Picking ‘Dr. Becker’s Best’ at Global Pet Expo

March 18, 2011

I know the rest of the PetConnection team has already written their blog posts, but this is honestly the first time I’ve had a chance to sit down with my laptop. As usual, I’ve been on the move non-stop since Teresa and I got off the plane. I walk every inch of the trade-show floor, several times, and usually have a handful of commitments to sign books, act as a master of ceremony for one presentation or another … and of course, I know just about everyone here so I can’t make it 20 feet without stopping to say hello. I never used to “cover” Global Pet Expo, but since Gina and I became writing partners we’ve really had a blast building a reporting team and coming up with a list of our PetConnection crew’s favorite products from among the tens of thousands on display.

Before I get to the winners, though, I want to tell you how we went about choosing them.

The first day of the show, we break up and spread out, each of us with no expectations except to cover the 12 football fields worth of booth space in a few hours and look at every single booth at least once. This year, we sent four reporters out: Ericka Basile, who’s our product-review coordinator; David Greene, our associate editor and “field commander” for the show; and of course me and my wife, Teresa. Gina was supposed to be one of the reporters Wednesday, but she got stranded back at the hotel launching the website for our 30-city book tour next month.

Each of us ended the day with a list of about 20 or so products we wanted in consideration, and then David put all those in a spreadsheet for review Thursday morning. We winnowed down the list to about 30 or so, and we all went out to review the products again while Gina went out to see the semi-finalists for the first time. We met again at lunch and hashed out the finalists, then the winner. Ericka and the PR team from Global Pet then pulled the products for the announcement, which I just made.

Now, finally, it’s time to reveal “Becker’s Best” consensus winners.

Here’s our picks starting with my Best in Show:

Hagen Catit  Senses Line Food Maze ($24): Enrichment! As more and more of our cats live in the house for their own protection and the protection of potential prey (and to avoid conflicts with neighbors) too many of them are just plain bored. And overweight, besides. The need for environmental enrichment is very strong for cats, and we saw a lot of new products in this area, a few of which will be the topic of reviews in the future. Our team loved the Food Maze from Hagen, though, making it an almost unanimous choice for my Best in Show from all our final selections. It just stood out on so many levels, from design to price. There are several different modules to the Food Maze to add as you want, and cats will love having to hunt a little harder for their food. The team also thought watching the cats enjoy themselves would be entertaining for the kids in the family.

DogTek  Eyenimal video camera ($129): OK, I admit it, I love high-tech stuff. The Eyenimal is a small video camera, small enough to fit on even a cat’s collar. With 8 MB of storage and a couple hours of battery life, you can really get a lot of fun video from your pet’s point of view. Gina already nabbed a review product for the book tour, intended to record video from the collar of her dog McKenzie, who’ll be our official tour dog. So yes, we like this product so much we’ll be using it next month!

SmartyKat – Brush-Up $15. Keeping cats happy and entertained is always a challenge, right? The Brush-Up impressed all of us with its reasonable price and its tower of “grabby” fingers for the cat to rub her body against. Creative, simple and inexpensive. Great combination!

Doggone Smart Pet Productscollars, beds, jackets, etc  $12-300. Products that make you say “Wow, I want that in my home!” is how our team described Doggone Smart Pet Products. Dog collars, pet beds and a whole variety of items that are all impregnated with nanotechnology that not only repels liquids, dirt and oils, but it’s bariostatic. That’s a fancy word for saying it keeps the bacteria that makes a dog bed stink from sticking to the bed. Again, I love technology!

Premier – Rip n Tug $12.99. I always admire Premier’s dedication to making toys that are durable as well as good looking. The Rip n Tug is coming to the market soon, and when it does, your dog will line up to play with it. It combines a rope with a tough toy that has a treat compartment buried inside. It combines the best of the rope pull toys with a treat dispenser. Best of all, if you have two dogs, they can both play with it!

Petmate – Clean Response Swivel Bin & Rake - $23.99. Everybody liked how easy this doggie waste cleanup tool was to use. In fact, Teresa wants to try this at Almost Heaven Ranch! It works like a dustpan and rake, with a tall handle (three feet in height). There is a large capacity waste container, and you use your own plastic grocery bags you might otherwise be throwing away.  Best of all, there’s an ingenious swivel design built in, so the waste stays in the bin while you’re transporting it to the trash can (picture at right showing me demonstrating. I think I might be doing this a lot at home).

