125 March 2017 Pet Product News International
HUMANIZATION AND HEALTH
The trend to anthropomorphize dogs and cats is well known and documented in the pet industry, and
now that trend is extending to the exotics category. The trend is strongest in the bird segment, retailers
“I definitely see customers humanizing small animal pets … especially when it comes to birds,” said
Bob Merar, president of General Pet Supply Inc., a distributor serving independent pet retailers in the
Midwest, headquartered in Milwaukee. “Exotic birds and bigger birds are becoming part of the family.”
He doesn’t see the same trend with herps, but he said he’s sure it’s happening.
“The entire world is humanizing all of the pets, and thank goodness for that,” Merar said.
Kimberley Battistic, owner of Pet
Creations in Jacksonville, Fla., also sees
owners humanizing their birds, but
small mammals as well.
“I have so many customers that
have litter-trained their rabbits,” she
said. “These rabbits run around with
their dogs and their cats and they’ll
bring me pictures of it. I think … rabbits
are [humanized most] because of the
Not all exotics are reaching the
same level as dogs and cats, however.
“[Customers are] not buying
clothes for rabbits and guinea pigs,”
said Patricia Cohn, co-owner of Bird
Dog and Cat Fish in Bulverde, Texas.
“They want to make sure they have
Customers are more concerned
with their health in general, Cohn
added. The industry is taking note.
“I was sitting in a product meeting
with some of our buyers, and they
were starting to talk about the food
and probiotics and trying to get it more
nutritionally balanced,” Merar said. “It
was sounding [the same as] it was with
pet food 10 or 12 years ago, when they
started to humanize what’s going into
the pet food to make it more consumer
While it isn’t as prevalent with
exotics as it is in the dog and cat cate-
gories, Merar thinks it is picking up.
“[We’re] starting to see that trend
now [with small animals],” he said. “It’s
just catching up, because the exotics
and the birds are not the biggest
category and not necessarily growing
at any huge rate.”
Consumers are increasingly aware
of the possible health effects certain
types of bedding and other consum-
ables have on pets.
“Consumers continue to be
interested in natural bedding as well
as colors,” said Angie Schmitt, senior
brand manager, pet for Kaytee Pet Bird
& Small Animal, a division of Central
Garden & Pet Co., in Walnut Creek, Calif.
More healthful products and access
to care for their small animals are big
concerns for owners of small animals.
“Pet owners are becoming just as
concerned about health for their pets
as most parents are for their children,”
said Paul Juszczak, director of sales and
marketing for Marshall Pet Products
Inc., in Wolcott, N. Y. “Hopefully, stores
can interview consumers and make
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