Do reviewers actually test products on their pets? Do they base their reviews on what many customers report about products? Or are they repeating what the manufacturer states about the products in its product literature?
It makes a difference.
Does the review match users' experiences?
I read a recent review of 2018's best products for dogs and cats (not the exact title). After I read the article, I looked up each item on Amazon and Chewy's to see how customers reviewed the items. Several of the so-called "best" pet products of the year had many negative or, at best, mediocre reviews. My first thought was that this reviewer or team of reviewers was paid to give these items positive reviews.
Whistle 3 GPS Pet Tracker & Activity Monitor was rated No. 1 of 5 Best Pet Trackers based on customer ratings
Now, it's possible that the reviewer was sent the products and tested them using their own cats or dogs as 'guinea pigs.' But I wondered what were the criteria they were testing and for how long a period of time were they tested. Did a reviewer's cat play with the toy for 5 minutes and then the reviewer decided it was the toy of the year? Or was it tested over, say, a week or two, or a month (my choice), to check the cat's continued interest in the toy and/or the toy's durability. I wondered this because actual customers at Amazon and Chewy's thought the reviewers picks were junk!
What to look for in a pet product review
Pet product reviews are part of my role here at PetsLady. I've been writing them under the pen name Lady Bee for more than 10 years. I used to get a lot of free dog and cat products to review. I tested them the way I felt they should be tested with my pets and my friends' pets for a few weeks, checking for these basic factors among others:
1) Do the products do what they're supposed to do?
2) Do our pets enjoy the products? Do multiple pets enjoy them?
3) Are the products safe for pets?
4) Are the materials harmful to pets?
5) Are the products solidly built?
6) Are they distinctive enough from other toys to warrant review?
If the products are pet foods, then there is a whole different set of factors I would investigate, not simply, will my dog or cat eat this stuff!
Is the review just hype?
Many reviewers get pet products directly from the manufacturers to review. I still receive some, but not as many as I used to, because I tell manufacturers that I will give the products honest reviews. I figure that's fair since they only send me a product because they are expecting a positive review.
I have only had one manufacturer in all these years, the maker of NonScents, who told me up front: "We don't care if you don't give these good reviews; we want your honest opinion on how they work."
I couldn't possibly review every product; when it's something my pets might need, I do. In many reviews, I rely on customer feedback, which is usually how I decide to try a product in the first place. Most customer reviews, especially on large multi-vendor pet sites, are honest, even though the individual sellers may pester customers to provide quick reviews. You can tell by responses like, "I've only had this toy for two days, but my cat seems to like it," or "So far, so good."
It's not good enough just to check out the number of stars a product has on the site; the way products are posted now, for example on Amazon, the stars could be for a totally different item that is advertised on the same page.
I don't trust the reviews on manufacturers' websites, as they may not be posted if they are not positive.
If you buy any product on Amazon, or other sites, you will get an email within a few days asking you for a review. Some individual vendors will be very persistent about getting an immediate review. Whether the product is a cat toy, a dog treat, or a skin cream for yourself, for the sake of other customers, don't give a review until you feel you've have a chance to really test the product.
And make sure that pet product reviewers are giving products the same intensive study that you would yourself.