When work from home began amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, many cat parents found themselves increasingly aware of their pet’s habits. The humanization trend continues to dominate the market with clever marketing that targets cat parent’s demands.
The growing understanding of cat nutrition and well-being means the industry has been pressured to offer transparency in products such as food, treats, litter and accessories.
Healthier living choices aren’t limited to humans. Cat owners can, and are, searching for transparent brands that offer quality ingredients in products, especially food products.
“The pandemic led people to look deeper at the health of their families and preventative measures they can take in their daily lives,” said Billy Frey, director of marketing for ORIJEN and ACANA pet food. “As a result, cat parents want functional foods containing high and varied amounts of animal ingredients, and foods with ingredients commonly known to support immune health.”
This year the brand is launching its first wet cat food within the brand family that will contain high levels of WholePrey animal ingredients. Frey explained the ORIJEN Wet Cat Food and ACANA Premium Pâté will “provide options to pet lovers looking to enhance their cats’ diets with a boost in flavor and hydration.”
Whitebridge Pet Brands offers Tiki Cat food that is not only nutritious, but also delicious. The company continues to innovate, and its latest creation transforms the Tiki Cat Luau whole foods line into the fastest growing format in wet cat food – pâtés.
“These top selling formulas will now be available in a finely minced texture with savory broth to make the deliciously soft pates cats love,” said Erica Vogt, senior brand manager of Whitebridge Pet Brands. “Tiki Cat Luau Pâté offers the high-quality protein, high-moisture nutrition cats need as carnivores. No veggies, fruit or grains. Just real chicken and poultry finely minced with savory broth.”
Cats can be picky eaters and like their human owners, eating the same thing over and over can get boring. When it comes to picky eaters, ZIWI offers “a variety of nutritious and tasty recipes, both air-dried and canned, that will leave cats begging for more,” according to Tyler Maneth, vice president of marketing for ZIWI.
“Each type is a ready-to-serve raw alternative that leaves the mess and hassle out of feeding your feline the best diet no matter their breed or age. Our cat food recipes feature high inclusions of meat, organs and seafood in PeakPrey ratios ─ with added superfoods, for a nutritional boost,” he said.
Cat parents who want these delicious food options are seeking sustainable products that require brands to be transparent with ingredients sourcing. Maneth says all ZIWI’s air-dried recipes are ethically and sustainably sourced from farmers and fishermen whose focus is on sustainable practices.
“New Zealand farmers believe in kaitiaki, or guardians of the land and sea. These practices include New Zealand’s Five Freedom Principles of farming, focusing on the wellbeing and welfare of the animal and the sustainability of farming for generations to come,” explained Maneth.
Nutritious treats with quality ingredients do not come at a low price. Because people are starting to see pets as part of their family, they treat them as such. “This change of mindset and behavior is what’s driving up pet owners’ willingness to pay a premium for treats that are natural, using high-quality ingredients and adding to the pets’ wellness,” said Sam Chen, sales director for NPIC, the maker of Get Naked Biteables Soft Treats for Cats.
For NPIC, natural, high quality and functional benefits have been the focus of the company’s product development for more than two decades. NPIC has developed four functional treats: Digestive Health Plus, Cat Health Plus, Kitten Health Plus and Essential Health. Chen explains that each product is formulated with active ingredients to address cats’ specific health needs to provide cat owners stronger treating options other than empty calories. These multifunctional soft treats include lysine, probiotics, and flaxseed to help support cats’ immune system, gut and digestive health.
Another growing sector for cat wellness is the supplement category. According to Brittany Green, platform manager for Vetoquinol USA, maker of Tomyln, the pandemic has caused cat parents to “take notice of things going on with their cats that maybe when they were out of the house more often, they may not have caught onto as quickly or at all.”
Because more owners are staying at home, this has caused a disruption for cats. Green notes there has been a recent rise in anxiety among cats. Tomlyn has seen an increased demand for its calming products like Relax & Calm, an easy-to-give chicken flavored chew, to help pets cope with stressful situations. The product contains the two active ingredients L-tryptophan and chamomile which help promote a sense of calm and relaxation. The third active ingredient ginger helps settle uneasy stomachs that often accompany stress and anxiety in pets.
