Cat Scratchers and Climbing Posts
With cats’ growing popularity, retailers would be smart to invest in crucial feline-focused products like scratchers and climbers.
Some things just come naturally to pets: dogs like to chew and dig, birds are born to chirp and fly and cats have an innate urge to scratch and climb.
“Scratching and climbing are both natural instincts for cats that help them feel a sense of territorial ownership. Scratching accomplishes this by leaving both visual and scent marks,” explains Kate Benjamin, creator of the Hauspanther Collection by Primetime Petz. “Climbing lets cats survey their territory, allowing them to see what’s going on in the room.”
With cat ownership on the rise, an increasing number of pet parents are looking for ways to address these instincts and curb unwanted behaviors. That’s why scratchers and climbers are a key category for today’s pet retailers.
These two behaviors are exclusive to cats, so “there is no crossover with dog as there can be with beds and feeding,” says Benjamin. “With more and more cat owners learning about the need for these two items, every retailer should have a dedicated section of scratching and climbing items.”
Designed From Scratch
While scratchers and climbers have long been a standard product in the cat aisle, modern owners are looking for more than the traditional carpeted post for their precious felines in terms of design.
“11 years ago, when I first started covering the cat product industry, there were very few unique items available with almost none that could be considered stylish,” says Benjamin. “A handful of designers pioneered the idea of design for cats, some tackling scratching and climbing, but not until recently, when larger manufacturers began creating lines of designer cat furniture, did we have so many affordable options for cat owners.”
Benjamin’s Hausanther Collection, a line of cat furniture made in partnership with Primetime Petz, based in Rockwall, Texas, places equal emphasis on function and style. The pieces are designed to fulfill cats’ desire to climb, perch, play and scratch while also blending in with a contemporary household.
The MaxScratch oversized scratching post and perch, for example, is wrapped in natural jute rope, which creates a durable scratching surface and a beautiful finish to blend in with modern décor. The line also features multiple wall-mounted pieces, like the Nest Perch. The center sunken lounge gives Kitty a comfortable spot to nap, while the two lookout perches allow her to safely watch over the household.
Manufacturers aren't just looking to humans for design ideas; they’re also drawing inspiration from cats themselves. When creating the new Leeloo and Arty cat scratchers, for instance, San Francisco-based company Pet Lifestyle and You (P.L.A.Y.) took a cue from cats’ unique physicality.
“Anyone who’s ever spent time with a cat is aware of their incredible flexibility and all the shapes they easily slide themselves into as they sleep, stretch and snuggle,” says Sarah Johnson, sales coordinator for P.L.A.Y. “The sloped curves of the Leeloo and more dramatic curves and angles of the Arty are reminiscent of these artistic shapes that cats
Both scratchers feature FDA-certified corrugated recycled paper that can withstand extreme scratching without excessive shedding. Plus, the abstract shapes deliver a dynamic look that is enticing for cats and humans alike.
Of course, beautiful cat furniture doesn't do much good if it doesn't fit in your home. That’s why products that save space are increasingly in demand, especially among the biggest block of today’s pet parents: millennials. Not only do Americans under 30 love their felines (over half are cat owners), they are also frequently apartment dwellers.
“With limited space in most homes and the nomadic lifestyle of millennials, Sauder Pet Home is focused on trying to deliver designs that satisfy the cat's natural need to climb and at the same time be in proportion to the rest of your home décor,” says Mark Strayer, principal product designer for Sauder Pet Home.
All of the Archbold, Ohio-based company’s products are created to serve multiple functions in order to maximize function and space. The Adjustable Height Cat Tower, for example, offers cats a soft place to perch as well as sisal and corrugate scratch pads. Plus, the top platform can be easily lowered or raised to fit a home of any size or style.
Safe and Sustainable Scratching
Pet parents aren't just interested in how cat furniture looks, though. They are also increasingly concerned about what scratchers and climbers are made of—especially how the materials can affect their pets’ health and the environment.
“Owners have become more aware of the benefits of natural products and they want that for their pet,” explains Ginger Bussey, vice president of Imperial Cat. “You see some gimmicky scratchers on the market now; we prefer the tried and true scratchers with real catnip. You wouldn't give your child a toy with a spray on solution, we wouldn't give it to our feline children either.”
All of Imperial Cat’s scratchers, including the signature Scratch n’ Pads and Scratch n’ Shapes, include organic catnip to encourage kitties to play, roll, rub and, of course, scratch. As an added bonus, all of the Morrilton, Ark.-based company’s scratchers are also engineered, designed and produced in the U.S.
According to Libby He, marketing director for Pet Pals, one of the biggest changes in the category is the trend toward higher quality and more sustainable materials. That’s why the Ontario, Canada-based company created the Pet Pals Paper Post, a unique scratching post and cat perch made with recyclable paper rope.
“We observed cat behavior, and found out they love to scratch on paper,” adds He. “Cat parents can spray catnip on paper for more efficiency.”
Cats have a reputation for being picky and finicky. Therefore, one of the biggest hurdles to closing sales is assuring customers of a product's usability.
“[Cat owners] don’t want to invest a lot of money in something that will go unused. The best way retailers can address this issue is to provide educational resources to help consumers pick the right scratcher for their cat and for their home, and teach them how to encourage their cat to use the scratcher,” says Benjamin.
Industry experts agree that offering a variety of styles of scratchers and climbers is key to category success. That means stocking furniture with spaces to hide, climb and lounge; climbers made of cardboard, carpet, sisal, jute, wood and paper; and scratchers that lay vertically and horizontally. The more options available, the more likely it is that owners can find the right piece for their cat.
“It can also be helpful to add some educational aspects to a display of these types of products to highlight key benefits of having cat-specific furniture,” says Johnson. “This allows a cat owner who may browse these items but doesn’t see reason for a purchase a chance to stop and consider the benefits.”
Staff should be prepared to engage customers directly and have enough product know-how to provide knowledgeable suggestions.
“Retailers should give recommendations based on cat owner’s house décor. What color are they mainly looking for, natural or black and white? Then, ask about their cat’s behavior, is the cat quiet or very active?” advises He.
As for displays, Benjamin recommends dedicating space in the store to showcase climbers and scratchers in context, like how Ikea displays full room setups. She even suggests hiring live cat models—perhaps local rescues—to interact with the products.
“At the very least, setting up display models of the items is critical. They have to be assembled out of the packaging. Customers need to be inspired by how they can use the items in their own homes, plus they will want to see the quality and durability of the items,” she adds. PB