Choice Is Good
Manufacturers offer new options for discerning cat owners with a range of litterbox priorities.
Controlling dust, eliminating odors and improving cats’ health—these issues continue to inspire manufacturers to introduce improved litter products. Retailers reported that their customers welcome new innovations that simplify cleaning the litterbox, as well as those that make for a healthier litterbox environment.
“We choose litter largely based on customer demand,” said Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C. “We find that customers all have different priorities when it comes to litter, so it’s important to offer a broad range of products to fit different needs.
Still, top priorities with cat litter continue to be high performance and convenience, manufacturers reported.
“Everyone is busy and no one wants to spend time cleaning the litterbox,” said Jean Broders, brand manager for Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter, in Muscatine, Iowa. “Also, odor control is mandatory—in fact, it’s not even considered when shopping for a cat litter. Consumers assume all litters have effective odor control.”
Cat owners have other demands as well when it comes to the litterbox, said Gina Zaro, marketing director for Precious Cat Inc. in Englewood, Colo.
“Consumers want a litter that is low dust, hard clumping, low tracking and has good odor control—those things are constant,” she said.
When a cat litter performs well in these key categories, retailers see repeat business. World’s Best Cat Litter remains popular with customers at Horizon Pet Supply in Wildomar, Calif.
“Customers who have tried it have been happy with how it performs,” said store associate Amanda Lee. “We’ve had good feedback.”
Pet owners also seek out earth-friendly litters, said Jane Wasley, brand manager for Healthy Pet, maker of Ökocat litter, in Ferndale, Wash.
“Biodegradable and flushable, Ökocat is free of clay or silica, which allows it to degrade quickly and cleanly (unlike clay litters that sit in landfills for years),” Wasley said.
Customers continue to look for products that will contribute to their pets’ overall good health, and manufacturers are responding.
“We, as animal lovers, always are looking for more healthful alternatives when it comes to litter,” said Shannon Supanich, media and public relations manager for Pioneer Pet in Cedarburg, Wis. “We also are looking for more natural products that work.”
Natural litters can contribute to reduced health issues associated with the litterbox, but silica litters can offer health benefits, too, said Daniel Rotman, founder and CEO of Los Angeles-based Pretty Litter.
“Silica is a naturally occurring mineral and does not pose a threat if a cat licks it off its paws,” he said. “Silica litters have the highest absorbency rates of all odors, making odor control [with silica litters] the best.”
What’s New in Cat Litter
Recognizing the varied priorities of owners when it comes to cat litter, manufacturers continue to introduce innovations in the category. Lucy Pet Products of Thousand Oaks, Calif., debuted Cats Incredible litter at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March.
Working with The Dow Chemical Co. in Midland, Mich., Lucy Pet Products created a new formula that “stops ammonia from forming in the litterbox,” said Joey Herrick, president of Lucy Pet Products. “The unique two-handled bag with a built-in spout makes it easy for the owner to hold and pour.”
“With our patent-pending, nontoxic solution, cat owners and their pets will not be exposed to high levels of unpleasant ammonia odors,” said Andre Argenton, Dow’s global research and development director for performance materials and chemicals. “Dow’s solution inhibits ammonia from occurring in cat litterboxes.”
Also unveiled at Global Pet Expo was Neon Litter by Ultra Pet Co. of Anderson, S.C.
“This is a litter designed to meet the needs of millennial and gen-Xer cat owners to satisfy their requirements of fun, functionality and personalization,” said Tom Atyeo, vice president of marketing. “Neon Litter comes in three bright colors: neon pink, neon green and neon orange.”
To make litter easier to pour, Pioneer Pet of Cedarburg, Wis., now sells SmartCat Lightweight Clumping Litter.
The new formula “is 99 percent dust free, has outstanding clumps and has amazing odor control,” said Shannon Supanich, media and public relations manager.
Precious Cat of Englewood, Colo., recently introduced Health Monitor Everyday Litter to help cat owners catch potential health problems with their cats, said marketing director Gina Zaro.
Another diagnostic litter product new to the market is Pretty Litter.
“The early-detection health-monitoring litter changes colors when it detects certain health issues in your cat,” said Daniel Rotman, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles company. “Through Pretty Litter, we can be alerted to an issue early.”
Cat Litter Display and Promotion
“We sell Integrity Natural Cat Litter, and our store cats use the multicat formula,” said Carrie Clark, store associate at Linda’s Feed and Supplies in Norco, Calif. “It works really well with them, and I use it with my own cats at home.”
Such personal experience is a strong marketing tool, said Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C.
“We encourage our associates to share their own experiences with different litters to help educate our customers,” she said. “Because people have extremely specific needs when it comes to these products, we find that one-on-one conversations have better results than shelf talkers and POPs.”
Jean Broders, brand manager for Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter, in Muscatine, Iowa, agreed, adding that cat owners likely will believe the advice given by cat-owning employees. She also encourages store owners to use litter products with their store cats, as at Linda’s Feed and Supplies.
