Pet food price hikes choke animal lovers who are also squeezed by inflation


Cat owner Brenda Michelle with some of her cats pictured on 9th October 2023 at her home in Ruiru, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada| Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The cost of dog and cat food, both wet and dry products, has almost doubled, due to the high dollar rate and taxes.
  • Kenyans with dogs and cats are turning to lower-cost options as the prices of pet food increase.

Kenyans with dogs and cats are turning to lower-cost options as the prices of pet food increase.
The cost of dog and cat food, both wet and dry products, has almost doubled, due to the high dollar rate and taxes.
Brenda Michelle, who has 15 dogs and cats in her Nairobi compound, is among pet owners feeling the pinch.


Brenda Michelle with her Chow chow pet dogs

Photo credit: Billy Ogada| Nation Media Group

She owns different breeds of cats and dogs, that her home feels like you are walking inside an animal kingdom.
“I have Zara a Boerboel, Lola a Golden Retriever, Rome a male Russian Terrier, Monaco and Luna, are Chow Chows. For my cats, there is Remy, Safari, Sushi, Moshi and Lovey a disabled cat that we adopted. Those are just a few that I can name,” she says.

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For as long as she can remember, Brenda has always had a pet around her.
“Currently, I think I have 15 pets in my compound. I keep the dogs in kennels outside the house, but the cats stay with me inside the house. But I have a few cats that I adopted as adults and they are hard to potty-train because they are older, so I built for them a comfortable home outside,” she says.
Part of taking care of her pets involves giving them high-quality food in the right amount, which is essential for their well-being.
But with the high cost of feed, Brenda has had to cut down on the purchase of commercial dry foods and limit it to only feeding the kittens which eat three kilos a week.

Some of Brenda Michelle’s cats at her Ruiru home.

“I honestly could not keep up with the prices especially having such a huge family of pets,” she says.
Brenda’s pets now eat chicken heads and broken rice, which is locally sourced.
“We got a distributor who supplies us in bulk. In a week, the dogs and cats eat 80 kilos of chicken head. For the kittens, we mince the chicken,” she says.

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But the chicken heads are also not so cheap. Brenda and other pet owners have to compete for the same chicken parts such as neck, bones and legs with low-income earners who buy, roast and sell along the streets in slums.
“I used to spend Sh3,200 a week, now I have to part with Sh5,600 a week for the 80kg chicken heads. For the cat kibble, I used to spend Sh1,600, now I pay double that amount,” says Brenda who has a liking for pedigrees, dogs whose parents are both of the same breed.
Feeding depends on the age of the pet. When they are about three months old, they eat three times a day, at six months it’s twice a day while for grown pets they can only feed once a day.
Some pet owners are ditching the most expensive imported food brands on the market, for lower-cost options but the challenge is the pets stage a minor hunger strike if they are not used to certain brands, ultimately forcing the pet parents to buy their favourite brand.
“In these economic hardships, we try cutting feeding times and changing brands with the adult pets but with puppies and kittens, you can’t do that,” Brenda says.

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It is no different for Emmanuel Olande, the owner of Extreme K9 Kenya, who has been in the dog business for 15 years. Besides being a pet parent to German Shepherds, American Pit Bull, and Great Danes, Emmanuel also runs a pet boarding centre where animals board when their owners travel.

The steep increase on pet food attributed to hikes in tax and dollar rates

“The high cost of food has not only affected families but also pet owners. Meat, which we used to buy at Sh40 a kilo now goes for Sh100 or Sh150 a kilo. And if you have a large-sized dog like a Great Dane, for instance, it will eat about one kilo of food a day. A German Shepherd will eat 500 grammes, unlike the toy dogs that can eat 100 grammes to 200 grammes a day if it’s wet food,’’ Mr Olande says.

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He adds that to manage the high cost of feeding the dogs, he now incorporates both dry and wet home-cooked foods.
“Feed that we were purchasing at around Sh3,500 years ago is now going for about Sh4,500 and some brands are more expensive and priced at Sh6,000,” he says.


Emmanuel Olande and his German Shepherd dogs pictured on 6th October 2023 in Karen, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada| Nation Media Group

Having cared for dogs for years, he says he has learnt which breeds of dogs and certain periods when they eat more. For instance, working dogs, pregnant, stressed out or anxious dogs, or those recovering from an illness tend to eat more than the rest.
The price increases have been attributed to rising input and ingredient costs. The cost of chicken, beef, and aluminium used in making wet cat food has been rising since 2021, forcing manufacturers and retailers to increase their costs.
Emmanuel’s monthly food expenditure now stands at Sh80,000, and the more dogs he has at his boarding facility, the more he spends.


Emmanuel Olande’s working Spaniel dog at their home in Karen, Nairobi.

Photo credit: Billy Ogada| Nation Media Group

To cut down on expenses, he also started making his own dog shampoo because most of the ones sold locally are imported, meaning the higher the dollar rate, the more expensive it gets.

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With the cost of shampoo at a minimum, he can afford to wash his dogs once every three weeks. Other pet owners have resorted to using laundry or bathing soap as dog and cat shampoo gets costlier.
Taha Mohamedali, the CEO of Pet Store Kenya says 95 per cent of their products are imported making them feel the pinch of the dollar rate.
“We are experiencing two main contributing factors; the first one is the dollar weakness which has contributed to a 35 per cent increase in product import. Secondly, there was a change in taxation duty on imported products last July, it went from 10 per cent to 35 per cent which makes it highly problematic because already we are losing on the exchange, overall we are looking at almost 60 per cent increase in pet food prices,” he says.
Is the change in pricing affecting sales?
“Pet owners nowadays are more educated about feeding their animals. They demand high quality and safe products, so overall pricing is not going to be an issue because there are still a lot more benefits to buying standardised feeds,’’ he says.

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