Bishop says she often finds herself muttering under her breath as she searches the shelves for something that her cats won’t turn their noses in.
“Obviously I’m not the only one wondering what their cats are going to eat,” says Bishop, 51, who lives in Benfield, New York. “I’ve shared smiles—under masks—with other shoppers talking to themselves in the cat food aisle.”
Chris Anthony, director at Country Harvest Family Market in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, says his supplier emailed in February that pet food producers Nestlé Purina and JM Smucker Co. Supplies – including aluminum cans – were tight and companies could no longer meet demand, a situation that is expected to continue until at least May.
“One time we’ll get some Fancy Feast and different flavors, and the next delivery we don’t get anything,” Anthony says. “Our customers are frustrated. They’re sick of the whole thing.”
The UK is also dealing with a national shortage, with one supplier now rationing goods to make sure as many pets as possible can be fed.
There are many reasons for the deficiency
Pet food manufacturer Freshpet has reported halting manufacturing due to severe winter storms. Other companies are having problems with labour, machinery and packaging.
Anthony says, “There is a lot that goes into making a product, and if there is an interruption in any part of that process, it causes a problem. Increased demand doesn’t help either.”
PetSmart attributes its lack of wet food, both in stores and online, to people adding pets to their families throughout the pandemic.
“We are committed to doing everything we can to help pet parents feed and care for their pets, and are actively working with our manufacturing and shipping partners to ensure supply is increased to better meet current demand,” says Erin Gray, PetSmart Senior Director of Corporate Communications.
The same diet is necessary for some
For Frosty, the rescue cat that has belonged to Barbara Hengstenberg and her husband Bill, for seven years now, eating the same diet is important for his severe gastrointestinal issues.
Hengstenberg, 59, said she was nervous when she couldn’t find Frosty’s favorite 9 Lives Meaty Paté Super Supper. Fortunately, it survived a couple of days with a better-than-expected alternative brand. Hengstenberg, of Bear Creek, North Carolina, now stocks his regular fare for the rare occasions he finds it. (He eats in his own room, made especially for him with a tiled cavity for a litter box, wooden cabinets and tables, and artwork in the shape of a cat.)
“We don’t have children, so our pets have always been very, very special to us,” she says.
Long search ends successfully
Not everyone notices the rarity.
“I’ve seen it online, but we have cat food out here in Wazo,” says an employee at Nashville Pet Products in Nashville, Tennessee.
But for those like David Saltz, 49, of Auburn, Massachusetts, the search for Fancy Feast’s Classic Tender Beef Paté has been challenging. He has two cats, and the eldest, the tiger, is “very picky”. At the beginning of his search, he searched Google and every physical store — from pet stores to supermarkets and dollar stores — within 50 miles, all with no luck.
“I’ve tried literally every other type of canned cat food in the store—including a few overpriced, custom, MicroPro, small batch, all-natural, wildflower certified, non-GMO, herbal-nutrient cans (did I mention that their price tag) Ridiculously high?) Canned food,” Saltz says. “Almost all foods were rejected. Only occasionally would she eat a little of a certain flavor, and I would go buy more of that kind, but she didn’t have any of the he-she.” “
Saltz even posted an appeal on Reddit. When someone in the thread noticed that Chewy.com had restocked the food, he immediately requested a case. The next day, when he returned to the site to order more, it was sold out again.
Finally, a few weeks ago, Saltz found his favorite Fancy Feast on Amazon. Two orders ordered and logged in for automatic deliveries every two weeks. He also set up an alert on Chewy.com.
“The tiger is happy again,” he says.
Robin L. Flanigan is a contributing writer covering mental health, education, and human stories for many national publications. A former reporter for several daily newspapers, her work has also appeared in People, USA Today And Education Week. She is the author of the children’s book M is for vigilance.