by Nancy Hassel, American Pet Professionals
Cat food shortage?
During the first two weeks in January, when I was at my local grocery store, it was eerily looking like late April 2020 with many of the shelves bare, and not being able to find certain items. With the holidays just passing, a new variant, people out sick perhaps, supply chain issues we have been hearing about for months, it wasn't really a surprise, but also I was not expecting it.
By the next time I was there 2 weeks later, the supermarket was fully stocked, beaming with masked employees continuing to fill shelves. However, if you are someone who regularly purchases cat food in your local grocery store, those shelves have been bare for quite some time, and were still mostly empty while the rest of the store was stocked.
One day in mid-December, I was looking at my grocery list, and I just so happened to be next to the pet food aisle, not an aisle I frequent, as I always shop for any pet food/treats at my local independent pet stores. But I noticed a man staring at the bare cat food shelves, scratching his head, almost in a daze. Probably thinking, what the heck am I going to feed my cat? So I walked over and said, "are you looking for cat food," he said, "yes - these shelves have been like this for a while now." Looking at me in disbelief. I said, "If you go to Animal Pantry in West Babylon - they are fully stocked with cat food," he looked and said "Really? Where - are they?"
I gave him the location and another store that was located a mile away as well. The man literally bolted out of the store.
In the last few weeks I have noticed a lot of cat parents posting pictures of bare shelves where cat food normally is in their respective supermarkets. I would then comment, "have you tried going to your local pet store?" The answer has been no, every time. Now I am scratching my head thinking, maybe not enough marketing is being done by mom & pops to get people into their stores or pet parents are afraid the prices will be higher, or they are shopping online.
If you're a mom and pop or indy pet store, I am thinking you have the prime opportunity to start marketing your full shelves like crazy in all those local pet parent Facebook groups (ask the admins of course), or if you're creative, come up with fun marketing ideas to get those costumers attention that your store shelves are stocked. And of course, if you can, donate to some of your local TN&R volunteer feeders and local pet food drives.
I have spoken with numerous pet stores, and pet professionals in the industry who have also been in many pet stores, and all reported that they are stocked and full of pet food. Has there been supply issues in the past two years, yes of course, we are all aware, it's not a pollyanna ignorant post. Will supply issues continue, probably - but being in multiple indy and some chain pet stores in the past few weeks, I have not seen any bare shelves. Not items to spaced to look less bare, fully stocked shelves.
Locally here on Long Island, NY, Mutts & Butts in Merrick is fully stocked, Harbor Pet in Greenport and Montauk are stocked, if you're looking for raw food, check out The K9 Shop in Lynbrook, Massapequa, and Bohemia. Animal Fare Pet Food and Supplies located in Brooklyn is fully stocked and list goes on.
Pet parents you can do a 'pet food store' google search near you, to see what stores are nearby, and call them to see if they are stocked with pet food. Now you may run into problems finding the brand that your pet normally eats that you purchase at the supermarket not at that store, and might have to try a new food. This is not always going to be the case, but just keep that in mind.
One store owner Jennifer Marshall, who reached out to me from Northwoods Pets located in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, said her store is about 4 hours from any big city and 2 hours from a mid-sized city and they are fully stocked with about 10 different brands of cat food. Noting that she is in a more rural location vs. a big city, and doesn't carry the same brands that you would find in a supermarket. Point is, if she has food at her store, you will more than likely find it where you are in your local pet supply store.
If you're a pet parent who has had trouble finding cat or dog food, I would implore you to seek out your local pet food stores. When you call them also ask them if they can deliver, as some stores may even have delivery service, if you need assistance getting food to your door.
There are also many locations that offer pet food pantries if you need assistance in getting food for your pets. You can ask around in pet parent groups on Facebook, or call your local animal shelters or rescues to see if they have a list for you. As an industry who loves pets, we don't want to ever hear that you can't find pet food anywhere, and that you have to give up your pet due to pet food prices. Often local non-profit organizations that are human food pantries also have pet food pantries as well.
Lastly, I know many cats and dogs can be finicky, but if you still can't find pet food where you are for some reason, there are options like recipes for home cooked meals and base pet food mixes you can purchase to add to for home cooked. There are fresh food options, that is already prepared that can be shipped to your house, there are many companies now that offer this service.
Keep me posted on your success in finding pet food at your local stores, or if you're a store and you are being super creative with your marketing.
Cover Photo credit: Carol Parmelee, Hooves, Hounds & Whiskers Pet Sitters, Branford, CT.