Home Sweet Playful Home
More small animal owners are seeking habitats and toys for their pets that are cozy, fun and enriching.
BY AUDRE Y PAVIA
Small animals need an environment that is both stimulating and safe, and habitats and toys are moving in that direction, according to manufacturers and retailers. “The best of what I see in trends lies in the area of enrichment,” said Brian Wood, president of
FiberCore LLC in Cleveland. “Pet owners are becoming more aware that a habitat can be a source of com-
fort for the pet, but are also buying into the idea that they have to make educated decisions to enrich the
spectrum of their small animals.”
While small pet owners are recognizing that the en-
vironment should be enriching, it should also be cost
effective, Wood said.
“Product features that offer systemic improvement
and improve wellness are vital,” he said. “If we can impact the life of a pet, in big ways or small, then we’ve done
our jobs. If our products are contributing to a more stimulating environment, [the pet is] more active and healthy.”
Activity and workout items seem to be the latest
craze, said Paul Juszczak, director of sales and marketing for Marshall Pet Products Inc. in Wolcott, N. Y.
“Small animals aren’t any different than dogs and
cats—they are just smaller in size,” he said. “Pet owners
want to try new products, and they want to be able to
supply their pets with new and exciting items.”
Easy setups and habitats that don’t overwhelm a
space are trending, said Steven Spitz, CEO of Big Apple
Pet Supply in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Most retail stores can’t allocate large volumes of
selling space to inventory large, fully assembled habitats,” he said.
FUN FOR SMALL PETS AND THEIR OWNERS
Kaytee recently released the Kaytee Critter Trail LED Lighted Habitat, the Kaytee
Critter Trail Fun-nel LED Bubble Plug Anytime and Kaytee Critter Trail Fun-nel LED Bubble
“These products provide anytime and nighttime illumination for hamsters, gerbils
or mice to increase the pet owner’s enjoyment of having small animals in the home,”
said Mary Ann Loveland, senior associate brand manager of Kaytee Hard Goods, a
division of Walnut Creek, Calif.-based Central Garden & Pet Co.
The LED products work by connecting to any Critter Trail habitat or Critter Trail Fun-nel tube accessory, Loveland said.
“Both LED Bubble Plugs are battery operated, and have fully protective lens covers
to safely keep animals away from the battery and light,” she said. “The nighttime
version has a red LED light that will not disturb the pet’s natural nocturnal sight and
allows pet parents to view a pet’s nighttime activities.”
Penn-Plax Pet Products in Hauppauge, N. Y., recently introduced a maze for small
animals designed to mimic their activities in the wild, said Michael Acerra, digital
“Small animals are burrowers, and this maze allows them to explore ‘underground,’
so to speak,” he said. “The maze itself is a consumable, which is going to be great for
repeat sales at a store level.”
SHOW AND TELL
When it comes to displaying small-animal habitats and toys, manufacturers and retailers concur that showing the products in use is the best approach.
Brian Wood, president of FiberCore LLC in Cleveland, said that featuring small
animals in the store using the products you are trying to sell goes a long way toward
“Engage the animals in the habitat with activity toys,” he said. “It creates a visual
for kids and sparks the fire to have one of their own.”
Michael Acerra, digital marketing manager for Penn-Plax Pet Products in Haup-
pauge, N. Y., agreed.
“As with most pet products, the animals themselves act as the best salesmen,”
he said. “If you have small animals for sale in your store, display them for purchase
inside of the habitats you also have for sale so customers are able to see the animals
interacting with and enjoying their habitats.”
Showing a habitat in action is a must, said Steven Spitz, CEO of Big Apple Pet
Supply in Boca Raton, Fla.
“Always have a habitat set up,” he said. “Accessorize properly, and sell or create
kits out of the product lines you offer. It’s a compliment to know customers want to
duplicate your habitats.”
Although small animals are using habitats and toys
made especially for them, humans are the ones
making the purchases. That’s why color in conjunction
with design is important in this category.
“We find color to be more important to the con-
sumer than to the ferret,” said Paul Juszczak, director
of sales and marketing for Marshall Pet Products in
Wolcott, N. Y. “If it’s eye-catching, it’s buy-able.”
“Color is extremely important within the small
animal category because children are your primary
customers,” he said. “So, fun, bright and inviting col-
ors are a pretty vital aspect of small animal products.”