Hare-Brained Schemes

Erik J. Martin//December 13, 2016//

Hare-Brained Schemes

Erik J. Martin //December 13, 2016//

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Rabbits are known for a lot more than just making lots of little rabbits. They’re also good at making smiles appear on the faces of store customers.

Perhaps it’s the ultra-soft fur that feels velvety smooth to the fingertips, the adorably long ears and button eyes or the bountiful bulk—captive bunnies are, after all, larger than pocket pets, which is a big deal to a small child in awe of animals. These are just some of the compelling reasons to carry cottontails and the plentiful products that are made for them.

White Glove Test
If you’re going to stock live rabbits for sale and capitalize on their cuteness quotient, keep in mind that larger pets can make for messier habitats, and shoppers expect clean coney cages, says Lisa Kniceley, marketing and trade sales specialist for Vitakraft Sun Seed, Inc.

“Customers will shy away from pets in dirty, smelly cages,” Knicely said. “And a healthy, happy pet in a clean environment is a much more desirable pet.”

Cages, in fact, should be a prime staple in your set. A notable manufacturer is Prevue Pet Products, maker of the Critter Animal Cage, which features all-metal chew-proof ramps, platforms and a bottom pull-out grille, wrought iron construction with powder-coated Hammertone finish and easy-rolling casters.

MidWest Homes for Pets’ Wabbitat Rabbit Cage is another product that might be of interest. This cage can be set up quickly with no tools or connecting pieces required, provide one-handed door operation with a secure slide-latch and come with an easy to slide out and clean and durable front access plastic pan. The Bunny Wonder Pop Up Animal Home, manufactured by Caitec, is another cage that you might want to purchase for your store.

Bunny Bundles
Kniceley suggests creating “welcome kit” bundles for new rabbit owners that feature all the essentials, including an enclosure, food and water dishes, bedding, daily diet, treats and accessories.

“Many people find it overwhelming to pick out these products individually,” Kniceley said. “Providing a starter kit displayed near the pet rabbits in your store will ease these concerns and offer both convenience as well as ease of purchase.”

Mary Ann Loveland, associate brand manager for Kaytee Hard Goods in Chilton, Wisconsin, agrees.

“We continue to see popular demand for all-inclusive kits for small animal species,” said Loveland, whose company recently launched a rabbit starter kit that includes the largest cage that its division, Pets International, has ever offered: 42 inches long by 18 inches wide by 20 inches high. “It’s important to ensure that pet parents have the essential needs covered when bringing home their new companion and that adequate living space for their pet rabbit is met.”

Not Just Carrots
Of course, you’ll want to make room on your shelf for rabbit vittles, which come in a wider variety of formulas and flavors than ever before.

According to Kniceley, natural diets that are vitamin-fortified and contain no added sugars or sweeteners are currently trending for pet rabbits. In response to this demand, Vitakraft offers two special feeds. The first is Sunseed Vita Sunscription Rabbit Natural Timothy Diet with Added Vitamins and Minerals, a no-sugar-added daily feed in pellet form with timothy hay included. The second is SunSations Natural Formula with fruits, veggies and flowers that adds taste and variety without sacrificing other natural ingredients and helps satisfy a rabbit’s natural foraging instincts.

Other popular brands include Hartz’s Bonanza Pet Rabbit Diet, Small World Rabbit and Kaytee Supreme Rabbit. Kaytee recently introduced several new wares for hares, including a new line of hand-woven nests and mats, such as the Tunnel Hideaway, House Hut and Large Woven Mat—and the Chew Proof Terracotta Hideaway, made from terracotta clay that creates a cool resting place on hot days and a great place to burrow.

Another new SKU that pet retailers are increasingly paying attention to is Kordon’s Oasis Vita E-Z Mist for Rabbits—the same high-quality multivitamin formula long offered as drops but now also available in a spray format.

“Not all rabbits accept drinking water treated with drops, so an alternative delivery method was introduced in order for the multivitamins to be added to a wide variety of food items,” said Jane Morehouse, product research and development manager for Kordon LLC. “This new Oasis product sprays directly onto food items—including pelleted diets, hay cubes and loose hay—and boosts nutrition levels of fresh fruits and veggies. It replaces the need to mix vitamins into drinking water.”

Win-Win Situation
Kniceley recommended promoting “adoption” of rabbits versus “purchasing,” both literally and figuratively.

“The current trend is for pet stores to hold adoption days and feature adoptable rabbits from shelters, along with rabbits that the store already carries,” Kniceley said. “This way, you are able to accommodate both mindsets and able to help shelter pets at the same time.”

Partnering with a local animal shelter on such events can not only create feel-good opportunities that patrons will appreciate, but it can also pay dividends in terms of cross-promotions and building collaborative resources.


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