Consumer interest in the small mammal category is steady as pet owners increasingly seek natural and healthful products, according to industry insiders.
"We promote all small mammals, and interest in the small mammal category has not wavered," said Caroline Janczak, co-owner of Critters Pet Shop in South Elgin, Ill.
Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow Animal Health in Omaha, Neb., reported that owners are becoming more educated about their critters and want to know the products they purchase are safe and a good fit for their small mammals.
"We encounter more and more pet parents who are invested in finding new ways to maximize their pet’s quality of life and longevity," he said. "Meeting these demands means producing natural, wholesome products and providing transparency into how they’re made. Helping pet parents provide the best quality of life possible means finding innovative ways to provide support for the needs of pets."
Stemming from this focus on quality of life and wellness, consumer demand for all-natural, wholesome nutrition for small mammals is on the rise.
"Natural, organic and made in the USA are all key points that are driving the consumer," said Ginger Bussey, vice president of Imperial Cat in Morrilton, Ark.
Stefan Wawrzynski, operations director for Brisky Pet Products in Franklinville, N.Y., agreed that all-natural products are popular and reported seeing "growing demand for domestically produced items and treats."
Stephanie Carbaugh, marketing and design support for F.M. Brown’s Sons in Sinking Spring, Pa., noted that 88 percent of small animal owners purchase treats for their pets, according to the 2017-2018 APPA National Pet Owners Survey.
"Due to the phenomenon of humanization, consumers want to treat/gift their pets just like they would their friends," she said.
Michael Ford, manager of Affordable Pet Center in North Hampton, Pa., has also noticed this trend.
"People want to give their pets things to do and treat them more like family members," he added.
However, Carbaugh added shoppers also demand that their pets’ treats are nutritious.
"Treats are no longer just treats," she said. "They are a way to supplement your pet’s nutrition."
In response to growing consumer interest in natural, beneficial supplements in recent years, Oxbow Animal Health launched its Natural Science line of natural, hay-based supplements, Stock reported.
"Today’s pets are living longer than ever as a result of innovations in nutrition and veterinary care, as well as a community of pet parents that is more highly educated and proactive about their pets’ health than ever," he said. "As longevity increases, we’re finding that many pets will, inevitably, encounter new health challenges.
"Caring pet parents today are proving passionate about finding ways to address the wellness needs of their pets, and many are doing so proactively," Stock added. "Providing supplements is a great way to help pets live long, happy lives."