Interview with Cathy Enright, CEO, Pet Food Institute Part 2

The following is Part 2 of excerpts from an interview by Petnet VP of Food, Steve Pelletier with Cathy Enright, CEO of the Pet Food Institute. Read Part 1 here.
Steve: There has been a sea change in the pet food industry from just 10 years ago. For example, the humanization of pet food and the predilection of the average pet owner to purchase higher quality foods. How has your membership reacted to this? Do you think that your overall membership base has waited too long to respond to this change?

Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute
Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute

Cathy: Given the variety of pet food and treats available, I would say our members have done a great job in meeting the demand for on-trend ingredients. What pet lovers may not see, however, is their commitment and investment in continual improvement in safety and nutritional science.
When you visit your favorite store, you’ll find options that help families who are looking for certain ingredients, expecting non-kibble varieties, or have specific requests regarding ingredient sourcing. PFI plays a role in this regard by providing information about these options and what they mean in terms your pet’s nutrition and wellbeing.
Beyond new ingredients, we also see the convergence of three “new normals” that I believe are shaping the pet food and treat industry. First, our dogs and cats are now considered part of the family and we have a stronger bond with our pets than ever before. In addition, the consumer right-to-know is here to stay and that means an expectation for transparency, including about pet food. Lastly, we are in a period where science and the preponderance of evidence is discounted. Our membership is and will have to continue to respond to these realities.
Steve: As CEO, what are your two biggest challenges for the rest of this year and next?
Cathy: One question that still surprises me is whether PFI members actually care about the wellbeing of dogs and cats. This communicates to me a skepticism about the industry that has emerged as a result of the “new normals” identified above, and an issue I believe is the association’s responsibility to address.
For sure, I see the commitment of our members to safety and advancing nutrition, providing complete and balanced nutrition and treats for fun/training time, developing recipes from a variety of ingredients to meet shoppers’ preferences, but that’s just the business end. PFI sees the love that our members have for cats and dogs every day. Beyond supporting pets in their own office buildings, they welcome and help pets in their communities, for example by building parks or supporting pet-friendly policies at domestic violence shelters. They also are there during emergencies, working closely with relief agencies to help ensure pets in need are fed. PFI needs to tell this story loudly, and is going to continue to celebrate the important role of pets in all of our lives and ways we can all help support pets.
Steve: Can consumers reach out to PFI or are you strictly B2B? If you do have a direct consumer contact point, what are some examples of your consumer interactions?
Cathy: We’re actually not a B2B association. Our role is to advocate and inform. With regard to interactions with pet lovers, I do that every day with one-on-one in conversation with legislators, regulators, media and shoppers. The first question everyone asks is, “What’s the best food for my pet?”
My favorite interaction thus far, however, was meeting with people and their pets at Blog Paws last May. I really enjoyed speaking with both fans and detractors. After all, we have a common bond—our love for pets.
On a grander scale, please stay tuned; we’ll be broadening our platform for communicating with pet parents by launching our Facebook page in 2018! Until then, we encourage interested pet lovers to visit our website at and our Twitter handle, @USPetFood, where we regularly add new content and information on issues related to pet food safety, nutrition and ingredients. Our blog posts have covered allergies, by-products, pet dehydration and even provided tips for storing pet food to prevent insect infestation. One that might be of particular interest was our blog post discussing the role of carbohydrates in pet food. As mentioned earlier, we also recently a new interactive infographic series, “Nutrition from Nose Tail,” which looks at the specific ways that nutrition supports your pet’s health.
Steve: Anything else you would like to share?
Cathy: Pets are so integral in our lives—we are dependent upon them for joy, comfort and sometimes activity. The last thing I want is for pet parents to worry unnecessarily. We want shoppers’ questions to be answered.
Steve: Thanks for your time Cathy.


Four of the Friendliest Cat Breeds

Though cats may have a reputation for being aloof or antisocial, we know that’s not always the case. While some felines lead rather independent lives, certain breeds are known to be especially friendly. Check out our list of friendly cat breeds and see if your favorite breed made the list. Here kitty, kitty!