Pet Projekt Bloat Blocker $10-15. We all liked the simplicity and elegant design of the Bloat Blocker. It’s an effective tool to keep dogs from gulping down their food and water too fast.  A dishwasher-safe obstacle suction cups to the food or water bowl, and slows down your dog’s intake speed. More gradual eating and drinking, less chance of air intake, less bloat! This can be removed from a bowl easily, and inserted into another one in seconds. Why didn’t I think of that?

Jordan Animal Solutions – Sunny Cat Seat Bed $19.99 (reviewed by our own Ingrid King on her consciouscat blog). Another simple, creative idea – give your cat a bed that lets her be not just near the window, but right next to it! It’s very simple – a perch that attaches with suction cups to a clean window surface. The beds are very strong, and won’t collapse, even when two cats are trying to wrestle on the bed! We all thought the price was right, too. For less than twenty dollars, your cat can have her favorite spot in the whole house.

P.L.A.Y – Pet beds $95-105. These are just flat out beautifully made pet beds that are all made from recycled materials. David Collins’ playful, attractive designs will fit seamlessly in any house or back yard, and with any decor. The quality and attention to detail in their fabrics blew us all away.

Zoo Med  Aquatic Turtle Banquet Block ($5): Ericka is always the advocate for items aimed at species I just don’t see much of, like turtles. Last year she found a turtle dock, and this year she liked this inexpensive product, which helps these pets get the nutrients they need.

Before the “Becker’s Best” choices were revealed, I was honored to announce the winners of Global Pet Expo’s New Product Showcase Awards. They’re under the jump, below!

Global Pet Expo’s New Product Showcase Awards were:

Aquatics
Jellyfish Art, LLC – Desktop Jellyfish Tank

Bird
Fetch-It Pets, Inc – Polly Wanna Pinata The New Generation

Boutique
Doggles – Plush Bottle Toys

Cat
Ware Manufacturing – Earthly Elements II

Dog
JW Pet Company, Inc. – Pet Dog Toys

Natural Pet
Head of the Pack - Freezy Pups

Reptile
United Pet Group Blacksburg - TetraFauna Viquarium

Small Animal
Ware Manufacturing - Bamboo Bio Bowls and Eco-friendly Feeders

Point of Purchase
Planet Dog – The Orbee-Tuff Counter Top Display

Photo credit: Hagen Cat Maze, hagen.com. Dr. Marty Becker with the Petmate Clean Response Swivel Bin, Ericka Basile.

Filed under: pets, connected — Dr. Marty Becker @ 7:50 am

11 Comments »

  1. I read this post with gusto last year, and brought Coproban into my practice based on your recommendation, Dr. Becker. Thanks for keeping an eye out for the rest of us!

    The latest product I’m enthused about is something called Flushpuppies; biodegradable, flushable, septic safe dog waste bags. Did you see these at the GPE?

    Comment by Kelly Byam DVM — March 18, 2011 @ 8:22 am

  2. I find it rather sad that two of Dr. Becker’s first three choices are products that demonstrate his bias against letting cats outdoors. And it tells me how difficult it can be to truly provide what they need when they are denied that possibility. As I have commented before, and will certainly do again, it depends on circumstances. I totally disagree with a blanket recommendation that cats must be kept inside.

    I really wish that he would gather more information, talk to people who have cats and take a more nuanced approach to this issue.

    Comment by Susan Fox — March 18, 2011 @ 9:07 am

  3. I do need a good pooper scooper, liked a one handed product called Jaws…and no bending. Need to get another, it lasted for years.

    Loved the DuraDoggie.com balls and treat dispenser, ordered two and will report on them…thanks David, have some big chewers here and absolutely LOVE the idea of giving part of the proceeds to charity by the company!

