The small animal sector appears to be following dog and cat with humanization following the trend of pets being part of the family. Pet Age recently spoke with Gina Niklas, associate brand manager for Kaytee Small Animal, to find out what small pet parents are currently seeking in food, treats and accessories.
What are consumers seeking out in terms of small pet food and hay?
Many shoppers care about their pets as much as their family members, and treat them as such. They seek the same natural, high-quality food they feed their family.
When purchasing small animal food, consumers are looking for species-specific food that use natural ingredients and do not have added sugar, fillers or artificial preservatives. Not all small animals are the same, so shouldn’t they have a diet as unique as them? Each small animal requires varying levels of protein, fat and fiber so it is important to pet parents that a diet specific to their small animal is specific. New Field+Forest by Kaytee is a simply good food that is natural with vitamins and minerals, and made without artificial preservatives, fillers or unwanted sweeteners, like molasses. Each carefully crafted, all-in-one pellet features species-specific ingredients that pets can see, smell and taste. Our rabbit, guinea pig and chinchilla diets boast high-fiber timothy hay as the No. 1 ingredient, while hamster, gerbil and rat diets are made with plant proteins and hearty grains and no timothy hay. Our all-in-one pellets feature species-unique shapes to support dental health and prevent selective feeding.
In terms of small pet hay, consumers look for hay that is naturally grown without any pesticides, specifically for small animals, green in color and high in fiber. Timothy hay is a key piece of rabbit, guinea pig and chinchilla diets, and a continual supply must be fed to the pets. Many pet parents look to feed their pets a variety of different hay types to provide their pet taste and texture variety. Field+Forest by Kaytee’s Premier All Natural Hay is grown without pesticides and harvested at the peak of freshness specifically for small pets. High Fiber premium cuts and naturally grown together blends offer a unique and enriching foraging experience with a variety of tastes and textures. This helps promote healthy digestion and prevents selective eating. To maintain high nutritional value, our hay is packed in convenient stay fresh packs, then carefully boxed to protect from light, air and moisture to lock in freshness, guaranteed.
What have been some recent innovations in the small pet sector?
Significant trends in the small animal habitat category include habitats with large open living capabilities as well as a focus on convenience. Innovations include habitats that allow consumers to connect and expand for additional living space, habitats with open tops for easy pet access, and habitats with easy assembly and cleaning capabilities.
Kaytee Open Living Habitat meets and exceeds the recommended living space for guinea pigs or rabbit species. The 48-inch by 24-inch habitat offers eight square feet of living space and the 60-inch by 30-inch habitat offers 12.5 square feet. Its innovative, waterproof liner system offers quick cleaning capabilities. Open Living features grommet holes that quickly and securely hook onto the wire latches instead of Velcro, which can lose effectiveness over time. The patent pending liner system provides a tighter fit and faster cleaning. If looking to provide pets extended living space beyond the 8 or 12.5 square feet of living space, Open Living offers the option to easily connect additional Open Living habitats for endless living space customization. With safety in mind, all Open Living habitats feature fabric ramp covers to protect the animal’s feet. Optional rooftop sold separately and recommended for use with rabbits or for households with additional pets and/or small children.
Are there any benefits to species-specific food?
Each small animal originates from a unique area of the world. Within each area, small animals foraged from a variety of native grasses, flowers, leafy shrubs and more. Over time, the native varieties created unique nutritional needs that vary by small animal making it important to offer a specific diet for each species. Every small animal requires varying levels of protein, fat and fiber. Guinea pigs, rabbits and chinchillas require a diet high in fiber to support their digestive health. This makes timothy hay a crucial part of their diet. Vitamin C is important for guinea pigs as they do not naturally produce or store the vital nutrient themselves. This makes it important to offer a guinea pig’s a diet that includes long lasting Vitamin C, such as Field+Forest by Kaytee premium small animal food.
What is the importance of providing small animals with enrichment?
It is important to provide small animals with enrichment to help provide them both mental and physical stimulation. Many small animals spend a good portion of their time in his or her habitat. To prevent boredom and keep their brain and bodies healthy, pet parents can provide enrichment through different toys and chews, textures of their food and hay and through different bonding and training activities.
The enrichment of chews and toys makes for a happier and healthier pet. Many small animals have continually growing teeth. If not cared for, the teeth will become overgrown and can cause severe health problems. Offering a wide variety of different types of chew toys allows small animals to gnaw and wear down those ever-growing teeth. Additionally, a diverse selection is important as it can help mimic the ancestral variety seen in the wild. As owners provide more toys and chews to their small animal, they are not only providing them hours of fun, but are forming a bond with the pet.
Food and hay varieties provide enrichment when different tastes and textures are offered to the companion animal. In the wild, small animals forage from a range of different ingredients where they were mentally stimulated from the various flavors. Domesticated small animals can have similar experiences through pellets with unique shapes, fresh fruits and vegetables, an occasional treat and different types of hays.
Bonding and training your small pet help provide physical and mental enrichment. Providing pets plenty of out of habitat playtime and petting is a great way form him or her to get some exercise and experience new sights and smells. Small pets can also be taught such tricks as a high five or spinning in circles. A great way to teach tricks is trust and plenty of healthy, tasty treats.