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Feasts for Felines

Stacy Mantle//July 1, 2015//

Feasts for Felines

Stacy Mantle //July 1, 2015//

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Choosing a cat food is critically important because nutrition impacts nearly every aspect of feline health. Deciding on the proper diet for a cat has become an emotionally charged debate, fraught with opinions. It’s up to the retailer to become educated about all sides of the argument in order to empower consumers in making the best choice for their pets. Fortunately, the pet industry has expanded to meet the demands of consumers and their cats.

Cats are predators by nature, so it makes sense to provide them with a natural diet that mimics what they might eat in the wild. As obligate carnivores, they require foods that are high in animal protein in order to meet their essential nutritional needs. Basic minimum nutritional requirements have been established by the Feline Nutrition Expert (FNE) Subcommittee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and pet food manufacturers use these standards in producing cat foods.

Premium Foods

Just as in human food, the trend toward natural, organic and non-GMO ingredients continues to grow. With this change comes the trend toward a wider variety of proteins.

“Pet parents want these specialized diets because they know the important role a quality diet can play in their pet’s overall health and well-being,” said Pete Brace, vice president of communications and pet parent relations for Merrick Pet Care. “These specialized diets represent the presence of positive ingredients pet parents are seeking without the negative, select ingredients they are avoiding.”

Manufacturers are also exploring their wild side in the quest to attract consumers to super-premium innovations. Terms such as “natural,” “organic,” “farm-fresh” and others will be forced to develop meaning as consumers become better educated on marketing tactics. Now, more than ever, retailers will need to stay up-to-date on the claims that pet food manufacturers make and know how to explain the benefits of a specific type of diet to customers.

“Interest in natural, limited ingredient diets is on the rise as pet parents seek the simplicity of diets limited in proteins, ingredients and grains. Specifically for cats, 38 percent of cat pet parents are buying food for a cat with food allergies or intolerances according to Packaged Facts,” said Brace. “Our Merrick Limited Ingredient Diet recipes for cats keep it simple, offering complete and balanced nutrition from a single source of animal protein and the fewest, most essential natural ingredients for cats who may have intolerances or food sensitivities.”

Interchangeable Recipes

Fromm Family knows the value of variety and offers a selection of interchangeable diets that allow you to provide a finicky feline with a variety of flavors and proteins. These diets are prepared with fresh ingredients and delivered daily to their family-owned facility. Fromm’s Four-Star dry recipes offer the highest inclusion levels of meat, fish, fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. The recipes are designed to complement each other, allowing owners to switch between them or combine them to satisfy finicky felines without sacrificing health benefits. This type of customization appeals not only to cats but to their owners, who know that their cats are unique in every sense of the word.

According to Precise Pet Foods, studies show that cats may need more moisture in their diets because drinking out of a bowl is not a natural behavior for them. Canned foods are a great way for owners to ensure their cats get plenty of water every day. And for kittens, starting them on both canned as well as dry food is an important part of their development. Precise meaty, paté-style canned varieties provide solid nutrition with a wide range of tasty combinations.

Raw Diets and Exotic Proteins Yield Big Bucks

The pet industry is experiencing a walk on the wild side with a trend toward raw, exotic proteins. Retailers are learning to adapt to the new raw feeding craze by adding refrigerated areas to their stores and accommodating shorter expiration dates.

“Our cat foods have really taken off, probably because fresh meats are finally getting noticed but we have been doing it for 80 years,” said Holly Sher, owner of Evanger’s Pet Food. “I guess we have waited a long time for it to become trendy and are proud to offer premium fresh meats to cats and the people that love them. Retailers should know that over 90 percent of our fresh meats arrive from farms within 50 miles of our Markham, Ill. manufacturing plant.”

“This year we are launching two new exotic-meat grain-free cat foods to round out our Evanger’s Super Premium line: Rabbit & Quail and Duck,” said Sher. “Evanger’s is the only family/privately owned pet food cannery left in the USA and we will continue our focus supporting independent retailers that pride themselves on an unwavering commitment to quality and customer service, just like we’ve always done.”

Nature’s Variety Instinct Grain-Free Raw diets also afford ease in feeding raw. Four proteins (duck, rabbit, chicken and tuna) are offered in bites or medallions for easy portion control. Made up of 95 percent meat and 5 percent vegetables, this diet is simple to feed and easy to control.

Many brands are happy to offer samples so that customers can try them at home, while also providing generous return policies to stores. But along with offering samples comes the opportunity for retailers to provide information on why these ingredients and recipes are worth a somewhat substantial cost increase: The health benefits from feeding these foods could result in optimum pet health and fewer veterinary bills down the road.