If it moves, it dies.
By ALMA J. BUELVA
FOR one, you will never find Special Cat anywhere else in the world but in the Philippines.
That's right, Special Cat is a fairly new premium dry cat food that is being manufactured exclusively for the Philippine market.
Back in 2014 when the United States experienced crippling port congestion that delayed the shipment of goods, including pet foods, Manila-based businesses were affected.
Pet Discount, Inc., which imports dog food from the US, had to look for an alternative source. They found Monge, a leading Italian pet food manufacturer, and ordered a shipment of their premium dry dog food called Special Dog. Then it occurred to Jehan Teng Sy, owner of Pet Discount, to ask Monge for a companion product for cats. From that simple question, a new product was born: Special Cat.
“If there's a Special Dog there should be a Special Cat – it's like a couple. So, we asked Monge if they could make a Special Cat for us and they agreed,” Sy told MetroPets.
To serve the Philippine market, Monge designed all-new packaging for Special Dog and Special Cat in English. They also made smaller bags to suit the local market's preference.
Sy said Special Cat is a premium yet affordable cat food. Pet shops retail the 7kg bag of Special Cat for P700 while online pet shops sell it for P795.
“We don't sell in groceries. We sacrifice our cost so it can reach consumers at a lower price. We are very confident about its quality because it's made in Europe, which has set higher standards for their pet food industry than elsewhere,” said Sy.
Available only in chicken and turkey flavor, the kibbles of Special Cat look like small florets or stars in dark brown color.
“Cats don't need kibbles in shapes that are not practical like the round ones with holes, or kibbles in different colors as they can't really see too many colors,” Sy said.
Special Cat is developed to be good for cats' at “All Life Stages” so its small pellets are particularly appropriate for kittens.
So, what else makes Special Cat special? Here's what the packaging says:
* Special Cat contains 32 percent protein and 13 percent fat.
* Its ingredients include cereals, meat and meat by-products (chicken and turkey), oils and fats (salmon oil), vegetables, fish and fish-by-product, minerals, yeasts and Yucca plant extract (reduces stool odor).
* Has probiotics Fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) + Mannan-oligosaccharides (MOS) which regulate gastrointestinal micro flora, and aids in absorption of calcium and other minerals.
* Has low magnesium content to protect the kidneys
* Has Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids for healthy and shiny coat
* Enriched with Taurine, Calcium and Phosphorus for strong bones and teeth
Since Special Cat's launch last year, Pet Discount says it has done much better than expected. The owners forecast that the brand will steadily gain a better foothold on the market as it matures. After all it's not everyday that an Italian company goes out of its way to produce something unique for cats here, giving our resident cats one good reason to meow out loud: “It's more special in the Philippines!”
By ALMA J. BUELVA
A startup dog food company, Escuin Pet Food Manufacturing, is making a strong pitch for raw feeding with its fresh line of frozen uncooked meat with vegetables and dog treats made from natural ingredients.
Its brand, Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs, hit the ground running at the start of the year with two ready-to-serve raw dog meals (chicken or beef) and three varieties of dog chews – pumpkin biscuits, chicken strips and sweet potato chips.
Necessity is the mother of invention and for Donna Escuin, a self-taught canine nutrition expert, she built Natural Goodness from the ground up to save her little dog Audrey from obesity due to unhealthy diet.
Back in 2012, Audrey, a Pomeranian that should ideally weigh 2kgs max, tipped the scales at 4kgs. For a year, Audrey would see a vet every three weeks for check-ups and x-ray tests. As the dog got heavier, Donna's purse got lighter.
Fast forward to 2016, Donna not only got her dog healthy again after putting her on a natural diet, she also left the corporate world for the kitchen where she developed her first batch of Natural Goodness products that are “homemade, human grade dog food that the consumers can trust,” she said.
Aside from ground meat of fresh raw chicken or beef, every pack of frozen Natural Goodness Real Food for Dogs contains nutritious and calcium rich meaty bones such as necks, wings, and backs for chicken and ribs, necks, tail for beef. It also contains organ meats like liver and muscle meat such as thighs, tenderloin and hearts. For added nutrition and flavor, a cooled slow-cooked vegetable stew is added to the mix along with fresh eggs, virgin coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, raw honey, turmeric and malunggay.
“We have four resident testers (two Pomeranians, an Aspin, and a cross-breed) plus dogs of breeder friends who tried our products and they loved them,” said Donna.
A 2-kilo bag of frozen chicken doggie food costs P570, and P710 for beef. Donna gives discounts for bulk orders.
