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Sizzling Stock: Cat Litter

Posted: July 6, 2012, 2:15 p.m. EDT


Put Cat Litter Sales in the Bag
Keeping up with what’s new and meeting customer demand means retailers can help grow their consumables sales.
By Sandi Cain

New varieties of cat litter continue to hit the market in an ongoing effort to please fastidious felines and discerning owners. When it comes to cat litter, those who have to clean up after cats report wanting specific things from these products.

In the most extreme cases, owners actually give up their pets because of issues related to waste management. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, 10 percent of cats have elimination issues. And a National Council on Pet Population Study said those issues rank among the top 10 reasons owners relinquish their cats to shelters.

Cat litter
Stocking different types of litters in a variety of sizes can appeal to both single- and multi-cat owners. Sherri L. Collins/Bowtie Inc. at PetStop Warehouse
However, most consumers prefer to keep their pets and continue to try new variations of litter that promise to be attractive to cats, reduce tracking, control odor and that are dust-free. Add in the recent consumer trend toward a desire for more natural and eco-friendly products, and the variety of products is quite deep and broad. Consumers have litter choices that range from recycled paper, wood chips, or nutshells to wheat, corn and soybeans.

Nature’s Method
Natural litter solutions hitting the market this year feature new scents that tap into the human spa culture. Mitchell Bearg, owner of Bow Wow Meow in San Francisco, said his shop has moved away from clay-based litter.

Recently, litters that contain corn, wheat or green tea, or those such as World’s Best Litter’s lavender-scented product, are perceived as environmentally friendly by customers and are the better sellers, Bearg stated, adding that he also carries the new Pet Loo with litter.

Detroit Lakes, Minn.-based Pet Care Systems’ Swheat Scoop introduced its latest formula made of ground wheat and aspen wood recently, according to national sales manager Mark Hughes. The litter is designed to be especially absorbent and includes no chemicals, binders or mold inhibitors, he said.

“More people are looking for all-natural litters, and this product follows that character,” Hughes stated, noting that the litter will be sold in 14-pound blue bags.

Such customer demand drove Alice Liberson, owner of DogmaCatmantoo in Ann Arbor, Mich., to carry Swheat Scoop, she said. Liberson typically waits for customer requests before trying a new litter.

“It’s risky to bring in something new,” she said. “Cats are fussy.”

Breaking New Ground
In a different approach to reducing odor and maintenance needs, The Pet Loo, part of Melbourne, Australia-based Pup Pee Solutions, introduced a cat solution called Fresh Air Litter by Pet Loo at Global Pet Expo this year. The litter—which does not include clay—has a built-in, activated carbon pad for immediate odor elimination that also eliminates bacteria growth and makes the litter maintenance-free, according to CEO and owner Toby Skovron.

The company conducted a year’s worth of consumer testing, Skovron noted, adding that pet owners need do nothing for two months after filling pans with Fresh Air.

“There’s no smell after 60 days,” he stated.

Fresh Air Litter is sold in bags based on a cat’s size; each bag is said to last 60 days. Pet Loo and Fresh Air Litter are catching on with independent retailers like Bow Wow Meow; Petco has also signed on to carry the liter, Skovron said.

A new litter called Forest Fresh from Next Gen International in Laguna Niguel, Calif., takes a cue from the human spa product craze. Introduced early this year, the Forest Fresh litter bears the scent of the hinoki cypress tree from Japan—a scent also used in aromatherapy, according to Stan Yamamoto, CEO of the company.

“It suppresses bacteria,” he said.

Though it was first introduced in Japan, Yamamoto said the new product has tested well in the U.S.

“As long as the cats accept wood pellets, it works,” he said.

It’s already on the shelves in Santa Monica at Healthy Spot, Yamamoto added.

Odor and Dust
Retailers reported that customers want odor- and dust-free litter that doesn’t track all over the house. Canadian-made Odour Buster, distributed by Eco-Solutions Inc. of St-Charles-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Canada, has natural and organic properties that help control odor for seven days and is a top seller at It’s Raining Cats & Dogs in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, according to owner Brenda Elliott.

“We get good feedback from it,” she said.

Litters designed to reduce dust are also popular.

“Dust-free is the most-requested feature for litter,” said Jeff Stringer, manager of Just for Pets in Austin, Texas.

The shop carries Dr. Elsey’s Precious Cat litters, which come in ultra-clumping, non-tracking gel granules and a new respiratory relief formula; World’s Best Cat Litter from Muscatine, Iowa-based Kent Nutrition Group Inc.; and a bentonite litter called Fresh & Natural made in Houston.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Kitty Kan started out making a disposable litterbox to solve a problem for people who can’t be exposed to litter because of allergies or pregnancy, for easy maintenance during vacations and for those who simply don’t want to scoop litterboxes, said company owner Ben Taylor. Now, the Kitty Kan boxes can be purchased with one of two litters preloaded in the pull-out trays.

The company uses litter made of diatomaceous earth from Fernley, Nev.-based Moltan Co. Traylor said people who saw the product at Global Pet Expo “understood that the need was there and that convenience sells.”

The Mud Bay chain of stores in Washington is slated to carry the product in the near future, Traylor added.

While Kitty Kan offers a combined purchase of a litterbox and litter, some retailers said the litterbox itself is just as important as the litter. Christina Crawfis, owner of Crawfis Creatures in Ft. Myers, Fla., was most excited to find the Kitty A Go Go litterbox at Global Pet Expo.

“It’s an easy-to-clean box made of high-impact, odor-resistant plastic,” she said. “It’s important the cat is using a box that’s low-odor.”

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