Pet Cleaning and Odor Control Product Category Poised for a Refresh

Once considered add-on items, pet cleaning and odor control products have grown into a staple category. Industry insiders said they have watched this category grow as dogs and cats have moved indoors and become full-fledged "family members."

"Customers used to use whatever they had in their home for cleaning," said Lori Johnson, owner of Healthy Tails, which has two stores in Reno, Nev. "Now it is a firmly established category all on its own."

As an essential for households with pets, cleaning and odor products tend to produce reliable sales year-after-year, retailers said.

"It doesn’t go up and down a lot," said Sara Philbrook, owner of Personal Beast, a pet store in Portland, Ore. "It’s a standard staple that I don’t really have to think about because it fares well. Everyone needs it; it’s an essential."

Johnson did note that her sales see a surge during puppy season—around Christmas and spring.

"Customers are always looking for something to clean up an accident from a puppy," she said.

Ingredients and Efficacy Matter

As seen in other categories, customers "are seeking environmentally friendly, quality products that work and are safe for their pets and their surroundings," said James Brandly, associate trade marketing manager for Cosmos Corp., a Wentzville, Mo.-based manufacturer.

"The stain and odor category continues to grow as new products and technology become relevant," he said, adding that the company recently acquired the Urine Off brand, which includes a U.S.-made, nontoxic stain and odor remover. "The acquisition allows us to further support pet parents with cleaning solutions that are made with naturally derived ingredients but that are also effective."

There are many applications and formulas when it comes to stain and odor removal products. Pet specialty retailers said they home in on efficacy and customer favorites.

Johnson’s customers prefer ecological and organic products, so she "tries to carry products that are the least harsh to the environment and to dogs and cats."

Philbrook sticks with a small selection she’s vetted over the years.

"There’s always someone coming out with ‘better,’ but the tried-and-true are the enzymatic cleaners that break down the bacteria that cause the odor," she said.

When it comes to the smell left behind, insiders said dog and cat owners prefer a clean, fresh scent to a heavily perfumed cover.

"Anything citrus seems to be the scent that is working the best, and we sell sizes anywhere from travel size (for the car) to gallon size for the home," Johnson said. "We are selling more candles and hanging scent pads specifically for dog and cat odor issues, [and] citrus is the most popular for these types of odors. Somehow, the smell of lemon makes you think clean."

One thing is clear: Manufacturers in the category are seeking to meet both the evolving and the ever-green demands of today’s pet owners.

"The key trends are responding to consumer demands," Brandly said. "Throughout the category, consumers are learning about safe and easy-to-use products that fit their lifestyle, making cleanup effortless."

However, retailers speculated that the future of cleaning products for pets might experience a change since the introduction of COVID-19.

"With the pandemic, people might want more antiviral-type cleaners," Philbrook said. "We use a veterinary-grade cleaner that kills everything, so I wonder with all of this if all the talk of viruses and worry will spread to our pets in the long run."