Keeping Kitty Healthy

Supplements and healthcare products have to be tasty to please discerning felines.




Cats need products to assist with joint support, immune support and calming—just like dogs  do—but cats can be pickier about what they ingest. While dogs will likely take a pill if it’s wrapped in bacon or cheese, cats reject this clever ruse and are more difficult to persuade. That means cat healthcare items have to be not only effective, but also easy to administer.


Earth Animal, which is based in Southport, Conn., offers a line of herbal drops in formulas including Cough Wheeze & Sneeze for upper respiratory ailments, Clean Mouth Gums & Breath for gingivitis, and Urinary & Kidney Relief. The drops can be administered in food, in the cat’s mouth or in the cat’s drinking water. “The pet parent has lots of options based on the individual cat’s receptivity,” says Susan Goldstein, who founded the company in 1979. She adds that the herbs are from Vermont and they are organic.


One big seller in the lineup is Emotional Balance, which can help cats adjust to a new home. “Cats are very sensitive beings and they do have lots of anxieties,” Goldstein says. “For families that have just adopted out of a shelter, we suggest Emotional Balance herbs for a month. Cats can be skittish, and they can become antisocial.”


Earth Animal also offers a new supplement for cats in the form of a soft, chewy nugget. The cat can eat it as a treat, or the human can sprinkle crushed pieces onto the cat’s food. “It’s a vitamin, mineral, antioxidant, and skin and coat conditioner—all in one,” Goldstein says.


Other manufacturers agree that chews provide an easy way to get cats to take supplements. NaturVet, a brand of Temecula, Calif.-based Garmon Corp., offers a line of supplements for cats to support their immune and digestive system, skin and coat, joints, and overall health. “They are available in tasty, small star- shaped soft chews, which makes them easy to chew or crumble into food if the cat is a picky eater,” says Scott Garmon, president of Garmon Corp.


NaturVet’s newest supplement for cats is L-Lysine Immune Support Plus Antioxidants. L-Lysine is an essential amino acid that cannot be synthesized in the body, so it must be ingested. The product supports a normal respiratory system, a healthy immune system and helps maintain normal eye health.


Also from NaturVet is Hairball Aid Plus Pumpkin. Pumpkin contains fiber, as well as iron, manganese, magnesium, omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, phosphorus, potassium, protein and zinc, and the product also contains psyllium husk, which helps maintain a healthy intestinal function. Another product for cats is Cranberry Relief Plus Echinacea to help maintain a healthy urinary tract and support optimal bladder function.


Cat Years

One growing segment is age-specific healthcare products. Mindi Tomey Brothers, director of marketing–pet for Chesterfield, Mo.-based Manna Pro Products, says there has been a growing interest in products for older cats, especially products for digestion, arthritis, skin and coat, and oral care.


Manna Pro’s Grapevine, Texas-based grooming product company Espree Pet Products is expanding into oral care this spring. Espree’s new Oral Care Gel is a natural formulation that the company says removes plaque and tartar without brushing, freshens breath and supports healthy gums. For kittens and lactating cats, Nutri-Vet—another brand of Manna Pro Pet—offers Feline Milk Replacement Powder with OptiGut, the company’s proprietary probiotic.


Brothers says retailers can tap into this market by creating a Feline Wellness section that is broken out by condition specific concerns. She recommends merchandising milk replacement products in secondary locations for key kitten months and providing education on the benefits of probiotics in milk replacers. Also, retailers should set up a secondary location for oral care products. “Household penetration is still relatively low, but interest in growing,” Brothers says.


Another way to merchandise cat supplements is with endcaps, especially for Made in the USA  and market leading products, says Chad J. Tillman, national sales manager for Grizzly Pet Products in Woodinville, Wash. “The market leaders help bring consumers into your stores, and an endcap or designated top shelf showcasing cat products other than food can encourage multiple add-on sales on items that typically have higher margins than foods,” he says. “Consumers want to spend their money on supplements that work and on brands that they trust.”


Tillman notes that consumers are also looking for limited ingredients, functionality and results in supplements and health products. Grizzly Pet Products, which manufactures Wild Krill Oil for dogs, is adding a SKU for cats to the Grizzly Krill Oil Line. The company says krill oil helps fight free radicals and harmful molecules that may cause damage in the pet’s body. Grizzly will also add cat SKUs in Grizzly Joint Aid—in both Pellet and Liquid Formulas. “We have received many requests from consumers to make a Joint Support Supplement for cats, and we have complied with those requests,” he says.


Mentally Sharp Cat

Manufacturers are finding that cat owners are looking for additional benefits from these supplements other than basic health needs. For example, pet parents want the most for their pets, and they want to build a loving connection with them, says Travis Draeger, leader of business development for Silver Star Brands in Oshkosh, Wis. “We tried to identify the source of that connection and found that it lies within the cognitive function of your pet,” he says. “The ability for your pet to recognize, relate and function in a way that is enjoyable for the owner really relies on the optimization of their brain.”


With this in mind, the company’s PetAlive brand is launching a line of herbal and homeopathic Brain Health liquid drops. The products aid in the optimization and retention of cognitive functioning for every stage of the pet’s life—from kitten or puppy, to elderly cat or dog.


Draeger says the new line responds to consumer demand for transparency and for natural products. “Pet parents are moving away from the costly, side effect filled pharmaceuticals and low-quality, additive-filled supplements,” he says. “They are looking for all natural, side effect free products that use clean manufacturing processes.”


When it comes to cat health products, pet parents are willing to spend more for safe, all-natural supplements, so pet specialty retailers can benefit by offering a quality-driven product mix. “Though it is important to keep your mix profitable, ultimately you are going to get what you pay for,” Draeger says. “Low-quality supplements tend to be cheaper and available from an array of suppliers, but high-quality products are going to give your store the efficacy it needs to thrive in this highly competitive market.”  PB


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