Keeping Felines Fit
As cat parents explore methods of maximizing feline health, retailers must stock shelves with trustworthy products and provide guidance to pet owners.
While pet parents often seek the best medical solutions for serious health issues that afflict animals, they also search for the most effective preventative measures to maintain maximum well-being. According to the American Pet Products Association’s 2015/2016 National Pet Ownership Survey, Generation Y cat owners are the demographic that shows the largest spending on feline vitamins.
As this generation ages, cat healthcare spending will also grow. But only retailers that recognize the distinctive solutions necessary to address specific feline health concerns—such as hairballs, maintaining healthy taurine levels, joint wellness and age-appropriate care—will remain relevant to consumers who think their animals are the cat’s pajamas.
Sea-worthy Feline Supplements
While behavioral changes may be easy to recognize in some pets, cat health issues are often more difficult to pinpoint. One of the largest roadblocks to raising a healthy cat is the inability of pet parents to recognize signs of distress in these animals.
“A lot of people don’t think about their cat’s joint health because cats just don’t express this need the same way as other species...cats are very unique, private animals— unlike a dog or a person, for example,” says Dana Ballard, marketing coordinator for Stephenville, Texas-based Response Products.
Response Products’ award-winning Seacure allows cat pet parents to provide easily digestible joint and immune solutions to maintain health in felines, including animals that can be finicky.
“Cetyl M for Cats is a dual-purpose supplement for cats that will help maintain joint mobility and support a healthy immune system,” says Ballard. “Seacure [found in Cetyl M] is a natural, pre-digested fish protein concentrate to support immune system health and function. The protein is made from whitefish fillets.”
While he agrees that monitoring feline health can be difficult, Dan Shouse, sales and marketing manager for Tolleson, Ariz.-based Thomas Labs, also emphasizes the importance of preventative tactics to raising a healthy cat. To address these issues early on, Shouse recommends monitoring a cat’s intake of essential amino acids. A well-rounded cat diet must include taurine, the essential amino acid that maintains healthy feline vision, hearing, cardiovascular and reproductive systems.
“Thomas Labs sources our taurine and lysine from manufacturers that adhere to FDA [Food and Drug Administration] guidelines and the FDA inspection system. We only choose amino acids that can be verified as FDA compliant, with up-to-date manufacture data sheets, and facilities that have passed all recent inspections for quality compliance.”
During this year, Shouse foresees greater consumer demand for daily feline supplements that will keep pets healthy and put at ease the minds of their loving owners. Thomas Labs is going to reintroduce a selection of its daily cat supplements in 2016, providing greater palatability and efficacy.
While the FDA and Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulate animal food safety, the National Animal Supplement Council (NASC) was created to provide particular focus on the supplements segment of the pet-goods industry, which was often overlooked in the past. As a member of the organization’s board of directors, In Clover founder Rebecca Rose brings her experience as a biochemist to the forefront of the cat healthcare industry, says Courtney Taylor, director of customer care and marketing for the Boulder, Colo.-based company.
“True to our nature, In Clover’s involvement with the NASC was not motivated by marketing or PR; we are a founding company and one of the first to earn the Quality Seal because it is the right thing to do for the industry, for the animals and for the people who love them,” she explains.
For 20 years, In Clover has provided supplements developed through research, using human-grade natural ingredients. The company is proud of its longevity, achieved through transparency—an important factor when establishing trust with consumers, says Taylor.
“Consumers and retailers alike are tired of companies jumping on the supplement bandwagon to create products that deliver on marketing but not on substance,” says Taylor. “An ingredient that is backed by hype without the research doesn’t make the cut for our products. This may mean we use lesser-known ingredients, which can be more difficult to market, but it ensures the animals get the greatest benefit.”
In Clover also helps less fortunate animals that do not yet have loving homes by donating supplements to organizations that aid homeless pets. Last year, the company provided nearly $25,000 of its Connectin joint supplement and OptaGest digestive aid to local rescues in Colorado.
Just like newborns of any species require nutrients integral to lifelong wellness, kittens need a specific nutritional foundation to optimize health. When kittens are removed from their mothers, their dependence for wellness lies solely on adoptive pet parents.
“Just as with human children versus adults, the nutrient requirements for each is unique,” reveals Dr. Jim Lowe, a veterinarian with Tomlyn, based in Fort Worth, Texas. “Growing kittens require adequate levels of calcium and phosphorus for proper bone development and growth.”
This difference between the nutritional needs of adult cats and kittens is a key point Lowe emphasizes for retailers who help pet parents choose the appropriate items for their new additions, such as supplements rich in taurine to ensure healthy development.
Continuing the company’s mission of lifelong wellness through preventative measures, Tomlyn plans to release a daily multivitamin that will, according to Lowe, promote healthy digestion through probiotics and enzymes.
When cats approach their golden years, cats’ notoriously cool attitude could leave pet parents in the dark regarding health needs. Senior cats’ health issues are extremely specific, differing greatly from those of kittens and felines that have reached their prime, an issue that resonates with Scott Garmon, president of NaturVet.
“The different formulas are specifically balanced for the life stage of the cat…senior cats may be eating less, which requires some extra nutrients in their diet. These needs are met in our VitaPet Senior Soft Chews.”
Emphasizing the importance of preparing for consumer demand through education, Garmon says that retailers must be certain their associates are able to provide valuable insight regarding feline health solutions.
“[Retailers must] educate their employees to help customers choose the correct product for their cat’s needs,” he says. “Remember that consumers shop by solution, so be sure to have clear call outs for categories to help consumers shop… Not every cat will respond exactly the same to different products, so we offer a 100 percent money back guarantee. ”
Fishing for Health
Throughout 2015, the demand for naturally sourced pet products expanded greatly and shows no signs of slowing down. For many cat parents, sourcing nutrients from seafood is a logical choice, as fish are traditionally viewed as an ingredient preferred by felines. Woodenville, Wash.-based Grizzly Pet Products recognized the potential for cat supplements that include human-grade salmon oil as a foundation to promote feline wellness.
“It is important to get fish-based omega-3s, since these contain the long-chain fatty acids DHA and EPA, which are not found in avian or mammal sources of meat,” advises Harald Fisker, president of Grizzly Pet Products.
Awarded its NASC certification in early 2015, Grizzly Pet Products remains adamant about continuing to work with suppliers that are aligned with the company mission to keep pets healthy through wholesome sources. Fisker is proud of his success with Grizzly Salmon Oil for Cats and the company’s NASC certification, remaining aware that this seal will elevate the brand’s trustworthiness with consumers.
Retailers can best help consumers by remaining educated regarding specific feline health needs and nutritional solutions. Many supplement providers are leaning toward developing products for daily use to address overall cat health and, with the help of knowledgeable sales people, they can successfully navigate this growing trend in feline wellness.