Pet owners on the prowl for cat food amid supply chain issues

Many pet owners have noticed a new shortage lately, causing families to dig deeper into their...
Many pet owners have noticed a new shortage lately, causing families to dig deeper into their pockets or venture out of their pets’ comfort zone.(WECT)
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 5:02 PM EST
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LELAND, N.C. (WECT) - Many pet owners have noticed a new shortage lately, causing families to dig deeper into their pockets or venture out of their pets’ comfort zone.

“Well, I gotta burn a bunch of gas or get on my cell phone and start calling around — ’Do you have this’ or ‘Do you have that?’” said Leland cat owner Alex Fulcher. “You know, it’s just kind of aggravating not being able to find it. I’ll probably go to three or four different stores.”

Canned wet pet food seems to be hard to find lately, especially for cat owners. Some stores are better than others when it comes to empty shelves, but some pet owners will go store to store in search of their furry friend’s favorite meal.

“I’ll have trouble finding the pate cans,” said Fulcher. “I think they’re five and a half ounce cans. Usually, I get the 32- or the 48-count. We buy in bulk because it’s a little bit cheaper, but I can’t even buy that the last two months.”

It’s a problem impacting people across the country as supply chain issues impact which foods are delivered. Meanwhile, some brands wait for products still sitting on cargo ships.

Petsmart is just one store struggling to keep shelves stocked in some locations.

“Throughout the pandemic, more people have added pets to their families, driving an increased demand for pet food,” Petsmart said in a statement on the issue. “With this increase in demand, we have seen shortages from manufacturers of wet food that have affected our canned food supply in our stores and online. We are committed to doing all 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 the current demand.”

That’s pushed some pet owners to buy more expensive brands or shop online from places like Chewy or Amazon. If they’re lucky enough to find a story with stocked shelves, they’ll stock up.

“They don’t know whether one day next week they’re going to get it or not,” said Fulcher. “When it shows up on their back door, that’s when they know they’re going to get it.”

Industry leaders say the problem is happening for a number of reasons, including manufacturing, distribution and retail hurdles. This started at the beginning of the pandemic when manufacturing was disrupted during shutdowns. More recently, the Pet Food Insitute (PFI) says increased competition for oils and fats caused by federal and state mandates has made manufacturing difficult.

“U.S. pet food makers are also experiencing unprecedented transportation and infrastructure challenges,” said PFI president and CEO Dana Brooks. “Bottlenecks at key U.S. ports continue to threaten their ability to serve export markets and source key ingredients. Companies are also experiencing delays in offloading product from ships. Transportation challenges continue domestically, with trucking shortages that make it difficult for companies to secure vehicles, drivers and even pallets.”

Brooks points out that incentives promoting renewable fuel production have made diesel fuel manufacturing more difficult, adding to the shipping problem.

“PFI and its members support efforts to fight climate change, but current policies create a government-driven market advantage to the energy sector and a disadvantage to companies purchasing ingredients for pet food,” said Brooks.

To be sure all pets get what they need, PFI asks pet owners to shop as they normally would and not stock up when shelves are full. If you need a specific product, try contacting the company directly for assistance.

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