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June 1, 2016

Summer has arrived and that means cats are going to want to be outdoors at least part of the time—even more so than usual. Letting cats outside has some risks, but there are safe ways to allow cats outdoors. Plus, it can help alleviate behavioral problems and promote good health. Retailers should be aware of solutions and have the ability to make recommendations to keep cats safe when they’re outdoors by stocking up on plenty of cat harnesses, natural approaches to pest control, outdoor enclosures and even cat-proof fencing.

Outdoor Fun and Safety

Cat enclosures (a.k.a. “catios”) and fencing can go a long way toward protecting indoor cats who want to prowl a backyard. Companies like Purr…fect Fence now allow consumers to screen off a porch with nearly invisible fencing, install freestanding fencing to enclose an entire backyard, or add fencing to an existing fence in order to make it cat-proof.

For those who choose not to fence their yard, a free-standing enclosure may work best. Companies like Habitat Haven and C&D Pets offer enclosure kits that can be ordered online or stocked neatly in larger stores.
While stocking fencing or entire enclosures may prove challenging in a small brick & mortar store, there are plenty of other options.

KittyWalk, KritterKommunity, and Cats On Deck all offer a vast array of portable kits that are easily folded up and stored away when not in use.

Despite hailing from the desert, cats are very susceptible to heatstroke and precautions should be taken when installing or using any outdoor shelter. Shade should always be provided throughout the day.

The Green Pet Shop Self Cooling Pet Pad helps solve the problem of overheated cats. The pads require no refrigeration and are self-activated by weight. Cats love them because they offer gentle, long-term cooling that fits naturally with a cat’s comfort level.

“The Cool Pet Pad is a great product for both cats and dogs, especially during the summer/warm seasons,” said Brian Wright, vice president of The Green Pet Shop. “Even though cats typically tend to gravitate toward warmth (which is one of the reasons we’ve also brought on the Achy Paws Warming Mats), the cooling pads offer a cool sensation for your cat to help prevent overheating and dehydration. As the spring and summer season approaches, your cat needs this safe and reliable solution to protect itself from the heat.”

Specialty cat harnesses are all the rage in the cat world, and most cats adjust to their wear quickly and easily. Crazy K Farms offer a Velcro close on their walking vests for cats, while Sturdi Products offers vests that use a snapping closure. Petsafe also offers a unique line of harnesses specifically designed for cats.

Pest Control

While enclosures can protect cats from escape or large predators like coyotes, there are other risks that need to be considered. Stocking up on pest control items is an important consideration. Beyond a cat’s monthly heartworm protection, stores should have a variety of safe, natural pest control items at the ready.

“When formulating Wondercide Natural Flea & Tick Control for Pets + Home, we knew it needed to be safe and effective for cats,” said Stephanie Boone, Wondercide CEO. ”To do this, our cedar oil is steam-distilled and tested to ensure all phenolic compounds have been removed, providing a safe, pesticide-free and non-toxic solution for unwanted fleas and ticks for our cats and other pets.”

Natural Chemistry, which has been acquired by Muntech, also has an extensive line of natural flea and tick products.

“While fleas themselves are irritating, some cats may even be allergic to the saliva they contain, which can result in a hypersensitivity reaction and more discomfort for your pet,” reports their website. “Natural Chemistry Pet provides a full line of flea products to help provide relief and treatment for your furry friend!”

Despite our best efforts, the occasional tick may find its way onto a pet. That’s where the Tick Releaser Spray and Test Kit from Marshall Pet Products will provide security for owners.

“The number of people who have contracted Lyme disease has increased two-fold, leading consumers to seek out solutions to help protect them against this disease,” said Linda Cope, global marketing manager for Marshall Pet Products. “Our Tick Release Spray uses all-natural essential oils to encourage the tick to quickly release itself from you or your pet. Once it has disengaged, simply drop it into a vial that is included in the Tick Release Packet and mail it in for testing. Our laboratories will test for up to seven tick-borne diseases, including Anaplasma, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Lyme disease, Bartonella, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Tularemia.”

Each kit includes an all-natural releaser spray, tweezers, a collection tube, an alcohol prep pad and a mail-in testing order form. Testing fees range from $25 for three tests to $65 for all seven tests.

Food and water should always be provided when cats are outdoors, but that can often result in ant invasions. These days, there are a number of specialty bowls available to keep ants and bugs from entering a cat’s outdoor area. Sprinkling food-grade diatomaceous earth (DE) around a cat’s food and water bowls will often keep ants at bay. There is no need to stock large bags of this bulky item and take up precious shelf space. The Diatomaceous Earth Dust from DERMagic is available in handy “sprinkle jars” that are attractive and very simple to stock.

The Mote food bowl is an ant-proof bowl available for dogs and cats. The Antster is another method for keeping ants away and it doubles as a universal feeding platform.

Despite the popularity of cats, not everyone welcomes the idea of outdoor cats and you’ll likely have plenty of people wander into your store asking how to repel feral and stray cats from their yards and gardens. This also provides a unique opportunity to cross-sell yard supplies.

America’s Finest organic cat repellent is one of the more popular all-natural repellents on the market and is available in a 3.5 lb. shaker bag. The active ingredients include dried blood, garlic, cedar, rosemary, peppermint and citronella oils. It’s safe for outdoor use and organic gardens as it contains no dangerous chemicals and actually trains cats to stay out of yards.

No matter what you choose to carry in your store, it’s important to be aware of the safety needs of cats in the great outdoors and make recommendations based on what is best for each individual cat.

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