Surprise Hits: FURminator terminates pet hair, cheaper brushes

Would you spend $60 for a hair brush for your dog? No, you say? Well, that's probably because you've never seen the FURminator. The groundbreaking undercoat-removing device with the bright yellow handle is a must-have for pet owners. Really.

I was skeptical at first. Sixty bucks for a dog brush! My own hairbrush doesn't cost half that. But then I borrowed one a few times at the dog run, and I was completely won over. The FURminator may cost 10 times what some generic pet brush does, but it does at least 10 times as good a job.

Forgive me for sounding like an infomercial. I feel like I'm walking onto the set of a late-night TV ad for a miracle product every time I go to the dog run and someone is brandishing a FURminator. Dog owners compete to see how large a pile of hair they can remove from their pets. There's a whole genre of YouTube videos showing how effective it is. You can't help but look at that ginormous pile of hair and think gleefully: all of this hair is NOT ending up in my home! The tool is so well-known -- nay, beloved -- among dog and cat people that it has become a verb: Oh, Shadow is shedding all over the place -- I really need to furminate her.

Angie Porter, a St. Louis groomer, developed the tool that pulls out gobs of thick undercoat hair without pain for the animal or much effort from the human. Porter and her husband launched the company in 2003. Inc. magazine named FURminator Inc. the 39th fastest-growing private company last year, with 2007 revenues of $25 million, up from $700,000 in 2004. FURminator now sells a variety of shedding products, with smaller FURminators costing "only" $23.

The FURminator's success comes not only from having a superior product -- which it totally is -- but Porter also rode a wave of increasing pet spending. Since 2003, American spending on pets has gone from $32 billion to an estimated $45 billion this year. Suddenly, a $60 brush for my dog sounds quite reasonable.

Be sure to check out all 20 recent products that became Surprise Hits.

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