Few things grow irksome as quickly as a talk-aholic party guest, a dimwitted sequel to one of your favorite movies or a small animal habitat that makes its presence known to your nose from 50 feet away. Fortunately, you can control the latter with an expanding range of odor-halting and cleaning goods that stress pleasant scents, animal safety and more natural ingredients. The reason why brands are pumping out more of this merchandise is simple: there’s a strong demand for curbing strong stench.
Litter Heavy Hitters
“Small furry critters remain popular, but the downside of owning them, of course, is that they produce some pretty offensive odors—primarily due to ammonia from their urine. So, brands have come up with more solutions for battling this challenge. These include litter that absorbs and smells better and habitats that are more smartly designed,” said Melanie Allen with the Hagen Group in Mansfield, Massachusetts, maker of Living World Fresh N’ Comfy litter—which uses recycled newspaper and baking soda to help neutralize odor—and the Living World Deluxe Habitat, featuring a well-ventilated design and a raised floor surface for easy cleaning and waste removal.
“Years ago, you were limited to only a small amount of products, including aspen, pine or cedar shavings. But with the advent of premium bedding and recycled paper litter, pet owners began to realize that there are better options out there. And companies began packing more odor-suppressing features into their offerings,” said Brian Wood, president of FiberCore, LLC, in Cleveland, Ohio. “Now, consumers automatically look for odor-control claims on the bedding package.”
FiberCore manufactures Eco-Bedding with Odor Control, a highly absorbent, dust-free, non-toxic, paper-based litter product that comprises 60 percent of FiberCore’s litter sales.
Among the market leaders in this subcategory are Carefresh, renowned for its Complete Natural Paper Bedding brand with 10-day odor control; Sunseed Fresh World Bedding Multi-Pet Formula, boasting 14-day odor control with no baking soda; Tiny Friends Farm’s new and improved Tumblefresh; and Kaytee, whose Extreme Odor Bedding also promises to control odor for two weeks.
“Odor control in bedding is the most important factor in deciding what litter to buy. And consumers today are looking for something that will eliminate or neutralize odor for a longer period,” said Katie Freres, senior associate brand manager for Franklin, Wisconsin-headquartered Central Specialty Pet, Kaytee’s parent company. “Time is important to pet parents, and only having to change the pet bedding every two weeks is a big plus for them.”
However, Jane Morehouse, product research and development coordinator for California-headquartered Kordon LLC, cautions against using or recommending some kinds of litter.
“Pelleted bedding can be too coarse and hard for these animals’ small— and often hairless—feet. And cedar shavings, which can smell good to us, should never be used because they’re very toxic to the pet’s respiratory system and mucous membranes,” Morehouse explained.
Everyday substrate isn’t the only means of solving stank, of course. For example, there’s Marshall Pet Products’ Good Bye Odor line, which includes treats made for ferrets as well as drops that can be applied once a day to the food or water dish of most small animals. Both products work inside the animal’s digestive tract to naturally and safely prevent offensive aromas.
“The big trend here is that the products need to be all-natural and not made from any synthetic materials. So, our treats and drops rely on a functional extract from cultivated mushrooms. It neutralizes odor in the feces and urine of ferrets, rabbits, rats, guinea pigs, chinchillas and most small pets,” said Amanda Altman, marketing coordinator of Marshall Pet in Wolcott, New York, which also recently introduced a Premium Odor Control Ferret Litter.
Other noteworthy SKUs in this space include:
• Happy Home Pet Products’ Small Animal Odor Control, which employs activated charcoal in pouches that hang from the side of the cage;
• DooKashi, a new bedding additive in powder form with wheat bran, probiotics and blackstrap molasses;
• Pure Nature Pets’ Fresh Petz bedding additive, made from organic Zeolite to neutralize smells;
• Nature’s Miracle Cage Cleaner, a spray that employs a safe enzyme formula and leaves no masking perfumes behind;
• Natural Chemistry, a 100 percent all-natural spray cleaner and deodorizer that’s completely hypoallergenic;
• So Phresh Small Animal Habitat Clean-Up Wipes, non-toxic and safe to use around kids and pets;
• Pureayre Odor Eliminator, made from plant-derived enzymes, purified water and essential oils, which can be sprayed in the air or on surfaces.
Selling Odor Control
To get customers interested in cleaning and odor-curbing goods, you have to get their attention and appeal to their olfactory organ.
“Retailers need to ensure that odor control is heavily emphasized in the bedding area,” Freres recommended. “It also helps to pull these products out into the aisle in a high-traffic area and to use shelf talkers and trained employees to promote them.”
Altman seconds that latter suggestion.
“Educating your sales staff is the best strategy to sell these products,” Altman said. “They should speak about the natural elements in these products and how to use them correctly.”
You and your crew should also stress the importance of consistent cage cleaning to customers.
“You need to tell the customer the truth—the product may say ‘odor control,’ but they still have to replace the litter and clean the enclosure regularly,” Wood said. “Spot-cleaning, including removing wet spots in the cage on a daily basis, can also extend the life of your litter and reduce the need to clean out the cage as frequently.”
Practicing what you preach by using the litter brands you stock within your livestock cages can also convert browsers into buyers.
“Nothing sells the product better than using it yourself in your own store,” Wood added.