My 10 year old rescue cat, Squeak, has no teeth. I had to have them all removed, even the tiny smiles in front, due to chronic infections that raised his blood sugar levels and caused diabetes.
Regardless, he managed to kill a mouse the other day. It was a bloodless death and I have no idea how it got out of it (strangulation / suffocation? Coronary heart failure induced by fear?). I found him in the kitchen standing over the saliva-covered body, a domestic predator at the crossroads of instinct and feline dentistry.
He looked at me as if to say, It looks like this snack toy wears some sort of invisible armor that makes it impossible to bite into.
Rodent smoothie not being an option, and now a phrase I wish I ever typed, I gave the creature a poor man’s burial behind the compost bin and went back inside to make cat food supply inventory.
It was heartening to know that a native food source remained if the worst got worse and the nation’s pet food shortage continued.
Squeak grew up cold and hungry under an abandoned house in upstate New York.
Even after a decade of good living with me, in his mind starvation still looms – a fear, I guess, is understandable if you don’t have a thumb, never leave the house, and are completely dependent on the one human who don’t send you darting under a bed.
He was a very picky eater even before necessity demanded a wet, low-carb diet.
Good: Friskies Salmon Dinner (pink label) or Sea Captain’s Choice (blue).
Acceptable: turkey and offal (purple), if mashed with a fork and served with a back scratch.
NEVER EVER: Shredded pieces or fillets of meat in sauce. Squeak might have been too weak from hunger to move, but he would still manage to look up at a box of this stuff. A cat has its standards.
As the pandemic pet food shortage has revealed, he’s not the only one.
The AARP wrote about the crisis in March, as labor shortages and manufacturing delays combined with a pandemic boom in pet adoption to create a perfect storm sweeping the shelves stores nationwide.
People were stocking up and hoarding pet food. Those who did not and could not get the food their pets needed or loved, had turned to homemade meals made with chicken and rice, served on the ground.
I didn’t start to feel the effects in Colorado Springs until late summer, when my local Safeway’s canned cat food supply began to dwindle – and remain scarce. By mid-November, there were only a few cans of purple-labeled pÃ¢tÃ© leftâ¦ and a few months’ supply (the dreaded) grated pieces in sauce.
“Whose cat eats this?” I asked the customer service clerk, while we waited for a boss who could answer my questions.
âMy cat loves the shredded,â the woman said. “I guess I’m lucky.”
The store manager had no good news: his supplier couldn’t take it anymore. His store wasn’t the only retailer facing the crisis and receiving warmth from increasingly panicked pet owners.
âI don’t know what to say other than sorryâ¦ and keep checking,â he said.
Where good things could still be found, they came at a high price. Had to cancel Amazon’s autoship of Squeak’s favorite meals after the price of a 40-pack jumped over $ 30. It is no longer available from any third party vendor on the site.
Shortage of paper jar or cream cheese? Replacements can be made in a pinch.
Swap your pet’s traditional meal, however, the repercussions for both of you could be more than emotional.
Generally speaking, vets warn of sudden changes in the diet of pets. This is especially true for pets who follow these diets for health reasons, such as Squeak.
Luckily I kept checkingâ¦ and a few weeks later I was shopping early one morning when only two 24 packets of good / acceptable Canned Friskies Pie ended up on an otherwise sterile shelf.
I felt a little bad for buying both, but then remembered who I was doing it for.
Stephanie Earls is a dog and cat owner and reporter for The Gazette.