Though calming products for pets are not new, interest in these products and awareness of their benefits continue to bloom.
The influx of attention on the dog calming category has promoted an increase in clinical studies and commercial products, said Michele Crowley, senior vice president of marketing for H&C Animal Health, a manufacturer in Parker, Colo.
“It’s now an expansive category, with many players delivering products that range from treats and supplements to jackets and collars,” she said.
Though there are fewer product lines and participants on the cat side, due to cats being more selective about the products they will eat or wear, Crowley sees possibilities.
“With cat ownership on the rise, we see great potential for the cat category if the products are designed with a cat-first mentality,” she said.
One burgeoning area in pet anxiety relief for both dogs and cats is cannabidiol (CBD) supplements, industry insiders said.
“As people are becoming more and more comfortable with CBD products for themselves, they’re turning to CBD more frequently for their pets,” said Bryan Radtke, CEO of Kradle, a Minneapolis-based manufacturer. “Research we’ve reviewed shows close to 75 percent of human CBD users have pets.”
Sales of CBD products are up significantly, according to Jason Ast, owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C.
“There’s no doubt that CBD has hit the U.S. market full steam ahead,” he said. “Demand for these products is on the rise. We’ve seen a pretty remarkable uptick in CBD sales in our store.”
Pheromones, valerian root and passion flower are other specific ingredients customers look for in anxiety relief for their pets, insiders said. And the top concerns sending consumers to independent retailers in search of anxiety relief for their pets in the first place include separation anxiety and fear, insiders noted.
For example, pets raised during the pandemic missed out on a lot of socialization, thus developing reactivities to other dogs and humans, Ast said. As people return to working outside the home, owners are seeing their animals experiencing severe separation anxieties.
Travel-friendly calming options are important to customers these days as well, Radtke said.
“Having effective calming solutions that can easily be carried and used on-the-go has become essential,” he said. “When pet owners give their dog CBD, it should be a stress-free experience for both of them.”
The most popular products meet three key consumer concerns, Crowley noted.
“First and foremost, the pet parent wants a calming product that works,” Crowley said. “Secondly, it must be safe for their cat or dog. Finally, it must be a manageable solution for the owner. When it comes to a loved family member, pet parents often define value far beyond cost.”
Pet owners have a variety of formats to choose from to meet their needs.
Topicals are especially popular with customers at Modern Pet Foods, a pet store in Houston. Owner Trace Menchaca said pet owners prefer “anything that can be applied topically in the ear flap.”
Chewables or liquids are preferred at Just Dog People, though Ast said he recommends liquids over chews because he’s “noticed a distinct increase in ‘effectiveness’ as it applies to anxiety in dogs.”
No matter the preferred format, it helps to have options. Vicki Rae Thorne, owner of Earth Heart, a manufacturer in Sleepy Hollow, Ill., said consumers are looking for products that can be used alone or in combination with other calming methods, such as aromatherapy with calming music and ginger biscuits or hemp-based extracts.
They also expect quick, consistent results, she noted.
Pet owners definitely want fast results, agreed Simone Hamilton, key account manager for Heavenly Hounds, a manufacturer in Memphis, Tenn.
“Consumers want something that’s going to work fast because issues like anxiety and high energy in pets tend to be something we are more reactive to rather than proactive,” she explained.
Some of the newest pet anxiety-relief product releases this year incorporate ingestible treatments as well as environmental ones.
Minneapolis-based Kradle launched two calming products for dogs in May. Bliss Bar CBD Soft Bakes are made with real peanut butter, split into three pieces for easy dosing of any dog size or breed and are individually wrapped, company officials said.
Chillers Relaxing Hard Chews are bacon flavored, also contain cannabidiol (CBD) and are designed “to keep dogs busy and chill for an extra-long time,” said CEO Bryan Radtke.
“All Kradle products leverage our revolutionary proprietary BotaniTek formulation, which combines broad-spectrum CBD with other proven, premium calming ingredients,” he said. “These include SAMe [S-adenosyl-L-methionine], GABA [gamma-aminobutyric acid], ashwagandha and L-theanine. Simply put, CBD naturally works with a dog’s endocannabinoid system to help calm them.”
ScientiaPet launched the bSerene calming collection in spring as well. The drug-free products use an identical version of cats’ natural pheromones to calm them, company officials said.
