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Cash in on Small Animal Cage Cleanup

Posted: Aug. 15, 2012, 7:05 p.m. EDT


Small animal owners drive deodorizer and odor product sales.
By Sandy Robins

One of the biggest drawbacks to caring for a small animal is the cleanup, according to the 2011-2012 APPA Pet Owners Survey. So it should be no surprise that owners are willing to pay for products that resolve unsightly and foul-smelling conditions. In fact, 24 percent of small animal owners purchased deodorizer and odor products in 2010, up from 17 percent just two years earlier, the survey found.

“People who bring a cat or dog into their homes know that such pets leave stains and have odor-related issues from the get go,” said Misty Schneider, owner of Pet Kingdom…Where Pets Rule in Algona, Iowa.

Keeping ferrets, hamsters and other small animals clean
However, many customers are initially unaware of deodorizer and odor issues involving small animals, she pointed out.

“There’s a misconception that because they are small, they don’t smell,” Schneider said. “It’s only when they get home do they discover they need to clean up regularly—as with every kind of pet.”

Litterbox  Benefits
Manufacturers have taken notice of the demand for odor-control solutions by introducing products that target problem areas.

Litter kits are an increasingly popular line at Kaytee, part of the Central Garden & Pet umbrella headquartered in Schaumburg, Ill. Research indicated that a lot of small animal owners were not aware that most small pets could be litter trained, said Annie Marcell, small animal brand assistant for Kaytee.

“The kits are an easy way for a pet owner to get started and learn how to train their pet to use a litterbox,” Marcell suggested. “It is a great solution for pet owners because it makes cage cleaning much easier and keeps the pet’s living area more sanitary. Also, the litter trays are made from a stain- and odor-resistant plastic.”

The company produces litter-training kits for ferrets, rabbits and small critters, and Kaytee recently launched a line of all-purpose cleaning tools that can be used with both bird and small animal cages.

“The tools include brushes, scoops, scrapers and sponges,” Marcell said. “These tools are made out of durable plastic material and are intended for use during multiple cleanings.”

Retailers such as Schneider promote litter training of rabbits and other small animals and even demonstrate how.

“We litterbox train our rabbits in the store,” she said. “Consequently, most customers consider continuing this practice at home and purchase all the necessary products.

“Generally speaking, it makes sense to litter train a pet because you are concentrating their elimination in one place, making it much easier to deal with,” she added.

Self-cleaning Saves Time
Letting the animals do most of the work is another answer.

Phoenix-based Ware Manufacturing Inc. this year unveiled the Chinchilla Bath and the Critter Potty and Dustbath Kit.

“Because hamsters and gerbils have natural dust bathing instincts, the dust kit features an enclosed bath and comes with a free bath powder sample to keep them smelling clean and fresh,” said Heather Cappel, Ware’s creative coordinator.

”If a pet uses such products, it ultimately saves pet owners’ time and money by reducing cage cleanings,” she added.

Stain and Odor Cleaning Trends
Warmer summer temperatures coincide with a spike in the sale of odor-control products at Elephant Nose Pet Center in Morristown, N.J, store owner Julia Pilas reported.

“That’s when owners seem to step up their cleaning routine,” she noted.

“The problem is exacerbated by the fact that while kids are usually the ‘official’ owners of small mammals, it’s the parents who mostly have the job of keeping the habitat clean and free of odors,” Pilas pointed out. “They are looking for a quick and easy fix.”

Year-round maintenance makes a big difference, she added.

“I can’t stress often enough the importance of regular cleaning and the use of proper cleaning sprays designed to control odors instead of masking them,” she said.

Attacking odors from the outside is one way to handle a disturbing situation. Another answer is to work from the inside out.

GoodBye Odor, from Marshall Pet Products of Wolcott, N.Y., is an additive that is applied to a small pet’s food or water and is formulated to prevent odors usually associated with excrement.

“The product contains natural plant-based amino acids and takes about three to five days to balance the pet’s system in order to make a noticeable difference,” said Linda Cope, a media relations spokesperson at Marshall. “It was originally developed for human use and has been used successfully on ferrets and other small animals, such as rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs.”

To promote the product and generate word-of-mouth buzz, the company website features a bimonthly contest and the prize of a six-month supply of GoodBye Odor.

“Entrants submit a photograph and a short story outlining why they think their pet is the most adorable in the world,” Cope stated. “It’s a great way for us to interact directly with small animal owners and get an insight into their take on pet ownership.”

Personal Recommendations
What customers choose in the cleaning product aisle may be the same that is used by store employees, said Gary Weizenecker, manager of Animal Kingdom in Santa Monica, Calif.

“While we sell a variety of sprays and cleaners, very often we are asked what we use in-store to clean our cage habitats,” he said. “We are currently using a product called Healthy Habitat, manufactured by Natural Chemistry.”

In the end, banishing odors starts with frequent cleaning.

“We try to educate owners that no matter the size of the small pet, the cage should be thoroughly cleaned on a weekly basis,” Weizenecker said.

Pilas, of Elephant Nose Pet Center, agreed.

“Cage cleaning shouldn’t be considered a chore but another way of interacting with your pet,” she said.

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