According to the latest trends, over 50% of cat and dog owners will be giving their pet a Christmas gift or treat this year. With a little more than 67% of U.S. households with at least one pet, that is a lot of holiday gifts that are being purchased between now and the end of the year!
All pet stores, large and small, have been planning for this for months and working with the ridiculously long shipping times that we’re seeing everywhere. It’s a careful balance of ordering just the right amount of top selling everyday toys and treats and bringing in new, holiday toys and treats, hoping we ordered enough but not too much all with our fingers crossed that it arrives in time.
Luckily for my stores, we were able to receive just about everything we ordered with several weeks to spare. Some of the holiday baked goods were made at last-minute to ensure freshness, and sure, there are a couple of toys that at press time we are still waiting to arrive.
But in all this planning and excitement, every year I know that there are really just two things that your pets want and need from you:
Your time and healthy, nutritious food.
That is it!
Am I suggesting that you refrain from picking up a toy or treat for the holidays? Of course not. If it makes you happy, then it makes them happy. But please do not feel pressure to shop for your pets. They want your attention and need healthy foods to fuel them so they can feel good for years to come.
What is considered “healthy, nutritious premium food?”
To answer this, I’d like to address what it is not:
- Foods high in starch, especially glutens such as wheat and corn. Cats cannot process these at all, and for dogs, it causes their liver to work harder.
- Foods using animal by-products instead of human grade meats. Think beaks, feathers and feet of chickens or worse.
- Artificial colors and flavors. These are very prevalent in commercial pet foods to make a food look consistent and taste better because it’s lacking nutritious ingredients.
- Artificial preservatives such as BHT, BHA and ethoxyquin. These are still acceptable and are known cancer-causing preservatives.
Luckily, it is now easier to find foods that do not contain these, however only about 43% of dog owners and 41% of cat owners are using premium foods without one or more of these harmful ingredients.
In the U.S. it is legal to produce foods that have the above harmful ingredients. In fact, pet food is regulated with the following four nutrient requirements only: Moisture, Fat, Protein and Fiber
How a pet food manufacturer achieves the appropriate levels of each of these is vague and almost completely unregulated.
One pet food company may use sweet potatoes or oats, something useful for the body while another uses cheap alternatives such as corn grits, wheat gluten and corn gluten. A premium food will use human grade chicken, duck or beef for example, while another will use, cheaper protein sources such as chicken by-products (not fit for human consumption and usually contains beaks, feathers and feet) or worse, “animal by-product” in which they do not have to identify what animal species the “protein” is sourced from.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money or energy to find the coolest new toy or most amazing treats (however they will still appreciate you for doing it!). To me, it is simple when it comes to appreciation and gifts: Lots of love and nutritious food. It really can be that simple.
Not sure about your pet food labels?
If you have questions about your pets’ food, my team and I would be happy to help assess what they are eating. Feel free to call or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.