Monday, March 25, 2013

Kosher Cat Food: Can Cats and Their Owners Keep Kosher during Passover?


Kosher Cat Food.  Can cats keep kosher during Passover?  Can kosher cat owners keep cat food in the house?  Can we pass over the passover rules for cats? Oy Meow!


A friend of mine who lives in Atlanta, Richie, wrote to me the other day, telling me that in his never-ending search for  foods that his finicky cat Pinhead will eat consistently, he spotted an interesting designation on one of the cans’ label:  Endorsed by the cRc, Kosher for Animal Consumption.

I myself had never seen or heard of food that was supposedly kosher for cats.  I have heard of vegetarian cat owners trying to find vegetarian cat foods (which is impossible, as cats are true carnivores and cannot subsist on a vegetarian diet.  And don’t even think about vegan diets for cats), but never a kosher kitty diet.  Fortunately, Richie and I have a mutual friend, Doug, who lives in Israel and is orthodox in everything (except his love for punk music).  Doug shed some light on the topic:

The cRc is the Chicago Rabbinical Council, a well-known and respected rabbinic organization operating in the Chicago Metro area.

There is absolutely zero requirement within Jewish law for animals to eat "kosher" at any time during the year.

During Passover, Jews are not only required not eat leaven products, but they cannot even own them.  Not owning leavening, by the way, even extends to the food you keep on hand to feed your pets.

Here’s where it gets crazy:

There are some foods that are not actually leavening, but which can be made to look and to be used like leavening, such as corn, for example.  Corn meal looks a lot like a grain and can be used in baking like grains, for example, cornbread.   So to avoid any confusion, many Jewish communities have a tradition dating back centuries not to even eat non-leaven foods that look like leaven during Passover.

Brace yourself, there’s more:

But, the restriction from owning leavening during Passover does NOT extend to non-leaven foods, even for those Jews who abstain from eating non-leavening that look like leavening.

To summarize so far:  During Passover, Jews cannot EAT leaven products.  And they cannot OWN leaven products, including leaven cat food.  Some Jews have decided not to eat non-leaven products simply because they LOOK like leaven products.  But they’re allowed to have these look-alike non-leaven products in their house, regardless of whether they shun eating them or not during Passover.

How does this apply to cats?  The cRc designation on Pinhead’s cat food can means that the cat food doesn’t contain any leavening, so it’s okay for a Jew to own it during Passover.  The cat food, however, probably does contain some non-leavening stuff like corn or soy that LOOKS like leaven, so for Jews who traditionally do not eat non-leaven stuff that looks like leaven, they’re not allowed to nibble on this cat food.  Is the secret nibbling of cat food by Jews a significant problem in the world?  I’m not sure.

The take home message:
·         There is no requirement in Jewish law for animals to eat kosher food

·         If you’re an observant Jew who is forbidden to have leaven food in your home, a can of cat food with the cRc designation on it means that there’s no leaven in the food and you can own it during Passover

·         If you’re an observant Jew who traditionally avoids eating non-leaven food that resembles leaven food, that’s fine.  You’re allowed to have these foods in your home, but don’t eat them if you want to keep with tradition, and don’t nibble on this cRc-designated cat food, because it probably contains a look-alike grain like corn or soy.

·         You shouldn’t be nibbling on cat food anyway.

·         Jews are neurotic .(Given that my last name is Plotnick, I’m allowed to say that.)

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