    Comment by Mary — March 18, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  4. Susan, being a vet tech (for 40 yrs!) and finally working at an all feline practice and having patients that are almost all indoor only, after working at mixed animal practices with indoor/outdoor cats, I can say we rarely see abscesses, hit by car injuries, fleas, heartworms and felv or fiv. Therefore, I certainly am biased about the positive reasons for having indoor only cats.

    Dr B, I am going rush right out and buy items #1, #3 and #8 to keep my indoor only cats happy!

    Comment by Teri — March 18, 2011 @ 10:28 am

  5. Susan, I think those of us who let our cats out really need to get more hard-skinned about it. You have a good set-up for an outdoor cat at your home, but many people live in apartments, condos or other high-density housing, or near busy roadways, in coyote-endemic areas and so on.

    Because more people are keeping their cats in, we have a lot of interest in environmental enrichment products for those animals, and so that’s what we’re really interested in when we sweep the floor. Frankly, we couldn’t pick products for outdoor cats if we wanted to, because they largely don’t exist. The industry is answering the public’s desire for feline enrichment gear.

    Think of it not as a criticism of what you do, but rather as us helping those people who choose to make the switch to keep cats indoors — and how to do best by THOSE cats.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — March 18, 2011 @ 10:53 am

  6. Susan, when folks let their cats outside, what measures would you suggest for keeping them on their own property?

    Because when they’re allowed access to the roadways, they create a danger to the public. And when they have access to garbage or a vegetable garden to use as a toilet, they’re a nuisance.

    And that’s not even taking into consideration the danger to the cat itself…

    In my opinion, nuance is an outdoor cat enclosure.

    Comment by Kim — March 18, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

  7. Izzy says she will volunteer her jaws to all of the JW toys for review if need be. Mr. Feet (Bad and Good Cuz are her favorites) Okay, it would be a biased review. LOL

    Comment by Jill — March 18, 2011 @ 2:37 pm

  8. Izzy would have spun in circles of delight at the ginormous Cuz they had as a booth display.

    There is a special new Mr. Feet who debuted. Stay tuned!

    Comment by Ericka Basile — March 19, 2011 @ 5:05 pm

  9. In my opinion, nuance is an outdoor cat enclosure.

    Comment by Kim — March 18, 2011 @ 12:56 pm

    Kim, not all cats can be enclosed indoors or in an enclosure. I’ve got one (perhaps 2!) and it is certainly an issue. You can’t close him in a room, a crate, a house, etc. He would beat the H*ll out of an outdoor enclosure. My other would prob not beat the heck out of it, but she would try and find ways out, cry and generally become stressed. That’s just life with Yankee and Harlem. I’ve had both since kittens and even kept them in large dogs crates at night when they were itty bitty for their safety (and to help their litter box skills!). They were fine in them when sleeping, not so much when awake. They always door darting when I lived in an apt and I can’t tell you how many times I found myself running down 3 flights of stairs to fetch them. Then I got smart and taught them a pretty spiffy recall ;) They’ve mellowed a bit with age, but not much. I knew it was going to be a prob when I moved into a house. I do think they would mostly stay in the yard if I didn’t have 3 neighbors who feed their cats and others outside. Not thrilled about it, but the cats are happy and can usually be found lounging in a sun spot in my yard. And Yankee is no longer tearing the fur off his legs . . . :) I also figure my cats are a bit safer being allowed outside vs the door darting. No more getting caught by the rib cage between a door and the jam as I was quickly closing doors in the new home so they wouldn’t go out :( My 2 other cats enjoy the outdoors also, but are just fine staying in the backyard and chasing butterflies in the violets :)

    Oh, and for the record, Yankee can bust apart a travel crate faster than I could ever imagine :P Were talkin’ minutes!

    Comment by straybaby — March 19, 2011 @ 6:30 pm

  10. A new Mr. Feet?!?!?! Oh, we WANT!!

    Comment by Jill — March 19, 2011 @ 7:18 pm

  11. I just ordered a “Hagen Catit Senses Food Maze” for my cats, thank you for bringing it to my attention. Maybe it will help keep my boyfriend from filling the bowl every time he can see the bottom. :) My cats have and love their treat rollers and other foraging toys, so this seems like a perfect addition to the line up.

    Comment by MonaLS — March 20, 2011 @ 1:17 pm

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