Two white kittens playing.

Cats may have the reputation of being stoic and sedentary, but don’t let that fool you, they like to have fun just like the rest of us. While there are a variety of cat toys out just to entertain cats, many give them the chance to get in tune with their natural instincts. 

“Toys need to satisfy a cat’s instincts for hunting, chasing and catching birds, mice, lizards and other creatures,” says Kate Benjamin, creator of the Hauspanther Collection by Primetime Petz. “Acting out these behaviors is important for maintaining a cat’s mental and physical health.” 

For cats, having everything handed to them is not in their nature — it’s more natural for them to take matters into their own hands. 

“Serving your cat is not helping them,” says Susan Calles, national marketing manager for Ethical Pet Products. “Cats actually need to hunt, catch, play and bat things around before they eat them.”  

To help cats express their true nature, Ethical Products offers a wide variety of cat toys to suit all life stages and personalities. Ethical Products teamed up with veterinarian, Dr. Liz Bales, founder of Doc and Phoebe’s Cat Company, to introduce some of its newest innovations for felines, such as the Forever Fun Treat Track, a track ball toy with added treat dispensing and lasers; or The Twirly Bird, which cat’s must paw at to spin it and release dry food and treats. 

As humans can relate to now, after over a year of quarantining, staying inside the house all day can easily lead to boredom, something indoor cats experience too. It’s especially important for cat parents to curb their pet’s boredom to prevent any unwanted behaviors from occurring. “When cats become bored, they look for ways to entertain themselves,” Darin Eisenbarth, president of Petsport, Inc. explains. “This is where the trouble can start.”  

“Cats love to pounce and swat,” says Eisenbarth. “More than dogs, they are driven by their instinct to hunt and catch prey. Giving them toys helps break up the monotony of being an indoor cat.”  

While cat toys provide a way for these pets to get in touch with their wild side and use their natural instincts, a lot of toys can help felines bond more with their parents. While walking cats has become more of a trend, many cats still remain indoors. A fun, engaging toy or activity for cats that involves the pet parent can help strengthen the human-animal bond they share. 

“Cats love to interact with you, but usually on their terms,” says Eisenbarth. “Stimulating their hunting instinct is a great interaction that they love.” 

 

Toy Trends

When it comes to some of the biggest category trends, “toys that stimulate your cat’s movement,” is up there, says Eisenbarth, especially to help indoor cats get some exercise in. 

Technology is also at the forefront for some of the latest and greatest cat toy innovations. As an example, at this year’s Global Pet Expo, Petsport revealed its rechargeable USB Robot Laser, with a vintage robot design. To use this product, simply plug it into a USB socket until it’s fully charged and repeat. 

 “Electronic toys that move and flash are quite trendy right now, but cats can lose interest in these toys over time if they don’t allow the cat to grab and kick the toy as well,” says Benjamin. “Puzzle toys are another important category since they can be used to feed cats small meals, requiring them to work for the prize and giving them a sense of hunting. 

“Toys that use natural, organic or recycled materials are popular since they can be safer for cats and better for the environment. Wool felt, cardboard and cork are some examples.” 

Besides being a way to bond with pets, cat toys that incorporate treats with catnip, herbs or other calming properties can help relieve any stress or anxiety a cat may be feeling. No matter what type of toy, whether it is a treat dispensing one, an electronic or a puzzle toy, it’s imperative that it’s safe for all kinds of cats. 

“Safety is a big concern with cat toys,” says Benjamin. “So many of the inexpensive toys have small parts that could come off and become a choking hazard. 

“Of course, cat toys don’t last forever, most need to be replaced eventually, but toys made of sturdy materials with quality construction will not only be safer, but they will last longer, giving the customer a better value.” 

 

 Curating for Cats

 With a vast amount of options available on the market, it’s not always easy to decipher which ones will appeal most to your cat customers. It’s important to remember that, on top of being functional for a cat’s health and well being, there’s a lot of potential to make this section stylish and fun. 

“Have a variety of cat toys that appeal to different types of play/hunting as well as styles and colors to appeal to the owner,” she says.  The Hauspanther Collection, for example, consists of toys with bold colors and abstract shapes that appeal to a cat’s instinct to chase, toss, hug and kick. 

On top of offering exciting products, labeling a cat selection can make it easier for pet parents to learn about each toy’s benefits. 

“Some stores label toys with the different types of prey they represent or the hunting activity they encourage, like toss, chase or kick,” says Benjamin. “I think this helps customers understand how each toy can be used by cats so they can choose a variety of different types of toys. They can also select a specific type of toy that they know their cat likes from past experience.” 

While it’s good to have a healthy variety of products, it’s important to narrow down the quality, effective products that will most appeal to and benefit your customers. 

“Retailers should carefully plan their assortment to offer the most variety without duplication,” advises Calles. “This will appeal to a wide range of consumer preferences.” 

To assist retailers, Ethical Products creates merchandising tools that can help pet parents, and retailers, learn more about its products. 

“Typically, we participate in distributor open houses, where we have the opportunity to talk with the retailers about what their customers are looking for in the cat toy category,” she says. “[This past year] proved to be a bit challenging in this approach. However, we were still able to connect with retailers and gain valuable information on this category.” 

Naturally, a common theme when it comes to cat toys is that they have a tendency to be overshadowed by their canine counterparts. If you prioritize dog products over products for cats in your stores, cat parents will take notice. According to Eisenbarth, it’s important for retailers to dedicate an entire section to cat products, and not just a section of an aisle. 

“Retailers are not devoting enough space and inventory to cat items,” says Eisenbarth. “There are more pet cats than pet dogs, but retail shelves do not reflect this statistic.  

“Cat owners want a space that is dedicated to them” he continues. “They expect knowledgeable employees that really know cats.  The items may be smaller, but the loyalty is really strong with a happy cat owner. If a retailer spends the effort to attract cat owners, it will pay off in increased sales.” 

At the end of the day, cat parents want retailers to care just as much about their pets as they do about dogs. Taking the time to build and curate a cat selection, not just an aisle, that addresses a variety of cat needs will go a long way. 

“Specialize in cats, don’t just happen to carry some cat products,” says Eisenbarth.  PB