“For a fast-acting, targeted calming effect, the bSerene Calming Spray quickly quells cats’ nerves due to unexpected/short-term lifestyle or environmental stressors at home or on-the-go,” said Michele Crowley, senior vice president of marketing for Parker, Colo.-based H&C Animal Health, maker of ScientiaPet.
The spray features catnip to attract cats to the sprayed area, and it’s formulated to provide calming relief for four to six hours, she added.
The company also unveiled a bSerene Calming Diffuser Plug-In Kit for all-day calm in single- and multi-cat homes. The kit includes one plug-in diffuser and one refill bottle to cover up to 700 square feet of space. The diffuser is designed to last 45 days. Refills are available separately as well.
Consumer and Retailer Education
Finding the Right Fit
Products designed to reduce pet anxiety need to address the owner’s concern and be the right fit for their pet, industry insiders said. Retailers can shine by attending to these needs.
“Many pet owners are coming into pet specialty stores with a problem to solve, but not necessarily the right solution in mind,” said Bryan Radtke, CEO of Kradle, a manufacturer in Minneapolis. “This is where pet specialty retailers can really add a ton of value to the pet parent, while also driving new product trial and building trust and loyalty with their shoppers.”
The crucial first step is staff education, insiders agreed.
“The most important promoters of your store’s products are your team,” said Jason Ast, owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C. “We role-play with our team in certain scenarios to help them identify opportunities to help our customers.”
Kradle, which makes cannabidiol (CBD) products for dogs, offers a customizable sales associate training kit to its retail partners, Radtke said.
Memphis, Tenn.-based manufacturer Heavenly Hounds provides its retailers with regular training calls as well as sales sheets “to help break down the information into bite-size pieces for the associate,” said Eric Clemmons, vice president of operations.
Personal experience with products is an excellent way to educate staff and empower them to promote these products to customers, Ast said.
“When possible, get the product into your team’s hands so they can try them firsthand,” he said. “Once your team sees how, in this case CBD, can help their dog, they have no problems telling other customers in your store.”
Because consumers are far more savvy these days, many look to the internet to start problem-solving before even getting to the store, insiders said.
“Since research starts before the shopper even enters the store, providing education and resources online is a great way to help shoppers navigate to the best solution,” said Michele Crowley, senior vice president of marketing for H&C Animal Health, a manufacturer in Parker, Colo. “Once in-store, category signage anchored in education is key to influencing the shopper’s decision and ultimately finding the best product for their situation.”
Face-to-face conversations and testers or demos are effective ways to promote and educate about anxiety-relief products, said Crowley, whose company’s ScientiaPet brand bSerene calming line uses an identical version of cats’ natural pheromones to calm them.
“We have had a great deal of success with executing in-store demos,” she said. “One-on-one conversations have provided hands-on education for shoppers regarding the benefits of using pheromone-based products. As a halo effect, these demos have also proved to be a great opportunity to educate store employees.”
4 Tips to Make Pet Calming Products Stand Out
Retailers and manufacturers offered these tips to best display and market anxiety-relief products.
“CBD [cannabidiol] products and calming products in general are still very new to most pet owners; our goal is to educate,” said Bryan Radtke, CEO of Kradle, a manufacturer in Minneapolis. “Sales associates are on the frontlines of shopper education, so it’s critical their knowledge of CBD and stress/anxiousness in general are at a high level. This is so important to get the shopper to the right solution for her situation, but also so the store can build trust and loyalty with that shopper.”
2. Draw Attention with Displays
“We keep CBD products near our cash-wrap, inside a glass display case,” said Jason Ast, owner of Just Dog People, a pet store in Garner, N.C. “We keep the liquids behind glass at the cash-wrap, [which] gives the impression of ‘better.’”
Displays that help illustrate how a product works can be helpful, too.
“One of my favorite displays included a plush dog to demonstrate how to apply our Canine Calm spray to its ears,” said Vicki Rae Thorne, owner of Earth Heart, a manufacturer in Sleepy Hollow, Ill.
3. Calming Section
“Consumers want to be able to easily find the solution their looking for, so a dedicated Calming section in the HABA [Health and Beauty Aids] section of the store is a great way to showcase all they have to choose from in that category,” said Simone Hamilton, key account manager for Heavenly Hounds, a manufacturer in Memphis, Tenn.
4. Streamlined Offerings
“Changing from branded merchandising to a good, better, best approach within a solution/category makes the shopping experience easier on the consumer, and builds the basket for the retailer,” Hamilton said.