Contained Yet Comfy
Offer kennels, crates and carriers with features that make pets feel cozy and secure.
Dog and cat crate and carrier designers are increasingly focusing on the aesthetics of these products, according to manufacturers, who say pet owners want options that are both functional and attractive in the home.
“There seems to be a focus on safety and functionality, as well as creating designs that fit more seamlessly into the home,” said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago. “This is fantastic because it means more options for pet parents aesthetically as well as better providing for the specific needs of the pet.”
According to Julie Huthmaker, CEO of Clearly Loved Pets in West Palm Beach, Fla., some pet owners want to get away from traditional pens and crates. This trend is especially strong with millennials, she said.
Huthmaker noted that owners who need to keep their pets contained, such as at night or while they are away at work, want their animals to feel comfortable, not caged.
“They feel guilty about it and want their pets to have more room to move around and feel less caged in,” she said.
Huthmaker also pointed out that people spend a lot of time and money making their homes beautiful and want a crate that will look good.
“So often the dog crate is stuck somewhere out of sight, like a laundry room or bedroom, away from the people the dog wants to be with,” she said.
Carriers that Offer Comfort
Last year, Petmate introduced two cat carriers designed and developed with feline behaviorist Jackson Galaxy: the Two Door Top Load Carrier and the Double Extend Carrier. The carriers are designed to reduce stress and create a comfortable space for cats when traveling, said Courtney Landry, director of the hard goods division for Petmate in Arlington, Texas.
The Two Door Top Load Carrier is a classic carrier with two points of entry that make it easier for a cat to enter and exit. The carrier is also easy to clean for pet owners, and it comes in two colors: berried glitter and blue glitter. The Double Extend Carrier has multiple entry and exit points. The five points of entry and double expanding sides provide more room for cats to lounge and feel safe when traveling, Landry said.
In the past couple of years, Prevue Pet Products in Chicago has been focused on growing the company’s cat home and furniture lines, said Jason Savitt, president. Prevue recently released two different size cat homes: deluxe and premium.
“The cages are designed with no gaps or pinch points, and they are safe and comfortable for cats and kittens recovering from an injury or illness, needing extra protection from other family pets or having issues being left alone,” Savitt said. “These homes allow cats to sit up high and survey the room, all while making them feel safe and protected. These cages have also helped cats that like to hide to be more social because they feel safe.”
Gen7Pets in Elverson, Pa., recently unveiled the Carry-Me Sleeper, a two-in-one bed and carrier designed for pets weighing 20 pounds or less, said Nancy Shadlow, vice president of marketing.
“As more people are traveling with their pets, there’s a need for a comfortable, familiar place for the pet to sleep as well,” she said. “The default is having the pet sleeping with the parents, but that can disrupt sleep. Rather than bringing a separate bed, the Carry-Me Sleeper serves as the bed and carrier. Multifunction means one less thing to worry about.”
Educating and guiding pet owners in the crate and carrier category is essential, according to manufacturers and retailers.
“Being able to listen to the needs of your customer and provide the proper advice and product recommendations is the major advantage brick-and-mortar retailers have over online stores,” said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago.
Pet owner education is important in this category, in particular, because of the functional nature of the products and the need for pets to be trained to properly use them, according to retailers.
“We offer crate training tips for those looking for a crate,” said Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas. “Some customers also don’t know how big of a crate to get, so we recommend proper sizing. You don’t want it too big because the pet is more inclined to make a mess in it. You also don’t want it too small, especially if the pet is going to be in it for several hours.”
For customers looking for a crate they can take on a plane, Redwine recommends they go to the airline’s website to get specifications.
“Even if a product says it’s airline approved, you’ll want to make sure with each airline, because their standards vary,” she said.
Janene Zakrajsek, co-owner of Pussy & Pooch Pethouse and Pawbar, which has stores in Southern California, agreed that training is vital.
“It’s important that clients are made aware of tips and tricks to get their dogs and cats acclimated to a new crate or carrier,” she said. “It’s never a good idea to purchase a carrier and travel immediately. The pet needs time to feel relaxed and comfortable being confined in a new carrier to create a positive travel experience.”
According to Cyndi Wells, owner of Pet Pangaea in Los Alamos, N.M., consumer education is key for success when selling crates or carriers.
“In addition to demonstrating the features of the particular product, we are obliged to talk about the training involved with crates, for the health and safety of their pet,” she said.
“Unfortunately, clients do not often realize how easy it can be for a pet to chew its way out of a crate,” Wells added. “In certain situations, we may even discourage the purchase of a crate because it is not the right fit for their situation. Instead of purchasing a crate, for example, in the case of severe separation anxiety, we may encourage our client to pursue professional behavior modification training and provide a list of local resources. Or, if they mention the reason for the crate is sudden incontinence, we may check to see if they sought veterinary care for their pet to check for medical issues.”
Wells added that sometimes, the perfect purchase is no purchase.
“If we have helped that client with their pet and situation, we have done our duty, and our relationship will be strengthened for the future,” she said.
Calling Attention to Crates and Carriers
When it comes to marketing crates and carriers, tapping into people’s lifestyles and values is critical, said Nancy Shadlow, vice president of marketing for Gen7Pets in Elverson, Pa.
“For example, when it comes to travel, people still prioritize themselves first,” she said. “It’s why so many purchases around travel with pets still happen on the way to the airport or at the beginning of the car trip. Ask pet families to consider what lifestyle decisions mean for their furry family member. Market yourself as the voice of the pet.”
Courtney Landry, director of the hard goods division for Petmate in Arlington, Texas, recommended integrating videos onto product detail pages online, in email newsletters or through social media marketing campaigns.
“This helps consumers make informed purchase decisions when researching a specific product or looking for information for an upcoming trip that includes their pets,” she said.
Landry also recommended more traditional tactics, such as in-store signage and retail training literature or videos.
“These also help the employees who are directly interacting with consumers feel well educated on these products so they can assist them in-store,” she said.