Fulfill customers’ desires for top-quality small animal bedding, a regular staple in their pet care routine.
It might not be the most glamorous of products, but small animal bedding, or cage litter, is a daily necessity for hamsters, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, ferrets and other small mammals.
“Small pet owners are realizing more and more how much time their companions spend in their bedding,” said Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow Animal Health in Murdock, Neb. “For some pets, this can be all or most of the day. With this in mind, discerning pet owners are paying attention to which type of bedding material they choose for their pets.”
Manufacturers also are catering to customers’ desires for quality bedding that fulfills its primary purposes: making the cage comfortable and helping to absorb spills and waste.
“Our American Pet Green Dreamzzz premium eco-friendly bedding creates an enriching, healthy environment for small pets,” said Heidi Casdorph, special projects/education manager for Eureka, Nev.-based American Pet. “It is 99.9 percent dust free, absorbs odors quickly, is easy to clean up and is great for the environment.”
Oxbow’s Pure Comfort bedding line features similar attributes.
“Pure Comfort consists of 100 percent never-printed paper to provide a pure bedding material that is soft, hygienic and safe for all pets,” Stock said. “Pure Comfort comes in three varieties—white, natural and our Oxbow blend—and is purity tested to ensure pet safety and product purity.”
The product also is dust free, which many small animal owners prefer, said Lauren Gephart, an employee at Norco, Calif.-based Linda’s Feed and Supplies.
“Paper pellets are less dusty, and customers like that,” Gephart said. “The paper also is absorbent and easy to replace in the cage.”
Consumers are seeking out bedding and litter products that are safe, environmentally friendly and effective, and they are willing to pay a premium for them, said Rich Whiting, vice president of sales and marketing for American Wood Fibers in Columbia, Md. “All-natural products, especially those labeled as tested and not containing toxins such as dioxin (all AWF brand products meet this standard), are gaining market share over sludge based, reclaimed pulp and recycled paper products that have routinely tested positive for such toxins,” he added.
Retailers have started selling small animal bedding items, including paper pellets, in bulk to pass savings along to customers—and offer convenience.
“We sell them in 40-pound bags,” said Gephart, who also noted that wood shavings, specifically aspen or bleached pine, remain popular with customers. “People come in every so often to pick up a big bag for their small animal pets.”
Customers at Horizon Pet Supply in Wildomar, Calif., also can buy bulk-sized bags of cage bedding. The store regularly receives a supply of timothy hay from Lucky Bunny Rabbit Rescue, a local satellite of the House Rabbit Society, and the bags are in high demand among rabbit owners.
“We have return customers who come in every month for the hay,” said Horizon Pet Supply employee Amanda Lee. “They use it as cage bedding, and the bunnies nibble on it, too.”
The trend toward buying in bulk has captured manufacturers’ attention.
American Pet’s Casdorph said that quality and value remain top demands among small animal owners. In response, American Pet recently introduced larger sizes of some of its more popular small animal products.
The new packaging also will feature more educational content, Casdorph added, noting that education about the requirements of these small pets is essential for both customers and store employees.
“Make sure you educate your employees about small animal care,” she said. “Quality really matters.”
Sell With Samples
To demonstrate the comfort and quality of small animal bedding, Oxbow’s Stock recommends letting small animal owners test a sample bag.
“We encourage retailers to open a bag, allowing customers to feel the difference,” he said. “With more and more pet owners factoring their pets’ comfort into their bedding decision, this can be a key selling point.”
Pet retailers can receive a sample bag for this purpose by contacting their Oxbow representative, Stock said, noting that small animal bedding remains a key item for small animal owners as cited in the most recent APPA National Pet Owners Survey.
“Bedding, along with nesting and litter [materials], leads the small animal care item category in both recent purchases (past 12 months) as well as a product that pet owners plan to purchase in the next 12 months,” he said. “This shows that bedding is viewed as an essential purchase for many pet owners and should be a focus for retailers.”
The category of small animal bedding includes more than just cage floor covering. The classification also applies to soft materials in which small animals can burrow.
“Sometimes ‘bedding’ and ‘nesting materials’ can be confused,” said Sonia Wertz, sales and customer service manager for Napa, Calif.-based Lixit Corp. “Some people think of bedding as the litter that goes on the bottom of the cage. Others think of the cotton and paper that pets build their ‘nests’ in.”
Lixit Corp.’s Cozy Nest cotton pads and Puffs So Perfect cotton bedding fosters a small animal’s instinct to burrow.
“The soft cotton bedding material works well with hamsters and the smaller-sized critters,” said Lauren Gephart, an employee at Linda’s Feed and Supplies in Norco, Calif. “They dig around in it to create a little nest to sleep in. It’s definitely not the same as cage litter.”
Manufacturers also offer cage litter meant to be used for potty training, allowing a small animal owner to encourage the use of a designated area in the habitat for elimination.
“Small animals definitely can be potty trained,” said Heather Couch, an employee at Kahoots, a retailer with several stores in Southern California. “Watch to see where the pet goes to the bathroom, then put the potty litter in that corner. You can also add a litter pan to contain this type of litter.”
Many companies offer litter pans and potty-training litter for small animal habitats, including Kaytee, Super Pet, Lixit and Ware Manufacturing. As with all types of products, educating staff about the features of such products is key.—SNH