Debra Bishop feels like she hits the lottery every time she finds Purina Friskies Shreds canned cat food on store shelves for her two rescue cats, 3-year-old siblings Max and Willow.
The chicken- and turkey-flavored meals are hard to find these days because of a widespread pet food shortage. Canned cat food — from well-known brands like Fancy Feast, Friskies and 9 Lives — is the most elusive. Several factors are responsible, including pandemic-related manufacturing delays, bad weather, and an uptick in pet ownership and pampering.
The situation is reminiscent of last year's toilet paper sales surge, and the recent shortage of Grape-Nuts that had some fans paying as much as $110 a box through an online black market.
Bishop says she often finds herself muttering under her breath as she searches the shelves for something her cats won't turn their noses up to.
"I'm clearly not the only one wondering what their kittens will eat,” says Bishop, 51, who lives in Penfield, New York. “I've shared smiles — under masks — with other shoppers talking to themselves in the cat food aisle."
'Customers are frustrated'
Chris Anthony, manager at Country Harvest Family Market in Palmerton, Pennsylvania, says his supplier sent an email in February stating that pet food producers Nestlé Purina and J.M. Smucker Co. were experiencing COVID-19-related supply issues. Supplies — including aluminum packaging — were scarce and the companies no longer could meet demand, a situation expected to last at least until May.
"One delivery we'll get some Fancy Feast and various flavors, and the next delivery we don't get anything,” Anthony says. “Our customers are frustrated. They're tired of the whole thing."
The United Kingdom is also dealing with a national shortage, with one supplier now rationing merchandise to be sure as many pets as possible can be fed.