Cat Health and Safety in the Spotlight
Retailers report that owners are taking a deeper interest in their pets’ well-being, and they’re looking for health aids made specifically for cats.
As cat owners have become more educated on the needs of their pets, manufacturers and retailers have responded by producing and carrying more products just for cats.
The retailers that will be most successful in this category are those that are paying attention to the hot topic health concerns. While these issues continue to grow and expand, some of the big ones include urinary tract and kidney health, hairball prevention and digestive health. Cat owners are also a lot more interested in natural products such as herb and supplement treatments.
“We believe that cat owners are most concerned about how to keep their feline friends healthy without any adverse side effects,” said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist for Innovacyn Inc., maker of Vetericyn products, based in Rialto, Calif. “They want safe and effective products that will heal their cats without worry about other ingredients causing harm.”
Brad Solomon, co-founder of Prana Pets in Delray Beach, Fla., said the latest trend is cannabidiol (CBD) for cats. The demand for CBD is especially great for owners of cats with issues such as seizures, cancer, stomach trouble and joint problems, he said. Probiotics for cats are also increasingly in demand, Solomon noted.
One of the biggest game changers has been the ability of cat owners to hop on the internet and find out information about their cat’s health that perhaps even their veterinarian hasn’t told them, said Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe & Dog Store in Nashville, Tenn.
“The average cat owner is much more educated these days,” Achord said. “They’re coming in here with some concerns that they’ve already researched, and it’s our job to provide them with even more information.”
Achord said one of the main concerns she hears from cat owners is related to urinary health and cats’ diets. Most owners have already researched the fact that cats should not have a dry-food-only diet, but they are looking for more information about how to get more liquid into their cat’s diet, she said. Any additional information she can provide is highly valuable and helps build trust with her customers.
“One thing that often surprises customers is that they shouldn’t be using tap water,” Achord said. “Cats can smell the chlorine. They will drink a whole lot more if they receive filtered water in their bowl.”
Of course, cat owners also are interested in preventing problems, said Sheyla Simmers, assistant manager at Dogs & Cats Rule, which has locations in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
“I think today’s cat owners are being a lot more proactive,” Simmers said. “They’re not just waiting until their cat has a problem. They’re trying to prevent it with the right diet and products.”
Displaying Health Products
Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that there was a time when cat health products would get lost amongst all of the dog health products at her store.
“We used to keep supplements all together, but it was just too difficult for cat owners to pick out the ones specifically meant for cats,” Parsons said. “Now everything is in the cat aisle, and it’s easy for customers to find.”
Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist for Innovacyn Inc., maker of Vetericyn products, based in Rialto, Calif., agreed that having a cat health products section is important.
“I recommend grouping products made specifically for cat health together,” Mack said. “Many cat owners like knowing that a product is ‘specially made for cats’ rather than an all-animal product. They like to know that the product they may purchase is safe for felines because some cats can be very sensitive to certain ingredients.
“Adding interesting things to the shelf is always a good eye catcher as well,” she added. “Shelf danglers and before-and-after images are very striking to display.”
There’s no doubt that cat owners tend to be particular about purchasing products that are specifically made for cats. Any effort retailers can make to separate the category can help boost sales, said Michele Rohrig, brand manager, companion animal, for Manna Pro Products LLC, maker of Nutri-Vet products, based in Chesterfield, Mo.
“It’s important to remember that cats are not little dogs,” Rohrig said. “Many cat owners are very particular about only purchasing products made for cats. Giving cat owners a little extra attention can go a long way. Cat sections in the store or displays of cat-only products paired with educational material on cat health and safety are a good way to put the focus on cats and their owners.”
Brad Solomon, co-founder of Prana Pets in Delray Beach, Fla., added that blogging and e-newsletters are also important. Prana Pets likes to partner with retailers to strategize about online marketing tools, Solomon said.
“We are also strong believers in rewarding our existing customers with monthly promotional offers,” Solomon added. “We pass these promotions on to our retailer partners.”
Display and Supplement Introductions
This spring, Innovacyn Inc., based in Rialto, Calif., launched its Pet Wellness Display. The compact display contains a mixture of Vetericyn Plus products that work together for the overall health of animals, said Courtney Mack, marketing communications specialist. All products in the display are in the company’s smallest 3-ounce size. The display contains Vetericyn Plus Wound & Skin Care Liquid, Antimicrobial Hot Spot Gel, Ear Rinse, Eye Wash and Antimicrobial Ophthalmic Gel.
Prana Pets in Delray Beach, Fla., now offers CBD Oil for Pets, a safe, gentle and nutritive cannabidiol supplement for pets of all ages, said co-founder Brad Solomon. It is formulated to help with everything from healthy digestion to anxiety or even seizures, Solomon added.
Focus on Hot Topics
With a topic as broad as cat health and safety, it might be daunting for retailers to be educated on everything. But focusing on the hot topic issues is a good place to start.
There’s a lot of opportunity for retailers to educate consumers on the potential dangers that can exist even within one’s own home, said Michele Rohrig, brand manager, companion animal, for Manna Pro Products LLC, maker of Nutri-Vet products, based in Chesterfield, Mo. Everything from medications to electrical cords and even toxic plants and flowers can pose a risk to indoor cats.
“Retailers can educate customers on products like styptic powder, wound spray and eye rinse to create their own first-aid kits to keep at home,” Rohrig said. “Compare it to keeping a human first-aid kit. You may never need it, but it’s nice to have when you do.”
Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that the store’s cat adoption room is a great place for education. The store already uses many health and safety aids on its adoptable cats, and it opens up the door to conversation.
“Whether it’s cranberry pills for urinary health or a hairball remedy, we’re using these types of products on the cats we have available for adoption,” Parsons said. “That always ends up being a great place to start educating.”
At the The Cat Shoppe & Dog Store in Nashville, Tenn., owner Chris Achord said adoptable cats roam free in the store, interacting with customers. She said this opens up the possibility to educate.
“Shoppers are getting a hands-on experience with the adoptable cats here as they walk freely and interact with them,” Achord said. “Customers will ask what products we use or even see us use them.”