Cat owners are looking for furniture that their pets will enjoy but that also fits nicely into the style and space of their home, industry experts report.
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for Hagen Group in Mansfield, Mass., said there are two questions pet owners want answered when shopping for cat furniture: Will my cat use this? And, will I want this in my home?
"We feel it is important to recognize and address both questions when designing and developing cat furniture," Hall said, adding that the company’s Catit-brand Vesper line of cat furniture aims to do just that.
"Our Vesper furniture was developed to not only satisfy cats’ behavioral needs, but also to ‘fit’ with modern décor and the lifestyle of today’s consumers," he said. "Products need to address the behavioral needs such as scratching surfaces, hideouts and being multilevel, as well as fit the design aesthetic of consumers."
Many owners are putting more consideration into their cats’ well-being, and "as a result, they are spending more time on keeping their pets comfortable, active and healthy," said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago.
"This trend correlates with the modern cat parent who also wants their kitty’s toys and furniture to blend in with the décor of their home," he added. "The combination of wanting the best for their cat without compromising the design of their living space makes cool and versatile cat furniture more popular than ever."
Kelley Parsons, manager of Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that the store tends to sell the more expensive cat furniture pieces for some of these very reasons. Cat owners want their pets to be happy—but they also want the piece of furniture being displayed in their home to look nice.
"We’re a lot more likely to sell the several-hundred-dollar pieces than we are the $100 ones," Parsons said. "In general, it’s a popular category."
The popularity of these products might also stem from to the fact that cat owners are just more educated about their pets. As a result, they want to be sure they are meeting their cats’ needs.
Kate Benjamin, marketing director for Rockwall, Texas-based Primetime Petz and designer of the Hauspanther Collection of cat furniture, which is manufactured and distributed by Primetime Petz, said cats are taking the "spotlight" these days, and the pet product industry has been meeting growing needs by being sure the consumer has everything they need to keep their cat satisfied.
"The boom in this category can be attributed to an increased awareness of what cats need to be happy and healthy," Benjamin said. "It’s also an overall rising appreciation of cats as pets."
Mansfield, Mass.-based Hagen Group recently added the Vesper Minou to its line of Catit Vesper cat furniture. The Minou is a high-quality bench complete with a scratcher and hideout, which has two entrances, so cats never feel cornered. It features a comfortable memory foam cushion and a replaceable sisal scratching mat. Hagen Group also is developing the Catit Play Activity Maze, said Damian Hall, senior marketing manager.
Prevue Pet Products in Chicago has unveiled its new KD (Knock Down) activity center designs. The company is also introducing a few dual-purpose furniture designs including the mid-century-inspired Hollywood chair as well as Cozy faux fur ottomans.
Primetime Petz has introduced the NestEgg, a raised cat bed and side table; the Tripod, a cat lounge pod; MaxScratch, an oversized cat scratcher and perch; and the ScratchPole, an adjustable under-table cat scratcher. Each of these pieces is both aesthetically pleasing and functional, said Kate Benjamin, marketing director for Rockwall, Texas-based Primetime Petz and designer of the company’s Hauspanther Collection of cat furniture.
Given its size, cat furniture can be difficult to display. But having a piece of furniture assembled can make a world of difference for pet specialty retailers looking to maximize the sales potential of the category.
"Displaying a piece of furniture is always the best way to help people envision how it will look and fit in their home," said Jason Savitt, president of Prevue Pet Products in Chicago. "Style your display and make it the focal point of your cat section. Your ‘kitty corner’ should create a space that highlights the design and function of the piece while giving off that ‘must-have’ feeling—just like shopping in a furniture store. If you have one or two store cats available to model and lounge, let them help sell it for you."
Damian Hall, senior marketing manager for Mansfield, Mass.-based Hagen Group, which manufacturers Catit brand products, said that making displays interactive is a great way to draw attention to furniture.
"Educating associates on the benefits of furniture for the cat and the consumer is also very important," Hall added. "We work closely with our retail partners to provide product information and training."
To maximize space, Sherry Redwine, co-owner of Odyssey Pets in Dallas, said she gets creative with the layout. She makes use of vertical space whenever possible.
"Our ceilings are high, so we’ll stack cat trees on top of our raw freezers," Redwine said. "We also bought the Vesper display [featuring the Vesper line of cat furniture from Hagen Group’s Catit brand], which allows you to display two or three built ones and store flat-pack ones underneath."
Of course, sometimes there just isn’t space for any assembled furniture. But that doesn’t mean retailers need to forgo the category altogether. Lorin Grow, owner of Furry Face in Redlands, Calif., said that she usually leaves the boxes with the assembled product pictured on them on a shelf—and then makes sure she has assembled items in the back.
"If someone is interested, I just wheel it out for them to look at," Grow said. "Then they have the option of purchasing the item already assembled or still in the box—and I keep my floor space."
To help stores that don’t have room to display assembled furniture pieces, Prevue Pet Products introduced cat furniture designs that are packaged in full-color graphic cartons so shoppers can see what the assembled pieces look like.
Also with small store spaces in mind, Phoenix-based Ware Pet Products introduced R.T.A. (Ready To Assemble) Cat Furniture at Global Pet Expo in Orlando, Fla., in March. The packaged furniture offers cat owners an easier way to transport the furniture from the store to their home, and also gives retailers a space-efficient solution for the cat furniture section of their stores, according to the company.
Reaching More Cat Owners
Drawing customers into the store with marketing efforts is half the battle. It’s important to "meet customers where they are," said Michael Acerra, digital marketing manager for Penn-Plax in Hauppauge, N.Y. And more often than not, he added, that’s online.
"Many of the most successful retailers do a great job of interacting with their customers on social media, which encourages customers to come through the store when they’re making purchases," Acerra said. "Live video, special social media coupons and discounts, how-to tips, and care guides are all great ways for brick-and-mortar retailers to improve the level of service they’re offering while also encouraging more customers to come through their doors."
Kelley Parsons, manager at Denny’s Pet World in Kirkland, Wash., said that any time their cat furniture goes on sale, they post about it on social media. Because it only goes on sale a few times a year, Parsons said it generates a lot of interest.
Kate Benjamin, marketing director for Rockwall, Texas-based Primetime Petz and designer of the company’s Hauspanther Collection of cat furniture, suggested creating "pop-up events" to highlight what’s available in the category. She said this might be particularly helpful for retailers that can’t normally dedicate a lot of floor space to the category.
"The event could include full displays, home design workshops, cat-related DIY-project demonstrations, and any other cat-themed entertainment and education," Benjamin said.