Shelter Diets

Each budget cycle you may be faced with determining if you are providing an adequate food source for the animals in your care.  Although you are in the business of short term care, your decision on what you feed your animals will determine the stools that your staff will face and the complaints from owners reclaiming their pets.  I have always resorted to using mainstay products like Purina and have found that in most cases the food that I was feeding my shelter animals were in all likelihood better than they had been receiving at home.

But, before we start hitting the store shelves, lets see what the experts say.  The problem with most animals are that they have delicate constitutions and any change in their diet is going to result in diarrhea.  It will usually take a few days for an animal to adjust to a new diet and by that time their stray hold is up and it is time to move the animal into a new home, where they will once again undergo a dietary change.  Smart shelter will send home a bag of food that the animal is used to and suggest that the owner stay on that diet.  It is a common issue that people take an animal home only to discover their animal has diarrhea and believes that the animal is sick and not as a result that they changed the animal’s diet..

There are several pet food companies that offer products for animal shelters:  Hill Pet Food and Purina are the two most common.  I have not used these plans because Hill Pet Food demands that you use only their food and that prescription food recommended by your veterinarian has to be approved by their corporate office.  It is my responsibility as to what I feed the animals in my shelter and I felt that the Hills program bullied their oversight on us.  If you are a municipal organization, your city/county attorney might question their contractional demands.  The Purina program only offers their Pro Plan in which the food is more expensive.  Both programs seem to fail to recognize the fact that animal shelters work with limited budgets and it is silly to be offering premium food to our pets when in a few days the animal will return home to their usual diet.

You many not be able to afford premium food, but it is a mistake to buy the cheapest food.  There is a lot of bad food products out there and having a shelter full of animals with dietary problems will impact your staff’s cleaning time and cause potential adopters to look for a pet at another shelter, thinking that all of your animals are sick.  Your food choice can give your organization a bad name.  It is important that you make your volunteers aware of the foods that cats should not eat.