Covering the Cat Bases

Providing cats with furniture especially designed for them makes for a more stress-free environment for everyone.


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Cats are known for their love of hiding, jumping, pouncing, climbing, hunting, sleeping and, of course, scratching. In every home, cats will find places to fulfill these innate needs, be it the corner of the couch, the dining room table or the drapes in the living room, but not too many homeowners are happy to sacrifice their furniture for the sake of their cat’s natural behaviors. Consequently, they look to pet retailers for products that help discourage or deter common and sometimes destructive actions–essentially, products that allow cats to be cats.

Cat furniture, beds and scratching posts are products every cat owner needs to have in the home. Since every cat has multiple needs, pet owners may require several products or a particularly effective single product that can fulfill several needs simultaneously. When talking to a new cat owner, the best place to start is with a discussion about what those needs are. Existing cat owners, on the other hand, sometimes overlook the obvious and may need someone to just point out the advantage of investing in a new item, especially when they are looking to solve a particular problem.

So, what are these needs? A healthy cat owes its wellbeing to an informed and caring pet owner who provides good nutrition, proper exercise for physical and mental health, and a stress-free environment. These cat owners need to be properly armed with an arsenal of products that help them achieve this for their cats. Every cat owner should look at a potential purchase of cat furniture, scratching posts and beds and ask themselves, “How will this item provide additional exercise, make my cat healthier and happier, and provide a better place for my cat to live?” Every pet specialty retailer should be able to help their cat customers to answer the question.

Since cat furniture, beds and scratching posts vary greatly in color, size, style and quality, retailers will need to be discerning when stocking the cat aisle. They also need to keep in mind that every home operates under a different budget. What is expensive for one home may not be for the next, and what is tacky for one person may not be for the other. Price and style is somewhat relative, so knowing the market will help when it is time to decide what to stock.

Regardless of what specific items a retailer chooses to carry, they should always strive to offer all the basics. Some basic furniture items should include several varieties and sizes of condos. Cat towers, although they can be pricey, will fill the bill for some cat owners. Be sure to display some play tunnels, for hiding, sleeping and crawling, and cat trees, which encourage climbing and additional scratching. Cat cradles are also good scratching and lounging items for cats, thus providing a less stressful and more relaxing environment.

Every retailer should also stock beds and window shelves for the family feline, as well. These items provide a comfy, cozy spot for cats that sleep much of the day.

Scratching items, which are not always posts, are must-haves for every cat owner. Scratching is instinctive for cats. It removes the outer sheath of claw material, and it is also a way for cats to mark their territory, using the scent glands on their front paws. Scratchers provide Felix with an additional form of exercise, as the cat stretches the muscles in its legs and front quarters.

Providing specific products manufactured and intended for scratching can easily deter cats from turning to furniture and drapery for this purpose. The cat department should display scratching posts in a variety of heights and styles. Variations would include corner and corrugated scratchers and sisal- and carpeted-post scratchers. Products with moveable swatters attached also encourage physical activity.


Exercise for Mind and Body
Retailers know exercise is imperative for good health, and so do most pet owners. But owners sometimes don’t know how to provide and encourage exercise for their pet. Pet owners will also sometimes miss the connection between physical exercise and good mental health. Cats that don’t get enough exercise are likely to develop behavioral problems. Communicating this to the customer can be very important, both for their pet’s health and for retail sales.

Cat customers require multiple products to provide proper exercise for their cat and deter destructive actions. Strong, comprehensive signage, which includes more than just the price of an item, goes a long a way in educating customers and steering them in the right direction. Consider something like: Corner Scratching Post–Save Your Furniture & Encourage Healthy Scratching, $49.99.

Of course, there are many products that are manufactured to meet several cat needs all at once. One product can often offer the cat a place to climb, hide, jump, play, scratch and sleep, although the aesthetic value is sometimes compromised on these products. Generally, cat owners may need to place products in more than one location in the home, so the one-product approach may be not a viable option for all. Often, this item can be complemented with several smaller pieces strategically placed throughout the house.


Merchandising
Retailers can easily work cat furniture, beds and scratching posts into an endcap display in the store to create sales and educate customers. They are great places for displaying the smaller pieces and demonstrating the need for cat owners to place several similar items in different places in the home, thus creating multiple-item sales.

These products can also be set up in an aisle display, showing the most necessary pieces for every happy, healthy cat. Aisle displays are ideal for the larger cat condos, trees and tunnels. Group smaller scratching items with beds, window shelves and even some of the larger products, and then create kits for “Health and Success.” This will convey the message that these products are absolute necessities and encourage additional sales.

It is always wise to establish the need for these products before a customer’s cat develops behavioral issues. Demonstrate the value of these items to the customer. Even though value is often price-related, for many customers it is also strongly associated with any product that helps them keep their cats healthy, happy and fit.


John Tyson is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Houston, Texas. He has 20 years combined experience in the pet industry as a multi-store owner, general manager and industry journalist.

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