Cat Furniture Sales With a Flourish
Eye-catching materials, innovative configurations and easily portable designs make cat furniture and activity centers more attractive to pet owners.
Placing a cat tree in a home is a commitment—of both money and space. For that reason, pet owners look for cat furniture and activity centers that offer quality and stability while blending seamlessly with other home décor.
“They want to know that an investment piece like a large piece of cat furniture is going to last,” said Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development for Worldwise Inc. in Novato, Calif. “They expect it to perform well, but they also want it to look nice and be an extension of the furniture in the home.”
To that end, manufacturers continue to introduce updated designs, new configurations and movable products that meet a range of needs for both cats and their owners. Looking at the category with fresh vision also meets the demand for other growing trends in the furniture and activity center category: versatility, innovation and portability.
“Cats get bored easily with the same toys,” said Jenna Click, marketing manager for Papercut Lab of Milpitas, Calif. To alleviate this boredom, owners can move the company’s Katris system of modular cat furniture into different configurations to re-stimulate their cats’ interest in the units, Click said.
A similar philosophy inspired the Ripple Rug from SnugglyCat Inc. in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y.
“The Ripple Rug can be changed constantly, making new hideouts every day,” said president Fred Ruckel.
Still, with cats being cats, the staff at Natural Pet Food and Supplies in Temecula, Calif., advises customers to be patient if a cat doesn’t seem interested in a new cat tree or activity center right away. After all, a piece of cat furniture can be a large investment.
“To attract the cat to the furniture, the owner can spray it with catnip spray, or feed the cat on top of one of the levels, so the cat associates it with pleasant experiences,” said Annette Merrifield, assistant manager. “If they already have a cat tree at home, we recommend that they place the new one next to the old one until the cat is used to the new product.”
Some activity-based products encourage playtime while eating. LuLu & Luigi, which has stores in Minnesota, offers the Aikiou Stimulo Cat Interactive Feeder.
“Cats are very intelligent, but some are notorious for eating their food too quickly,” said owner Laura T. Bednarczyk. “This will stimulate them and help slow down their feeding, which promotes overall good health.”
New to the Category
Modular, mobile cat furniture systems that allow cat owners to customize and transform their pets’ play areas represent some of the newest innovations in the cat furniture segment. The Ripple Rug by SnugglyCat Inc. in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y., and Katris modular cat furniture by Papercut Lab of Milpitas, Calif., both have new products with these qualities.
SnugglyCat Inc. recently introduced the Ripple Rug cat activity mat to “meet all five pillars of a healthful feline environment,” said Fred Ruckel, president. “It acts as a bed, play space, hideout, scratching place, grooming station and much more.”
Ruckel said he designed the Ripple Rug to fit into the lifestyle and home of any cat owner. The activity mat can be moved into any open space and can be folded up and stored when necessary, he noted.
The Katris system of modular scratchers also was designed to fit in with a cat owner’s décor.
“We wanted to … combine functionality for cats with functionality for humans,” said Jenna Click, marketing manager. “We invented cat scratch condos that are also multifunctional shelves to be used by cats or humans.”
Next month, Papercut Lab will introduce Katris Lynks, small scratching pads that can be added to the company’s system of modular stacking scratchers.
“The Katris Lynks, sold in sets of two, plus a new wall mount to hang our Katris blocks to the wall, will be officially introduced and sold this summer,” Click said.
Worldwise Inc. of Novato, Calif., offers the Petlinks Dream Curl multisurface cat scratcher with catnip toy.
The product incorporates “materials that pet parents seek out and are familiar with,” said Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development, adding that it features “cozy and inviting textures that complement home décor and cater to a cat’s instincts.”
Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., released its V-Playstation line of kitten furniture as well as the V-Box line at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March.
“Both of these Vesper lines incorporate the design and functionality aspects of our current Vesper line,” said Damian Hall, senior marketing manager.
“The Vesper line of furniture is designed to fit into a variety of home décor settings—these pieces no longer have to be hidden in the corner or tucked away,” he added. “Vesper pieces are meticulously designed to provide cats with a variety of scratching, resting and interactive options and fit into nearly any living room.”
Consumer Education in Cat Furniture
When it comes to lounging and playing, not all cats take the same approach—so not all cat furniture fits the needs of every cat. That’s why the employees at Natural Pet Food and Supplies ask many questions about a customer’s pets. These inquiries help the staff determine how many cats are in the home, how old the cats are and how well they get along, said Annette Merrifield, assistant manager of the Temecula, Calif., store.