For treats, Natural Goodness' sweet potato chips (with malunggay flakes) and pumpkin biscuits are both priced P120 each for a small bag, and P370 each for a big bag.
A small pack of chicken strips costs P150 while the big pack sells for P450.
The raw meals can be frozen for four months from manufacturing date, while the treats are good for one month when kept in room temperature not exceeding 30ºC, and two months in a refrigerator. She also keeps her products fresh by preparing them based on demand. Most of her initial customers are dog breeders.
Donna arranges meet-ups at BF Homes Parañaque with customers who order the frozen doggie food. The treats, however, can be delivered to customers from Metro Manila for a minimum P60 shipping fee.
A popular local online pet store is interested to carry Natural Goodness products, said Donna, adding that supplying to other retailer pet stores later may be the way to go to give her more time to focus on product development and marketing.
WHAT'S (not) COOKIN'?
With Natural Goodness now in the market, Donna plans to enroll herself in an online course in Australia to formalize her education in canine nutrition to boost her and her products' credibility.
To date, she has relied on her own intensive self-study on raw feeding and advice from veterinarians to come up with her own carefully balanced dog food close to the “natural prey model” of eating that is intrinsic in every dog.
“I came to fall in love with the Biologically Appropriate Feeding method...I kept sharing my recipes in groups on Facebook. The only thing that saddened me was too many people I talked to would say they could not continue the diet because it was too much work. So, in my head I was like, okay I'll do it then,” said Donna.
She believes raw feeding is gaining traction among local pet owners though misconceptions such as how bones will choke dogs or raw meat will turn them into blood-hunting monsters continue to dissuade others from trying it.
Raw feeding advocates like her believe that switching a dog's diet of kibbles to raw food should be second nature.
“All dogs are designed to consume raw so it should be natural for them to love this diet. However, when a dog is too accustomed to over processed kibbles or canned food, it may find it strange at first. If you are feeding cooked, try mixing some raw little by little. However it is not recommended to mix raw to a kibble because these two foods require a different level of acid to be digested and may confuse the dog's digestive system which may lead to upset stomach,” said Donna.
The suggested amount of raw feeding is 3 percent of the dog's ideal weight, but Donna said it is best for a dog owner to first seek a veterinarian's expert opinion before changing a dog's diet and for how much more or less.
“Feeding dogs raw food can start with one meal once a week. One natural meal a week is better than nothing,” she added.
Meanwhile, she plans to move Natural Goodness' kitchen out of her house in the coming months and to open a Natural Goodness store next year.
“We are a very small company—so small that the owner who answers the emails also does the cooking, packing and arranging shipping and meet ups,” Donna revealed.
But she's not complaining because advocating raw feeding and offering alternative dog food is what she really wanted to do ever since she saw how it helped improve her dog Audrey's health.
“I decided to go into this business to spread awareness and knowledge. To be able to offer much better option for pet owners to better care for their loved ones. If there are any Audreys out there suffering, I hope to help them through our product,” said Donna.
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* Mind your pet's caloric intake
* A few words from two vets about dogs
WHEN monitoring pets' food intake, experts say it should start with pet owners' assessment of the pet food nutritional label to make sure it's right for their pets.
Calories are essential nutritional components that convert food to energy. Taken too much or too little could have some side effects on pets.
Pet Food Institute (PFI) along with the Veterinary Practitioners Association in the Philippines believe that total pet wellness is hinged on good nourishment and proper exercise.
Pet owners must understand that different pets may require different portions or even different food. It depends on the pet's species, size, health, activity level and age. This might be challenging for a multi-pet household where different dogs, for example, tend to get the same kind of food. Providing uniform pet food for everyone is not effective in addressing the unique health requirements of each pets.
In terms of how much to feed a pet dog or cat, experts recommend that pet owners try to feel for their pet's ribs. The ribs should be felt easily, but should not be visible. If the ribs aren’t felt, owners ought to reduce the amount of food given daily or switch to a weight reduction diet.
The feeding instructions on the pet food label are based on the food's nutrient content and calories. The more calories consumed with less energy output, the more chances of weight gain. Giving pets table scraps and several snacks on top of their regular food can also lead to obesity.
When pets become obese, they become lethargic with less stamina, their breathing becomes hard and loud and they waddle when they walk. They also become prone to hypertension, heat intolerance, diabetes, liver disease, osteoarthritis, lower immune system and cancer.
A veterinarian can help determine a pet’s body condition and provide expert advice on how much food it should eat daily. A balanced diet and proper exercise can improve a pet’s lifespan.
* Pet Emotion Machine calms sensitive dogs