Burmese Cat

If you’re seeking an extra friendly feline, a Burmese cat may be just what you’re looking for. These cats are known to be super affectionate, intelligent, playful and friendly. Burmese cats love attention and will charm the pants off anyone with their adoring personalities. They’re also known to be friendly with strangers, and will happily cuddle in your lap and purr joyously as you pet them.



Like the Burmese cat, Siamese cats are an extremely smart breed and love having the spotlight. These cats are also known to be inquisitive creatures and get along easily with other people and pets. Arguably the most well-known cat breed, they’re extremely fond of people and tend to follow their owners around the house loyally. Not only that, but Siamese cats usually want to be a part of everything their owners do, including sleeping, doing chores, or watching TV.


Persian Cat

Persian cats are a gentle and quiet breed with calm personalities. These cats are very laid-back and prefer lounging on a couch to chasing mice in the yard. Persian cats are docile and sweet. They’re also known for their luxurious, flowing manes which make can them tedious to groom. A Persian cat is happiest when sitting contently on their owner’s lap or being kindly brushed.


Chartreux Cat

The Chartreux is known as an attentive and gentle breed. Though they are relatively quiet pets, these cats have plenty of personality. These playful pussycats enjoy being active and acrobatic and appreciate getting attention from their favorite human. For a Chartreux cat, the purrfect day entails play time, ample naps and being scratched between the ears.

Please, no hissing if your cat didn’t make our list. When it comes to personality types, cats are just as diverse as humans. No matter the breed, any cat can snuggle their way into their owner’s heart.

Interview with Cathy Enright, CEO, Pet Food Institute

The following is excerpts from an interview by Petnet VP of Food, Steve Pelletier with Cathy Enright, CEO of the Pet Food Institute.

Steve: Nice to speak with you Cathy. How long have you been the CEO of the Pet Food Institute (PFI)?

Cathy: Thank you for the opportunity to talk! I joined the Pet Food Institute (PFI) as the president and CEO in April, 2015.


Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute
Cathy Enright, Pet Food Institute

Steve: Tell me your organization’s primary mission?

Cathy: The mission of the Pet Food Institute, whose members make 98% of all U.S. pet food and treat products, is to support the long and healthy lives of cats and dogs. In this regard, we provide factual information about pet food and treat safety, nutrition, and ingredients to pet lovers. We also reinforce the need to follow feeding directions and treat responsibly, and present other information on pet health.

Our goal, no matter which pet food and treats pet parents choose, is to serve as a credible resource that helps shoppers make informed decisions about their pet’s diet and nutrition. One step we’ve taken to support this goal is launch a 90-second whiteboard video and an accompanying detailed narrative to explain the basics of how pet food is made, which was released earlier this year. In addition, last month we released a new interactive infographic series “Nutrition from Nose to Tail,” which was designed to make pet nutrition simple for pet lovers. This series provides facts in an instant about how we all support our pets by feeding complete and balanced nutrition, meaning a diet that contains the more than 40 essential nutrients for dogs and cats and is appropriate for the life stage of the pet. The series also addresses other important nutrients that also help support pet health, such as carbohydrates.

PFI also advocates for a transparent, science-based regulatory environment. The safety and nutrition of pet food products are the number one priority for PFI members. Many people do not realize that pet food and treats are among the most regulated food products in the United States, including at the federal and state level. As such, clear and practical laws and regulations are critical. While our members’ food safety culture began to change over a decade ago, many of their practices were incorporated into the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act, which significantly changed U.S. food safety regulation including the regulation of pet food and treats. PFI now works closely with regulators and within the industry to help ensure our members are ready for the new requirements under the law.

Of course, safety in pet food products is a responsibility for all pet food makers, not just PFI members. Earlier this year, we shared an open letter to all U.S. pet food and treat makers – both large and small, members and non-members of the association – urging them to understand their obligations under this new safety law and providing them with important compliance dates. To further emphasize the commitment to safety, PFI members come together on a regular basis to discuss innovations and new learnings in pet food manufacturing safety, and to discuss safety practices with our suppliers. For our members, safety is non-competitive. Lastly, PFI works with our members to identify key independent research to address cross-industry safety goals and then funds such research.

108_pet food institute

Steve: Can you provide a snapshot of your membership base along with a few examples? (e.g., industry specialty and example member names. I am trying to understand exactly who is in your constituency).

