KARACHI: There have been alarm bells going off in households with well-loved and lovingly spoiled pets out of the fear of seeing a ban on pet food in Pakistan. Since the pets cannot speak for themselves, their owners have been quite vocal over the issue and have also taken to social media to voice their opinions.
Some have pointed out that pet food is not a luxurious item, but a necessity. Others remind that there is no locally produced pet food available here commercially.
A debate has also ensued among pet lovers and those who obviously do not have pets or don’t care in which the latter are of the opinion that why even discuss pet food when meat from local butcher shops has gone beyond the reach of the common man “and urban elites are fighting over pet food. That, too, based on assumptions”
“Pet food is very expensive now. Still, I have no other choice but to buy it at whatever the cost because I love my pets so much, and also because other than the various imported brands such as Me-O, Whiskas, Felix, Reflex, Fluffy, etc, there is no local alternative,” an elderly gentleman, putting little round cans and some blue, red and pink cat food pouches after carefully reading the flavours mentioned on them in his shopping basket at a supermarket in Clifton. “What will we do if it vanishes from the shelves altogether?” He shuddered.
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“Our cat Milo is prone to urinary tract infections and needs a special diet to help her stay fit. She will be in big trouble if there is a ban on the import of her kind of medicated cat food. For her, it’s not a luxury but a necessity,” said a cat owner in the waiting area of veterinary clinic.
“To save money, we used to line up at the butchers for meat scraps or chichhray, beef lungs and liver for my daughter’s two cats and one dog. But we paid the price for it soon enough when our cats fell seriously ill after consuming the scraps. One died and the other one survived. We are now very careful to give it only packaged food. The dog is not that delicate but still, having learned our lesson the hard way, we are very careful about his meals, too,” said another pet owner.
“I have tried feeding my cat boiled and shredded chicken but she just refuses it. She will sit hungry for hours and give herself terrible gases leading to constipation but touch the home-cooked food. She is so finicky already. She will just starve in case of a ban on imported pet food,” said another cat owner about her gray tabby cat Dakota.
Shan Saleem, who runs a pet food and pet supplies shop Pet Smart with his RPK Critter Care Hospital in DHA’s Nishat commercial area, told Dawn that people had been coming to his shop with questions about availability of pet food in the near future. “The ban is still looming over our heads but it has everyone worried,” he said.
“We are selling till stocks last. And yes, at the same prices. But we are retailers not importers. The importers and suppliers, meanwhile, have stopped supplying to us. My guess is that they want to make hay while the sun shines. They are hoarding to sell the pet food at a higher cost,” he added.
‘Home-made food is good for pets’
Meanwhile, well-known veterinarian Dr Abrar Pirzada of the Pirzada Pets Clinic was of a different view.
“If there is a ban on imported pet food, it will prove to be good for pets in the long run because fresh home-made food is good for your pets,” he said.
“I have a cat coming to me, who is 27 years old and she is so healthy because she is fed clean home-made chicken and mutton. Your pets, be they cats or dogs, live longer on fresh food. Now after the impending ban I also have worried pet owners coming in, saying that pet food is not a luxury but a necessity. But I am telling them that it is a luxury and a convenient way for them to quickly feed their pet and be done with it. Honestly, your pets will be better off if you offer them home-made meals,” he insisted.
When informed that some pets absolutely refuse to have anything else but the packaged imported food, the senior vet said that many imported pet foods carry addictive substances making the animal addicted to them.
“Believe me, it is happening. It might take time to get them off the food they are so used to eating but you can do it,” he said encouragingly.
That said, he added that there were, however, certain medicated pet food varieties that some animals with liver and kidney conditions might need.
“But again, those, too, have alternatives. My father, who started our pets’ clinic some 58 years ago, can educate you more on that. There used to be a time when there was no imported pet food the pets used to have no other choice but to eat healthy wholesome homemade meals,” he pointed.
Contrary to what people might think, there is a locally produced Pakistan-manufactured pet food brand by the name of Pure Love, which is very much available here.
Maria Mushaq, one of the company partners, says about Pure Love that they produce human-grade pet food, meaning it is not made from carcasses, rats, etc, and can even be consumed by humans.
“We use fresh meat and our recipes are from France. We have a UK patent but we manufacture in Pakistan and are available in Karachi, Hyderabad, Islamabad and Lahore. Pure Love is available at some 80 outlets in Karachi alone,” she said.
Published in Dawn,May 24th, 2022