A Breed Apart: The Latest Gear for Your Dog or Cat (cont.)

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OUTSIDE THE BOX. By the same token, kennels and carriers aren’t simply kennels or carriers anymore either.

Ann Hanson, who is the director of marketing and innovation for Petmate, tells Consumers Digest that her company and other manufacturers have modified the design of their kennels and carriers based on a belief that pets spend more time as a part of all family activities, both inside of the home and on the road. This latter claim appears to be legitimate: The word from Jet Blue Airways and United Airlines is that the number of pets that travel continues to rise. Also, the latest annual AAA Pet Book includes at least 14,000 pet-friendly accommodations nationwide. In 2001, it had 10,000.

New designs in carriers offer 360-degree ventilation and access from the top, which is useful particularly for cats, because they can be difficult to “load.” Meanwhile, an easy-to-operate, multiposition divider panel in Petmate’s Navigator line of plastic kennels allows the pet owner to limit space when an animal is young and expand the kennel as the pet grows, which eliminates the cost of purchasing multiple plastic kennels from puppy/kittenhood to adulthood. Dividers typically were found only in metal crates.

Twenty-four years ago, Gayle Martz, who is a former flight attendant, revolutionized the pet-travel industry by designing the Sherpa, which was the first airline-industry-approved, in-cabin pet carrier. The latest Sherpa models can be fitted with a module that plays classical music. The goal is to reduce anxiety and stress for pets on a trip to the vet, an airline flight or a road trip.

“Music definitely helps,” says Nicholas Dodman, who is the head of the Animal Behavior Department of Clinical Sciences at Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University. For a pet that’s sitting alone in a carrier and that can’t see properly out of it, “and there is the banging and clanking of car doors . . . music, if nothing else, would be white noise to mask some of these disturbing sounds and, in fact, has a soothing, relaxing effect. I think it’s a good idea.”

It isn’t appropriate for dogs only. Marilyn Krieger, who is a certified cat behavior consultant and the author of the book “Naughty No More! Change Unwanted Behaviors Through Positive Reinforcement,” agrees with Dodman. “I often suggest that my cat behavior clients play soft music to their cats . . . to help calm them. Based on my own and my clients’ experiences, specific types of classical music appear to help lessen cat’s anxiety and stress. The most effective music for reducing stress is slow, in the moderate ranges and not played loudly.”

BEDTIME STORIES. As a result of innovation in pet health care, pets are living longer than ever before, and a large percentage of pets are considered seniors (over the age of 7 years). Thus, makers of pet beds are designing products that they claim will go beyond providing just a place to snooze to appeal to owners of our furry senior citizens.

“The state-of-the-art medical advancements for pets over the past 10–15 years has made pet lovers and owners more aware of pet accessories out there that can benefit their pets, such as memory-foam mattresses,” says Dr. Oliver Morgan, who is an orthopedic surgeon at Cornell University Veterinary Specialists.

Morgan finds value in such mattresses. Supportive beds, such as those that are made from the memory foam that’s used in pillows and mattress tops that are made for people, definitely benefit pets both post-surgery and in helping to prevent trauma, irritation and pressure sores in chronic orthopedic conditions, he says.

Although memory-foam technology isn’t new, it’s new to the pet industry and is in high demand, concurs Gregory Jemal of G. Mason Group, which manufactures pet beds that use this technology. As a result, the reach of memory-foam pet beds is expanding rapidly.

We aren’t surprised by this, because memory foam is being used to catch the eye of consumers in plenty of categories beyond mattresses—flip-flops, innersoles for shoes, and bras, among the latest.

So when it comes to pet beds, how does the consumer discern the benefits that are delivered from an individual product from the buzz? Unfortunately, it seems impossible at this point.

Manufacturers of mattresses often promote the thickness of the memory foam that’s used in their products. That’s the exception to the rule among makers of pet beds. Memory foam usually has to be 2 inches or, optimally, 3 inches thick to deliver the comfort characteristics that it’s best known to supply, Jemal says, referring to support and cushioning.

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