Coiffed Cats
by Melissa Breau
February 1, 2013
No longer just a niche market, cat grooming—and the products associated with it—are gaining traction with today’s feline owners.



Cat grooming is on the rise, as what was once a niche trend has begun to go mainstream. Evidence of this is clear in the grooming services industry, where it has become increasingly common for grooming salons to offer services for cats. Many salons have even gone as far as having cat-only days. Equally in demand are grooming products cat owners can use at home—a trend many retailers are eager to tap into.

According to Lisa Tsui, brand manager of pet care at Central Garden and Pet—makers of Four Paws cat grooming products—over 70 percent of cat owners today purchase grooming tools. “Sales in the category will likely continue to grow as more cat owners come to understand the benefits,” she adds.

For decades, cats have been commonly viewed as the most independent of companion animals, needing little in the way of care from their owners. Yet this view has shifted as cats have been swept up in the pet humanization trend, becoming part of the family. The transition has lead to a plethora of new products. While the cat grooming category was once limited to a few brushes, and flea and tick products, today the category includes everything from waterless bathing products to nail-care and dental-care products.


A Sparkling Staff
The biggest obstacle retailers face in selling these products is explaining how cat owners can properly use them without having to fight their cat every step of the way. Even cat owners who understand the importance of grooming products are hesitant to purchase these products when they don’t believe they can use them successfully. That’s where having a knowledgeable staff and clear signage comes into play.

For example, although it doesn’t take much for a consumer who brushes her own teeth each day to understand that dental hygiene is equally important for her four-legged companion, the idea of brushing her cat’s teeth may seem daunting. Yet if a well-educated staff member takes the time to explain how the product is used, show the cat owner some of their options and explain product features that make it easy to brush a cat’s teeth, the cat owner will go home happy to tackle the task.

The store’s staff needs to understand common product concerns and be able to address them. Being able to say something like, “this dental foam is designed to taste great so cats come to look forward to their teeth cleaning,” goes a long way.

“I think it’s really important that stores train their staff about products because customers come in and they don’t know what they’re looking for; sometimes they get really overwhelmed by the amount of products,” says Bobbi Panter, owner and creator of the Bobbi Panter grooming line.

Product overload doesn’t only occur with dental products. Panter says the stores that do best with her products are typically those that have knowledgeable staff. These team members know to ask questions about the specific issues a cat may have, and they can recommend products that are tailored to their pet’s specific needs.


Appearing Well Groomed
Tsui points out that while consumers are becoming more aware of cat grooming tools, they need retailers to help simplify the buying process. “Signage, simplified packaging and helpful hints at the shelf not only help the pet parent pick the right tool, it gives them confidence that they will be successful in grooming their cat,” she says.

She recommends using merchandising tools, such as shippers, or cross promoting grooming products near destination items to encourage customers to pick up new tools or visit the grooming set. “Unlike food and litter, grooming isn’t necessarily a destination category that brings consumers into the store,” Tsui says. “Cat grooming tools should be merchandised within the cat section, as cat owners tend to shop in the cat department for all their cat-related needs.”

Panter adds that since cat owners are notorious for wanting products that are designed and labeled specifically for felines, locating grooming products within the cat aisle increases the likelihood that cat owners will see those products and make the decision to buy them. “They are not going to go out and say, ‘I’ll wash my cat!’ It’s better to have [grooming products] in the cat aisle along with some signage [explaining the benefits]—then they’ll go, ‘Oh, yeah; that’s a great idea,’” explains Panter.

Those benefits are plentiful. Not only does regular grooming help with shedding, which is a primary concern for most pet owners, it helps eliminate matted fur and hairballs and can often even lessen reactions in pet owners who are allergic to pet dander. Another benefit is that pet owners who groom their cats regularly are also more likely to know if their cat has become infested with fleas, giving them a chance to respond before the entire house is infected. Grooming also gives owners opportunities to notice if their pets have developed skin irregularities or other medical issues, which felines are prone to try to hide.

Cat grooming becomes especially important if a cat is overweight or elderly, adds Panter. “As they get older they don’t groom themselves as much; if they get heavy, they can’t reach certain areas,” she says. “It’s just a really good idea.”
Retailers that get ahead of the curve by bringing in a good assortment of grooming products and working to educate customers will benefit from added customer loyalty—those retailers with a dedicated cat clientele may even want to offer in-store workshops or talks from a cat groomer or vet, explaining the importance of cat grooming.