Pet stores and animal lovers are always on the hunt for the next big thing in toys, particularly cat toys, a category that has not traditionally shown a lot of innovation.
Those days are over, as cat owners become more educated and begin to demand toys that are safe and that can keep their pets active and engaged.
Exceptional design is one of the qualities that make a toy stand out, and KONG’s new Glide ‘n Seek fits that description, taking home the “Best in Show for Cats” award from Global Pet Expo this year.
“The interactive Glide ‘n Seek helps cats release energy by providing an outlet for their natural hunting instincts,” Robert Cohrs, marketing director for KONG cat products, said. “The feather toys glide, bump and hop quickly around the circular toy.”
Another fan favorite is KONG’s Eight Track, which has two rattle balls that race around the figure-eight-shaped track. Cats love to paw at them through the openings on the side or top of the toy. Since there is more than one ball to play with, it works well with multicat households.
PetSafe is another technology favorite among cat owners.
“Electronic cat toys have become increasingly popular among pet parents in recent years and the trend is growing,” Mandie Sweetnam, product manager of toys and behavior for Radio Systems Corporation, said. “FroliCat toys have been a huge success and the line will continue to flourish. Expect to see new, exciting and innovative electronic cat toys from Petsafe in the near future.”
Play-station circuits, often billed as an “all-in-one” solution and a favorite among multicat households, offer an interactive experience that touch on all five senses. For those customers who have cats with multiple play styles, interactive sets can be expanded out to include massage and grooming centers, grass gardens, a feeding maze and even a scratch pad.
“The Catit Design Senses Speed Circuit and Treat Maze are an all-around interactive experience, as both products stimulate a cat’s senses and encourage exercise and play,” Damian Hall, senior marketing manager at Rolf C. Hagen, said . “The Speed Circuit helps kitty beat boredom, imitates the natural instinct to stalk prey, and introduces exercise as the feline follows an illuminated ball around a track. The Treat Maze helps manage food intake, helping to maintain a healthy weight while stimulating the cat’s sense of touch, smell and coordination as they use their paw to push treats down the maze for the ultimate reward.”
Trends come and go, but the classics are merely modified with new designs, colors and materials. As popular as technological toys are, there is still a huge cry for traditional products. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2011 Pet Products Trend Report, the public has become more concerned whether the pet products they choose use environmentally friendly materials and processes while reducing their pet’s carbon paw print.
“Anything more natural is huge for cats, domestic and made in the USA, is something prized and coveted among pet owners,” Diane Thomas, marketing manager of Coastal Pet Products, said. “Our toy bins remain one of the most popular items with retailers, and we recently introduced a selection of wool cat toys that are a big hit. They are each handcrafted in the USA and are extremely durable.”
With over 25 years in the pet industry, Vee Enterprises has seen an increase in customer interest on growth of materials, longevity, sourcing and cost.
“Consumers are more educated and more concerned with what their cats are playing with, and that value is reflected in the quality of our toys,” Chris Gardner, operations manager of Vee Enterprises, said. “All of our feathers are purchased through U.S. distributors, which allow us to monitor quality. These are natural products that need to be cleaned and stored in a safe place so they don’t become infected with parasites. We talk to distributors about cleaning method, how they store, and how they keep feathers safe, which allows us to ensure that no toxic materials [come] in contact with toys while giving us a high level of quality control.”
Historically, many cat toys have lacked innovation and struggle to encourage interactive play, which is key for bonding and exercise, Cristen Underwood, director of marketing for Quaker Pet Group, said.
“With our ever-expanding SuperCat product collection, QPG set out to take cat toy innovation to the next level, offering high quality, patented microencapsulation, bright colors and space-efficient solutions that encourage stimulation and connectivity,” she said.
MULTIPET’s Tickle Your Fancy Teasers are an example of cat toys that create an interactive play experience for both the pet and owner. They have a long wand with colorful feathers at the end, which cats enjoy pawing at.
This year, Petmate will roll out a line of Jackson Galaxy cat play products, including toys, wands, kickers, scratchers, tunnels and tents. The Jackson Galaxy Collection by Petmate will be produced in colors that cats easily see, eliminate sounds that cats dislike, enhance people-cat interaction and satisfy cats’ different hunting styles. Galaxy is personally involved in the design of each product, from concept to packaging, using his unique philosophy of the ideal cat lifestyle, which he refers to as Cat Mojo: Hunt, Catch, Kill, Eat, Groom and Sleep.
“I am constantly thinking about Cat Mojo, what motivates all cats, and of course what makes them happy,” said Jackson Galaxy, a cat behaviorist who hosts “My Cat from Hell” on Animal Planet. “Cats are widely misunderstood and because of that, underserved in the marketplace. My new partnership with Petmate is exciting. They appreciate my vision and they understand the need for products that allow cats to hunt and own territory just like the ‘raw cat’ that drives their natural instincts. The result, I believe, will be innovative and dynamic. I’m looking forward to sharing my passion, knowledge and love of cats by filling the needs of cat families everywhere.”
Also entering the pet market is Kathy Ireland, CEO and chief designer of kathy ireland Worldwide (kiWW). Ireland and the kiWW team has partnered with pet manufactuer Worldwise, to create the kathy ireland Loved Ones collection. For cats, the collection features organic, catnip-infused toys and refillable catnip toys. The company’s patented Stretch and Chase Mouse or Fish Launchers help get cats up and moving.
“As a company, Worldwise is excited to partner with Kathy Ireland and her team at kiWW to develop a line of pet products unique to the market,” Kevin Fick, Worldwise CEO, said. “Kathy makes a great partner; she brings both her design savvy as well as her knowledge of what it means to be a busy parent to both the two-footed and four-footed child. Kathy’s design sense, mixed with Worldwise’s ability to create innovative and solution-based products is a winning combination.”