Pet owners resort to making cat food as supply chain issues leave shelves empty

Cat owners have a hard time finding favorite foods for their pets. Supermarkets across the Bay Area are having trouble keeping canned cat food on the shelves.

For unruly cats – and their humans – the problem is frustrating. For the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, it has become a concern.

Shortages in some cat foods, especially wet and canned types, make the task of rescuing and adopting the animals challenging, says Lon Savini, facilities manager at TBHS.

“Fortunately, in our building, we’ve stocked up for the next few months,” Savini said. “But all that is really there now are bits and pieces.”

Wednesday morning, several shelves of Publix and Walmart stores in Tampa were bare. Cat owners and rescue volunteers say it’s not just the supermarkets.

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“I had to resort to online orders, but on Amazon, it was very expensive,” said Erica Carroll, who owns five cats. “So I think it was usually $15 for her cat’s lunch box, and on Amazon it was $26.”

For Carol, and many other cat parents who own more than one, it can be even more exasperating when it comes to picky kittens.

“Three of them eat dry cat food, while the other two eat wet cat food the most,” Carroll said. “The first, because she is from Bengal, is very selective with what she eats. It doesn’t even come in a box, it comes in a bag.”

Another owner, Brenda Orr, looks after the neighborhood slides. She says, unlike dogs, cats are very particular about their food.

“They won’t eat it if it stays on the plate for more than 10 minutes, and if there are less than 50 little pieces left, they won’t eat it either,” she said. “Everything should be clean and new for them.”

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Manufacturers say the shortages are caused by pandemic manufacturing shutdowns and an increase in pet adoptions.

A PetSmart employee told FOX 13 that a lot of companies simply can’t source the ingredients needed to make packaged foods. Others say the reason is a lack of aluminum cans.

Jessica Kelly, of Cat Trap Fever, traps, neuters, and releases stray cats. Right now, she says, feeding 20-30 cats in their custody is a struggle. And making sudden changes to food can have serious consequences for cats.

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“A lot of cats, with sensitive stomachs, if you switch foods on them drastically, they will do things like vomit or have loose stools,” she said.

But there are options: Orr’s last resort is to make it from scratch.

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“Red some meat and cooked some rice and broth with it so they have something to eat,” she said.

Or there is also the Humane Society’s Food Assistance Program.

“We do wet food for cats, you can have about 5-10 cans on a Tuesday or Saturday,” Savini said. “And most of that has already been donated to us, we already have a collection in our storage room.”

And since there is no end in sight to this shortage, finding replacements can be a very difficult task.

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