Hay and Hay Accessories for Small Animals
By understanding the health and behavioral benefits of hay, retailers can help customers select products that keep their small pets happy.
When it comes to purchasing products for small animals, customers may be drawn to fun toys and colorful habitats. However, retailers should be ready to recommend an important item that improves the overall wellness of small critters. Hay holds significant health benefits for these animals by facilitating normal digestion, promoting dental health, preventing boredom and encouraging foraging instincts.
“Small herbivores such as rabbits, guinea pigs and chinchillas have unique digestive systems that require constant motion to function properly and remain healthy,” says Lucas Stock, communications manager for Oxbow Animal Health. “Grass hay is the ideal food material to facilitate this motion and should be offered in unlimited quantities—all day, every day. Hay should be the cornerstone of every small herbivore’s diet.”
Based in Omaha, Neb., Oxbow has specialized in producing premium hay for more than 30 years. All of the company’s hay is grown on farms in the U.S. Its product lineup includes more than 10 varieties of all-natural hay that is cut and harvested early in the growth cycle in order to specifically meet the needs of small animals.
Stock says that hay should make up at least 70 percent of a small animal’s diet, and that it doesn't just have to be delivered to animals in a bowl or on the floor of a cage. Oxbow offers unique and fun hay accessories that can easily catch a customer’s eye.
“Our Timothy CLUB accessories make an enriching addition to every pet’s habitat,” says Stock. “These hand-woven items are made of 100 percent premium Timothy hay and are 100 percent edible and enriching.”
Retailers can recommend items like the Timothy CLUB Bungalow, Tunnel or Hideout as fun ways for customers to deliver hay to their pets. Doubling as both a habitat and a snack, these accessories show that small animals do not need to sacrifice nutrition for entertainment. The CLUB line also includes carrot- and twist-shaped hay chews.
Kaytee, a Chilton, Wis.-based company, also offers a wide range of products for small animals. In May, the company added more than 20 new items to its small pet portfolio, including the Free-Standing Trough Hay Feeder, Play-N-Hay Toys and Premium Timothy Hay Treats.
“We share the enthusiasm that our loyal customers have for small animal pets, and we’re excited to introduce these new, innovative options,” says Jason Casto, director of marketing at Kaytee.
The Trough Hay Feeder allows small pets to easily access hay without causing a mess. Designed for rabbits, guinea pigs and other little critters, the trough has a built-in bottom catch-tray to prevent wasted hay. Available in turquoise, green or purple, its wire construction is also chew-resistant.
Kaytee’s Play-N-Hay toys are available in designs specific to rabbits and guinea pigs. These hay and treat dispensers stimulate exercise by hanging off the side of a small animal’s cage and challenging it to obtain a tasty reward. By keeping pets active and entertained, the toys promote overall wellness.
Small pet owners can also reward their companions with Premium Timothy Hay Treats. The long-lasting chews improve dental health and are available in several varieties including balls, bowls, chips and hideouts. Retailers can suggest these snacks as a way for customers to bond with their pets.
In making these kinds of recommendations, retailers can serve as a valuable resource to their customers. By becoming informed about specific and important products like hay, retailers can boost their small animal IQ and become more versatile as salespeople.
“We encourage all of our retail partners to become an ‘expert in the aisle’ when it comes to hay,” explains Stock. “Becoming a knowledgeable expert on the subject of hay is invaluable, and it’s not as difficult as it may seem. Rely on trusted brands to provide knowledge and education to help your associates guide customers’ buying decisions.”
Oxbow provides numerous educational resources for retailers. Infographics, articles and care guides can be accessed on the company’s blog. Some of these materials can even be requested for in-store distribution to customers.
Stock also recommends holding in-store promotions to foster sales of hay and hay accessories. Oxbow engages in this kind of activity as well—the company holds its annual Great Hay Giveback in September and October where a portion of the profits from hay sales are donated to animal rescues.
“We are continually amazed at how creative independent retailers are when it comes to designing fun and engaging promotions,” says Stock. “Promotions are a great way to educate, engage and convert customers who might otherwise overlook a core nutritional component such as hay.”
With extensive knowledge, unique promotions and a diverse range of premium hay products, retailers can build an effective tool belt for boosting small animal sales and helping customers make the right choices for their pets. PB