Helping The Real Scaredy-Cats
Calming and behavior products can help pet owners keep their cats safe and provide retailers with incremental sales.
There is nothing more frightening to a feline than the sight of a cat carrier—except maybe thunder, fireworks and being left alone.
While cats might seem confident, aloof or independent most of the time, some become very frightened when they go to the vet. They might also get anxious when they hear loud noises or when their humans abandon them all day to go to work. Luckily for the owners of these pets, there are several options for cat calming products, and retailers who know how to merchandise the products can succeed in this growing category.
According to the Packaged Facts February/March 2017 National Pet Owner Survey, 57 percent of cat owners say they have a cat with anxiety or stress issues. Also according to the survey, over the last 12 months, 12 percent of cat owners have purchased products to relieve a pet’s anxiety/stress. The most popular cat calming items include sprays or diffusers and supplements.
Manufacturers say retailers have an opportunity as more pet owners seek solutions that will help alleviate their cats’ stress, and, as a result, help to prevent harmful behaviors.
“The calming and behavior category is being driven by consumers looking for more natural, non-pharmaceutical options for their pets,” says Derek J. Archambault, director of marketing, pet and retail, for FoodScience Corporation in Williston, Vt. “We see that a majority of pet owners would like to try a supplement option before going to a prescription drug, and when it comes to issues like anxiety-triggered behavior challenges, they are embarrassed to talk to their vet about it.”
Archambault adds that consumers are afraid they will be viewed as “bad pet parents.” They might also believe the pet’s anxiety is their own fault.
“In addition, because not all vets are familiar with alternative therapies like supplements, consumers will go off looking for solutions on their own,” he says. “This is a great opportunity for a retailer to be a partner in finding the right solution for them.”
Pet Naturals of Vermont, one of the FoodScience Corporation’s brands, offers several products, including Calming for Cats, which are chews that contain thiamine (vitamin B1), colostrum calming complex biopeptide blend and L-theanine. The products are designed to help calm and focus the pet without making them sleepy.
“We feel that is an important part of an effective behavior supplement, which is why we don’t use tryptophan or other ingredients generally associated with sleeping in our formula,” says Archambault.
He adds that retailers should merchandise different calming products together, so the consumer can examine all the options. Some pets might need a supplement or a calming treat, for example, while others might need an accessory such as a collar or a shirt.
Knowing that cat owners are looking for all-natural cat calming solutions, retailers should be prepared to answer these shoppers’ questions. “As a pet parent, my first and foremost thought would be, is this safe for my cat?” says Anjilla Young, director of marketing for smartpetlove, based in Novi, Mich. “I would be hesitant to purchase a product if the staff was not sure what the ingredients were.”
The challenge, says Young, is that there are so many calming products available that retailers might find it difficult to keep up with every new product. “Retailers should start by asking their customers what products and brands they trust and recommend most, then try and supply those,” says Young. “Educating your staff on the different types of calming products you carry will go a long way when the customer comes in looking for help.”
One alternative to supplements and treats is smartpetlove’s comfort products, such as Snuggle Kitty, which has a pulsing heartbeat and a heat source to mimic being part of a pack. Snuggle Kitty is an all-natural, medication-free calming solution that appeals to a cat’s natural instincts as well as the human’s desire to try something that does not involve their cat ingesting anything or being sprayed with something to calm them down, Young says.
Other natural solutions involve pheromones, which are chemicals that animals produce and release into the environment to communicate with other animals. “For instance, when a cat walks around and rubs its face on everything in its home, he is essentially putting up invisible ‘post-it notes’ with facial pheromones to claim this area as a safe space,” says Sarah Batterson, brand manager for H&C Animal Health in Parker, Colo.
H&C Animal Health offers the Feliway plug-in diffuser, which mimics the feline facial pheromone, making the cat feel safe. The company says Feliway Classic is clinically proven to help alleviate cat behaviors such as urine spraying, vertical scratching and hiding. There is also Feliway MultiCat, which the company says is clinically proven to help reduce tension and conflict between household cats.
Batterson says retailers should merchandise diffusers, sprays and collars together to give the consumer a full solution center for behavior challenges. She adds that one trend that will affect the category is Millennials waiting longer to have children and becoming pet parents instead. “They tend to think of their pet as a member of their family more so than any other generation,” says Batterson. “Just like any other member of the family, they want to ensure comfort and lessen anxiety so they are reaching out for products that will keep their pet not only healthy, but comfortable.”
Another trend that can affect the category relates to where Millennials and other pet owners live. According to Packaged Facts, in its May 2017 report Pet Population and Ownership Trends in the U.S.: Dogs, Cats, and Other Pets, 2nd Edition, pet owners in urban areas are more likely to perceive that their pets are suffering from stress and anxiety. More than 70 percent of cat owners living in urban areas agree they have a cat that sometimes has anxiety/stress issues, while approximately 40 percent of cat owners living in suburban or rural areas say their pet has these problems.
No matter where they live, cat owners might not realize that certain destructive behaviors are triggered by the cat feeling stressed. Retailers can help by educating consumers about the signs of stress, says Kim Knoblauch, marketing manager for Nelsons, which offers RESCUE Remedy Pet.
“For cats it may include urine spraying, aggression, change in appetite, excessive self-grooming or hair loss, or excessive vocalization,” says Knoblauch. “Retailers can assist in getting to the root of the cause by asking questions like, ‘Is the pet adapting to new surroundings? Is this an adjustment for other animals in the house? When does the pet seem stressed?’ These answers can help retailers pick out the best product.”
RESCUE Remedy Pet is available in a dropper, so pet owners can administer it by adding four drops to the pet’s food, water bowl or on a treat. The company says the drops can also be applied to the pet’s fur, paws or pads of their feet.
Communication is especially important in the cat calming category.
“To get the most out of this category, retailers need to talk to their consumers, have effective shelf placement and be educated on the symptoms, causes and products that help calm or modify unwanted behavior,” says Knoblauch. Stores should also merchandise according to the seasons. “End caps that take advantage of seasonal issues and trends are also important. Summer months are busy with travel, which can increase stress. Holidays like the Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve often involve fireworks, which can make pets nervous.”
Prepared with the right information, retailers can suggest a product to soothe any customer’s cat. PB