Pet food shortage brings prickly reality for owners of picky eaters | Guest Column | Pikes Peak Courier

My 10-year-old rescue cat, squeak, has no teeth. I had to pull it all off, even the little smiles in front, due to the chronic inflammation that spiked my blood sugar and caused diabetes.

However, he managed to kill a rat that day. It was a bloodless death and I have no idea how to take it off (strangle/strangle? I found him in the kitchen standing over the spit-up carcass, a home predator at the crossroads of instinctive and country dentistry.

He looked at me as if to say, It looks as if this light toy is wearing some kind of invisible armor that makes it unchewable.

Rodent juice is not an option, and now a phrase I regret ever writing, I give the creature a poor burial behind a compost bin and head back inside to inventory my dwindling supplies of cat food.

Squeaky Jay Earls was a picky eater even before he had to pull out all his teeth. The pet food shortage hasn’t changed that much. (And yes, his eyes are crossed.)

It was encouraging to know that a local food source still existed if things got worse and pet food shortages persisted nationwide.

A cold, hungry squeal arose under an abandoned house in upstate New York.

Even after a decade of good life with me, hunger always loomed in his mind–a fear, I think, understandable if you had no thumbs, and never left the house and depended entirely on the lonely human being who would not send you arrows under the bed.

He was picky about food even before the necessity required a low-carb, hydrating diet.

Good: Salmon Dinner from Friskes (pink label) or Choice of Marine Captain (blue).

Acceptable: Turkey and Giblets (purple), if mashed with a fork and scratched at the back.

Never: shredded crumbs or steak in meat broth. The squeaker may be too weak to move due to hunger, but he’s still able to hold his nose up at a can of that stuff. The cat has its standards.

As the pet food shortage pandemic has revealed, he’s not the only one.

AARP wrote about the crisis in March, as manpower shortages and manufacturing delays combined with an epidemic pet adoption boom to create a storm that is sweeping store shelves across the country.

People were stocking and storing pet food. Those who did not, and could not get the food their pet needed or loved, turned to home-cooked meals of chicken and rice, served on the floor.

I didn’t begin to feel the effects in Colorado Springs until late summer, when the local Safeway’s canned cat food supply began to dwindle — and remain sparse. By mid-November, all that was left were a few cans of purple labels…and a supply of a few months’ worth of (damn) vaccines ripped into meat broth.

“Who does a cat eat that?” I asked the customer service clerk, as we waited for a boss who could answer my questions.

“My cat loves the lump,” said the woman. “I think I’m lucky.”

very lucky.

The store manager did not have good news: his supplier could not get more. His store hasn’t been the only retailer dealing with the crisis, and he’s in the heat from growing panicked pet owners.

He said, “I don’t know what to say, other than sorry… and keep checking back.”

Where the good stuff can still be found, it came at a hefty price. I had to cancel Amazon’s automatic delivery of Squeak’s pate favorites after the price of a 40-pack jumped by more than $30. It is not available now from any third party seller on the site.

Rarity of potty paper or cream cheese? Replacements can be made in no time.

Replace your pet’s traditional meal, however, and the repercussions for both of you can be more than just emotional.

In general, veterinarians caution against making sudden changes in a pet’s diet. This is especially true for pets that follow these diets for health reasons, such as the Squeak.

Luckily, I kept checking back…and a few weeks later I happened to be shopping early one morning when two lone 24-packs of a good/acceptable canned Friskies dish found their way onto a barren shelf.

I felt a little bad buying both, but then I reminded myself who I was doing it for.

Stephanie Earls is a cat and dog owner and Gazette columnist.


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