A couple of weeks ago, I found myself in Las Vegas with Editor-in-Chief Janine Kahn and Community Manager Lori Malm for the giant SuperZoo pet expo, where retailers and brands get together to see all the new toys, gadgets, and treats for the following year. It’s aimed at businesspeople rather than pet reporters like us, but it’s great for us to get a lead on pet trends.
Catster and Dogster were recently bought by I-5 Publishing, home of Cat Fancy, Dog Fancy, and a bunch of other great pet publications, so we were thrilled to meet our new colleagues and see that we were part of the display on the I-5 booth. We were there to represent ourselves as well as the I-5 brands, including the new project Rescue Me, which unites rescues and potential adopters.
Catster is based in gloriously foggy San Francisco and I’m from England, so I really wasn’t prepared for the suffocating heat in Las Vegas. Fortunately every building and hotel keeps the air conditioning cranked up high, so we rarely had to suffer too much, but the brief moments we spent outside were pretty brutal.
We got to the MGM Grand and headed to our rooms through the casino and spotted this machine near the elevators. It was a sign: Las Vegas welcomes the Catster gang! Of course we had to stop and have a go, but the fiercely staring kitten ate $1.50 in no time, so we decided to back off in case we lost all our dinner money.
Next day we checked in at the expo and began our tour. It’s hosted at the Mandalay Bay hotel, which is already huge; even though we were there for the whole three days, I’m still not sure we saw everything.
The first thing we noticed was that a lot of people were wheeling around carts touting a brand of urine remover. What was the deal? We soon figured it out when we saw the Urine Off stand, whose savvy promoters were giving away the boxes. Janine ran to get one and immediately awarded it the Best Promotional Item Ever. (She was heartbroken not to be able to fit it in her luggage to bring home.)
As we began touring the expo, it was obvious that the vast majority of products at SuperZoo were aimed at dogs. There were aisles and aisles of doggy food, treats, clothing, and stuff. There was a reptile and fish section, and we even got to snuggle with a couple of sleepy ferrets, but I was disappointed that there were no cats to be seen. I had high hopes of seeing some pampered felines in the grooming section, or maybe even glowering from some of the displays, but I only met these cats — who are probably made of rabbit fur, unfortunately.
“Our expo floor is determined on a first-come, first-served basis, and has a wait list every year,” explains Doug Poindexter, president of the World Pet Association, which hosts the expo. “SuperZoo does not determine the balance of product categories between cats, dogs, aquatics, reptiles, etc., that you see. … Many companies carry both dog and cat products, which may skew the appearances. It actually is the consumer that drives the number of products for various categories, and it may be that their buying patterns dictate that manufacturers create more dog products than cat products.”
I’m still surprised at that, given the racks and racks of cat toys I see every time I go to my local pet store, as well as all the interesting gadgets we talk about here on Catster. I hereby issue a call to the cat product manufacturers of the world: Come to SuperZoo and show us your stuff. We want to write about it and share the delights!
My cats, Ambrose Hoffman and Gentleman Jim, have proved solidly resistant to the delights of catnip. We grow great swathes of it in the backyard and have a couple of plants in pots around the house, but it goes all spindly and dry because they won’t touch it.
As Janiss Garza wrote for us in “5 Totally Legal Ways to Get Your Cat Stoned,” silver vine (Actinidia polygama) is popular among kitties in Asia because of its intense effects, and is now being marketed in the U.S. as an alternative to ‘nip. Urged on by the Vitakraft sales reps, I brought home a couple of sample packets.
Jim is essentially a blinking, purring feline rug, and very little gets him energized. You could send a procession of dancing mice in Carmen Miranda headgear past him and he wouldn’t twitch a whisker. I approached him one afternoon as he was hanging out on his cat tree and sprinkled some of the gray powder on the shelf he was sitting on. Nothing happened immediately — that’s Jim, basically — and then his eyes opened really wide and he rolled over on the silver vine dust.
We were thrilled to run into the awesome Kate Benjamin of Hauspanther, who has recently collaborated with Catster Hero Jackson Galaxy on a new book, Catification: Designing a Happy and Stylish Home for Your Cat (and You!). (Watch for interviews and giveaways on Catster coming soon.)
