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Small-Time Grooming

Posted: September 3, 2013, 9:15 a.m. EDT

Manufacturers unveil creative new ways to maintain shiny, healthy coats in chinchillas, ferrets, guinea pigs and more.

By Arden Moore

Lava brushes, redesigned chinchilla baths and an informative chinchilla grooming DVD headline new products designed to ensure well-groomed, clean coats for small mammals, which continue to grow in popularity as pets.

"We are noticing more small animal-specific grooming products in the marketplace in the past few years, where stores often only carried grooming supplies for the dog and cat before,” said Heather Cappel, creative coordinator for Ware Manufacturing in Phoenix. "This is an excellent trend beca use grooming supplies for dogs and cats can be the wrong size for small mammals and pocket pets, and are often designed with different needs in mind.”

Small Mammal Grooming
The dome shape of Lixit Corp.’s Chinchilla Dry Bath, suitable for chinchillas, gerbils, degus and other small animals, helps prevent dust from expelling during bathtime. Lixit Corp.

Officials at Ware Manufacturing responded to the need to cater to chinchillas, guinea pigs, ferrets, rabbits, rats and other small mammal pets by introducing the Lava Brush to its product line last year. This all-natural grooming brush is made from volcanic pumice—a substance that gently pulls dead hair from an animal’s coat, leaving it shiny and soft, the company said.

"The Lava Brush offers a soothing massage for small pets, which can be an excellent bonding experience for pets and owners—as well as offering many health benefits, including improved circulation and muscle tone,” Cappel said. "We had seen pumice brushes used with great results by dog groomers and thought the idea would work well created in a size and texture appropriate for small animals.”

The Lava Brush is a welcomed addition to Ware’s small mammal lineup that includes a steady top seller, the Ware Groom-N-Kit, which recently has been redesigned, improved and given new packaging.

"The grooming kit contains a selection of small animal grooming supplies—perfect for the new pet owner,” Cappel said. "The kit includes a soft bristle brush, a pin brush, nail clippers and a chew treat to provide a distraction for pets during grooming. It provides a nice variety of important grooming tools in one convenient package.”

Family owned Lixit Corp. in Napa, Calif., has earned notoriety for being the largest small animal water-device manufacturer in the world. But the company continues to expand its product line and just revealed a castle-shaped mini dust bath for small mammals. The product is expected to be available in independent and chain stores this fall, according to Sonia Wertz, sales manager.

Blue Cloud Dust Remains the Hallmark for Chinchillas
While small mammals such as chinchillas are fastidious about keeping their coats clean, they benefit by being treated to special dry baths. Consistently topping the list of dry bath ingredients has been blue cloud dust, available in products offered by several pet manufacturers, including Lixit Corp., Oxbow Animal Health and Ware Manufacturing.
"Blue cloud dust is basically a clay product mined in California that really keeps the coats of chinchillas soft and fresh,” said Carl Crawford, owner of Aquarium Gourmet in San Pedro, Calif. His company has catered to the needs of small mammal pet owners for 30 years.
But the blue cloud dust also benefits hamsters, pet rats and mice.
"Blue cloud dust remains the premiere product because it is fine grain, almost like dust, and unlike some other cleaning products, the granules of the blue cloud are able to get through a chinchilla’s dense fur and reach its skin and remove all excess oil, dirt and moisture,” said Ingrid Larsen, co-owner of Chin World in Murrieta, Calif. "Depending on the humidity in your area, we recommend giving your chin a dust bath about two or three times a week.”

"We listened to our customers who wanted a smaller dust bath, and it took us about a year to design it,” Wertz said. "The castle design screws onto a clear jar and allows pet owners to actually watch their pets take baths. It also unscrews for easy cleaning.”

In addition, Lixit offers the Chinchilla Dry Bath, also suitable for gerbils, degus and other small animals. It measures 14 inches by 9 inches by 6 inches, making it big enough for even the largest chinchillas to be able to move and wiggle inside at bath time, Wertz said. She pointed out that the dome-shaped product is easy to disassemble for cleaning and storage, and is shaped to help prevent the dust from escaping when the pet is rolling in it. In addition, this design features no sharp edges or corners.

To enhance sales, Wertz offers this tip to retailers: "If the retailer sells live small animals, but our product isn’t selling as well, I ask them if they have our product in the live animal display. If no, I encourage them to do so because customers need to see hamsters and other small animals using products. This is a great way for the customer to say, ‘I want that hamster with this product and that product.’”

Among those championing the eco-friendly movement in small pets are Natural Chemistry and Aroma Paws.

Natural Chemistry in Norwalk, Conn., and Campbellford, Ontario, Canada, offers its Waterless Bath for Ferrets and Small Animals. This natural solution for cleaning and deodorizing ferrets, as well as other small animals, contains aloe vera and a natural enzyme formula that is free of any soap, oils or parabens, according to the company.

"It is a product that really speaks for itself,” said Debi Hendry, regional sales manager at Natural Chemistry. "And it naturally cleans and freshens small animals while removing odors.”

Chris Guzman, owner of Aroma Paws, recently celebrated her company’s fifth-year anniversary by unveiling a chemical-free shampoo-and-conditioner-in-one product for small mammals.

"We revamped our line and repackaged our products to make it easier for our customers to immediately pick up on all the benefits our products provide,” said Guzman of the Tarzana, Calif., company. "Most people want natural products for their pets, but we go a step further by educating them not only on the right type of natural products that are safe for their pets, but also caution them against products listing harmful ingredients, such as parabens. We want to provide as much information to our customers as possible.”

Education is also a priority with Ingrid Larsen, co-owner of Chin World, a retail store in Murrieta, Calif. Larsen has raised chinchillas for more than 15 years. Seeing the need to educate her customers on the proper ways to groom chinchillas, she now offers a 30-minute DVD aptly titled "Grooming Your Chinchilla” on her website ( She believes it is the first of its kind on this topic to be available to pet owners.

"Learning how to properly groom a chinchilla isn’t a skill you can get from reading a book,” she said. "You need to be shown how to do it by someone who knows what they are doing. For years, I have been giving my customers advice over the phone on how to groom a chinchilla and saw the need to educate them on the right way to make a chinchilla look and feel good.” <HOME>


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