Cathy: PFI membership represents approximately 98% of pet food and treats made in the United States, and. consists of many of the companies you know, as well as co-manufacturers that help produce food and treats under other brands. There is a broad marketplace for pet food and types of diets that offer complete and balanced nutrition, and our members make wet, dry, fresh and raw-infused, as well as a variety of treats.

Steve: I have been following the pet food industry since 2012 when I started SlimDoggy. Yet, I hadn’t heard of PFI until this year’s SuperZoo show. Is that because you focus marketing directly to the trade or is it that I am just oblivious?

Cathy: PFI has grown much more active and public-facing in the past two and a half years. Pet parents today have a lot of questions about pet food and treats—how are they made, what do label claims such as natural, organic and “free-from” mean, and why a “complete and balanced” recipe is critical, for example. PFI recognized its responsibility to share straightforward information and be part of the dialogue on pet food and treats across social media. As such, two years ago we relaunched the PFI website and Twitter handle with new content accompanied with citations. We are continuously adding more articles, infographics and webpages. As mentioned above, earlier this year we created a new webpage and video highlighting how pet food is made and taking the viewer through the journey, from identifying trusted ingredient suppliers to traceability assurances when packaging the final product. The video received more than 80,000 views, sending us a strong message about the continued demand for more information.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview next week.


All About Your Favorite Dog (or Cat) Breed – a New Petnet Blog Series

Today we begin an ongoing series of educational posts on dog and cat breeds. We plan to explore the popular breeds, examining their origin, personality characteristics, health & fitness issues and the types of foods that they would have been exposed to when they first appeared in their native countries.
There are obviously many different dog and cat breeds as well as an almost limitless number of mixed breeds. We have been tracking about 150 dog breeds and almost 50 cat breeds, and continue to expand this list using resources like the American Kennel Club and Cat Fanciers Association.
We were curious about the relationship between a breed’s origin and the foods natively available to them. Dr. Ava Frick, DVM suggests that feeding a specific breed foods that were native to their origin makes sense, sort of like a hyper focused ‘paleo diet’ approach1.. The specific geographical location where a breed originated is important because it can give us clues about the types of foods that their ancestors ate, and that their bodies were accustomed to and thrived on over time. This information can give us insights into which of the commercially available foods are most appropriate for our own pet.
Two Reasons to Understand Your Pet’s Breed
1. Compatibility with Your Lifestyle
If you are considering adding a pet to your family, you should be aware of not only the personality traits but also the potential health risks of any breed you might bring into your home. You want to find a breed that fits into your family lifestyle and atmosphere.
For example, if you are an active, outdoorsy family, then an active, sporting dog like a Retriever might be a good fit for you. Likewise, if you have a sedentary lifestyle or are away from home for long periods of time, an active dog that requires lots of mental and physical exercise like a Border Collie would probably not be a good fit for your lifestyle, no matter how cute those puppies are!
You should also consider the potential health risks of the breed before making your selection. If a breed is susceptible to certain restrictive or expensive health conditions, you should be aware of these and the potential impact that they can have on your budget and lifestyle.
2. Choosing the Best Food for your Pet’s Breed
One of the most important responsibilities a pet owner has is to feed their pet the best diet they can afford. Nutrition is a key component in keeping your pet healthy. To help you understand what foods might be best suited for your breed, our breed research has identified ingredients that are closely matched to the food sources that were available in the country or region where they originated. We are working on a pet food recommendation tool which will help you quickly whittle down the list of pet foods to those that are appropriate based on this approach. We hope to release this tool early next year.
And don’t worry if you have a mixed breed, lots of us do! For mixes, just use your best guess of the primary breed and use that as the driver for origination, personality, and other traits. You can also try DNA testing – the results are often fascinating.
Our next post in the series will start with the U.S.’s most popular dog breed, the Labrador Retriever. Watch this space!

1. Building a Better Body Through Nutrition, Integrative Veterinary Education, Inc., E‐Training for Dogs, Inc. 2010

Thanksgiving Foods that are Healthy for Your Pet

Last week we posted a story outlining some common holiday foods that could be potentially harmful to your pets. Today, we want to look at Thanksgiving foods that are not only tasty, but are healthy and good for your pet. This isn’t license to give them as much of these foods as they want, but you can feel comfortable sliding a little under the table for your dog or cat.


