The cat litter category has always been proactive in terms of innovations. However, the last two years have seen some real game changers come to market, giving consumers lots to consider before making a selection that best suits their needs.
Despite the advent of so many types of litter, such as those made from wheat, corn, silica gel and plant products such as cassava, coconut husks and even paper, clay-based litters remain a popular choice. So the introduction of lightweight clay formulas has had a positive impact on the litter shelf.
“Tidy Cats has always been an innovator in the litter category,” said Paul Cooke, vice president and director of trade and industry development at Nestle Purina PetCare Company. “We were the first brand to launch a truly lightweight litter, and we’re changing the litter game once again with the introduction of TidyLock Protection. This new technology, which better absorbs liquids and features an improved deodorizing system that helps neutralize odors, has been added to Tidy Cats 24/7 Performance and Tidy Cats Instant Action traditional and LightWeight cat litters.”
“We are driven to continuously improve upon the odor control capabilities of our litters and provide different options for our consumers’ needs,” Cooke added.
To promote this new technology, the company has embarked on an extensive advertising campaign across TV, print and digital platforms. The tongue-in-cheek Tidy Cats Stank Face campaign features actress and cat-lover Angela Kinsey and also directly targets consumers via social media platforms.
Another game changer in the litter category comes from Cats Incredible, the new litter from Lucy Pet Products.
“No company has ever addressed the health issues for cats and people due to ammonia exposure from the litter box,” explained Joey Herrick, president of Lucy Pet Products and the Lucy Pet Foundation. “The fact that Cats Incredible has breakthrough technology that stops ammonia from ever forming makes it a one-of-a-kind product that is revolutionizing the litter industry. Further, there’s a worldwide patent pending on the two-handled bag with a side spout that’s easy to pour. We’ve produced a premium-priced litter that actually lasts up to 30 percent longer due to no ammonia odor, which makes it less expensive in the long run.”
There’s no question that eco-friendly litters are growing in popularity as cat owners mimic their own lifestyle habits to maintain a small carbon footprint.
According to Jane Wasley, brand manager for Healthy Pet, ökocat Natural Clumping Cat Litter (the blue box) is the most popular one in the extensive line of ökocat natural litters.
“We are incredibly proud that our distribution has expanded to over 5,000 retail stores in the US alone,” Wasley indicated. “Our initial region that had the largest distribution was the western/northwestern US, but now we have expanded national distribution partners in all regions, with the biggest growth occurring in the Northeast.”
He credits this increase in large part to a specific generation.
“This growth is being boosted by millennials who are now the largest group of cat owners in the country,” Wasley said. “Research has shown that natural and organic products are very important to them and they are willing to pay a premium for a litter that is a safer, healthier alternative for both their cat and themselves.”
Garfield, America’s favorite orange tabby cartoon cat, has recently been “endorsing” a variety of pet products, including a new clumping litter from 7pets, based in Miami, Florida. The company partnered with Paws Inc. to license the cat litter formula using Garfield’s brand.
“There are three formulas combining only natural ingredients from South America, and the blend of these ingredients enables instant clumping and eliminates the strong ammonia odor in cat urine,” explained Luana Francischini, communications director for 7pets. “Two of the products are made of a specific type of cassava (tropical root also known as yucca) and corn and are biodegradable and flushable in the toilet (the green and purple packages). The third litter in the line-up is not biodegradable. It is made of cassava, corn and dolomite, which is a mineral. So there are no chemicals at all, which makes our three products 100 percent natural.”
According to Francischini, consumers have a particular interest in biodegradable litters.
“Since launching in the U.S. in March 2016, we’ve seen more interest in the biodegradable versions, without a major preference between the tiny or standard grains,” she said. “It tells us that the local market seems to be more sensitive to renewable resources and/or practicality, since the biodegradable options are flushable and completely dust-free.”
Endorsing the growing power of millennial spending and their influence over trends, Ultra Pet Company is tapping directly into this generation of cat lovers with their vibrantly colored clumping crystal litter called Neon Litter.
The company suggests combining the three neon pink, green and orange colors in the litter box and allowing feline creativity to take over and create interesting patterns as they scratch and cover up as part of their basic toilet habits.
According to Tom Atyeo, the company’s vice president of marketing, the product is 70 percent lighter than clay products, making the cartons easy to use for an in-store display.
“The absorbent micro crystals are soft on paws and offer excellent odor control, too,” he said.
The company is also on another new trend bandwagon, namely the latest innovation of diagnostic litters that change color and alert cat owners to potential serious health issues, such as kidney disease, urinary tract infections and diabetes. This allows owners to effectively monitor the situation on a daily basis and refer this detailed information to a veterinarian.
Atyeo pointed out that although the term “diagnostic litters” is being bandied about as a generic term in the industry, such products are not truly diagnostic. Instead, they are “indicators” of possible problems. There are now several on the market, including products from Pestell Pet Products, such as LifeMate Health Alert and Dr. Elsey’s Health Monitor Everyday Cat Litter.
“Only a veterinarian or a trained member of their staff has the diagnostic tools necessary to do a true diagnostic,” Atyeo said. “We specifically point this out on the bag and on the instruction card that is inside each bag of our product called Monthly Monitor.”
Atyeo explained how the product works.
“Most indicator litters use assorted pH indicators that react to the introduction of urine,” he said. “The pH indicators are either applied to a form of litter (silica gel or clay) or are added to the cat’s normal litter as an additive (silica gel or treated paper strips). Indicator litters and litter additives will turn colors once the urine is introduced. The cat parent then needs to compare the color to those on the provided color key. However, there is no doubt that litters that alert to a problem can potentially help to save lives.”