With more consumers considering their pets to be members of their family, toys can no longer be considered a luxury item. They have become necessities along with collars, leashes, bowls and the other essential accessories. Pet Age recently spoke with Susan Calles, national marketing manager at Ethical Products, which was established in 1952 and currently boasts a dozen brands, including the Bam-Bones, Play Strong and Skinneeez toy lines.
What are the top things that consumers look for with the toys they buy for their pets?
Consumers want to feel good about their purchase and know that their pet will enjoy the product and the longevity of the toy. While no toy lasts forever, it is important to understand the play habits of your dog along with what makes them happy when considering a toy purchase. When shopping, consumers should buy according to their pet’s preferences and play style. Super durable toys for destructive chewers, toys that are interactive and engaging (these encourage and promote the bond between the pet and human), toys that are challenging and stimulating like puzzles and treat dispensers and toys that emit sounds are just a few of the favorites. At Ethical, we design toys that will address these different play styles. Our popular line of durable toys, Bam-Bones, are made with the strength of natural, sustainable and renewable bamboo fiber. These toys satisfy a dog’s natural chewing instinct, keeps them focused to discourage destructive chewing, exercises jaw muscles and helps clean teeth and massage gums for a healthy mouth. And the best part, they last a long time!
For our feline friends, toys with catnip, bells and feathers are very popular. Interactive toys such as wands are also great sellers. Consumers are always looking for quality, fun and safe cat toys all at an economical price. We deliver on this requirement by reviewing hundreds of new cat toy concepts and only selecting those cat toys that fall into these parameters so we can offer the best value. Our cat toys are designed to appeal to the instincts of cats to hunt and play, and these toys provide hours of healthy exercise while promoting bonding between the cat and pet parent. The human/pet bond is stronger than ever so the development of toys that promote this bond is critical. The addition of catnip to interactive toys strengthens this bond while also providing the cat with playful and healthy exercise. Cats have a natural instinct to hunt so based on their predatory ways it is only fitting to provide cats with toys that satisfy this desire. While cats are very independent, there is still a need for playful, healthy exercise. Our cat toys provide the physical and mental exercise cats need so having a variety of toys on hand to rotate will keep kitty mentally challenged. In turn, this can also curb destructive behaviors such as scratching furniture or digging in plants that can occur due to boredom.
What can you tell us about the growing trend of toys that serve a specific purpose?
Toys that serve a purpose have risen in popularity. Pet parents feel good knowing that the toy they purchased also challenges their pets in other ways. They’re getting more for their money; a fun toy plus the mentally stimulating and challenging angle the toy brings with it. These types of toys encourage pets to exercise and work for their food which has positive effects on a pet’s overall behavior and health. These positive benefits are the reasons the future of this category will continue to grow. For this reason, we offer several different types of challenging toys for both cats and dogs ranging from a full line of puzzles to several treat/food dispensing toys. Finding the hidden treat or food is their reward for working hard and being smart!
Cats, just as dogs and humans, should live an active, healthy lifestyle. Keeping cats mentally and physically challenged are two of the main goals of our Doc & Phoebe Indoor Hunting Feeder; a unique no-bowl feeding system for cats. The Indoor Hunting Feeder allows cats to eat the way nature intended and has helped thousands of cat parents solve their cat’s scarf and barf, night waking, obesity, urinating outside of the litter box, aggression, destruction and boredom issues. Cat parents typically feed their cats twice a day. With this veterinary innovation, instead of filling the bowl twice a day, cat parents simply fill three mice and hide them around the house morning and night. Cats can hunt, catch and play with three perfectly portioned meals twice a day.
We are proud and excited to finally launch two new Doc & Phoebe products, designed by Dr. Bales, The Wet Feeder and The Hunting Snacker. The Wet Feeder is the first feeder to provide a portion controlled, interactive solution for wet cat food. The Snacker is the first adjustable puzzle feeder designed with a fabric covering, for cats to use their teeth and claws in the hunt for their snacks!
Is there such a thing as an indestructible toy?
I wish I could tell you “yes,” but unfortunately the answer is “no.” It really all depends on the dog. If the dog is a destructive chewer with strong jaws, they will chew through anything, it’s a challenge for them. Destructive chewers, chew to win! I know, I have two very destructive chewers! They have chewed through the best of the best. Right now, the only toy they’ve been unable to destroy is our Barrett Ball. The Barrett Ball is made of one solid unit of natural rubber. There are no seams, which create weak points that dogs always seem to find on their quest to destroy, so this design makes the ball virtually indestructible. Another important fact to remember, destructive chewers aren’t just large breeds. Smaller dogs with razor sharp teeth can also chew their way through toys. For this reason, The Barrett Ball comes in three sizes, so that all size breeds can benefit from this durable toy. The Barrett Ball also comes with a 100% lifetime guarantee and proceeds from the sales goes directly to Dogs4Warriors, a service foundation that provides veterans with service dogs to help them with their daily lives.
When we design our durable dog toys, we strive for durability and a toy that will last longer than the average dog toy. We use a variety of materials such as rubber, TPR, and even some fabrics, such as canvas, ballistic nylon, plush with several layers of backing, leather and double/triple stitching to reinforce the seams. Our line of stuffing free toys, Skinneeez and Furrz, have stood the test of time with many aggressive chewers. The key to these toys is that there isn’t any stuffing for the dog to rip out so they are less inclined to shred the toy.
Where do you see the future of licensed toys heading?
Licensed pet products have grown by leaps and bounds. Almost every category in the pet industry now features a licensed brand. It’s not just apparel, it’s also toys, food, beds, etc. The purchase of licensed toys is one driven by emotion rather than necessity. The pet parent is drawn to the product because it creates a connection and familiarity with the licensed brand. If it’s a brand their kids played with, they connect that memory and are more likely to purchase the product for their pet. If it’s a brand they grew up with, there’s the memory of when they had or used the brand. Having a positive experience with the licensed brand creates a loyalty and that has translated to the pet industry as well.
Recently, we partnered with Cosmopolitan Magazine to develop a line of pet toys and accessories specifically designed to appeal to the millennial/cosmo audience. The line of pet products will be called Cosmo Furbabies and will feature toys, apparel, bedding and accessories, all designed with the millennial/cosmo shopper in mind. Cosmo Furbabies will debut at Global Pet Expo 2021 in Orlando, Florida.