Posted: July 10, 2013, 10:30 a.m. EDT
By Karen Shugart
As cats become an even more integral part of average families, new products are hitting the marketplace designed to meet the needs of the indoor feline.
Chief among those needs, retailers and manufacturers stated, are perching, lounging and scratching.
In an effort to please pets and owners, retailers are making space to stock cat furniture of all shapes and sizes. Carrie Brenner/i-5 Publishing at Pet Supply
"It’s instinctive,” said Dave Hitsman, a director at Ware Manufacturing in Phoenix. "Clawing and scratching are so much more important than we used to think.”
Variety and utility are two of the main drivers behind much of the new cat furniture. From carpeted, ceiling-reaching pieces to stylishly crafted wood perches, cat furniture is taking a bigger spot in retailers’ stores—and cat owners’ budgets.
Floor Space and Function
Cat owners want to know that what they purchase, whether bought for aesthetics or practicality, will fit comfortably in their home.
"Everybody comes in looking for a certain thing, but the main factor is whether it will fit in their house,” said Amanda Meadows, retail manager for Cat Connection, a retailer in Dallas.
Meadows said Cat Connection, considering its species-specific focus, stocks furniture in many shapes and sizes. Size is the determining factor for most, she said.
Function and style were two of the primary factors involved in Ware Manufacturing’s new Sky Climber Cat Ladders. Stretching from floor to ceiling, they offer perches, scratching opportunities and design, Hitsman said.
Durability is another key concern for many pet owners, Hitsman said. As a result, carpeted furniture remains popular.
"Cats love carpet,” Hitsman said. "There’s nothing else that’s manufactured that they like so much. They can climb it; they can claw it. It fulfills every instinctive need, and it is extremely popular.”
One With the House
While cats are focused on function, manufacturers and retailers reported customers care about form. Décor and design, some said, play a more important role in cat owners’ choices.
Though traditional cat furniture retains an overwhelming chunk of the cat furniture category, Hitsman said, decorative items are growing in popularity.
"People are looking to have something that matches the house,” he said, adding that people are tired of dragging their cat supplies into hiding when company visits.
"We do a combination of natural woods and natural fibers good enough [to stay out year-round],” Hitsman said.
Smart and Safe
An adult cat spends about two-thirds of its day asleep, said Spencer Williams, president and owner of West Paw Design. As such, a cat’s bed can figure prominently in its life.
The Bozeman, Mont.-based manufacturer recently launched its Heyday Bed with Microsuede. The bed, designed to be extra durable, is made in the U.S. and filled with IntelliLoft, which is made from recycled plastic bottles, Williams said.
"This is important for many consumers,” he said. "They want a product that their cat will love but is also sustainably manufactured with environmentally friendly materials.”
Customers also seek beds that will safely transport their pets, said Shannon Supanich, marketing coordinator for Pioneer Pet Products in Cedarburg, Wis.
The company’s new Cuddler Carrier is a pet bed for cats (and dogs) that can be used at home and in the car, Supanich said. The machine-washable carrier acts as a pet bed in the home but also features a seat belt strap for travel, she added.
"We wanted to create a place where animals felt secure and at home, even while on the road,” Supanich said. —KS
The Sky Climber Cat Ladder won awards at the 2012 Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla. With different designs and a choice of dark or light wood, it’s designed to be a decorative showpiece. Yet the focus, Hitsman said, is on the pet.
Behavioral issues often spark pet owners’ first interest in cat furniture. Often, the concern is unwanted scratching. But sometimes the owner feels harried and frustrated over the issues that can arise in a multicat household.
That’s why, Hitsman said, he recommends a tree or perch for each cat.
"Every cat wants its own furniture,” Hitsman said. "Just like in the wild, they are establishing their territory.
"If [owners] have multiple cats, it helps to separate them,” he said.
Several retailers reported that although furniture uses significant floor space, it’s popular with customers.
"The big cat trees have always been good sellers for us,” said Beverly LeFevre, store manager of Paw’s Natural Pet Emporium in Richland, Wash.
Merchandising them still requires effort, and selection matters, she added.
"We always bring in different styles of cat furniture,” she said.
To best use the store’s valuable space, some shelving was removed to accommodate more cat trees.
Though furniture is highly visible, it still needs promotion, retailers stated.
Chris Achord, owner of The Cat Shoppe and the Dog Store in Nashville, Tenn., noted that displays are important. If cats are in the store to play on the furniture, that’s even better, she said, adding that if they’re rescue cats in search of good homes, that extra touch really draws in customers.
"We have rescue cats in the shop,” said Achord, who began rescuing pets before she opened the store.
"People support my retail business because I rescue cats. They support my retail side so I can rescue and keep adopting out cats.”
Cats can be tough customers on many fronts, but furniture isn’t necessarily one of them, Achord said.
"It’s really what the owners prefer, not the cats,” she said. <HOME>
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