November 3, 2016

Want to ensure that your pet store appeals to both the olfactory organ and your patrons’ yearn for a fresh and clean cage? The pros have a few tips on what SKUs (stock keeping units) best eradicate the PUs (the shortened version of “puteo,” which is Latin for “to smell bad”).

From aromatic bedding and odor-eliminating sprays to supplements that deodorize animal excrement, manufacturers are creating solutions that tap into the small animal pet owners’ desire for odor control. These products will enable customers to breathe easier inside your store as well as in their own home.

Opportunity in the Air
“Some of the biggest drawbacks consumers have about owning a small animal pet are odor control and cage cleaning, so products that solve odor issues and make cage cleaning easier are important for improving the overall small animal pet ownership experience,” said Mary Ann Loveland, associate brand manager for Kaytee Hard Goods, a division of Chilton, Wisconsin-based Kaytee.

“Shoppers today are embracing natural odor-control products that are made specifically for their small animal species’ unique behaviors and healthy home lifestyle, as well as products that are good for the environment,” said Jane Wasley, brand manager for Healthy Pet in Ferndale, Washington.

“The all-natural trend is driving consumers to products that are environmentally safe for both humans, pets and the planet,” said Paul Juszczak, director of sales and marketing for Marshall Pet Products in Wolcott, New York. “A few years back, we launched 180XT Stain, Odor and Pheromone Remover, a concentrated cleaner that extracts urine from the sub-floor, patting and carpet surface by blotting the urine up and out of the carpet and not masking it like other cleaning products.”

Substrates as a Solution
A pet owner’s first line of defense against mini-mammal stank is at the litter level, where most of the redolence radiates from. The main culprit responsible for small critter funk is ammonia, which is created by the uric acid found in pet urine. Leaky water bottles that add unwanted moisture to cage bottoms, along with pet droppings, contribute to an over-ripe atmosphere.

Consequently, it’s no surprise that many brands in recent years have upped the fragrant quotient in their bedding products, which are typically comprised of either recycled paper, reclaimed cellulose pulp, or cedar, pine or aspen wood shavings. These companies are now manufacturing bedding products incorporating special ingredients, odor-reducing properties, earth-friendly materials, and dust-free and hypoallergenic features.

Prominent examples include Healthy Pet’s carefresh odor stop formula, which provides 10-day odor control in its natural fiber bedding; FiberCore’s Eco-Bedding Odor Control, made from 100-percent recycled paper with a built-in ammonia blocker; Kaytee’s Clean & Cozy Natural Small Pet Bedding, which boasts of hygienic, odor-controlling and colorfast ingredients that absorb five times its weight in moisture; So Phresh Odor Control Crumbled Paper small animal biodegradable bedding with baking soda; and Mountain Pine Management’s Bedding Select, a cracked pellet product made from pine, which is 10 times more absorbent than shavings, is mold-, bacteria- and insect-resistant, and reduces waste by up to 50 percent.

Healthy Pet recently rolled out the industry’s first species-specific line of small animal natural paper litter under its carefresh brand: Custom Hamster & Gerbil Bedding; Guinea Pig & Rabbit Bedding; and carefresh complete. Each is designed to suppress ammonia for up to 10 days and is three times more absorbent than shavings; the hamster and gerbil blend allows for easier burrowing, while the guinea pig and rabbit product offers an ideal size for nesting.

Beyond the Bedding
An increasing number of cleaners and deodorizers for inside and outside the cage have launched in recent years. These include:
Natural Chemistry’s Healthy Habitat, and PureAyre’s Odor Eliminator, all-natural cleaner/deodorizer products that employ natural enzymes to eliminate pet odors and break down organic contaminants
• Cage Cleaner for Small Animals, Cage Odor Eliminator for Small Animals, and Small Animal Cage Scrubbing Wipes, all by Nature’s Miracle
Zoo Med’s Wipe Out, a small animal enclosure disinfectant, cleaner and deodorizer
• Marshall Pet Products’ 180XT Stain, Odor and Pheromone Remover, a concentrated, professional-strength cleaner that extracts urine and pheromones from upholstery, carpeting, fabrics and surfaces without masking the odor and stain
• Marshall’s GoodBye Odor, a supplement added to the pet’s food or water that curbs unpleasant cage aroma and deodorizes small animal body stool, urine and body odor
• Clean Cage Spray and Smellin’ Good Critter Spray Fragrance, both by Kaytee

While bedding is a staple, like bathroom tissue for humans, that you can count on for repeat sales, it’s important to bring awareness to litter products and related odor-control goods.

“There are some great ways retailers can merchandise small pet bedding, food and habitats together to make sure they are getting consumers to fill their basket while they are in the store,” Wasley said. “You have to change it up every once in a while. Highlight a new color, new mix or species-specific endcap that includes habitats and bedding.”

Patrick Roe, supervisor at Critter Cabana, an independent pet store with locations in Newberg and Wilsonville, Oregon, follows that advice.

“We offer discounted bundles for beginners that include an odor-control bedding product in the kit, and we keep our litter and cleaning products organized together on the shelf in the same section,” Roe said. “We also garner feedback from our customer on which products work better than others. We’ve found that brighter-colored bedding—which, because of their lighter colors might make them look cleaner—can actually appear dirtier and stained faster.”

Roe suggests partnering with manufacturers to promote particular brands in exchange for free product samples that store owners can use in their live animal cages. These can produce savings that add up quickly.

Educate the Customers
Consumers crave know-how and reassurance that the product will perform as advertised.

“Point-of-sale materials or videos showing how the product works is a good way for retailers to promote the product and differentiate it from all the other cleaning products on the shelves,” Juszczak said.

Don’t rely on brochures and video kiosks to educate customers; train your staff on how to instruct patrons about the need to clean cages and replace bedding at recommended intervals, depending on the species and presence of odor. Employees should remind clientele of the need to control room humidity, ventilate rooms and refrain from the use of harsh chemicals and aerosol air-freshening products or deodorizers in or near cages.

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