In the world of cats being picky is not limited to only their palate. Litter brands are also seeing the demand from owners for litter low dust, odor control natural with no additives or fillers and Gina Zaro, marketing director for Dr. Elsey’s Cat Products, noted that consumers “want [products] to perform as they are presented.” Sometimes cats on the other hand prefer a softer feel in their litter.
Dr. Elsey’s Paw Sensitive is a premium scoopable litter with superior clumping ability and ground to an ideal granule size that provides a more comfortable texture for a cat’s tender paws. The litter is also low dust with odor control those cats with sensitive paws and senior cats will love. Dr. Elsey’s offers solution-based products that can improve a cat’s well-being if their owners are aware of the benefits.
“Our website has a lot of information. We publish everything about the products: ingredients, how to use the products. We feel that having a good package design making sure that [information] is clear and concise at shelf level is helpful as well,” said Zaro.
For Petsafe brand marketing manager Jessie Nixon,the company is seeing a demand for well-designed, lifestyle-centered products.
“During the pandemic, many households decided to add a cat (or cats) to their family, even when they may have already had cats. We’re seeing a trend in consumers buying items designed for multi-pet and multi-cat households to accommodate their growing family,” she said.
The PetSafe Multi-Cat Litter Box speaks to both convenience and multi-pet solution trends. The oversized box and higher litter capacity is ideal for households with multiple cats and eliminates the need for more than one litter box. Nixon explains that the litter box was also “designed with a sealed waste trap and a metal scoop included so you no longer have to store your cleaning supplies in different places.”
Looking to the future, Nixon says Petsafe’s goal continues to be making a pet parent’s routine as simple and stress-free as possible.
A fun part of being a pet parent is the freedom of creativity and expression by way of pet accessories. According to its website, Zee.Dog was founded with one major purpose: to connect dogs and people. The company designs and builds “products of expression, ones that help make your life and your dog’s that much cooler.”
Karishma Patel, an e-commerce marketing professional with Zee.Dog, says the demand from customers has overwhelmingly been for cat products that reflect their customers’ lifestyle. To meet this demand, the company recently launched Zee.Cat, a brand that has a variety of products like beds, carriers, scratchers and toys. Products that are designed with cats in mind don’t necessarily have to mean they are an eyesore in the home.
“The whole cat product market has been overlooked in a lot of ways. It’s been [full of] very basic products. The demand of people wanting something more stylish, more aesthetically pleasing and more functional has been tremendous,” said Patel, adding that she believes the brand provides what cat parents are looking for.
The Zee.Cat scratchers and beds are chic products that can blend in with any room decor. The cat scratchers come in four colors including citrus, mint, light pink and beige. These double-sided cardboard cat scratcher pads feature a non-slip base that is made from natural rubber. The scratcher pad is 100 percent recyclable and can be flipped over when one side is worn out.
Cats can sleep on average 15 hours a day and lying in a comfortable bed is key to getting the best sleep. The three cat beds that Zee.Cat created are versatile and customizable to make cats feel safe and warm. The removable screen creates a semi-enclosed cat cave bed or can be used as an open cat bed without the screen. The pillow of the bed has two different textures on each side. Choose the soft, fleece side in the cold and the smooth, cozy side when it’s warmer. The three detachable pieces that make up the cat bed make it easy to transport and allow for easy cleaning and storage.
When they’re not lounging around the house, cats like to play and scratch to satisfy their natural instincts. Indipets, the pet company established in 2004, is known for its quality pet dishes, natural rubber dog toys and excellent customer service.
“Our love for pets brought us into this business. Throughout the years, Indipets has earned the trust and appreciation from our customers,” said Sumit Sethi, president of Indipets, in a 2019 Pet Age interview.
The Indipets Cat Scratcher helps to promote healthy scratching behaviors, while also satisfying those natural scratching instincts. Made from high quality recycled cardboard, these scratchers are long and thick for extra fun and durability. With a variety of styles and sizes these scratchers are great for one or multiple cats.
Because cat parents are shopping with intent, retailers should be aware of their demands and stock their shelves accordingly. Brands, such as Dr. Elsey’s, have educational materials available to store employees so they can better serve their customers. A new cat parent may need help finding a product that checks all their boxes and a friendly, knowledgeable employee can possible be the difference in if they become a repeat customer