WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST
CHALLENGE IN THE SPECIALTY
CAT FOOD AND SUPPLEMENTS
“Cat owners are tough customers.
Sometimes they don’t even recognize
the basic needs such as the fact that
cats don’t have the physical ability
to break down plant proteins. That’s
a big part of the reason why obesity
is a huge issue. But when you start
talking about health needs to certain
customers, their initial reaction is
‘my cat is fine.’ Externally, the cat
may seem fine, but you don’t know
what’s going on internally. Our goal
is to teach customers—in the nicest
way possible—that cats have specific
health needs just like other pets.”
—MIKE PALMER, owner of Premier
Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich.
WHAT’S NEW IN SPECIALTY
FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Several new products have joined the cat specialty category. Feline Caviar in Norco, Calif.,
has launched Open Range Grain Free Entrée for Cats and Kittens. The new buffalo formula
is a limited-ingredient diet intended for short- and long-haired cats and hairball control,
said owner Jeff Baker. It is the perfect addition to the company’s current product line, as
it is consistent with Feline Caviar’s belief in protein rotation, which gives cats or kittens a
different amino acid profile and maintains an overall healthy immune system, Baker said.
In response to the ever-increasing issue of obesity and the lack of awareness among
pet owners that their cats are in fact overweight or obese, In Clover in Boulder, Colo.,
launched Svelte to help support feline fitness, said Courtney Taylor, director of customer
care and marketing.
“Svelte contains natural active ingredients proven to burn fat and build muscle, helping overweight cats shed the extra pounds and allowing healthy felines to maintain an
appropriate weight,” Taylor said.
The vitamin and supplement market also continues to grow for cats. Tomlyn, a division of Vetoquinol, in Fort Worth, Texas, recently launched multivitamins for cats that will
help maintain their overall health and keep them in peak condition, said Tabitha Cromer,
marketing manager. The multivitamins are a great source of vitamin E, digestive enzymes,
omega 3 and selenium for immune support, Cromer said.
FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS
More often than not, cat products are relegated to the back corners of the store, said
Courtney Taylor, director of customer care and marketing for In Clover in Boulder, Colo.
But Taylor suggested that moving cat items to more visible areas is important as the
“Create fun displays centered on current events or specific health issues such as
dental care, litterbox issues, shedding or hairball solutions,” Taylor said.
Alison Schwartz, manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., agreed that
having some fun with a theme or display can be an effective way to promote cat wellness. This past February, her store called the month “Furbruary” and spent an entire
month promoting cat health needs.
“Cats do have really specific needs, and customers can forget that since they tend
to be an easygoing pet,” Schwartz said.
Mike Palmer, owner of Premier Pet Supply in Beverly Hills, Mich., has found that cat
owners might initially be reluctant to think their cat could have specific health needs.
“The reality is that cats are a pretty low-maintenance pet, and, as a result, their
owners often assume they’re fine as long as they aren’t seeing an outward problem,”
Palmer said. “But just like other pets, they do have specific health needs. We’re not a
pushy store, so we aim to find ways to bring up a conversation, whether it is through
signage or just some simple suggestions.”
Glenda Bone, owner of Gallery of Pets in Austin, Texas, said specialty foods are
displayed in the very front of all the cat food. She agreed with other retailers on the
fact that some cat owners are reluctant to try something new and said those who own
many cats might feel like they already “know it all.” But by placing the food in the front,
it at least catches the consumer’s eye and might prompt them to consider it, she said.
EDUCATING ON SPECIALTY
FOODS AND SUPPLEMENTS
“The first step to educating the consumer is educating the retailer,” said Courtney Taylor,
director of customer care and marketing for In Clover in Boulder, Colo. “Store owners
should foster a culture of ongoing learning. Reach out to your vendors to ask for regular
training. Once employees feel comfortable with products’ ingredients and how they work,
educating the consumer will be a breeze.
“To complement an educated staff, use in-store signage to call attention to cat health
issues and products by highlighting factoids, sharing customer success stories and pos-
ing questions to spark conversations.”
Alison Schwartz, manager of All Pets Considered in Greensboro, N.C., agreed that ed-
ucating the consumer begins with staff training. With the number of foods on the market
these days, it can get confusing. That’s why Schwartz created a go-to short list so that
the sales staff always knows the right product to recommend.
“This short list includes the foods that we would recommend for various needs that
a customer might come in with,” Schwartz said. “We keep a copy of the list behind the
counter as well as in several easy-to-access spots in the store. Of course, we have regular
meetings and keep staff up-to-date on all the foods, but that information often changes,
and when you’re put on the spot, sometimes it’s easier to have a list to reference.”