Feeding Felines
by John Tyson
July 1, 2011
An educated store staff can help cat customers to select the best feline diets available to meet the specific needs of their pets.



When it comes to feeding cats, nothing is more important for pet owners than choosing a high-quality diet for their family felines. Feline diets have become quite varied over the years, and it is imperative store employees are well versed and knowledgeable about basic differences in the available diets on the market. After all, it is a well-known fact that a nutritious diet is critical to a cat’s health and longevity.

A premium feline diet will contain a high-quality protein found in foods such as meat, fish, eggs and poultry. Dietary protein is essential for cats because it is the one food source that supplies the needed amino acids for manufacturing antibodies, enzymes, hormones and tissues. It also provides energy and is equally important for growth and development.

Fat, minerals and vitamins are the other essential ingredients in feline diets. Fat content should always contain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which help maintain the skin and coat condition. 

Quality diets also contain minerals, such as calcium, chloride, chromium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, molybdenum, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium, sulfur and zinc. Vitamins A, D, E and K are essential for regulating metabolism and normal growth and function in a domestic feline, and vitamins C and B-complex should also be present in feline diets. 

The food’s nutritional composition is extremely important for many cat owners. The ingredient label is the first thing they will look at when considering a new diet for their cat. A premium-quality diet can be an excellent defense against disease, an aid in weight control and an added measure to ensure optimum health and longevity.

With the help of store staff, choosing the right diet should not be an overwhelming task for your customers. Many decisions can be easily whittled down through a series of questions and the process of elimination. Employees should start by getting some basic information. What is the age of the pet? What kind of health issues or problems is the cat experiencing? Is the cat overweight? Shoppers can then narrow down their choices of cat food diets to the most appropriate products for their pets.

Feeding the correct life-stage diet is extremely important. It gets the kitten on the right track early in life and as the kitten’s nutritional needs change with age, the diet does too. Cat owners often need to be reminded when their kitten should be switched to an adult cat food. Make use of displays in the cat food aisle to remind cat owners to change diets as their pet ages.

Obesity in cats is probably the number one health-related issue for cat owners. Specialty diets for overweight cats are sometimes the answer.  Aside from formulas designed for weight control, there are many other common diets cat customers will be interested in that should be carried in the cat aisle. Natural diets, diets for a healthy heart and immune system, hairball control, healthy coat and indoor formulas are just a few.

Many feline diets are dried kibble, which are excellent for dental health. There will be occasions in a cat’s life when wet or semi-moist foods are necessary, so retailers should stock these as well. Convalescing, ill and senior cats sometimes need some additional encouragement to eat. Wet and semi-moist diets in a variety of flavors are often all that is needed to get them back on the right track again. Since many cats are known for their persnickety personalities, retailers’ best bet is to offer a variety of flavor choices, such as liver, salmon, cod, tuna, whitefish, chicken, turkey and beef.


Selling Nutrition
Selling feline nutrition is really all about reaching out to cat customers and providing them with the information they need to provide the very best possible diet for their cat. There are several ways to get the message across to these customers:

• Train your employees to get to know their customers and provide personal service.

• Use store signage to display a message to cat customers regarding diet choices–not just sales and promotions.

• Make use of customer data bases, newsletters and email.

• Make use of social media.

• Combine toys with nutrition, thus encouraging exercise.

• Make use of sample diets from manufacturers. Get the product into the hands of your customers and get them to try it.

• Provide and make available manufacturer nutrition information fliers.


John Tyson is a freelance writer and photographer who resides in Houston, Texas. He has 20 years combined experience in the pet industry as a multi-store owner, general manager and industry journalist.