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Cat Marketplace: Feline Furniture Grows Up

Posted: Feb. 23, 2012, 8:15 p.m. EST


Cat towers are getting the luxury treatment with sleek designs, natural materials and, of course, plenty of room for cats to play.
By Eva Scholtz

Gone are the days when a retailer could offer a few different-sized carpeted cat towers and consider their feline furniture selection complete. While traditional carpeted furniture is still popular, pet stores are stocking a crop of new products to respond to consumers who are interested in cat furniture that provides environmental enrichment for their cats, blends in with their home décor, saves space and is reasonably priced.

“Our customers for the most part are looking for very neutral colors, light and dark browns, nothing crazy, and anything that has a scratching post incorporated in it,” said Cole Farrell, shift manager at Pet Supply Warehouse in Mission Viejo, Calif., adding that the Kitty Mansions cat trees have been selling very well.

“They have multiple layers, but they also have little houses incorporated within the layers, and each post is a scratching post,” he said.

For Houston-based manufacturer Go Pet Club, the best-seller is a 72-inch-tall cat tree that features 10 sisal rope-covered posts, 15 levels and three perches, and is covered with beige faux fur.

“People like this model because it’s affordable and it’s a mid-sized piece and is adequate for most cats,” said Cindy Trinh, the company’s general manager.

Earth-friendly Options
Cat owners are increasingly interested in eco-friendly products, according to several manufacturers, who reported they are starting to use new fabrics and materials to give traditional cat trees an updated, more natural look.

Case in point: Ware Manufacturing of Phoenix developed the Earthly Elements lounger, which is made out of wood with seagrass surfaces. It also has a seagrass and feather toy that hangs from one of its perches.

“We’re trying to add a little more fun factor and some different natural materials to things,” said Heather Cappel, the company’s creative coordinator.
 
Seagrass, sisal rope and jute are some of the materials that cat furniture manufacturers are using more often.

“Jute is like a burlap fiber,” Cappel said. “It’s got a rough texture that cats enjoy, so we’ve been trying to combine some different textures along with the traditional carpeted furniture to add more variety.”

Esther van der Wurff agreed that natural, eco-friendly materials are popular, but she said those opportunities extend to repurposed materials as well.

“Original and inventive creations including those made from secondhand materials are going to be popular, too,” said van der Wurff, owner of Van der Wurff Produkties in Amersfoort, Netherlands.

Van der Wurff designed the Cat’s Trapeze, a suspended cat climber and lounge made out of cotton and jute.

“Pet owners want something really modern or inventive in their homes, [with] beautiful materials, shapes and colors,” Van der Wurff said.

Consumers are looking for higher-end and even designer pieces, but also for value, noted both manufacturers and retailers.

“Cat owners want stylish, full-featured cat towers, but most do not have a high willingness to pay, which makes designing products difficult,” said Josh Feinkind, president of RefinedKind Pet Products in New York. “We have been looking into alternative materials to wood to keep production costs down.”

The majority of consumers are looking for low-cost items, but a large percentage of consumers still have disposable income and are willing to buy a $400 cat tower, he noted.

“Our $369.99 Lotus Cat Tower is our best-seller,” Feinkind added.

Bowsers Pet Products’ Cat Tower, another high-end item, is made out of stackable, solid-wood cubes with different-sized openings and is covered in colorful, organic ribbed cotton.

“What’s interesting about the tower that we sell is that it’s really like a piece of art,” said Bob Wilkes, president of the Toronto, Ontario, Canada, company.

Limited Space Considerations
Retailers in urban areas may have a clientele that reside mostly in apartments, where space-constrained cat owners could be more interested in smaller, wall-mounted cat furniture.
 

Cat furniture
Furniture that’s functional for people and adds to a home’s décor, while hiding a litterbox is popular with cat owners. Courtesy of Designer Catbox.
Attachments that screw in to the wall have become a big cat-furniture staple, according to Jason Bang, store manager of Pussy & Pooch in Long Beach, Calif.

“We have cat scratchers made by Marmalade Pet Care that are a wave design and they’re cardboard, but they use different kinds of bright colors like oranges and greens, and they attach to the wall vertically,” he said.

There are wooden options, too, such as Griffith Designs’ HabiCat, a modern-looking, modular, wall-mounted cat perch and climber.

“The idea behind it was to make something that was a little bit more stylish and that would be great for apartments or smaller living spaces,” said Kate Moore, owner of the St. Louis company.

“It has four interior panels that can be arranged however the user wants, and several units can be linked together, which helps create interior play spaces as well as exterior.”

The desire for elegant cat furniture that fit in with the décor of owners’ homes goes beyond cat trees and mounted scratchers; they also want furniture that conceals a cat’s litterbox, said Abigail Cirincione, owner of Designer Catbox in Westminster, Calif.

The Designer Catbox is a wooden chest that is designed to hide a cat’s litterbox and features an interior panel and staggered entrance holes, which prevent a cat from kicking litter out of the pan, said Cirincione.
 
“We are seeing a trend in cat owners that really love their cats and want to have products that make their cats happy; however, they don’t want their house to look as though the cat owns it,” she said.

Display Issues
Limited floor space also applies to retailers in regard to effectively displaying cat furniture. Because most stores cannot carry every piece of furniture available, retailers could carry one piece of cat furniture, merchandise cat toys inside of it, and build a cat display around it, Bowsers Pet Products’ Wilkes recommended.

“As a company, we do a lot of individual drop-shipping or custom orders, so we’ll send one tower to a customer so [retailers] don’t have to inventory large quantities,” he said.

Van der Wurff suggested that if retailers don’t have the space to display cat furniture, they may want to show a video presentation of the product in use next to the product on the shelf.

Having a kiosk running video presentations about multiple products allows retailers to demonstrate different products, particularly when the dismantled, packaged pieces may not be easily identifiable as cat furniture.

At The Companion Shop in Stevens Point, Wis., owners Andi and Rick Oppermann have a cat-tree display that doubles as a product endorsement: Several kittens and cats from the local Humane Society hang around on the store’s cat trees.

“They demonstrate very well how much cats love these kinds of things,” Andi Oppermann said, adding that the display is also great for the cats, as they’ve adopted out 420 so far.

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Cat Marketplace: Feline Furniture Grows Up

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Reader Comments
I had never realized how large a cat tree can be. But, they are wonderful entertainment and exercise, for your cat or cats.
Joanne Curtis, Glendale, AZ
Posted: 3/6/2012 10:12:19 PM
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