Posted: February 26, 2014, 1:50 p.m. EDT
Retailers and consumers alike find that the best small mammal bedding products serve both pets and the environment.
By Audrey Pavia
Watching a small animal snuggle up in its bedding is one of the joys of living with such creatures.
Another highlight for owners is the ability to choose bedding and litter that are healthful for both their pets and the planet.
According to manufacturers and retailers, owners of small mammals prefer bedding and litter made from recycled paper. Manufacturers are finding ways to improve on this formula, with greater absorption and odor control, as it is safer for the environment after use.
"Our newest small animal bedding product is Sunseed Fresh World Bedding,” said Lisa Kniceley, trade sales specialist with Vitakraft Sunseed in Bowling Green, Ohio. "It’s made from 100 percent recycled paper and also has added baking soda for odor and absorbency.”
"Our current small animal bedding is manufactured from 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper,” said Gordon Walker, national accounts manager for BPV Environmental, maker of Fresh News, in Byron Center, Mich. "It is 99 percent dust free and 100 percent biodegradable and compostable.”
The product is made from recycled paper supplied mainly from the company’s Papergator Program, a fundraising operation in which nonprofit organizations are paid to collect paper products and place them in recycling bins located in certain areas of Indiana and Michigan, Walker said.
American Pet in Eureka, Nev., offers Green Dreamzzz pet bedding, which also is an earth-friendly product, said Lisa Marshall, president and CEO.
"Each 22-liter packet of this product keeps the equivalent of two phone books out of the landfill,” Marshall said. "No toxins or chemicals are used. It is 99 percent dust free and very absorbent, making it safe for the animal.”
Green Dreamzzz’s absorbency allows consumers to use less, Marshall said, adding that the product also is light and fluffy, contributing to longer shelf life.
"Because of its size and weight, you can remove waste in clumps and fluff it back up again, which increases time between changing,” she said. "It absorbs more than three times its weight in moisture.”
Retailers reported significant success with recycled paper bedding products for small animals.
A variety of techniques can be used to encourage pet owners to buy quality bedding and litter for their small mammals, according to manufacturers and retailers.
"Retailers can highlight products in their stores that are made in the USA,” said Lisa Kniceley, trade sales specialist at Vitakraft Sunseed in Bowling Green, Ohio. "We have shelf talkers that indicate this, available for retailers to use.”
Retailers who have live animals in their stores should use the bedding they sell for their own animals, Kniceley added.
"They can then testify personally to the effectiveness of the product, as well as demonstrate it to the consumer,” she said.
Other manufacturers support the in-store-use practice.
"If you sell hamsters, mice and other small mammals, use the products you sell in your display,” said Sonia Wertz, sales and customer service manager for Lixit Corp. in Napa, Calif. "Many manufacturers will provide ‘store use products’ at a discount.”
Most pet owners want to use the same products they see in the animal displays, and providing a clip strip or endcap with the products near the display helps sell the products, Wertz added.
"Also, make sure store employees are familiar with the products you use in the displays so they can be more helpful to the customer,” she said.
In addition to using the product in store cages, Gordon Walker, national accounts manager for BPV Environmental, maker of Fresh News in Byron Center, Mich., also recommended using sample products so customers can see how the product works.
"We have 3-liter-sized complimentary samples available for consumers to try on their pets,” he said. "We suggest displaying them beside regular products.”—AP
Martin’s Paw Mart, which has multiple stores in Indiana and Michigan, sells large amounts of paper animal bedding, said Dan Boveri, district manager.
"Some of our brands include Carefresh, [Vitakraft Sunseed], Kaytee, Cell-Sorb, Marshall and Fresh News,” he said, adding that cost and quality are concerns not only for the stores’ customers, but also for the stores’ animals.
"We use a variety of beddings in our animal cages, depending on the type of animal and how many are housed together in the same cage,” Boveri added. "This also lets us showcase the different beddings to the customers, which in turn helps with sales.”
American Wood Fibers in Columbia, Md., recently introduced a line of soft paper bedding, which is made from virgin byproduct fibers rather than reclaimed paper pulp and, therefore, is free of toxins, according to the company.
"Our products offer odor and liquid absorption, are soft and gentle, and are great for nesting and animal enrichment,” said Rich Whiting, vice president. "They are available in natural, white and many different colors, including ‘confetti’ color mixes.”
The company also makes products featuring natural scents and botanical mix-ins, as well as shavings and paper mixes.
Other Earth-Friendly Materials
As an alternative to recycled paper, manufacturers offer bedding made from other natural products.
"The product we like most in this category is Gentle Touch,” said Rebecca Bailey, store manager for Alpine Exotic Pets and Supplies in Alpine, Calif. "It’s made from compressed aspen chips, and it really is wonderful. We use it in our store for our own small animals. The odor control and dust control is awesome.”
Initially, customers were hesitant to try the aspen bedding because of the pricing, Bailey added.
"They realized they were changing their pets’ cages less frequently, and that they got a lot of bang for their buck,” she said. "They like the idea of aspen pellets and agree the odor control is the best they’ve experienced. Once they realized the benefits of the odor control, the dust control and the less frequent litter changes, they were sold. They realized it was a cost-effective product.”
Bedding made from cotton is another option for small pet owners.
Lixit Corp., maker of 100 percent cotton bedding products Puffs So Perfect and Cozy Nest, use a short-fiber cotton made without added dyes or colorings, said Sonia Wertz, sales and customer service manager of the Napa, Calif., company.
"Because the cotton fibers are short, the bedding will not wind around little pets’ legs and necks, causing injury,” said Wertz.
Cotton nesting material is a natural fit for small animals, Wertz added.
"Our cotton product is similar to what an animal might find in nature, which doesn’t contain colors or dyes that can sometimes be harmful to small pets,” she said.
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