Having only one cat shouting in my face these days is a good thing because Lucky is really ticked off that I no longer bring home the canned cat food he likes! My mischievous but normally polite grey Abyssinian has been indignant and irritable, for over a month now. I’ve tried to tell him to get used to it, as the pet food shortages are expected to last till summer.
Fortunately, there hasn’t been a shortage of his Royal Canin or Purina Indoor cat chows but he needs the hydration from wet food, beyond just his own tall glasses in the sink where he thinks he’s sneaking water. Little does he know Mama planned it that way, so she wouldn’t be kicking over his water dish on the floor every day. Disinfecting the edge of the sink is far easier on my back than mopping the floor or wringing out yet another towel due to my own clumsiness.
The shortages hit some areas of the USA and certain brands of pet food earlier than others were affected, as workers became sick with Covid-19 and production plants had to shut down for weeks at a time. In the eastern states where much of the canning is done, ghastly winter storms were the last straw. Even if the local government had allowed plants to operate, most workers could not have made it through the piled up snow or icy roads, even as resilient as their residents are.
Is All Cat Food in Short Supply?
Purina (Fancy Feast, Friskies, and many more) and J. M. Smucker (9 Lives) have had almost no fish paté products available. Not many cans of grilled fish products are on the shelves, either. Store shelves have gaping holes between the canned chicken, turkey and beef varieties. If your cat doesn’t care for chicken, turkey or beef, you’re out of luck, and panicking consumers have been grabbing whatever is there, hoping their cats will consider it edible.
Kittens need the correct food for their ages so they grow and develop properly. They need more protein, fat, minerals and vitamins than an adult cat. I’ve noticed limited supplies of kitten food on the shelves, which could be of concern to someone trying to feed a weaned kitten. A kitten can switch to adult food no sooner than 12 months old but up to 18 months if you’re caring for a large breed cat like a Maine Coon.
I can’t determine why it’s the fish varieties that are unavailable but that’s how it has hit stores in California and online. However, it’s true that fish spoils much faster than poultry or meat, based on a different structure of fats and amino acids. In addition, most food destined for pets is already teetering on the brink of rotten before it’s canned anyway. Those consumers who only feed their pets natural foods might have a less-stressful time of it, or those who purchase pet food with human-grade ingredients.
Mars, Inc. was supposed to have discontinued Sheba cat food in 2011 but it’s been on the shelves until now. I hate to think they might have had a warehouse full of it and were selling 10-year-old product. That would make no sense at all, so something was worked out behind the scenes! However, there are anecdotal consumer stories on social media of it lacking essential vitamins. I never buy Sheba, so it may be fine to try and the stories could be incorrect.
Other expensive, specialized brands like Hills Science Diet seem available at pet food stores that also carry some of the more popular brands available in grocery stores. However, even Petco hasn’t had the Purina varieties I myself want. Neither have they been available at amazon.com or chewy.com, or at Walmart or Target, for example.
At age 11-1/2, Lucky is very much a senior, so I’ve been able to order a couple of those senior Purina fish varieties from Amazon but they’re not what he’s used to eating. I have several quality brands and varieties ordered this way (just a dozen cans at a time) but cats are finicky and suspicious of strange textures, too. Besides that, the last thing I need is a cat with an upset stomach caused by bouncing from one food to another. He hates chicken, raw or cooked, but loves roasted turkey now and then.
What Can We Expect?
Since a cat owns me, I’ve really noticed the absence of cat food on the shelves. However, canned dog food availability, such as Alpo, is also impacted, including the high-end FreshPet that is refrigerated. There doesn’t seem to be much dog food with fish as a major ingredient, which would make life a little easier for owners. However, I’m not an expert on dogs, so I could be off-base.
I can’t talk too much about the rest of the world but in the UK, the skyrocketing post-Brexit supplies problems on top of the pandemic have exacerbated the pet food shortage. Australia has multiple problems, including the pandemic, disagreements over price increases between suppliers and stores, and the devastating wildfires of 2020. For example, the government no longer allows culling of kangaroos for use in pet food, but enough on that topic!
It’s going to take more effort than we’re used to but those of us with pets will need to stay alert and check often (every day or several times a week) to try and snag our pets’ favorite foods.
Hint: Don’t just click on the first available “in stock” online.
One reason for not getting what I need is the price gouging on Amazon. Third-party sellers are charging 2X, 3X, even 4X the normal price and/or very high shipping prices. Sometimes, it helps to report them to Amazon but with millions of products in its database, not even Amazon can keep up. Our furry friends rely on us, so we can’t get too discouraged. I believe this is a (major) hiccup in the supply lines and we’ll soon be back to normal deliveries, much like what happened with toilet paper and hand sanitizer. In the meantime, we need to stay alert while carefully trying to introduce our pets to something different that’s also tasty and nutritious!