House Hunting

Retailers that respond to the needs of their customers by offering the habitats they want to buy will boost goodwill as well as sales.


The pet humanization trend has had two different but related influences on how customers buy small animal housing, and both portend good things to come for pet specialty retailers.

First, small-animal owners are becoming more concerned with the well-being of their pets, wanting them to be as happy as possible,  so they are buying larger cages. They are not only willing to devote more money toward quality caging, they are also willing to allocate more floor space in their home to cages.

Second, many pet owners want to integrate their pets into their lifestyle and wish to place the cage in a public social area of their home, such as the living room or family room, rather than relegating it to the laundry area or other back room. Because of this, customers are looking for cages that are attractive, more like habitats than wire boxes, and that either match or blend in with their furniture. This trend is especially common with people who have larger animals, such as rabbits, ferrets and chinchillas. Customers are becoming more design conscious and discerning, looking for specific features, such as cages that are easy to clean and provide easy access to the pets inside.

Another new trend in housing for guinea pigs is open-topped enclosures. Because guinea pigs don’t jump or climb, manufacturers are offering this new alternative to a fully enclosed cage. With no top, owners can simply reach into the habitat to interact with their pets, clean or add toys—although the product does come with a removable wire top to secure the habitat against cats, dogs or other dangers. The habitat is made with wire side panels and a water-proof canvas bottom. In addition, multiple habitats can be combined into an even larger living space.

Value Conscious

The economic crisis has slowed the trend toward larger habitats, but it hasn’t discouraged it altogether. Instead, the economic condition is causing shoppers to spend their money more wisely. They are still willing to purchase the things they want, but they look for the best value. In fact, many people are recognizing the advantage of paying a higher price for a quality product, knowing that it will out-perform and outlast cheaper versions.

It is more important than ever before for retailers to be familiar with the products they stock and know their beneficial features. Employees must be trained to explain these benefits to customers, assuring them that their money is well spent.

Large and Small
Another trend is continued innovation in cages for the smallest pets: hamsters, dwarf hamsters and mice. Modular habitats for these animals continue to be popular, with new add-ons appearing every year. While connecting tubes sized for golden hamsters have been around for years, more manufacturers are now offering smaller tubes for dwarf hamsters as the popularity of these tiny pets rises.

Accessory Add-ons

When customers buy larger cages for their pets, they have more room to accessorize the habitat with furnishings and toys. However, when a customer is spending a substantial amount of money on a cage, it is not the best time to encourage them to buy additional products. Instead, consider a coupon incentive program.

A coupon book can be given out with the purchase of a cage. The coupons can include discounts on accessory products such as hammocks, exercise wheels, wooden houses, ladders, chew toys, etc., which will encourage repeat visits. A coupon book can also encourage owners of smaller pets to add new features to their modular homes.

Debbie Ducommun has a B.A. in animal behavior and has worked in the animal field since 1982. She is the author of the book Rats!, the booklet Rat Health Care and, her most recent book, The Complete Guide to Rat Training: Tricks and Games for Rat Fun and Fitness.

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