Pet Friendly Thanksgiving Foods:

    1. Turkey: Turkey is just fine to give to your pet. As a matter of fact, it can be found in many pet foods. It is a great source of protein which is an important macronutrient for your pet. You should remove the skin as it is fatty (and calorie dense) and avoid the bones as they can splinter and cause internal damage.


    1. Potatoes: Potatoes are generally okay unless your recipe calls for lots of butter and/or sour cream. If so, pull a couple of plain chunks out to give your pet. Potatoes are also a food frequently found in pet foods now as an alternative to grains.


    1. Sweet Potatoes: Similar to  mashed potatoes, avoid the butter and marshmallow topping.  Sweet potatoes are a healthy tidbit for your pet from the Thanksgiving spread.


    1. Green Beans: Most all green vegetables are good for your pet, but as with the other human foods, steer clear of the toppings. Especially green bean casserole if made with toasted onions as onions are toxic for your pet.


    1. Carrots: We wrote about carrots and their benefits a few weeks ago, so they are definitely okay to give your pet, just hold the butter, salt, pepper or other seasoning.


    1. Cranberry sauce: While whole or dried cranberries are good for your pet and help improve their intestinal system and are full of antioxidants, be sure you don’t give them cranberry sauce laced with liquor as that is toxic.


  1. Pumpkin: Canned or cooked pumpkin is frequently recommended by vets as an aid in curing constipation in your pet.  But feeding them pumpkin pie with the sugar, spices and buttery crust is most definitely NOT healthy. Limit your pet’s treat to just the pumpkin itself – hold the whipped cream too.


Your pets love the holiday season as much as you do. Family, friends and all of that yummy food is irresistible, but please watch what you give them and limit the volume of food they eat, so your pet don’t end up moaning and groaning on the couch like too many humans do.
Interested in making a healthy Thanksgiving treat for your pet like a pumpkin smoothie or turkey cookies?  Check out these sites for some healthy, pet friendly ideas:


Additional Resources:

Thanksgiving Foods that May be Harmful for Your Pet

Thanksgiving is fast approaching, and everyone’s thoughts turn to food. What will we have for dinner? Turkey of course and stuffing, but does your family go with mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes, peas or green beans, pumpkin pie or apple pie? Maybe you go with all of the above! I know our pets would sure appreciate that dinnertable.

Pets can enjoy most Thanksgiving foods
Pets can enjoy most Thanksgiving foods

Speaking of pets, holiday time can carry hidden dangers when it comes to the quantity and variety of foods. It’s not just the volume and frequency, but you have lots of family members and friends sneaking Fido scraps under the table!

While a slice or two of turkey isn’t going to harm your pet, there are foods that are typically found during the holiday season that may be harmful if eaten by your dog or cat and you should take care to keep them away from your pets.

Potential harmful foods for your pet:

    1. Alcoholic beverages: may cause vomiting, diarrhea, decreased coordination, difficulty breathing, tremors, coma and even death.


    1. Chocolate and caffeine (coffee and tea): foods extracted from the cacao plant contain methylxanthines which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, abnormal heart rates and even death.


    1. Stoned fruits (cherries, peaches, avocados – fruits with a pit): the pits may become lodged in the intestines and cause damage.


    1. Grapes/raisins: known to possibly cause kidney failure in dogs.


    1. Nuts, including walnuts, pecans, macadamia nuts: the high amount of oil and fats found in nuts may cause intestinal issues and even lead to pancreatitis. Macadamia nuts are particularly harmful to dogs and may cause depression, vomiting and even hypothermia.


    1. Xylitol (artificial sweetener, found in candy and gum): causes an insulin release that may lead to liver failure.


    1. Yeasted dough: if ingested, it will rise in the stomach and cause problems, possibly even bloat.


  1. Onions, garlic and herbs: may cause intestinal irritation.

If your pet ingests any of these items over the holidays (or anytime) call the ASPCA Poison Control Center immediately for assistance:

ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center Phone Number:                  (888) 426-4435

We hope you enjoy a safe and healthy holiday. Ensure your pet enjoys the holidays too by keeping these food items out of their reach.
Additional Sources:

ASPCA Poison Control: People Foods to Avoid Feeding Your Pets
The Human Society: Foods that can be Poisonous to Pets Can I Give my Dog Holiday Food at Thanksgiving?



