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The Grass Is Always Greener

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The popularity of the cat garden category has surged over the years.  Whether you focus on offering live catnip and grasses, self-growing kits or merely seed refills, there is a wide variety of options available to stores.

Interest in greens varies greatly amongst felines, but it’s important to provide cats with a way to increase their fiber intake and satisfy their natural instinct to graze, or your houseplants may be the first to fall victim.

Theories on why cats eat grass range from increasing their intake of vitamins and minerals, to assisting them in passing hairballs through the consumption of fiber. Some experts consider cats’ grazing to be a behavioral trait, while others believe it to be an instinctual response and consider it an important part of their cats’ diets. Whatever the reason for making grasses available to cats, there is no denying that most enjoy some fresh grass.

Most retailers divide cat grasses into two categories, live and self-growing.  There are benefits to both.

Be Flexible

Having green plants in the store is eye catching and helps stores feel more natural, which can inspire consumers to purchase higher quality foods. However, live plants require maintenance, including water and light, which some retail locations cannot provide.

“The most important thing for retailers to know is that live cat grass is a perishable item that under ideal conditions has a shelf life of 2-3 weeks maximum,” Connie Baldwin, sales manager of Priscilla’s Pet Products, Inc., said. “This is why we feature other options, such as our self-growing garden kits. They hold the visual appeal of live grasses, but have a longer shelf life.”

But, it doesn’t work for every store.

“After learning that the natural light in the store did not really support the position of live grasses, we decided to stock growing kits rather than live grasses,” Gayle Fritz, owner of All Cats and Dogs in Chico, Calif., said. “They have a longer shelf life and sell a little more quickly.”

When stocking container grass kits, the type of container becomes the focus.

Priscilla’s Pet Products offer an easy to maintain pot, and Smart Cat offers a reusable box in their popular product, Kitty’s Garden. Both are appealing and easy to use, and both come with replacement seed packages. Other options include “Garden in a bag” which features catnip and barley grass that is USDA-certified organic, and Four Paws “Vita-Greens.”

“While a growing number of health conscious consumers are enthusiastic about including wheat grass and other greens in their own diets; many lack an understanding of the specific applications and benefits when it comes to the overall health of our animal friends,” Bell Rock Growers, a certified organic grower of live wheat grass and the pioneer supplier of green nutrition products for pets said.

Rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants, minerals, and other nutrients, wheat grass has been nicknamed “liquid sunshine.”  In fact, according to agricultural scientist Charles Schnabel, regarded as one of the world’s foremost experts on cereal grasses, one pound of wheat grass is equivalent to 23 pounds of garden vegetables.

What to Stock

Whether you choose live or self-growing plants, the type of grasses stocked is important.

“Our special blend of grains are formulated for the highest level of benefit to the animal, as well as creating a sweeter taste,” Baldwin said. “Wheat grass alone can be far too rich for digestion and may cause digestive problems.”

Imperial Cat has chosen to focus on oat grass.

“We chose oat grass because it is extremely easy to grow, and cats love it! It’s a safe alternative to house plants, some of which can be poisonous to pets,” Kristie Hamilton, director of sales for Imperial Cat, said. “We purchase certified organic oat seeds for both our Easy Oat Kits and Easy Grow Oat Seeds. This ensures there are no harmful pesticides present in the grasses.”

Consumers enjoy the idea of natural grass in their home, and with a product this easy to grow, it’s little wonder why.  There is a certain amount of education that must take place. Consumers rarely come in to purchase cat grass.

“It’s something that people need to be educated about,” Abby Bishop, store manager at Only Natural Pet in Boulder, Colo., said. “Many manufacturers offer programs to educate stores on product lines, knowledge that we can then pass along to consumers.”

Pet Greens Garden from Bell Rock Growers makes it easy to grow certified organic greens right out of the bag. Ready-to-use containers of Pet Greens Live Pet Grass and Live Catnip are also available in pet stores nationwide.

The answers to the best type of cat grass vary, but with a multitude of grasses on the market, the thing that all vendors agree upon is that it should be naturally grown, chemical- and pesticide-free, certified organic, and a nutritious blend that is appealing to felines.

- Stacy Mantle is a freelance writer who has covered the pet industry for nearly 16 years. She is the founder of PetsWeekly.com and an award-winning author.

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