Satisfying Cat Treat Cravings
With growing attention on keeping cats happy and healthy, consumers are demanding high-quality treats that also sate the selective feline palate.
Regardless of the pet species, most pet parents agree that treats are part of their animals’ daily diets, but different creatures have distinctive needs. When choosing cat treats, consumers are looking for quality products, but also goods that will satisfy finicky felines and meet the specific dietary requirements to improve the health of these animals. Consumers who buy cat treats don’t want to be overlooked; therefore, they are demanding that these snacks promote health and are manufactured from ingredients that animals will enjoy.
While treats are supposed to be used sparingly as an addition to a cat’s diet, these products should be part of a healthy regimen that is rich in nutrients to benefit feline bodies. Cats have unique needs, including maintaining healthy levels of taurine, an amino acid that is integral to feline wellness. Though taurine is crucial to cat health, its production isn’t a naturally occurring process in the feline body. Due to this important dietary component, pet parents look to cat-treat companies for comprehensive health solutions that solve this issue.
“Taurine is an essential amino acid cats can’t produce by themselves, so they must obtain it from food and treats,” explains Adrian Pettyan, CEO and co-founder of Caru Pet Food Company. “This nutrient plays many important roles, from maintaining sharp eyesight and proper cardiovascular function to bolstering the immune system...so as a precautionary measure, cat treat manufacturers may choose to add taurine to their products.”
The importance of taurine is an issue that manufacturers must consider when formulating recipes for cat treats. Regardless of the formula used, the one common factor within cat treats must be the inclusion of this essential component of a feline diet, yet some manufacturers take additional steps to meet this demand, reveals Alyssa Guertin, brand manager for PetAg.
“As an essential nutrient, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) requires all cat food to contain taurine as a complete and balanced meal for cats,” she says. “Many manufacturers fortify food and treats with taurine as well…treats containing additional taurine may convince cat owners to purchase versus those not making that claim.”
Though some manufacturers might take initiative by ensuring their treats are produced with ingredients that are beneficial to pet wellbeing, Guertin warns that consumers should be aware it is possible to have too much of a good thing. “Cat owners should consider their individual pet’s daily intake and diet before simply adding sources of taurine, as it may not be required,” she says.
Retailers can stand out from the crowd by ensuring they educate staff regarding the nutritional value of all products, in addition to those treats made by manufacturers that promote increased sources of taurine. By listening to and having solutions to fulfill each customer’s vision of the ideal cat treat, retailers will gain a trusting, long-term client.
Preventing Fat Cats
With pet obesity rising in the United States, consumers are increasingly dedicated to the battle of the feline bulge. To help consumers engage in smart pet feeding practices, manufacturers are not only adding more nutritious ingredients, but they are also bypassing recipes that are not as healthful.
“While we all enjoy treating our pets, they key is to treat them in a healthy way to prevent weight gain. This is especially important with indoor cats who tend to be less active,” says WellPet’s marketing director, Elaine Obergfell. “At WellPet, we make sure that we provide treat options that are made with high-quality proteins and free of grains, and other fillers, so cats are getting wholesome nutrition in flavors they enjoy.”
Many cat-treat makers agree that offering recipes that do not inlcude grains is one of the most important steps that retailers can take to in remain current with trends in the market. “Cat treats will continue to head more toward high-quality, meat-based treats with no grains,” explains Lindsey Stluka, marketing director at Herbsmith. “More and more pet parents are being proactive and doing their research and seeking out high-quality products from manufacturers that they trust.”
As often happens with pet diets, consumers who are buying treats for their cats are going to translate their own health-conscious dietary choices into how they feed their animals. Pet parents will align themselves with retailers who not only provide these more wholesome treat options, but also work toward improving quality throughout this segment of the market, according Herbsmith’s graphic designer and content writer, Joslin Lee.
“Simple is better…the pet industry closely shadows the human food industry. The trends seen in the grocery store often pop up on pet store shelves not long after,” Lee says. “Consumers will seek out like-minded retailers who are pushing the pet industry in a healthier direction.”
When examining how pet parents use treats, there is a danger regarding portion control, as over-treating contributes to cat obesity. Many consumers could decrease the number of treats they give to beloved animals, but this requires letting go of the belief that more treats increases love and affection from pets. During product development, cat-treat manufacturers remain cognizant that cats require smaller portions than other animals.
“Raw treats for cats are still an emerging trend,” says Tracey Hatch-Rizzi, vice-president and co-founder of Radagast Pet Food, Inc. “Raw frozen and freeze-dried treats for dogs are really the same kinds of treats that are good for cats, but some of these are just too large. I think raw food manufacturers are starting to provide more treats for cats…that are a more appropriate size and quantity for what cats would eat.”
As manufacturers create cat treats that reflect consumer demand, retailers must educate staff regarding the production and recipes of their suppliers. Chances are high that customers have already performed preliminary research, and it is up to retailers to expand upon that information to fill in the blanks regarding important manufacturing details. PB