A Precious Ally
The wide range of solution-oriented litters produced by Precious Cat, Inc., are designed to help cat owners address a number of issues, including inappropriate elimination, says Gina Zaro, marketing director.
Pet Business: Given the significant role that inappropriate elimination problems can play in driving cat owners to surrender their pets, what can retailers do to help their customers solve or prevent these types of problems?
Gina Zaro: Inappropriate elimination is the No. 1 behavioral reason that cats are surrendered to shelters or put to sleep. Retailers can help by identifying cat owners who come in looking for urine clean-up products, because that can be a clue that their cat is going outside the litter box and they need a solution. For example, our Cat Attract product helps cats return to the litter box and works about 98 percent of the time.
In addition to recommending a product like Cat Attract, retailers should talk to cat owners about how many litter boxes they have in the house; they should have one for each cat in the house, plus one additional box. That is very important.
The type of substrate that the cat owner is using in the box is also important, as some cats have a preference for certain substrate textures.
Finally, make sure that they are cleaning up the urine really well, because if the cat can detect any odor at all, they will have a propensity to go back and [soil] the same area again.
It’s all about asking the right questions in order to get the customer to the right products that will help.
Of course, the most important question is, “Have you taken your cat to the vet?” Typically, [inappropriate elimination] can be a sign of a urinary tract infection or kidney issues. Oftentimes, if it is a defecation issue, it can be because of constipation or some other bowel issue, because cats typically do not defecate outside the box.
PB: What separates Precious Cat from other manufacturers in the cat litter category?
Zaro: There are a couple of things that separate us from other companies in the market. For one, we are owned by a feline-only veterinarian [Dr. Bruce Elsey, DVM] who has been practicing feline medicine for more than 35 years, so we look at [the cat care category] a little differently. Of course, we have the benefit of his expertise and research knowledge when we develop products.
Secondly, we don’t do anything else except for litter. That gives us a unique approach, because all we concentrate on is developing the best solutions for cats in particular situations.
PB: Precious Cat’s latest product introduction is the Health Monitor Everyday Litter. What makes this product special?
Zaro: Oftentimes, the first signs of changes in a cat’s health are an increase in urine output and a decrease in the cat’s weight.
Dr. Elsey developed the Health Monitor litter, which can be used every day. Essentially, the way it works is by having a consistent particle size that allows the owner to take 24 hours of their cat’s urine balls and weigh them. We provide a digital scale inside the litter, and the owner can compare the weight of the urine balls to a chart that we include on the box itself to see if it is urinating too much and needs to be taken to a veterinarian. Some of the health issues that are associated with increased urination include kidney problems, hyperthyroidism and diabetes.
We also recommend that you weigh your cat every three months. Cats are really good at hiding illness, and checking for a decrease in weight can be an important indicator that something isn’t right.
PB: What are some of the other stand-out products offered by Precious Cat? What makes these products a good fit for pet stores?
Zaro: Independent pet stores have the time to spend with customers, figuring out their needs and finding products that are suitable, and our litters are really solution oriented. For instance, if a customer has a cat that isn’t eliminating in the litter box, you would offer the Cat Attract or Kitten Attract. Kitten Attract has the same herbal additives that Cat Attract has, but it has a much smaller particle size, so it’s more conducive to a kitten’s paws.
If a cat has upper-respiratory issues, we do have a litter called Respiratory Relief. It is a very low-dust litter that has herbal essences in it for stress relief. If a cat has asthma or herpes, these conditions can be exacerbated by stress.
We also have Touch of Outdoors litter. This is also a low-dust litter, and it has natural prairie grasses in it. It’s for cats that are stressed because they want to go outside but can’t. Signs of this type of stress include over grooming and pacing at the door.
PB: Tell us about Precious Cat’s Cats Against Cancer Campaign, which supports the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF). How did thecompany get involved with MMRF? What inspired the campaign and how does it work?
Zaro: In 2009, Dr. Elsey’s wife Kathy was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, which is a form of blood cancer that is fairly rare and has no cure. While there traditionally hasn’t been a lot of options for people with multiple myeloma, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation has been successful at bringing more drugs to market, by far, than any other cancer organization.
When Kathy was diagnosed, Dr. Elsey saw it as a challenge to get involved and help find a cure not only for multiple myeloma, but for all cancers. So, we started working with MMRF on a campaign called Cats Against Cancer, because it really gives cat owners an opportunity to give something back.
Through the campaign, when people purchase a 40-lb. bag of our Precious Cat Ultra litter during the period between October through February, we give them a $3-off coupon, and we donate $3 to MMRF. Since 2009, Dr. Elsey has contributed $8 million to the cause. In turn, MMRF has been able to turn it into $14 million with matching gifts.
Another thing we did this year is we designed vests that say “Cats Against Cancer,” which people can buy for their cats. For each vest, we donate an additional $5 to MMRF. It has kind of taken on a life of its own, which has been great.