I confess. I am in a steady relationship with a couple of faceless pet food and treat companies. And I couldn’t be happier. Like many of you, I am a conscientious list-of-ingredients reader and investigator of where the cat food ending up in the bowl for my orange tabby, Casey, is made:
It must contain a few but vital and recognizable ingredients (protein topping the list).
It must be manufactured in the United States. And, the company leaders must be willing to offer solid discount coupons on occasion and demonstrate their philanthropic side by occasionally staging events or campaigns that benefit animal shelters or nonprofit pet rescue groups.
But I also crave convenience, which is why I now order Casey’s canned and dry cat food, as well as his favorite treats, online through a fast-growing company that not only offers free shipping but delivers in two days or less. It alleviates me having to navigate around cute puppies and dogs with my shopping cart at a local pet food store and then lugging the heavy bag and box of canned food from my car and into my home.
Quality. Cost. Convenience. These seem to be the three words pet consumers crave when trying to find the right food and the right treats to keep their cats sporting shiny coats, staying at healthy weights and spending less time and money at the veterinary clinic to combat poor nutrition-related health issues.
“We are entering into an era of ease — click it, and it is delivered to your door quickly,” notes Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., chairman of the American Colleg of Veterinary Nutrition and an assistant professor of veterinary nutrition at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Ithaca, New York. “But quality is becoming a bigger issue for pet owners. Pet food companies are realizing that they need to continually improve their prod- ucts, evolve or lose their loyal customer base.
Transparency also scores loyalty among pet consumers. And pet food recalls do not have to be dirty words or the kiss of death for a pet food company anymore.
“There are pet food recalls nearly every day, and is that a bad thing? No, it tells me we as an industry are doing a better job of monitoring,” says Cathleen Enright, Ph.D., president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, based in Washington, D.C.
PFI’s members represent 98 percent of all U.S. pet food and treat products and have been the “voice” of American pet food makers for nearly 60 years. The website (pet foodinstitute.org) is expanding its education efforts on how pet foods are made, safety issues and proper at-home handling and storage tips for pet owners.
“Companies are testing continuously now and when they find problems,” Enrich says. “Ninety-nine percent of the time most of the recalls are not due to someone’s pet getting sick but from catching something and being able to trace the product to a particular store or stores. How quickly a company responds to a recall, in what manner and how they alert the public on what specific corrective action is taken is how a company maintains its reputation and trust with the public.”
She says the pet food companies that are succeeding are ones who make sure their products are accessible to anyone who wants it (online or in store), offer quality nutrition (organic, grain-free and novel proteins like bison, for example) and make reading food labels easy.
These companies also show a social/moral responsibility for the greater good of all companion animals.
“These days, it is beyond sales — it is about sharing the company’s values and letting consumers know that it is a company that cares,” she says. “These companies are choosing pet projects, such as supplying food and treats to animal shelters or sup porting research to fight cancer in cats and dogs.”
While I invest the time and energy to select healthy and morally good food and treats for Casey, I must acknowledge that he is more focused on making sure his food is dished up at breakfast and dinner on time.
Thumbnail: Photography by BLUEBEAT76/THINKSTOCK
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Arden Moore is a pet behavior consultant, author and master pet first aid instructor who often teaches hands-on classes with her cool cat, Casey, and very tolerant dog, Kona. Each week, she hosts the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio. Learn more at fourleggedlife.com and follow Arden on Facebook and on Twitter at @ArdenKnowsPets.