Go With the Flow
Products that make feeding and watering easier are
popular with consumers—if pet specialty retailers take
the time to properly explain and market these items.
BY AUDRE Y PAVIA
When it comes to waterers and feeders for cats, pet specialty retailers and manufacturers are seeing several trends relating to aesthetics and functionality.
“Décor-friendly options continue to be popular in this category,” said Terese
James, product manager for the hard goods division of Petmate in Arlington,
Texas. “Now more than ever, pet owners want utilitarian products that are also
Emily Thorn Carlson, manager and co-owner of Thorn’s Pets & Supplies in
Galesburg, Ill., also sees movement in the area of décor-friendly options.
“There’s a trend in better aesthetics,” she said. “People want cat fountains that
are functional but also nice looking and that blend in with the pet parent’s home.”
Products using technology that assist in pet care and nurturing, such as electronic waterers, and programmable or smart feeders with or without cameras,
are becoming more popular, James noted.
“As pets become more and more part of the family, there is more demand for
products that are easily incorporated into the home and that increase the bonding
experience,” she said.
Catering to a cat’s natural instincts is another reason pet owners might look
beyond the basic bowl.
“Cat parents are considering their cat’s natural instincts surrounding
feeding time,” said Dr. Liz Bales, CEO of Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. in Camden,
N.J. “They are aware that how you feed your cat is just as important as what
you feed your cat.”
FRESH FEEDING AND WATERING SOLUTIONS
Petmate recently introduced the Fresh Flow Rain Fountain,
said Terese James, product manager of the hard goods
division for the Arlington, Texas-based company.
“This system is completely battery operated, allowing
pet owners to place the system anywhere in the household
without being tied to an outlet,” she said. “Batteries will last
for months due to the water-flow design. Multiple sounds
of the water ‘raining’ will draw pets’ interest and encourage
them to drink.”
Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co. in Camden, N.J., has reintroduced
the Doc & Phoebe’s Indoor Hunting Feeder. The feeder is
designed to be a complete bowl replacement, allowing the cat
to hunt, catch and play with five small meals a day.
“It comes with one trainer, five feeders designed for any
size kibble, five skins designed to simulate the tactile feel
of prey—allowing your cat to grab, claw and use its teeth
as it would in the hunt—and one scoop, which holds 1.6
tablespoons,” said Dr. Liz Bales, CEO of Doc & Phoebe’s Cat Co.
Last fall, PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based
Radio Systems Corp., launched the Six Meal Feeder, said
Sarah Beene, category manager for PetSafe water and feed
solutions. It automatically feeds pets one to six customized
meals a day, each containing up to one cup of dry or
“Designed with prying paws in mind, the Six Meal Feeder
has a unique dispenser that rotates and drops the food into a
bowl while keeping pets from stealing future meals,” she said.
To make feeding time easier for older pet owners,
ReachaBowl in Louisville, Ky., recently introduced its product
of the same name, said founder Vadim Gordin.
“Taking care of pets when we get older is something
that’s very easy to take for granted,” he said. “When
someone has back pain or balance issues, bending down
to pick up a dog or cat bowl can be a scary and painful
experience. ReachaBowl helps them by providing a tall
handle that the pet owner can use to lift the feeder without
having to bend down to the ground.”
CALL ATTENTION TO FEEDERS AND WATERERS
In order to show consumers the benefits of feeding and watering systems for cats,
both pet specialty retailers and manufacturers employ a number of marketing tools.
“We display the boxed fountains in many areas of the store so that all shoppers get
a glimpse of them,” said Norm Shrout, co-owner of Long Leash On Life in Albuquerque,
N.M. “Many pet parents have no idea that pet drinking fountains are readily available
and are very healthy for their pet’s water intake. Any store space that is not fully
Lacey Velasco, manager of Pet Street Mall in Tampa, Fla., has used a gift basket
motif on display area shelves to call attention to feeding and watering systems.
“Putting a high-quality, stainless-steel waterer, a colorful toy and a unique bowl set
together is eye-grabbing,” she said. “Sometimes the items sell all together; sometimes
the customer builds their own set.”
Taking the time to tell pet owners about the right way to use feeding and watering
systems is another important aspect of selling these products, said Emily Thorn
Carlson, manager and co-owner of Thorn’s Pets & Supplies in Galesburg, Ill.
“It’s important with any food or water system to keep it clean and change the filter
at least as often as the manufacturer recommends—more often if there are more pets
in the household,” she said.
Frank Cirillo, vice president of sales and logistics for Cats Rule Dogs Rock in Weston,
Fla., also said an in-store display is an effective way to market waterers for cats.
“Many cat owners have cats who like to drink from a running faucet, so when
they see our fountains operating with the continuous flow of fresh, filtered water, they
immediately understand the concept,” he said. “In addition, we always stress the need
for hydrating your pets. Anything pet owners can do to help encourage their pets to
drink is beneficial.”
Hydration is also an important topic for PetSafe, a brand of Knoxville, Tenn.-based
Radio Systems Corp. In 2013, PetSafe created an awareness campaign called Pet
Hydration Month, which takes place every July.
“The goal is to remind pet parents to keep their pets hydrated, especially during the
hot summer temperatures,” said Sarah Beene, category manager for PetSafe water and
feed solutions. “This year, we are expanding our campaign to focus on feeders as well
to spread the word about pet obesity and the importance of correctly portioned meals.”
Beene added that because it’s important to reach customers where they are,
PetSafe leverages social media, digital advertising, in-store promotions and POP
displays to drive education and awareness.
“We work closely with retail partners to provide assets they can use to promote the
category in their own stores,” she said.
What’s the best way to merchandise
feeding and watering systems?
“If a store is pet-friendly, having a
fountain near the door will allow cus-
tomers to try the product on the spot
and increase consideration for purchase.
Even if the fountain isn’t operational,
customers are more likely to trade up
to more expensive products, such as
ceramic fountains, when they are able
to touch and feel the quality.”—SARAH
BEENE, category manager of water and
feed solutions for PetSafe, a brand of
Radio Systems Corp. in Knoxville, Tenn.
“We set up an actively running
fountain in the main doorway.
It has been flowing for many
years and attracts a great deal
of attention in the process. The
display satisfies those in search
of the fountain’s aesthetics, as
well as those concerned with any
undue noise. These late-genera-tion fountains are very attractive
and practically silent.”—NORM
SHROUT, co-owner of Long Leash
On Life in Albuquerque, N.M.