How Apple Cider Vinegar Can Help Your Dog

cute dog

Apple cider vinegar has numerous household uses as a self-care product, a kitchen staple, and a wellness aid. Its long been used as a natural, at-home remedy for treating wounds, losing weight and improving heart health.

 The beauty of apple cider vinegar is it can also benefit your dog. In 2014 we published a blog on how apple cider vinegar can be used for feline holistic healing, and it continues to be one of the most read pages on our site almost four years later. This time, we’re focusing on how apple cider vinegar can help your dog.

Dogs can benefit from apple cider vinegar in many ways. Apple cider vinegar can help a dog with itchy skin,flea and ticks, and with joint pain.

Itchy skin

itchy dog

If your dog suffers from itchy skin, raw and organic apple cider vinegar could do the trick for easing his discomfort. As a powerful antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial agent, apple cider vinegar can help alleviate symptoms of eczema and other skin conditions.

To use apple cider vinegar to help treat your dog’s itchy skin, fill a spray bottle with a solution that’s equal parts water and vinegar. You can apply the solution directly by spraying it onto patches of your dog’s itchy skin. Plus, misting this solution onto your dog’s fur helps promote a healthy, shiny coat.

However, do not spray apple cider vinegar on your dog if they have any open wounds from a bite or scratch–vinegar may sting and irritate any broken skin that is not yet fully healed.

Flea and Tick Repellent

outside dog

Not only can apple cider vinegar help soothe your dog’s itchy skin if they’ve been bitten by a flea or tick, but it can help prevent bites altogether. The acidity present in apple cider vinegar helps naturally repel biting insects.

You can use the same 50/50 solution we previously mentioned to help fend off ticks and fleas from Fido. To apply the vinegar and water solution, simply spray it onto your dog topically before letting them outside to play.

Easing joint pain

active dog

Apple cider vinegar can also be used to lessen joint pain from illnesses like arthritis. You can use a warm compress soaked in apple cider vinegar and hold it to your dog’s joints to help alleviate pain. For older dogs, apple cider vinegar ingested directly can help break down calcium deposits that form around joints.

If you add apple cider vinegar to your dog’s food or water, we recommend using about 1 teaspoon per 50 pounds of your dog’s body weight twice per week. However, if you add the vinegar to your dog’s water, be sure to have plain water available as well. The taste of vinegar can sometimes cause dogs to drink less water, so you’ll want to have plain water available to avoid dehydration.

Apple cider vinegar is a great item to keep in your pantry to help bolster your own health as well as your pet’s and can be a valuable addition to your pet’s health regimen.

Please note, if your dog is showing signs of illness, it is important to take them to your veterinarian to make sure you get an accurate diagnosis and course of treatment. Once you know the medical status of your dog, you can decide whether to use an holistic or pharmaceutical treatment.


Now you can see if your SmartFeeder is plugged in.


We released a Petnet App update for iOS and Android that addresses an issue with the SmartFeeder battery status inside the app. Now, on the Device page, you will see a “Charging” or “Not Charging” status that let’s you know if your SmartFeeder needs to be plugged in.

We recommend that you plug the SmartFeeder into a wall outlet so that the light on the front of the feeder body is glowing white. In the event of a power outage, or if your SmartFeeder is unplugged, the back up battery will last for up to 8-10 hours of feeding time.


How Owning a Pet Improves Your Health

Pets improve our healthIt’s no secret – owning a pet makes you a happier human. While pet owners have known this since the first grey wolf became man’s original best friend thousands of years ago, science can now confidently back up that being a pet owner does indeed improve your wellbeing. Having a pet in the home can improve your heart health, reduce your stress levels, and provide mental health benefits as well.