“For example, if the cats aren’t best buddies, a cat tree with multiple levels or two separate, smaller trees may work better for a customer,” Merrifield said, noting that the goal is to find the best fit for the customer.
That sentiment is echoed by Fred Ruckel, president of SnugglyCat Inc. in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y.
“It’s more important to sell a customer what they actually need as opposed to what makes money for the store,” he said. “If you educate your customer, they will trust your guidance.”
Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development for Novato, Calif.-based Worldwise Inc., encourages retailers to discuss cats’ scratching behavior with customers shopping for cat furniture.
“It is essential to know that not all cats like to scratch the same things or the same way,” she said. “Consumers need to observe their cat’s behavior and find the right fit.”
When chatting with customers, retailers also can share information about the different types of cat furniture and activity centers. Some of the features to discuss include quality of materials, the environmentally friendly potential of the products and the versatility of the products.
“We live in an environmentally conscious world, so it’s wise to choose [cat furniture] that lasts longer and does not create a lot of waste,” said Jenna Click, marketing manager of Papercut Lab, maker of Katris products, in Milpitas, Calif. “Toys and trees that you can easily change up to create new and exciting kinds of exposure for your cats are best.”
Displaying and Promoting Cat Furniture
One of the best ways to promote the unique features of cat furniture and activity centers is to display the pieces throughout the store.
“Cat furniture should be assembled in the store so the consumer can easily get a sense of the size, stability, features and benefits the unit has to offer,” said Aimee Diskin, director of innovation and product development for Worldwise Inc. in Novato, Calif. “Even if the item is shipped unassembled or in a box, it’s important to have at least one example on display for consumers to see and touch.”
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp. in Mansfield, Mass., agreed.
“Consumers need to be able to touch and feel the products; they need to see the true finish and colors,” he said. “We need to think of these items as décor pieces in our homes. Would we want to purchase a new sofa without seeing it and feeling it?”
Manufacturers also recommend setting up a video center near the product display. Fred Ruckel, president of SnugglyCat Inc. in the Catskill Mountains, N.Y., offers free technical support to help retailers set up such an area.
“We make a monthly video of cats around the Internet playing with the Ripple Rug,” he said. “We encourage the use of the Internet to sell in-store.”
Jenna Click, marketing manager for Papercut Lab, maker of Katris products in Milpitas, Calif., encourages retailers to share videos on their store website.
“Having a one- or two-page brochure about the trees with easy website links to more information is also great,” she said.
Theresa’s Country Feed & Pet in Simi Valley, Calif., uses several Internet avenues to let customers know about store sales and new products.
“We advertise and promote via … Facebook, email broadcasts and our website,” said Steve Shalhoob, general manager.
The store also hosts cat and dog adoptions every day and has a good track record in finding new homes for homeless pets.
“We have placed more than 60 cats and kittens in forever homes in less than four months,” Shalhoob said. “With every pet adoption, we provide a starter kit including food, toys and supplies, along with some deep discount coupons for future use.”
Special events—such as adoption fairs—can bring new customers into the store and encourage regular customers to visit more often. Retailers can then take the opportunity to introduce the pet owners to new products.
“Inviting manufacturers to come to the store and hold a weekend demo event might be useful,” Click said, noting that live demonstrations are a great way to promote cat furniture and activity centers.
Harnesses and Leashes for Outdoor Activities
Cat owners looking for ways to help their cats stay active might choose to take their pets for walks. Such owners need harnesses and leashes designed specifically for cats, and most look for certain features, manufacturers reported.
“Consumers consistently want safe, dependable, durable and machine-washable products that are designed for a cat’s unique anatomy,” said Penny Johnson, CEO of Sturdi Products in Gig Harbor, Wash.
Johnson noted that harnesses in particular must be designed for a cat’s anatomy.
“Consumers are becoming more aware that cat and dog products are not all interchangeable.”
Harnesses made to fit the unique physiology of a cat offer additional benefits, including comfort for the cat.
“Comfort and security are paramount,” said Tobi Kosanke, president of Crazy K Farm in Hempstead, Texas. “A cat is much more likely to accept a lightweight, comfortable harness.”
To that end, Crazy K Farm makes its Kitty Holster cat harness out of soft cotton cloth with strong Velcro closures.
Fit also plays a strong role in a cat’s acceptance of a harness, and one style of harness might fit better on an individual cat than another.
“The type of harness you use on your cat makes all the difference in regards to their safety and comfort,” said Mandie Sweetnam, product manager for toys and behavior for the PetSafe brand of Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn. “Retailers should educate their staff on the differences so they are able to relay the message to consumers when they approach them for advice.”
This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Pet Product News.