Nutrition and Hydration
There has been a surge of interest in waterers and feeders, especially products that are designed specifically to satisfy a cat’s comfort and health needs.
As with anything else, the latest trends in cat dishes, feeders and waterers seem to be driven by those products that offer something innovative and unique. Whether it’s a standard bowl that has been made in an oval shape so as to not interfere with a cat’s whiskers or something more advanced, such as a water fountain or a puzzle feeder, many of today’s cat owners are intrigued by products that offer something new or make their lives easier.
“Consumers are always looking beyond the retail door for innovation,” said Kim Goldsworthy, general manager of sales and marketing for Wellington, New Zealand-based Heyrex Ltd. “Pet parents seek innovation, especially where products are multifunctional or solve pet parent problems, such as having clean water with no spills in a travel-friendly capacity.”
Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs in Burlington, Mass., said that dog owners have always demanded that retailers supply a wide variety of feeding options, and the growing cat feeding category is mirroring that trend. That’s important, because cats actually can be more finicky about their feeding habits.
“The shape and depth of cat bowls is a really important feature to consumers,” George said. “Unlike dogs, cats can be picky about their feeding and watering ware. Oval-shaped bowls allow cats to eat and drink without their whiskers touching the rim.”
The growing interest in cat fountains and dishes is overdue, said Matt O’Leary, manager at Felix & Oscar in Springfield, Va. He said he has noticed increased interest in these products at his store and is happy to see these items get the attention they deserve.
“There is a real need for this kind of product,” O’Leary said. “There is more of an issue with cats and obesity today, and products that require a little bit of thought—such as a puzzle feeder—will help them burn off some of that energy as they work for their food.”
O’Leary noted that water fountains are getting more attention from customers as they begin to understand their value.
“Cats are attracted to moving water simply because of their natural instincts,” O’Leary said. “In the wild, stagnant water means bacteria. That’s why cats tend to love running faucets. Once cat parents understand what this product is, there’s a definite interest.”
A Display to Remember
Cross-merchandising and making sure to highlight innovative, new products are key merchandising strategies for boosting sales in the waterer and feeder category.
Gretchen George, president of PetRageous Designs in Burlington, Mass., reccommended that retailers cross-merchandise complementary products. For example, placemats can be easily merchandised with products in this category.
“Showcase bowls and feeders with coordinating placemats so that consumers can see a complete feeding section and picture how these items may work in their own home,” said Sarah Ercolani, owner of Fun Time Dog Shop in Dexter, Mich.
She said that using displays of new and exciting products often is what entices her higher-end customers to check out innovative products such as puzzle feeders or water fountains.
“While the high-end customer that wants the latest and greatest product only comprises about 30 percent of my customer base, it’s still worth rotating in those new products to satisfy their interest,” Ercolani said. “I will do a feature display in a prominent area to show off something new and innovative.”
And though customers might not always buy the product on the spot, Ercolani is showing her customers that she is keeping up with the latest in the industry. Kim Goldsworthy, general manager of sales and marketing for Wellington, New Zealand-based Heyrex Ltd., said that’s important in capturing an audience that views the retailer as an expert.
“Through offering lesser-known products on the market, retailers have an opportunity to talk to their customers and really sell them on the benefits of these new innovations,” Goldsworthy said. “Retailers need to be seen offering new products. They need to be vocal about what’s new, why they’re selling it and what makes it special.”
Last year, International Pet Group in Las Vegas introduced the Garfield Cat Fountain, designed to address both feline lower urinary tract disease and oral health concerns, said David Ezra, CEO. A Replacement Oral Care Kit is available for the fountain.
“Veterinarians tell us hydration is the key to help reduce FLUTD, and cats are naturally attracted to the sound of running water,” Ezra said. “Our oral care system, which is tasteless and odorless, is revolutionary in its delivery system and helps reduce plaque and tartar in a cat’s mouth while also promoting fresher breath.”
PetRageous Designs in Burlington, Mass., is offering several new cat bowls, as well as a new stoneware feeder and stainless steel feeder. The Cancun Cat Diner includes two brushed stainless steel, one-cup-capacity bowls in a powder-coated metal frame. It is accented by fish-shaped supports.
F.E.E.D. Co., based in Philadelphia, introduced the NoBowl Feeding System, the first indoor hunting system that satisfies a cat’s natural instinct to hunt, according to the company. It comes with a NoBowl Trainer (for the rookie hunter), five NoBowls and a portion filler. The NoBowls, which the cat owner fills with kibble, are shaped like mice and are designed to roll and move in the way a mouse or bird would. The complete feeding system replaces a cat’s bowl, allowing the cat to stalk, trap and play with its food, which satisfies its natural instincts.
Educating Consumers on Feeders and Waterers
When it comes to educating both staff and customers, David Ezra, CEO of International Pet Group in Las Vegas, said it’s critical that retailers understand the current needs and trends. With waterers and feeders, one such trend has focused on products that address feline lower urinary tract disease, one of the most common ailments affecting cats, Ezra said. Oral health is another key area of concern, as cleaning a cat’s mouth is challenging, he added.
“Always strive to provide high-quality solutions to consumers by knowing the current industry trends and issues facing specific species and breeds,” Ezra said.
Sarah Beene, category manager for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based Radio Systems Corp., said that waterers and feeders still have relatively low awareness, and consumers might not even realize such products are available. For this reason, education is critical.
“This category is a great educational opportunity,” Beene said. “Have a customer buying weight-management kibble? Ask them if they know that automatic feeders are a great way to make sure controlled portions are delivered on a reliable schedule.”
Loren Kulesus, designer and inventor at Catsby Inc. in New York, said that starting a simple conversation can pose the perfect educational opportunity.
“Starting out with something simple such as, ‘Did you know that a cat’s whiskers are extremely sensitive?’ is easy to understand but also hooks the consumer,” Kulesus said. “If they’re interested, then you can continue with the more technical side.”