Grocery stores struggling to keep cat food in stock

Denise Allabaugh And Amanda Christman, Standard-Speaker, Hazleton, Pa.
·5 min read

Feb. 24—Cat owners may find some bare shelves in the pet food aisles at local grocery stores.

At Boyer's on 15th Street in Hazleton, incoming orders are "very sporadic," said store manager Bill Nice. He said disruption in the flow of the product began two to three weeks ago.

Ashley Flower, public relations manager at Giant, said pet food suppliers have informed the company of "challenges" over the past month that have impacted supply.

"We continue to remain in close contact with our suppliers and are working to bring in alternate products, but it's possible customers may find a particular brand or variety is unavailable due to these challenges," she wrote in an email.

BCI at 485 Susquehanna Boulevard, Hazle Twp., hasn't experienced a shortage in cat food or any products for large and small animals, said store manager Charlene Kennedy. She was told certain brands of cat food are scarce due to a shortage in the cans themselves.

Christine Caparro at the Hazleton Animal Shelter didn't hear anything about a cat food shortage when contacted Tuesday, though they were relieved and grateful for recent food and financial donations, she said. Johnsons Pharmacy on 15th Street in Hazleton just donated $550 worth of gift certificates from chewy.com so the shelter could buy what it needed and a Wapwallopen girl just dropped off pet food and supplies on Saturday after a two-week donation drive.

However, other shelters are feeling the effects of the shortage.

Operators at the Schuylkill County's two animal shelters say they are low on donations of canned pet food, while officials at county grocery stores say their pet food aisles have been low.

Both Hillside SPCA outside Pottsville and Ruth Steinert Memorial SPCA in Pine Grove Twp. have had a decline in pet food donations beginning at the start of the month.

Tricia Moyer-Mentzer, Hillside's executive director, said she has noticed "a lot less" of canned cat food donations, so much so that she put out a call on Facebook for donations. While the public responded, she said they had to order the donated food online as grocery stores were low on it.

"It's a problem for a shelter like us that has a lot of animals, particularly cats," she said, adding there are nearly 200 cats at Hillside.

While there is canned cat food at the shelter, Moyer-Mentzer said it is the same brand, Nine Lives, which not all cats like. As a result, she said some employees have used their own money to purchase food the cats like, including tuna, baby food and lunch meats. They are also ordering food online themselves.

"It's nice to have a variety of food to offer them," Moyer-Mentzer said.

At Redner's, whose locations include Shenandoah, the shortage of pet food hasn't been any different than other products that have faced distribution and manufacturing challenges during the pandemic, spokesman Eric White said.

"We've had some challenges, but there hasn't been a shortage," he said.

White said the low supply of pet food at the store depends on the manufacturer, the supply and buying patterns of consumers.

A Wegmans spokeswoman said stores are experiencing a cat food shortage as a result of weather challenges over the last few weeks, especially in Pennsylvania.

Manufacturers aren't able to produce and distribute as many cases, creating shortages across the industry, Wegmans spokeswoman Laura Camera said.

"We are working with our suppliers to secure as much product as possible and hope to get more product back on the shelves soon," Camera said.

A cat food shortage also can be seen at Weis Markets, mainly in the wet and canned food categories.

Weis spokesman Dennis Curtin said the shortage isn't as bad as the shortage of paper goods and surface cleaners last spring, however.

"For the moment, retailers across the country are receiving less pet food shipments due to production issues related to the pandemic," he said.

Curtin said the shortage of wet and canned cat food products bottomed out in January and Weis started catching up this month but the recent winter storm impacted suppliers who missed a couple days of production.

"Our suppliers expect it to improve significantly in March and April," he said. "We are still getting a significant amount of wet and canned products, just not enough in some cases. This is an industry-wide problem for the moment."

Blue Chip Farm Animal Refuge in Franklin Twp. has about 100 cats ready to be adopted and founder Marge Bart said they haven't experienced any problems getting wet and dry cat food which is delivered from Chewy and donated.

If people cannot find the cat food they typically buy, they should not feed their cats dog food, said Brenda Bartlett, owner of Village Pet Supplies and Gifts.

"You can't give a cat dog food because it causes heart problems," Bartlett said.

While grocery stores have experienced shortages of certain brands of canned cat food, Bartlett said Village Pet Supplies and Gifts stores in Hanover Twp. and Luzerne are stocked with natural cat food with human-grade ingredients.

This pet food is not made at the same facilities as the canned cat food experiencing shortages, she said.

"We are actually seeing everything bounce back to normal at this point in terms of the manufacturing rate of the human grade foods," she said. "The problems are in the grocery brands and that doesn't affect anything at our stores and we are having no problem with product arriving."

Contact the writer: dallabaugh@citizensvoice.com, 570-821-2115, @CVAllabaugh