There’s a cat food shortage, and Tampa Bay felines are not happy about it

Remember when grocery store shelves collapsed with rows of virtually every type of cat food imaginable?

Here’s what a colleague who owns cats experienced recently when recent supply chain shortages stripped some local shelves:

His house cats, who were offered not their usual wet food but an unfamiliar dry food, went on strike. They hit their bowl twice, in case the message wasn’t clear. And when it became clear that things weren’t going to change anytime soon, they threw into a bedroom in what is believed to have been a deliberate act.

Supply chain problems that have made everything from cars to cream cheese scarce are currently causing havoc in cat owners (or, as some have called it, people who act as employees for their cats). With some cat foods hard to find – particularly the popular wet and ripped felines – owners are scrambling to feed their famously hard-nosed felines.

Take Tina Paulowski, a paralegal who lives in Tampa with her husband and cats Cooper, Grayson, and Bella, who prefer Fancy Feast. Multi-boxes are starting to disappear from her store, so these days she’s circling between Amazon, Chewy, and PetSmart locations.

“We have to try to mix and match where we get our cat food orders from just feeding three cats,” she said. “You can’t expect the cat to say, ‘I’ll just take this. “They are more picky than dogs.”

The Humane Society of Tampa Bay has also been hit by the lack of wet patt-style food that they mix with dry cats for their shelter cats. This made it “difficult for us to provide any canned food at all to the Food Assistance Program,” executive director Sherry Silk said, which helps low-income local residents feed and keep their pets. (Donations are always welcome).

A mother cat takes care of her young at the Humane Society of Tampa. [ ARIELLE BADER | Times ]

People in cats have switched to making their own food, although some experts say it’s not necessarily healthier. PetMD.com recommends obtaining prescriptions from a veterinary nutritionist through your veterinarian or the American College of Veterinary Nutrition.

You can blame the same factors for other supply shortages, among them the availability of transportation, drivers and shipping vessel delays. The lack of aluminum doesn’t help getting the cans back on the shelves either.

Meanwhile, demand is soaring — remember all those kittens and puppies that were adopted in the pandemic? Nationwide, it’s called a pet food shortage, as it is in dogs too, although cat food shelves look smashed.

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Cats can be selective about what they eat.
Cats can be selective about what they eat. [ DAMASKE, JIM | Times ]

Dana Brooks, President and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, encouraged consumers to buy the amount of food they normally need and to contact companies directly about a specific product they are looking for.

We’re just not used to it,” said Robert Hooker, a University of South Florida professor at MoMA School of Business who teaches courses in supply chain management. “We are used to having everything within our reach as soon as we want it.”

Empty shelves of cat food at a Tampa grocery store.
Empty shelves of cat food at a Tampa grocery store. [ SUE CARLTON/Times ]

Globally, Hooker predicts that we will face shortages for another year.

But take heart, trapped people: He said the current pet food problem “may last for a few more months.”

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