Here is a summary of my cat's favorite toys: peacock feathers, a little blue stuffed mouse I bought when he was a kitten, and lasers.
Peacock feathers are his latest obsession - I have to buy at least 2-3 every time I stop at the local pet store to pick up litter. He perks up every time I get it out and surprises me with high jumps, flips, and a sudden burst of energy. It's fun to watch. The problem? It's not so Instagrammable.
Before the digital and social media era, pet toys were simple. A wicker ball for your cat might come in a couple different colors and tennis balls were perfect for an afternoon of fetch in the park with your dog. Now, everything is changing.
As technology comes into play, there are two particular driving forces that are changing the landscape of pet toys: interactivity and the way it looks on camera.
As pet business owners, we all know the benefits of spending quality time and playing with our pets. The more we play with our pets, the stronger our connection becomes with them, and that's great for the health of everyone involved.
The Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) conducts research projects on the effects of the human-animal interaction on human health. This includes "social skills outcomes for children with autism spectrum disorder; the physical and developmental health of children living with family pets; and the mental health and well-being of seniors living alone."
Interactive pet toys make playtime a more enriching experience and work well to strengthen the human-animal bond. That's why there's been so much emphasis on interactivity in recent years.
According to Tim Blurton, CEO of Hyper Pet as reported in Pet Age, “The future of interactive toys is definitely in developing toys which are fun for both the pet and their owner to play—ones that enhance the interaction between the pet and the owner."
Interactivity does not mean simply handing your pet a toy that they can go take to bed and chew on. Rather, it's a collaboration of playtime between both pet and pet owner. As the weather begins to warm up, outdoor interactive pet toys will become crucial to increasing those summer sales.
Examples of interactive pet toys include:
- Tennis ball launchers
- Fetch toys
- Puzzles (such as PupPod)
- Tossing discs
- Treat dispensers
- Sensory toys
John Harty, the president of.Spunky Pup, a brand that creates bright and fun dog toys that strengthen that connection between dog and owner, explains that "our research show consumers are hungry for new, fun, innovative toys for their pets."
It's worth noting that while technology comes more into play within the pet industry, we'll start seeing more "automatic" pet toys that bring efficiency to the mix. Devices such as PupPod and iFetch are designed to bring some automation to the experience, but shouldn't remove the interactivity between pet owner and pet altogether. As the pet tech sector grows, it will be interesting to see how this category is effected moving forward.
Think about the last time you bought a toy for your dog or cat. What aspects of the toy did you consider?
- Did you think about whether your pet would enjoy playing with it? Probably.
- Did you consider how long it would last? Most likely.
- Did you think about how it would look on camera? Well, depending on your generation, maybe not.
The pet industry was a lot less fashionable 10 years ago than it is today. Not only are pet owners increasingly more concerned about the way their dog's collar compliments their outfits, but they're also being drawn to toys that will look good on camera.
As social media grows and Millennials and Generation Z begin dominating the market, this is a new aspect of pet toys we've never had to think about before, but will become increasingly important.
Many of us love watching cat videos in our spare time - it's our guilty pleasure. And why not? Cats do funny things and it's nearly impossible not to smile when watching them play.
Imagine scrolling through Instagram and seeing a cat sitting with a cat-sized wine glass made just for her. If you're a wine-o, you might just pass it along to your friends and add a comment like, "lol, that's so me."
Pet product manufacturers have a huge opportunity here to get themselves known in the digital world. We've seen this first-hand with a small brand called Stark Raving Cat. They produced catnip joints made to look just like, well, regular joints.
They took the social media world by storm. In an era where marijuana is becoming legalized on the state level across the country and therefore slightly less taboo, a photo of a cat with a joint (albeit made out of catnip) is sure to get at least a chuckle.
Other Pet Toy Trends
Outside of photogenicity and interactiveness of these toys, there are a few other trends driving sales. As the spending of Millennial and Generation Z generations grows, we're starting to see an importance placed on pet products that are:
- Made in the USA
- Sustainably manufacturered and eco-friendly
Companies like R2P Pet who put an emphasis on creating products with a purpose and ensuring their products are durable, high quality, affordable, and fall into the ever-changing atmosphere of pet toys are sure to be successful with their target customers. At the end of the day, we're all here to make our pets happy and healthy and form strong bonds that bring us closer together.