You’ve probably been there. You head into your local pet supply store for a quick trip for a little treat, toy, or food for you kitty. But before you can say “liver lovers” your senses are inundated with a plethora of kitty choices: grain free, with grain, low glycemic index, limited ingredient, free range, organic, wild caught, frozen raw, freeze dried raw, dehydrated, kibble, canned, Rx ÔÇª the list goes on and on AND ON.
We really live in the age of “designer cat food,” and while the choices are dazzling, making that choice can also make you want to curl up behind the cat towers and just rock.
I work part time at Calvin & Susie, a pet supply store in Honolulu that specializes in pet supplies that are as natural as possible and healthy. As the store’s resident “eccentric cat lady” I’m often called upon when a a cat customer is discovered lost, sweating, and mumbling to him/herself amongst the treat shelves.
So I offer you a few tips, from the other side of the pet store register, to help you find the perfect offering for your discerning feline — and to avoid that stern, disappointed gaze that we all know so well.
1. Know what food or treat your cat likes
Sounds like a no-brainer right? But you’d be surprised how many people come in and ask me, “What do cats like?”
The question is, “What does YOUR cat like?”
Not all cats like fish, not all cats can EAT fish. Knowing what your cat likes and dislikes is always the first question I ask. Blindly buying something that appeals to you (“I like chicken ÔÇª my cat will too, right?”) is asking for a kitty to look at the food bowl, then you, then leave the room bidding you to “try again, slacker.”
The same goes for trying new things.
Trying raw food, even if your kitty has only ever known kibble, is totally doable, but making the leap from chicken-based kibble to raw, frozen rabbit, can be a little jarring even for the most sophisticated feline.
In simplest terms, if you’re trying a new food or treat, and you know your kitty likes chicken, try to select a new food that also contains chicken (or at least a poultry).
2. Know what’s in your cat’s current food when looking for a new food
I’m one of those people who practically memorizes her cat’s food label.
I’m not saying that everybody has to be an expert on cat food ingredients (and I’m FAR from an expert — I’m rather “educated intermediate”), but picking a new food is way easier if you know what your cat is already eating.
Why? Because knowing what your cat is already thriving on, or having trouble with, really points you in the right direction for a new food or treat.
If nothing else, know if your cat is or is not eating a cat food with grain in it, what protein source is in your cat’s food, and if your cat has any allergies or sensitivities to certain ingredients or proteins.
3. Know your cat’s temperament: What’s fun for you may not be fun for him
“Will my cat walk on a harness?” is one of the top questions I get.
My answer is almost always, “Well, what kind of cat do you have? Is he or she relaxed? Chill? Or hyper and nervous?” If the answer is the latter, you might want to rethink the whole moonlit walk on the beach with your kitty.
As much as you want your kitty to be the kind who casually slips on his “fancy” harness for a night out on the town, no amount of wishing and hoping will change him if he’s more of a “hide in the closet when there’s company” type. And that’s okay!
4. Ask for samples!
Ask and (very often) you shall receive!
Don’t spend your money on a food or treat your cat might hate! More and more stores are not only stocking sample bags straight from the cat food company, but some of your local, small businesses will package up small trial sizes for you to take home.
I love loading my customers up with lots of samples for their cats to try. In my opinion, it really is the best way to discover new foods and treats.
5. Know your limits
I believe it is possible to have a happy, healthy cat in any tax bracket, you just have to be smart about it.
Know your budget, prioritize (food, toys, treats, litter), and don’t be afraid to ask questions! Yes, the $100-a-bag “caviar” of cat foods, or the 10-foot cat condo (I registered for one of those when I got married ÔÇª still waiting) can be tempting, but if you can’t sustain buying that kind of food or accessories for your kitty, somebody’s going to get scratched (you).
Also, be honest with yourself. What’s important to you? USA-made and -sourced food? Free range? Organic? Decide what you are willing to pay more for before you even step into the pet store, and you will be much happier walking out.
BONUS TIP! Finding a pet supply store with a knowledgeable and caring staff is worth its weight in catnip!
What cat shopping tips have you picked up along the way? Do you have a strategy? Where are your favorite places to shop?
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