market. While some cats prefer a single protein, others crave variety. New diets allow the owner to switch out different tastes and textures—even for kosher cats.
“Evanger’s 100% USA Wild Salmon is grain-free and gluten-free, and makes a great complement to our Super Premium and Grain Free dry foods,” said Holly Sher, president of Evanger’s Dog and Cat Food Company. “Wild Salmon is endorsed by the cRc [Chicago Rabbinical Council] Kosher for Passover.”
Exotic game meats are utilized to create their very popular line of super-premium canned cat foods. Each is grain-free and excellent for pets with food sensitivities or allergies. With meal combinations ranging from salmon, chicken, poultry liver and caviar to pheasant, ripe fruits and vegetables, there is a recipe any cat is sure to adore.
“Wild ocean-caught crabmeat and tuna fish are hand packed with seaweed and simmered in scrumptious gravy for a fresh and palatable dinner,” Chelsea Sher said. “Their Aloha Tuna with Seaweed and Crab is a feline favorite.”
You Can Sell Cans
The average cat owner spends over $246 per year on cat food, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). With over 85 million cats prowling U.S. households, the cat food market is primed for opportunity.
According to the APPA, cat owners are more likely than dog owners to feed their pet some type of specially formulated food and nearly one-third of cat owners feed their pets food that is specially formulated for indoor cats.
The times are changing and, more than ever, moist and wet cat foods are being endorsed and supported by veterinarians and manufacturers alike. Retailers are adding freezer space for raw food diets, but for those smaller stores not yet ready to commit to a freezer, premium canned foods are an excellent solution.
Training employees is key when it comes to leading the pack in cat food sales. Your staff should understand the benefits associated with specific diets and should not be shy in recommending high-quality brands.
“Employees should be able to ask consumers the appropriate questions needed to help ensure they are more likely to get a treat their cat will like on the first try,” said Drea Williams, marketing manager for pet product manufacturer NPIC. “It also helps to have a basic understanding of the differences in nutrition requirements for cats of varying life stages so they can speak competently about why one treat might be better for a kitten, for example, versus others.”
Most manufacturers are more than willing to help educate retailers. With opportunities for sales literature, training seminars, and access to nutritionists and plenty of samples, the way to high quality pet food sales is only a phone call away.
Having Fun Naturally
The use of sustainable materials in manufacturing is increasing in popularity – from coconut husks for birds to hemp and wool for dogs and cats. Retailers should remain updated on the benefits of organic and natural materials and be able to inform customers about their many benefits.
“Retailers have the opportunity to educate consumers about which products and brands support the environment,” said Eric Abbey, president of Loving Pets. “We hope that retailers will consider creating an endcap specifically for earth-friendly products and highlight brands making a difference.”
Oodles of Organics
Organic products are those that avoid synthetic chemical inputs, such as fertilizer, pesticides, antibiotics and additives. Manufacturers of organic products are subject to periodic onsite inspections at their facilities, making the organic seal of approval expensive and time consuming to obtain. This labor intensive process is worth it when it means creating a safer toy and reducing the carbon paw print, and consumers are willing to pay for the extra time and attention necessary to create such products.
Expanding its global reach into the North American pet market, family-owned Aumueller-Korbwaren recently introduced its line of Bavarian Cat Toys. The toys utilize valerian, lavender and anise to stimulate cats who don’t normally respond to catnip. The toy bodies are filled with safe organic spelt.
The appeal of valerian is a well-kept secret among cat lovers.
“In our market, most cat lovers only know about catnip toys,” said Stacey Gelkopf, project manager for Bavarian Cat Toys. “They don’t realize there’s an alternative for encouraging cats to play.” Aumueller-Korbwaren believes in using ecological and sustainable raw materials that put the pet’s safety first. Ingredients are the highest grade available, certified to meet the same standards as those used in pharmaceuticals. The toys are handcrafted in Germany without the use of any glue.
Bamboo has been utilized in manufacturing for ages. It has a number of appealing qualities for consumers seeking eco-friendly product options.
“Bamboo requires one-third the amount of water to grow compared to cotton,” said ShareBrands Co-Founder, Connor Knutson. “Bamboo grows with similar characteristics to many common weeds, therefore has few naturally attracted pests. Bamboo can be grown with little to no use of pesticides or herbicides, whereas cotton often requires a large amount of pesticides to maintain growth. The bamboo used in the ShareBrands color line is all approved organic.”
Hemp is being touted as “the new cotton” and is quickly becoming a favorite in the pet industry. Naturally durable, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, mildew-free and nearly twice as strong as cotton, hemp makes an excellent choice for creating durable pet toys. Organic hemp uses no pesticides or other harmful chemicals during growth and is 100 percent biodegradable, meaning the remains of any shredded hemp toys do not linger in landfills.
“We’ve been doing the hemp thing since 1996, before most others knew about it,” said David Colella, owner of earthdog. “As people become more aware of the benefits of hemp, there is a common misconception that it’s indestructible. But that’s not the way hemp is. It’s a great choice for toys because it’s natural and there is nothing absorbed into fiber, and durability is very high.”
“We choose to use hemp to make our products due to its strong and durable nature,” said Pascal Bedard, owner of From The Field. “Hemp fiber is a renewable, earth-friendly replacement for paper, cotton and other synthetics building material. Hemp seed oil is a cost effective food and clean energy source. We believe in creating products that are biodegradable, pet safe and pet friendly.”
“Our new Fetchin’ Stick dog toys come in three sizes,” said Mary Wolff, founder of Honest Pet Products. “Inside each Fetchin’ Stick is a core of hemp rope surrounded by compressed wool, which allows the toy to float. Each toy is screen-printed with nontoxic, lead-free, water-based, eco-friendly ink.”
While hemp and bamboo are the clear leaders in the industry, other natural materials abound.
“Natural sisal and seagrass are two renewable plant fibers used to create handsome and durable scratch surfaces for SmartyKat scratchers,” said Rob Morgan, chief operating officer for Worldwise. “The ability to refill and interchange the scratching surfaces makes it easier than ever to offer the variety that satisfies a cat’s instinctive need to scratch.”
“As with all of our products, these scratchers are designed to fit your pet’s specific needs,” Morgan said. “They are a part of the Petlinks System that is comprised of a variety of different products that are designed to meet the emotional, instinctual and physical needs of a cat.”
In addition to using organic materials in manufacturing, companies are focused on reducing their carbon paw print by implementing responsible manufacturing processes. In fact, natural manufacturing has become so popular in recent days that the Pet Industry Sustainability Council developed a Web-based toolkit designed to support sustainability projects for retailers.
West Paw Design is another company that takes its environmental commitment seriously. From constructing an eco-friendly, state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in Bozeman, Montana, to creating near-zero-waste dog and cat toys, Materials such as IntelliLoft has diverted nearly 8.2 million plastic bottles from landfills, and its Zogoflex toys are made from BPA- and phthalate-free material that’s FDA compliant. West Paw Design even encourages customers to return old toys to be recycled into new toys. The proof can even be seen in its unique packaging, which uses soy-based ink to print on 100 percent post-consumer recycled paper.
Many companies have initiated responsible global practices by developing smart partnerships with animal rescue groups and environmental associations, as well as employing people with cognitive and developmental disabilities in the manufacturing process. Creating a unique value proposition not only encourages consumers to purchase the products, it provides an opportunity to teach consumers about environmental responsibility so that we are all better Earth stewards.