We saw plenty of changes in 2020 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of these shifts, such as stocking up on essentials through online shopping and looking for ways to stay healthy, are having an impact on cat nutrition trends for 2021.
Lots of families welcomed new kittens or cats into their families during 2020. A purring little furball was exactly what some of us needed to ease the boredom, loneliness, and anxiety that could come up due to quarantines, lockdowns, and more time at home.
A furry addition helped many of us cope with our “new normal.” We also generally had more bandwidth to care for and cuddle with a cat as workplaces and schools went virtual.
All of these new feline friends meant an increase in the sales of cat food and supplies, like litter, treats, and toys. This growth was especially apparent in the e-commerce space. While online shopping has been on the rise for years due to its ease and convenience, it got a big boost in 2020. It offered cat parents a safe way to shop when they were unable or hesitant to leave the house.
E-commerce was predicted to become the primary retail channel for pet food and other products by 2023.^ This forecast is definitely on track now that people have gotten even more comfortable with the idea of buying cat food and other pet products online.
Along with the rise in e-commerce for cat food, there’s been an increase in the use of online subscription services. They grew 28% from February to March in 2020.+ These services make it easy to stay stocked up on cat food and other supplies.
You simply place a recurring order, and it shows up on your doorstep on whatever schedule you choose. Once it’s set up, you don’t have to think about it again. And you don’t have to worry about running out of your cat’s favorite kibble or canned food.
This feature is becoming increasingly popular because of its ease and convenience. Also, some retailers actively promote this feature on their websites and offer a discount on your order if you sign up for a subscription.
Many cat parents want to support cat food companies that are focused on sustainability and environmentally friendly practices. This was a big trend in 2020, and it appears likely that it will hold strong in 2021.**
These brands of cat food are often costlier than other options. Since there is an added expense, it’s a bit surprising this trend wasn’t impacted by the pandemic. Many people had to find ways to tighten their budgets in the face of job losses or cutbacks. But for some cat parents, sustainability is worth the extra cost even during tougher financial times.
Cats are part of our families, and we want the best for them, just like any other family member. This includes our food choices for them. Many cat parents want to know exactly what’s in their cat food and avoid products with fillers or indecipherable ingredients. This has driven the trend in simpler labels with shorter ingredient lists over the past few years.
In 2021, you can expect to see supplements for cats on the rise too. They’re often used to help cats with specific health conditions, such as:
Be sure to talk to your veterinarian before giving your cat any kind of supplement. Your veterinarian can help determine if a supplement might benefit your kitty. Plus, they can tell you the right dosage amount for your cat’s age and size. The suggested dose on many packages is often high for most cats.
Another trend in cat nutrition is growing interest in offering cats both dry and wet food. This allows cats and cat parents to enjoy the advantages of both worlds:
If you want to try a combo diet with your cat, ask your veterinarian how to make the transition. Cats can be finicky about their food. It can take time for them to learn to enjoy something different in their dish.
Also, be careful not to simply double up on your cat’s meals, or they could gain weight. Excess pounds can lead to health issues like diabetes and arthritis. You’ll need to keep an eye on their caloric intake to avoid overfeeding them.
Your veterinarian is your best resource for choosing the right food for your cat. They know your cat’s health condition, age, weight, and lifestyle. These are all factors to consider when determining what kind and how much food to give your cat.
You should also read the labels carefully. Luckily, companies have been making cat food labels easier to read over the years in response to consumer demand. Look for a cat food that is “complete and balanced.” Complete means that it meets cat nutritional needs. Balanced tells you that the nutrients it contains are in healthy proportions.
You can ignore empty claims such as “ultra-premium” or “gourmet.” They may sound tempting, but they don’t have any meaning when it comes to cat nutrition.
If you have questions about cat food claims or labels, ask your veterinarian at your next appointment. You can also review the guidelines provided by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).
Keep in mind your cat’s nutritional needs should be revisited over time. For instance, while good nutrition for older cats includes the same nutrients as younger felines (namely, protein, fats, and carbohydrates), you may need to shift their diet as their activity level declines or health condition changes.
Making sure your cat’s diet is healthy is just one part of keeping their motor running. Cats need exercise, a rich environment that keeps them mentally active, and visits to the veterinarian for check-ups and emergencies (pet insurance can help you manage your veterinary bills).
^Online pet food sales may beat others by 2023, PetfoodIndustry.com, July 2019
+What Now and What’s Next: A View into the U.S. Pet Retail Landscape During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Nielsen, June 2020
**Adventures in Pet Food, PetFoodIndustry.com
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.