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Making Small Pets Feel at Home

Karen M. Alley//February 10, 2014//

Making Small Pets Feel at Home

Karen M. Alley //February 10, 2014//

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Increasingly, people look at their pets as part of the family. And this feeling of connectedness has extended beyond cats and dogs to include small pets as well – gerbils, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets and the like.

And partly because of that, consumers are looking for much more when it comes to finding a home for their pet. Rather than just a functional cage that will contain their pet and keep them safe, people are looking for a home for their pet that will be spacious, comfortable, fun, safe, and often something that will look as nice among their own furniture.

With that in mind, manufacturers have some new offerings in both cages and bedding to help meet consumers’ increasingly sophisticated tastes and high standards for their pets. It also provides a great opportunity for sales, as about 18 percent of small pet owners replace the cage once a year, according to the 2013-2014 Pet Owners Survey by American Pet Products Association.
Whether they’re upgrading from a starter cage to a more extensive habitat, or they’re just in the market for something that looks clean and fresh, cages are not a stagnant category.

Looking Good

To help meet the growing needs of consumers, Marchioro is expanding its line of cages this year to include some new sizes, including a cage that is 16-by-16 and either 12 or 40 inches high, depending on the height the consumer wants. They will also have a cage that is 20-by-20-by-57.

“This one is unique to the industry, with its small footprint and expansive height,” Brad Forgette, executive vice president of Marchioro, said.

The additional height provides plenty of room for ramps, tubes and other accessories, to keep them interested and active.

“It gives owners more enjoyment to see their pets having fun,” Forgette said, adding these cages will be in the same simple yet elegant design of other Marchioro cages. “We try to appeal to a wider audience, creating cages that will attract adults of all ages in addition to children. We aim to provide a habitat a 20-something person wouldn’t be ashamed to have sitting on their living room table.”

In addition to ramps and exercise wheels, the Marchioro cages are equipped with ventilated tubes, so waste can drip out and gases can escape.

“Just like humans, our pets are healthier when they’re active,” Forgette said. “We have ventilation in our tubes to ensure that the animals aren’t breathing in harmful gases when they’re exercising and having fun.”

Another elegant yet functional habitat comes from BioBubble Pets. These totally clear, conical-shaped homes can be expanded upward and customized to fit each person’s preferences. Created by aquarium designer Al Venezia, the BioBubble products have a look that leans toward the aquatic world, but with a versatility that suits small pets just as well.

Pet owners can choose to purchase a standard BioBubble Premium, which is a base and a top, or they can add to it with risers that come in mesh, clear and cage varieties. In between the risers you can add a screen to separate the levels, or a bungalow deck, which provides a place for small pets to sleep and eat.

BioBubble just recently introduced a new Terrarium riser that is twice as wide as its original risers and 15 inches tall. It will stack with the premium base as well as the Terra base and features interchangeable viewing panels in either clear or mesh. This new riser allows for larger animals, including guinea pigs and small rabbits.

A unique feature of the BioBubble habitats is the CarbonFresh pad that can be placed in the bottom of the bedding tray.

“One of our priorities is to help pet owners keep their cages clean and fresh,” Kari Simigran, communications manager of BioBubble Pets, said. “We have created a pad infused with a special activated carbon that helps neutralize odors and keeps everything smelling good longer.”

Comfortable Bedding

It’s not just the outside of the cage that matters to consumers. Finding bedding that keeps pets comfortable is also a priority, and next to food, bedding is one of the most purchased items of small pet owners.

“There are two things people are looking for when making purchases of bedding,” Lisa Kniceley, trade sales specialist for Vitakraft, said. “They want items made or grown in the United States, and they want something that is environmentally friendly.”

Biodegradability and sustainability are two big selling points in bedding since the product is used in such large amounts. Both Vitakraft and Oxbow have products that appeal to a consumers’ eco-conscious while providing a healthy environment for the pet.

Vitakraft has its Sunseed Fresh World Bedding made in the United States from recycled paper. Baking soda helps increase absorbency and odor control. When paired with the new Super-Absorbent Cage liners introduced in 2013, clean-up is easy. The cage liners wick away moisture to help keep bedding dry, and once the bedding is soiled, the liner can be folded up and the entire mess thrown away.

Oxbow Animal Health has also introduced bedding for the environmentally conscious consumer. Eco-Straw is an all-natural wheat straw bedding that can hold up to 300 percent of its weight in moisture, as well as being flushable, compostable and naturally mold resistant.

“Our decision to add a bedding to our product line was driven by our commitment to helping meet the basic needs of pets in the healthiest ways possible,” Melissa Ross, marketing operations manager of Oxbow Animal Health, said.

Another company making great strides in this area is Absorption Corp. Their colorful CareFRESH bedding bits are blended with low-dust pellets and create for a super adsorbent litter, while their line of bedding products contain odor control to help keep a pet’s habitat smelling fresh.

Their premium soft bedding is also made from wood pulp, a natural and sustainable resource, and is 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.

Set It Up

The best way to sell more cages is to have them out. Use them for the small pets in the store, or set up a display with a few different options. Of course, there isn’t the space to have them all out and assembled for customers to take home, so Marchioro has answered retailers request for a smaller footprint on the shelf with its new line of cages.

“We have new packaging that takes up less space, making it more profitable for retailers because they will be able to have more inventory there to sell,” Forgette said.

The boxes will have a lifestyle picture of each cage so customers will be able to visualize the product without it being set up.

Most importantly, have a variety of products available. Not only are pet owners looking to keep their small animals active and healthy, they also want cages that fit in with their own style, and of course, every person’s style is different.