California firm sells cat meals with mouse meat in it

5 min read

When Tom Radcliffe owned three Carmel-area pet shops, clients would typically complain about how finicky their cats had been. “They’d say, ‘My cat doesn’t like tuna, my cat doesn’t like hen,’” stated Radcliffe. “I believed, ‘Why don’t they make cat meals out of mice?’ Cats eat mice. Ask Tom and Jerry.”

Now, after promoting his shops and enlisting some professional assist – together with associates’ cats and animal nutritionists with Ph.D.s – Radcliffe is making cat meals out of mice. Within the course of, he catapulted himself throughout a shaky pandemic economic system to the forefront of what seems to be a burgeoning enterprise alternative. And his canned product, Mouser, has simply turn into accessible across the Bay Space.

A month after its business launch, Mouser is on the market in pet and feed outlets in California, Arizona and Nevada, and Radcliffe expects to increase to Oregon, Washington and Idaho as early as subsequent month.

CAMPBELL, CA – APRIL 21: A mouse is photographed on a can of Mouser cat meals on the Pets and Extra retailer on Thursday, April 21, 2022, in Campbell, Calif. Mouser, a brand new cat meals comprises mouse meat paired with both duck, rabbit, hen or turkey. (Aric Crabb/Bay Space Information Group) 

At Pets and Extra in Campbell, considered one of quite a few Bay Space shops which have simply began carrying Mouser, supervisor Erin Lee stated clients have reacted to the product with shock – and curiosity. “They choose up a can or two,” Lee stated. “Proper now it’s extra of a novelty, however I don’t assume that’s a nasty factor. Their cats prefer it.”

Radcliffe, 55, began constructing his self-funded enterprise simply earlier than the pandemic and has needed to navigate rules and dietary requirements, together with distribution and provide chain points. “I really feel like a mouse in a maze,” he stated.

The 4 variations of Mouser are Area Hunter, with hen main the elements; Forest Hunter, with turkey main; Pond Hunter, with duck main; and Brush Hunter, with rabbit main. Whereas Radcliffe believes the mouse meat has very broad enchantment amongst cats, shoppers might need to serve totally different flavors of Mouser to their pets to determine these they like greatest, he stated.

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The quantity of mouse in every can is a commerce secret, Radcliffe stated. However he added that mice are “ridiculously costly,” with the meat costing about 10 occasions greater than hen, turkey, duck or rabbit. As a result of the U.S. Meals and Drug Administration classifies mouse together with different meats as a product that doesn’t require pre-approval to enter the market, Radcliffe’s regulatory journey concerned assembly state requirements overseen by the Affiliation of American Feed Management Officers representing native, state and federal companies.

He doesn’t use lab-research mice, however buys from specialty producers breeding the rodents for functions corresponding to feeding pet snakes and injured owls at wildlife rehabilitation facilities.

To develop the recipes, Radcliffe began mixing elements at house. “I made take a look at batches and shared them with associates’ cats,” he stated. “To nobody’s shock, I discovered that cats actually just like the style of mice.” Animal-nutrition consultants, and the workers on the Chicago cannery the place Mouser is now made, helped him good the recipes, Radcliffe stated.

At Aptos Feed & Pet Provide simply south of Santa Cruz, Mouser is beginning to turn into a success amongst clients searching for canned meals that choosy cats like, stated proprietor Damian Delezene. “The palatability issue is large,” he stated. Delezene rings up one or two Mouser patrons a day, and the quantity is rising, he stated. “They’re saying the cats prefer it.”

Within the retailer’s canned cat meals aisle, Alan Stocklmeir was searching for his girlfriend’s three cats, who “for some motive” had determined to not eat their common meals. Three flavors of Mouser had been sandwiched between cans of Style of the Wild’s trout-and-salmon and AvoDerm’s chicken-with-avocado-oil. Stocklmeir, 74, picked up a can of Mouser’s Pond Hunter. “I’m going to strive considered one of these and see the way it goes,” he stated.

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Wally the cat eats Mouser cat meals in Pacific Grove, CA on Wednesday April 20, 2022. The cat meals options mouse meat. (David Royal/ Particular to Bay Space Information Group) 

Retail costs for the 5.5-ounce cans of Mouser fluctuate. Pets and Extra fees $2.39. At Aptos Feed & Provide, it’s $1.99, which is triple the price of Friskies at a giant field retailer however nonetheless places the model within the regular vary for premium-priced canned cat meals, Delezene stated.

“Within the trade, we’ve talked about it for years: Why don’t they’ve gopher, rat, mouse, lizard tails — all of the issues that cats eat?” Delezene stated.

Radcliffe famous that the pet meals trade “isn’t accustomed to working with mice.” He had the kind of mice he makes use of examined in a lab for pathogens, and he visited the canning facility to look at the manufacturing course of, which incorporates heating canned pet meals below stress to round 250 levels Fahrenheit to make sure security. “This has all been very vetted and researched,” Radcliffe stated.

After figuring out the cannery that might combine and may the cat meals, Radcliffe cleared a significant hurdle when he secured a distributor prepared to take an opportunity on Mouser. However pandemic-related issues proceed to plague his cat meals firm, which he named Muridae for the household of small mammals that features mice. “For some time there was an issue getting cans,” he stated. Now the canning course of has hit a slowdown as a result of demand for pet meals skyrocketed after thousands and thousands of locked-down individuals introduced in animal firm to mood their isolation.

Radcliffe doesn’t seem to face present competitors within the mouse-meat cat meals enterprise, however that will change quickly with the potential market debut of Frankenmouse choices. An organization co-founded by a Stanford College microbiologist – referred to as As a result of Animals – plans to launch lab-grown meat meals for pets this yr. The startup’s Innocent Hunt Mouse Cookies for Cats, made with “cultured mouse,” are already accessible for preorder.

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