By Sandy Robins
Retailers report hooded litter pans are popular with both cat owners that seek odor control and cats that seek privacy.
When it comes to cat litterboxes, it’s more than just about the box; it’s the look that counts along with practical ways to keep the area clean and hygienic. This trend has resulted in a plethora of new shapes and styles along with matching accessories that take cognizance of the latest home décor trends and colors.
While it’s important to keep the litterbox out of a high-traffic area for the cat’s sake, it’s becoming popular to add a stylish litter mat that blends with the interior of the room while getting the job done of trapping litter, said RuthAnne Miller of Weston, Fla.-based Cats Rule, which currently manufactures litter mats in 16 different colors and designs.
“People are proud to be cat owners and no longer feel the need to hide their pet’s litterbox out of sight,” she said.
Because a cat owner’s mat requirements differ, Cats Rule mats are made from a special rubber material designed to allow owners to easily trim and customize to size.
“I sell every shape and size litter pan available,” said Dave Ratner, owner and operator of four Dave’s Soda and Pet City stores in Massachusetts. “At a rough guess, I would say that 50 percent of all sales are for covered boxes. There is such a huge selection available, including designs that fit neatly into a corner.”
To make an imprint on the market, manufacturers are making an effort to stay on top of home décor trends.
“We kept interior design trends in mind when designing our Home Classic range,” said Kim Costello of Royal Pet in Inver Grove Heights, Minn. “There’s definitely interest from cat owners in high-backed designs that help to reduce the amount of litter that gets kicked out. We recently introduced a rubber-lined bottom that prevents a cat from moving the box around, too.”
Royal Pet produces a cat owners’ kit that includes a litterbox, scoop and caddy, pan liners and two bowls. The company reported it has sold well in pet supermarkets and the company is planning to aggressively market them to independent retailers in the near future.
“They are ideal as a starter kit,” Costello said. “They also make a nice gift for someone adopting a new cat or kitten.”
Mansfield, Mass.-based Rolf C. Hagen (USA) Corp., which manufactures the CatIt line of litterboxes that feature carbon filters to reduce odors, is also seeing the popularity of covered pans, according to marketing manager Damian Hall.
“They appeal to cat owners from an aesthetic and odor-control standpoint,” he said. “Cats appear to be as quick to adapt to a covered pan as to an open one; many of them seem to prefer the added privacy that a covered pan affords.”
He added that a litterbox design should also appeal to the cat owner as much as the cat.
“A hood on a covered pan must lift up for easy cleaning and anchor in this position for easy scooping,” he said.
Blue appears to be a trend, as cat litterbox and accessory manufacturers are gravitating toward this color.
Veterinary Ventures in Reno, Nev., for example, markets its three- and four-piece Litter Buddy systems in a dark blue, and Royal Pet chose the same color for its new litter mats and nonskid litterbox and accessories.
“While many cat owners are enjoying the color selections available, for consumers that don’t really worry about popular home style colors, the trend is for darker colors that don’t show litter stains and marks, such as a dark blue,” Costello said.
Ratner as well as Mark Sarachik of Pet Delight in Brooklyn, N.Y., said the demand for more litter pan and litter accessory colors could increase if manufacturers play the marketing game differently.
“As a retailer, when I order from some of the larger manufacturers, I’m ordering quantity only and not given a choice when it comes to the colors,” Sarachik said. “Thus, you get what’s delivered, and this in turn narrows the palette of colors being offered to the consumer.”
When it comes to litter, while scoopable clay remains a top seller, retailers reported that alternative litter, such as those made from crystals, coconut, wheat, corn or newspaper, are definitely gaining market share.
“These days there is such a choice, I could open a store that sold only litter,” Sarachik said, who reported that his customers are becoming more aware of eco-friendly packaging options, too.
One company concerned about its packaging’s “footprint” is Pestell Pet Products, based in New Hamburg, Ontario, Canada. It is marketing its clay litter in what it calls a Pets Pal Roll and Recycle Jug.
“The idea behind the packaging is that it takes much less storage space for the consumer at home, as well as on the store shelf,” said Trevor Russwurm, national sales manager for the company. He added that when it’s empty, the cat owner can easily roll it up for recycling.
Despite the vast selection of litter varieties and systems that help combat litterbox odors--from charcoal box liners to air filters to even such products as water additives that help combat odor from the source (i.e., the cat)--manufacturers continue to focus on new ways of dealing with the issue of litter dust.
Caddies that hold a litter broom, pan and scoop together help cat owners keep litter-cleaning essentials handy.
“While scoopable litter is the common type of litterbox filler used today and effectively absorbs the odor of a cat’s urine and feces, it creates a dust when scooped, which can irritate eyes, nose, throat and lungs,” said Mark Rutman, DVM, who with inventor Mel Freedman patented a new litter scoop called BreatheFree Litterbox Scooper, which is designed to reduce litter dust.
“A reduction in litter dust not only benefits cat owners but also pets that suffer from allergies,” Dr. Rutman said.
The new design works with scooping action followed by a tilting action to expel unused litter back into the box down a small chute in the scoop instead of the user having to use a shaking action, which potentially creates more dust.
Currently the product is marketed through online stores but the manufacturer is hoping to broaden its distribution to brick-and-mortar retailers soon. <HOME>
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