Improved heart health

Pets improve our health

Studies show that people with pets have lower blood pressure and heart rates and are at a lower risk for heart disease. It’s possible these lower risks can be attributed to the added exercise that pet owners have (when compared to people without pets).  Simple things like taking your dog for a walk or playing together in the backyard can add up and help a person say relatively fit. According to NPR, dog owners get an average of 22 minutes of exercise more per day than people without pets. That 22 minutes means burning over 100 extra calories per day (for a person weighing at least 100 lbs), which translates to over 10 lbs of potential weight gain that is avoided because of having a pet!

Stress reducers

Pets improve our health Pets have a calming, stress-reducing effect on humans. Simply petting your cat or dog can make your body release a stress-busting hormone that lessens levels of cortisol, a stress-inducing hormone. Gazing into your sweet pet’s eyes can release oxytocin (AKA the “love hormone”), reinforcing feelings of bonding and trust while alleviating stress. Having a built-in best friend doesn’t hurt for stress relief, either.      

Mental health benefits   

Pets improve our health

Owning a pet boosts your health beyond your physical well-being. Pet ownership provides important mental health benefits as well. Emotional support dogs can help alleviate suffering from psychological illnesses and emotional impairments by providing comfort, support, and unconditional love. Owning a pet also can elevate a person’s mood, creating stronger feelings of trust and a diminishing a sense of isolation. The bond between a pet and an owner can help decrease symptoms of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders, as well.

A lot has happened since the domestication of dogs; indoor plumbing, electricity, and the Kardashians, to name a few. The love and loyalty pets bring to our lives, however, has not. Having a pet can provide a plethora of health benefits, another reason that owning a pet can improve your life and make you happier.

Superfoods for Pets: Carrots

Carrots for pets

When it comes to nutritional ‘bang for your buck,’ carrots are hard to beat.  According to The Handbook of Phytochemical Constituents of GRAS Herbs and Other Economic Plants, by James Duke, Carrots contain over 200 known nutrients and phytonutrients!  Dogs love their natural sweetness and crunch, plus they’re loaded with vitamin C and K and other important nutrients like potassium, iron, and manganese as well as beta-carotene, which gives them their distinctive orange color. Whether used in food or as treats, feeding your pet carrots makes a lot of sense if you want them to keep healthy and happy.

Low calorie, high fiber

Carrots for pets

Carrots are a nutritious snack that won’t make your pet fat. They are low calorie but high in fiber (and thus filling), making them the perfect natural treat to feed your dog between meals. Carrots are a healthy alternative to many commercially available biscuits or dog treats. As an added benefit, the fiber in carrots helps your pet maintain good digestive health and boosts heart health.  

An excellent source of Vitamin A

Carrots for pets

Carrots are packed with beta-carotene which is converted into vitamin A in your pet’s body. Vitamin A can help improve your pet’s eyesight and is important for growth, development and a healthy immune system. It also has benefits for the livers, kidneys, and lungs, keeping the organs functioning properly and warding off disease.   

Carrots can help improve your dog’s dental health

Carrots for pets

As a bonus, giving your dog a raw carrot to chew on is an easy way to help improve his dental hygiene. Chomping on a carrot can help prevent plaque buildup by gently scraping your dog’s teeth. Though chewing on a large carrot stick is like a natural chew toy for dogs, keep an eye on your dog while he chows down, to ensure he doesn’t choke on the root vegetable.

While raw carrots are safe to feed dogs, you’ll want to make sure to steam or cook them before feeding them to your cat, as raw carrots can be difficult for cats to chew.   

Serving carrot to your pet

Carrots are a nutritious supplement to feed both cats and dogs. For small dogs and cats, it’s best to cut them up into bite-sized pieces, so they don’t pose a choking hazard.

As always, talk to your vet about using carrots as part of your pet’s diet or as a treat.

Carrots in Commercially Available Pet Food

Carrots are a very common ingredient in pet food. We did a search in the Petnet pet food database and found that carrots are in 49% of dog foods and 32% of cat foods.  Below is a sampling of foods that include carrots in their recipes.

Dry Triumph Chicken Rice and Sweet Potato          Cat All life stages

Dry Castor & Pollux Beef, Barley and Carrots Entree      Dog Adult

Dry Merrick Classic Real Beef with Whole Barley and Carrot Dog All life stages

Dry Nutram Sound S3 Chicken & Pearled Barley with Peas &  Carrots  Dog Puppy