July 1, 2014

Did you know that a hamster runs about two to three miles a day, and some have been recorded running as much as five to seven miles in one 24-hour period?

That’s a lot of movement for those tiny little legs.

But, running and scurrying is just a natural part of life for hamsters and other small animals. When they live in the wild, they can spend a majority of their day, or night if they’re nocturnal, scurrying from one place to another foraging for food, and often running at high speeds to escape predators. As pets, the threat of predators and the need to search for food is no longer there, but they can’t escape the instinct to scurry.

The high activity level of these small pets is what makes fitness products such a far-reaching category. From exercise wheels of the company’s Flying Saucer, adds a bright color spiral to the toy.

“It’s just fun to watch the spiral,” said Dave Hitsman, director, WareManufacturing, Inc. “It increases interest for the pet and also promotes the entertainment of pet owning.”

There’s even the Critter Cruiser from Super Pet that takes the concept of an exercise wheel and makes it so much more. A car-shaped toy with a built-in wheel gives the illusion that the pet is driving.

Encouraging Healthy Lifestyles

Having a healthy pet means feeding them a healthy diet while at the same time encouraging exercise, and there are a couple of new products on the market that do all of those things at once.

The Timothy Tunnel, part of Oxbow Animal Health’s Timothy CLUB accessories, is handwoven from all-natural, grown in America Timothy hay.

“Pets love passing through the tunnel, as well as having a place to relax and hide away, which is essential for most small animal species,” said Dr. Micah Kohles, director of veterinary science and outreach, Oxbow Animal Health.

The tunnel was designed with enrichment and activity in mind, as well as nutrition, as the animal will receive the fiber necessary for good health when nibbling on the product.

Super Pet has introduced a new Tree of Life accessory for cages that is a tree-stump-shaped shelter with a built-in food bowl and pre-attached wheel.

“Instead of having to sell all of these products separately, this is the first of its kind that meets the three core needs of food, shelter and exercise all in one item,” Casto said.

In addition, the natural look and the fact that the tree is made from recycled plastics gives retailers a product that will appeal to environmentally conscious consumers.

It’s not just toys that encourage activity, pets also need space to roam, and playpens offer a safe, protected way for pets to get outside of their cage.

“Playpens not only provide a safe play zone for pets, but they also set up an interactive arena where pet owners can get down at ground level, where pets are most comfortable,” said Hitsman. “All a child really wants to do is sit and pet their furry little friend, and a playpen eliminates the need to chase the pet around the house.”

Super Pet offers a line of playpens for smaller species that attach to the cage with connector tubes as part of its Critter Trail line. For larger pets, the Ferret Trail version can be used both inside and out.
Ware Manufacturing also offers playpens that can attach to their hutches or be set up separately. A unique feature of their products is a removable cage cover that can be used under the pen indoors to protect floors, or over the pen outside for shade and protection.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Go!
Race days are a fun way to encourage traffic and build sales of fitness products in a store.

Kaytee proudly sponsors hamster races at stores across the country, providing drag strips and signage. Marshall’s Crazy Critter Raceway, suitable for ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits, rats and hamsters, is another way to set up races in your store.

“We knew stores were having animal races, so we created this product with the graphic printed mat and tubes, and thought kids and families would enjoy it in their home as well with their own pets and friends’ pets,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager, Marshall Pet Products.

Customer education is key in having successful sales of fitness products. Since exercise is a vital component of a small animal’s health, it is important to inform first-time pet owners of these animals’ need for activity.
Many manufacturers include either an exercise ball or wheel in their cages. Retailers can also bundle products together for a starter kit, including a cage, food, bedding or litter, and an exercise toy.

According to the APPA 2013-2014 Pet Owners Survey, small pet owners have an average of five toys per household, compared to just one exercise wheel. The opportunity for incremental sales is there for the picking. Help bring these products to  customers’ attention by having them out in the store’s own pet displays.

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