The Go Fish slow feeder is designed to encourage your cat to play with her food, stimulating her brain cells while she gives her prey drive a workout. Apparently the color scheme is even planned to include colors that cats can recognize.
Unfortunately we’d just missed the chance to meet Jackson himself and hear him talk about his toys, but we headed over to the Petmate display to see them. It’s obvious that he has the cat skills to know what your kitties will dig. Check them out here:
You get an eco-friendly birch box to assemble at home and turn into an urn, and the whole thing is kid-friendly — you can decorate the box with the paints supplied, and there’s a workbook created by a grief counselor to help you explain death to your kids. I wish I’d had this when I was a kid and had a bunch of gerbil and hamster funerals to host.
At the Urine Off display, I was transfixed by Goldie, the company’s dancing mascot, who wiggles his hips to entice you to buy the product. Hey, I’m always glad to see a pitchman who really puts a lot of energy into things.
Gentleman Jim, when he’s not being a pillow with eyes, has a little bit of an indiscriminate feline pee problem, so I am always researching ways to deal with inappropriate urination. This exceedingly patient sales rep from Urine Off put up with all my wee jokes as she walked me through the process of eliminating the smells of elimination. (It’s interesting to learn that pet businesses carry around little bottles of synthetic urine — I was wondering whether I could bottle any of Jim’s and sell it.)
Here’s me leaning in for a double-nostril whiff of the sample after Urine Off was added. It was amazing: Not a single hint of uric acid! I’m working on Jim’s issues with our resident behaviorist, Marilyn Krieger, but this could be a useful addition to my cleaning arsenal.
Ambrose and Jim enjoy chasing after feather toys — well, Jim will lie there and let me dangle it over him — but sometimes your arm gets tired. Enter the Fling-ama-String, which you can hang from a doorknob and let your cat do the work of chasing.
Creator Michele Levan promised me that even the most inert kitty (hello, Jim!) will be up and at ’em in no time after watching the string flinging itself around. I’m going to let him enjoy the silver vine highs a bit longer before I make him work for his dinner.
Anyone with cats knows that it’s a constant battle to find a pooper scooper (and, let’s be honest, a clumped-lumps-of-peed-on-litter scooper) that will pick up everything without you having to shake the scooper as though you were sifting flour for a cake. I imagine it’s much how people shop for snow shovels in the winter: You want a sturdy handle that’s just the right length so you don’t have to put your back out bending over, and you want to get as much snow/poop on each loaded shovel as you can.
The display for the Litter-Lifter was modest — a couple of rows of variously colored scoopers — but I stopped to talk to Reva, the saleswoman, because Dusty Rainbolt, one of our regular cat correspondents (and the guru behind Ask Einstein), has been telling me about this revolutionary new scoop.
Reva demonstrated for me — yes, it seems all the cat litter folks get to scoop litter all day long. Its tines are triangular, so the clean litter slides right through. Magic!
As noted above, I thought my cats didn’t care for catnip. Apparently 30 percent of cats don’t flip their furry lids for it. So I airily told the guys at Yeowww!, anyway, shortly after I said, “Hey, your spokescat [Desmond] looks an awful lot like Fat Freddy’s Cat.” “Yeah, everyone says that,” one said with a wry smile.
He took up the challenge and gave me a Yeowww! cigar to take home. I thanked him, thinking Ambrose and Jim would turn their noses up as usual and I’d donate it to a friend.
Turns out I wasn’t ready for the feline ecstasy that ensued. Ambrose has been sleeping with his cigar for more than a week now. He rolls all over it in his basket and sleeps with it between his paws. He yowls for his cigar when it isn’t within sight.
Jim got first dibs on the cigar and turned into a drooling, cross-eyed mess. We knew they wouldn’t be happy about sharing toys, so I invested in a couple more Yeowww! items for the house. And I guess I’ll be pulling up those catnip plants out back.
We had a great time in Las Vegas at the SuperZoo pet expo, but it’s nice to be back with our kitties — and the glorious San Francisco fog.
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About Vicky Walker: Prickly British grammar nerd with a soft center. Obsessed with old people, history, and the contents of the litter box. Endlessly patient wrangler of two cats, one of whom may or may not be indoor-outdoor — don’t be mad. Managing Editor at Catster and Dogster.