By Eric Stenson
Celebrities, models and urban dwellers alike often can be seen toting around small dogs in purses or other carriers made just for that purpose. Cats can get into the act, as well, making the scene on the red carpet or just being carried about town, strolled down the street or accompanying its owner on travel excursions, thanks to carriers and strollers.
David Fine, owner of Bark ‘n Bag of Hamilton, New Jersey, has been manufacturing carriers, totes and accessories since 2005. Despite the company name, cats are as big a customer base as dogs. His business takes an eco-friendly approach toward production, including use of fully recycled material to make the bottoms of his totes.
Fine also thinks style in the design of his carriers, with various patterns and materials available. Tartan plaids, herringbone, denim, and prints with postage stamps and travel motifs are available. Even a wheeled bag can be purchased, making it easy to pull your
tabby through airport terminals.
“The fashions really draw attention,” Fine said.
The carriers not only make travel easier with your feline friends, but they can also take a lot of the anxiety out of a trip to the veterinarian.
“The bags open on two sides. The entire sides open, so you can lay th cat right in,” Fine explained. “Since the entire side opens, the cat can be examined right in the carrier.”
The lightweight bags are designed in Germany and are built with luggage specifications in mind. Working with cat rescues was very beneficial in designing carriers suited for cats, Fine continued.
“A luggage background was very good in designing pet carriers,” he said.
Jeremy Buckley, director of sales for Gen 7 Pets of Elverson, Pennsylvania, says his company has been making strollers for pets for about four years, taking its expertise in developing products for the juvenile market and extending it into the companion animal sphere to create safe, useful products. Keeping your pet looking good on the go also factors heavily into the company’s thinking, Buckley maintained.
“A lot of thought and eff ort go into the color and fashion choices,” he said.
Cats take to the strollers well, Buckley said. They can be locked down like a den for cats that feel more secure in a fully closed environment.
“Pets feel more secure; the pet parents feel safe,” he said.
According to Buckley, this category is growing in the marketplace, as pets are being accepted in more public places such as malls and restaurants.
“People are paying more to care for their pets, and the strollers and carriers help them get around more places,” he said.
His company makes a full line of pet strollers, including a jogging model, capable of holding up to 50 pounds of pets.
Sleepypod of Pasadena, California, makes the Sleepypod Atom, a carrier for small pets that works as a shoulder bag, straps into a car seat for protection and can ride along on an airplane.
Its bedding is machine washable, it has a trolley pocket so it can attach to luggage for rolling through the airport and it has pouches for storing essentials.
“Cats tend to be anxious travelers, so it is important to take time to acclimate a cat to its carrier in advance of travel,” said Michael Leung, Sleepypod co-founder and lead product designer.
“The best way to acclimate a cat to its carrier is to leave it out in your home to let the cat slowly get accustomed to it. The carrier concept is taken a step further with the Sleepypod mobile pet bed because it is a pet bed that turns into a carrier and then a safe car seat.”
Leung suggests that retailers employ such products as the Sleepypod Atom to take advantage of the growing lifestyle trends evolving among pet owners.
“Keeping abreast of lifestyle trends like the increase in pet-friendly workspaces can give pet owners the leg up on competition,” he said. “Set up displays with products designed to make it easier to navigate these lifestyle shifts.”
From a retailer perspective, Erin Flaherty, director of communications for Cat Connection in Dallas, Texas, definitely sees a growing market for cat carriers among people looking to hit the open highway or friendly skies with their feline companions.
“The right carrier is absolutely essential,” she said, also mentioning the need for each cat to have its own carrier. “Even the best of friends, packed together in a stressful environment, may not always be the best of friends.”
In addition to Sleepypod, her store also stocks SturdiBag and Petmate carriers. She sees demand increasing at her store, and points out the need for cat owners to shop carefully when selecting a carrier.
“Above all, you want one that’s safe and secure,” she said. “It needs to be protected, well ventilated, and make sure that the cats can’t escape.”