“The consumer will be able to … see for themselves how effectively the litter works,” Broders said, noting that Kent Pet Group offers a video that demonstrates the features of World’s Best Cat Litter. “The video explains in a creative, captivating way how the product works. It serves as the ‘silent salesperson’ at the shelf.”
Another way to allow customers to see how a litter works firsthand is to display a small pan of it in the store.
“Put it out so consumers can touch and feel it,” said Shannon Supanich, media and public relations manager for Pioneer Pet in Cedarburg, Wis. “Allow them to try it for themselves.”
Above all, retailers should keep in mind that customers have specific needs that can vary depending on an individual cat’s preferences. Gina Zaro, marketing director for Precious Cat Inc. in Englewood, Colo., recommends creating an endcap display that highlights the varied features of different litters.
“They want a litter that can fulfill the particular needs of their cat,” she said. “Having them displayed to meet each particular need is helpful.”
Educating the Consumer About Cat Litter
Cat owners tend to know what they want and why they want it when it comes to products such as cat litter. For new owners and those hoping to solve litterbox issues, however, staff members should be prepared to answer a range of questions.
“Cat owners are very educated, and they want retailers to be able to provide additional knowledge that will help them find solutions,” said Gina Zaro, marketing director for Precious Cat Inc. in Englewood, Colo. “It is important for retailers to know the needs and demographic of their consumer base so they can provide the best education.”
Key issues include clumping properties, litter formulations and odor control, among others, industry sources reported.
“Customers’ No. 1 concern with litter is that their cats will be attracted to it and will use it, of course,” said Laura Clark, co-owner of Wylie Wagg, which has stores in Virginia and Washington, D.C. “The second concern is odor.”
Customers rely on store employees to help them find litter products that will control odors. At Linda’s Feed and Supplies in Norco, Calif., employees share their personal experiences and test new products in the store with the store’s resident cats.
“You can’t smell the litterbox, and our customers notice that,” said Carrie Clark, store associate. “I’m very picky, and I use the product we sell—Integrity Natural Cat Litter—with my own cats. It also clumps well and does not track—issues that are important to our customers.”
Manufacturers recommend that store employees become familiar with the formulations of the litters on the shelves.
“Consumers should know that all cat litters are not created equal,” said Jean Broders, brand manager for Kent Pet Group, maker of World’s Best Cat Litter, in Muscatine, Iowa. “Meaning, all cat litters don’t perform the same … Litters with effective odor control eliminate the odor naturally. They don’t need strong perfumes or chemicals to do the job.”
Store owners need to be equipped with information that they can pass along to their staff and, ultimately, to the consumer, said Jane Wasley, brand manager for Healthy Pet, maker of Ökocat litter, in Ferndale, Wash.
“Promoting a high-performance yet natural cat litter option—that is more healthful for the home and our planet—will elevate the level of care in the recommendations you are making each and every day,” Wasley said.
Because a cat spends a significant amount of time digging in the litterbox, owners might be concerned about what their cats are inhaling. The new formula of Cats Incredible cat litter reduces the amount of ammonia a cat inhales, said Joey Herrick, president of Lucy Pet Products in Thousand Oaks, Calif.
“Our chief veterinary officer, Dr. Karen Halligan, said that ammonia inhalation in the litterbox can impact a cat’s respiratory health,” he said. “Our new formula helps prevent ammonia inhalation in cats.”
Diagnostic Cat Litter
Cats instinctually hide their symptoms of illness—sometimes until it is too late for their owners to help them. Such was the case with the founders of Pretty Litter.
“We lost a cat to a feline illness and were frustrated by our inability to monitor her health,” said Daniel Rotman, founder and CEO of the Los Angeles company. “We want to empower cat owners as the caretakers of our little ones, so we created Pretty Litter.”
The lightweight silica litter changes color when the formula identifies certain elements in the urine, Rotman said, adding that only a veterinarian can diagnose an illness.
“However, Pretty Litter can alert cat owners to abnormal levels of alkaline and acidity in a cat’s urine … it also can detect blood in the urine and bilirubin, which might be an indication of a liver issue.”
Precious Cat Inc. of Englewood, Colo., recently introduced a diagnostic litter product, Health Monitor Everyday Litter.
The litter allows cat owners to “weigh 24 hours of your cat’s urine [clumps] with the digital scale enclosed in the box,” said Gina Zaro, marketing director. “Increased urine production can be an early sign of kidney compromise, diabetes or hyperthyroidism.”
Another diagnostic product, Ultra Monthly Monitor, helps cat owners check the pH level of their pets’ urine.
“Monthly Monitor is designed to be poured on top of almost any litter,” said Tom Atyeo, vice president of marketing for Anderson, S.C.-based Ultra Pet Co. “The cat parent checks the color at the urination point and compares it with a card provided in every bag.”
Like with Pretty Litter, the Ultra Monthly Monitor packaging advises owners to seek veterinary care if they notice any abnormalities.
“If the color spot indicates a low pH or high pH, the pet parent is directed to contact a veterinarian,” Atyeo said.
This article originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Pet Product News.