Retailers should embrace the continually growing cat toy market to benefit both customers and sales.
When it comes to pets, dogs take up most of the spotlight. The majority of pet stores’ aisles and product selections are often dedicated to pups, leaving the rest of the animal kingdom in the dust. However, cats are finally having their day. More retailers are realizing that cats need to play just as much as dogs, resulting in a wider variety of cat toys than ever before. As the market for cat toys expands, retailers should make space in their stores for feline playtime products.
“Play is essential for cats for two very important reasons,” says Jennifer Neufeld, co-founder of Distinctly Himalayan, based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. “First, boredom is bad for a cat’s health. Boredom can lead to behavioral issues, both with their human companions, and other pets in the household.”
A cat often translates that boredom into destructive behaviors towards both humans and furniture. Mentally engaging cats reduces these behavioral issues, as well as stress and anxiety. Playing with cats also promotes healthy bonding between the cat and pet parents or other animals in the household.
“Cats, just like people, need to get exercise, socialize and be interactive,” says Leslie Yellin, executive vice president for Multipet. “Toys are a fun way for pet owners to interact with their cats by throwing balls with bells or dangling a wand.”
The Moonachie, N.J.-based manufacturer produces balls with bells, cat wands, refillable catnip toys and more. The company’s latest offering has been a huge hit despite initial hesitation.
“Our Katz Kuddlerz are a huge hit,” says Yellin. “Initially, when we launched them, non-cat people thought it was strange to have such a big stuffed toy for cats. Cats LOVE to grab them or bunny kick them, while enjoying feathers, catnip and crinkle sounds. It really is like four toys in one.”
Susan Calles, national marketing manager for Ethical Products, agrees that it’s important for cats to socialize and interact with their owners.
“While cats are independent, there is also a huge benefit to interactive toys such as wands,” says Called. “These types of toys promote bonding between the cat and pet parent. Our line of wands, remote control toys and laser toys encourage owners to play along with their cat.”
It’s important to remember that in the wild, cats are predators. So domesticated felines need to be able to express their innate need to hunt.
“Cats are predators, they are hardwired to hunt,” says Kate Benjamin, designer of the Hauspanther Cat Toy Collection by Primetime Petz. “When we keep cats safely inside our homes, we need to provide them with simulated prey in the form of toys so they can act out their hunting instincts.”
She adds that it’s important for pet parents to have a variety of different toys that stimulate different hunting skills.
“Some cat toys move across the floor like mice, while others fly through the air as a bird would,” says Benjamin. “Cats will react differently to each of these types of toys, sometimes preferring one over the other.”
Hauspanther has been producing a limited-edition line of cat toys since 2009, but is now partnering with Primetime Petz, based in Rockwall, Texas, to bring its toys to a larger market, with its new cat toy collection expected to be available in mid 2019.
Vee Enterprises also manufactures products that encourage cats’ natural desire to hunt.
“Interactive toys let them act out their natural predatory instincts to hunt, chase and capture,” says Eric Merve, sales manager for the Los Angeles-based company. “Having toys that mimic prey really brings out these instincts. Our wand toys feature prey-like movements that entice cats to pounce, bite, lick and chew!”
The company produces a variety of wands featuring feathers, leather and crinkles, which don’t feature metal to avoid a snagged nail or chipped tooth.
“Feathers are used on many of our wand toys and we only use naturally treated feathers on our products so they retain the natural smell of the bird, which cats can’t seem to resist,” says Merve. “Our longer wands give the toy a nice wiggle action to mimic prey-like movements, as well as our bouncer cable for shorter wands.”
Distictly Himalayan also uses natural scents to attract and retain the attention of cats.
“The most important aspect of our toys is that we use very high lanolin content Himalayan wool,” says Neufeld. “The scent naturally attracts cats and keeps them engaged with the toys.”
She adds that the company’s cat toys are all between 2 in. and 5 in. so they are similar in size to a cat’s natural prey.
Scratch N’ Sniff
While not part of a feline’s predatory nature, scratching is another behavior that is necessary for cats and scratchers should be made available in all pet specialty stores.
“Another great toy for cats is a scratcher, which while not part of a prey/ predator experience, for the cat is actually an essential behavior that relieves stress, naturally reduces claw length and promotes healthy bodies through stretching and exercise,” says Bills Parsons, sales manager at P.L.A.Y. Pet Lifestyle and You.
The San Francisco-based company recently developed its Arty and Leeloo cat scratchers which are functional, yet visually appealing, to fit into any household’s décor.
Ginger Bussey, vice president for Imperial Cat, agrees that scratchers are an essential addition to any home with a cat.
“I haven’t met a cat that didn’t scratch, scratchers are a must have item for any cat owner,” she says.
The Morrilton, Ark-based company produces scratchers for cats in a variety of fun shapes, to entice all cats and keep them away from furniture.
Nip It in the Bud
When discussing the multitude of cat toys available, one category that can’t be left out is catnip. This feline favorite is a great way to boost the appeal of other cat toys.
“Our most popular line of cat toys are toys that contain catnip,” says Calles. “Catnip scented toys and pure catnip toys appeal to the finicky nature of cats. Our line of catnip toys is developed to appeal to the playful desires and needs of cats.”
Bloomfield, N.J.-based Ethical Products produces rattles, wands, plush toys and felt mice infused with catnip, as well as mice made out of 100 percent compressed catnip with faux leather ears and tail.
Bussey also notes that Imperial Cat’s catnip toys are extremely popular and that they are continuing to produce new toys to cater to a variety of pet parents and cats.
“We have several new toys this year,” says Bussey. “A fun and whimsical catnip-filled unicorn and an adorable sloth catnip filled toy are just a couple of the new toys that are selling well already.”
P.L.A.Y. jumped on the catnip bandwagon with its recently created line of refillable catnip toys, Feline Frenzy. Inspired by the company’s popular dog toys, the small plush toys include fruits, veggies and other food, as well as prey-shaped toys too.
“All toys are fully machine washable, and with an easy to open pocket so that pet parents can replace catnip quickly and efficiently,” says Parsons. “These eight whimsical toy sets come with an added bonus that they are preloaded with some of the most potent USA grown organic catnip on the market (potency certified by the P.L.A.Y. team’s own cats).”
P.L.A.Y. offers a wood rotating POS display for its plush toys, so each of the eight toys can be hung on the rack by their backer cards. The display is discounted or even free for retailers with a purchase of a specific number of the plush toys.
Distinctly Himalayan believes packaging is one of the most important parts of a product for retailers. The company has a counter display that holds 60-80 toys, as well has toy cards with two or three toys each. The displays are themed, depending on the toys, with “farmer cat” holding fruit and veggie toys and “space cat” holding rockets and aliens.
“If they have room by their register, our counter display boxes offer the best deal on toys,” says Neufeld. “And the toy cards are perfect to hang in any toy section.”
Supporting retailers is important to Imperial Cat as well and helps maintain good relationships.
“We send out weekly emails to our retailers to keep them updated on all our new items, in addition to offering them discounts so they can be more competitive against the big-box stores,” says Bussey. “We also have POP boxes and are always happy to provide information on any of our products to the retailers.”
As cat parents continue to see the importance of toys in stimulating and enriching their feline friends, retailers should make an effort to broaden their assortment of cat toys to guarantee the greatest number of sales in this category, and continually look for new options.
“Years ago a lot of stores didn’t put a lot of faith in cat toy sales. We invested greatly in bringing colorful, fun and different toys that work for all play types to the market,” says Yellin. “We have seen huge lifts in sales in this category with our retail partners that rotate and refresh the set.” PB