Everyone has heard of cats’ natural attraction to catnip, but there is another product on the market that has proven irresistible to felines: cat gardens.
These verdant treats are becoming increasingly popular as more cat owners discover that not only do their feline companions love chomping on cat gardens, they also benefit from the nutrients they offer—and the benefits do not end there.
For cat owners, these edible gardens also solve a pesky, but common, problem. Many of these consumers are frustrated when kitty takes an unhealthy interest in their houseplants, some of which may be poisonous to the animal.
Cat gardens offer a tastier and healthier alternative, often preventing pets from snacking on houseplants all together.
Because these products offer such clear benefits to both pet and owner, the cat garden category took off about six years ago and has seen steady growth ever since. “We have seen growth from both consumers and retailers,” says Mark Teixeira, president of Bell Rock Growers, Inc., which offers several organic cat garden products including both living plants for sale in store and grow-at-home options in House Blend (oat, rye and barley grasses) and Wheat Grass.
There are a number of reasons the cat garden category is seeing such a high level of demand. Cats owners’ increasing awareness of the important role that proper nutrition can play in their pets’ lives ranks high among those reasons.
“People are becoming much more health conscious, and they see the importance of giving your cat the nutrients it needs,” says Shannon Supanich, marketing coordinator for Pioneer Pet Products. Pioneer Pet offers Kitty’s Garden, an all-natural mix of oats, wheat, rye and barley that comes in either a wood planter or a small ceramic dish.
Also, like so many categories within the pet industry, the cat garden segment is partly driven by pet humanization.
Green nutrition has grown in the consumer marketplace, with smoothie shops offering green shakes featuring ingredients like wheat grass, and the growing awareness of the benefits of these products for people has led shoppers to increasingly consider the nutritional benefits for their feline friends as well.
“Pet grass contains no gluten and is rich in chlorophyll, antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins and minerals, which contribute to overall health,” explains Teixeira. “Digestion and hairballs are problematic with cats so these products also provide necessary fiber for health digestion.”
Word is spreading among pet owners about the benefits these products offer, and Teixeira says that the buzz is driving sales. “Most consumers who are looking for the product have had recommendations from one or more sources—other cat owners, social media, or health and nutrition information they have found on the Internet,” he says.
But pet grass is not only good for cats—it is also good for a retailer’s bottom line.
Teixeira says one of the things that make cat gardens unique is the high margin that they provide for retailers. When merchandised correctly, these products are strong sellers, adding green to both the store’s shelves and it’s register.
A good selection of cat gardens will include seeds or grow-at-home kits, as well as “live” gardens—living, growing plants. However, live gardens require a bit more attention from retailers, and it is a task retailers that haven’t previously offered perishable grass products might find daunting.
Fortunately, cat gardens are typically user-friendly. They’re easy to grow, and with a bit of planning, they can easily be kept alive in store. Living gardens need to be watered regularly and should be placed in an area of the store where they get at least some sunlight. They often do quite well when merchandised in the front of the store near the register.
In exchange for the bit of extra work, live gardens offer a bright spot of green on store shelves, which makes for an eye-catching display—perfect for inspiring a last-minute impulse sale.
Teixeira says the retailers that stock his products have seen the best results from stocking cat garden products in two key areas: within the cat treat section and at the front of the store as an impulse item.
Supanich agrees that these items fit naturally within the feeding category, since they are another healthy, edible option for cats—but she says that adding a display can definitely be beneficial as well.
Grow-at-home kits may not be quite as eye-catching, but they also offer greater flexibility for placement, especially if the area of the store dedicated to cat treats doesn’t get much sunlight—or they can be merchandised with living plants for a comprehensive display that offers shoppers greater flexibility.
In either case, retailers should be sure to offer the products with educational tools that help explain their benefits. “Really, to be successful in this category, you need to promote the health and wellness aspect of the grass,” Supanich says.
While consumer awareness of the category has grown considerably, retailers can boost sales by ensuring that staff members are knowledgeable about the category and by offering educational sales material for consumers who are interested. “Retailers need to make sure they are educated on the benefits of what is in the cat gardens,” says Supanich. “This will help to sell the products because they will be passionate and knowledgeable about what they are selling.”
For those times that retailers and their employees simply can’t educate customers first hand—or for customers who prefer to read something rather than chat—stores should also take advantage of the wealth of educational information available from manufacturers.
“For those consumers who have never heard of or tried the product, it is important for retailers to have displays that attract the attention and interest of the consumer,” Teixeira says. “The front of the store has proven to be the best location for this, where impulse purchases are most often made.” Bell Rock Growers provides retailers with care instructions and POS materials, as well as displays with watering trays to help ensure living products remain fresh and green.
Much like treats, toys or catnip, cat grass is an easy sell to a dedicated cat owner. Despite its high margin, cat grass has a relatively low price point with a high value, allowing cat owners to feel good about buying it as a treat for their pet.
As the seasons change, retailers may even want to consider working cat gardens into their holiday promotion plans. Cat gardens can add a bright bit of cheer to contrast dreary winter days and offer a bit of holiday color for displays.
And for cat owners who can’t resist decking the halls, a cat garden may even help to keep kitty away from the beautiful but dangerous poinsettia and holly this holiday season.