The COVID-19 pandemic has had major effects on pet supplies during the past two years, industry experts say. They also said pet ownership has risen during the pandemic as people look for companionship while facing lockdowns or extended time indoors.

Supply-chain problems have been one of the biggest problems, specifically with canned cat food. Pandemic-related disruptions include pet food plant closures and shortages of raw materials and packaging materials.

About 12.6 million U.S. households welcomed a new pet during the final three quarters of 2020, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA). Canned pet food and treats have been limited, and prices for some products have increased.

“As we continue to navigate life during a pandemic, pet owners recognize the emotional benefits of pet ownership, such as helping to mitigate stress and providing joy, comfort and companionship during these challenging times,” APPA President and CEO Steve King said in a news release.

The pet industry market grew to a record $103.6 billion in 2020, the APPA reported. APPA data shows pet food was the top reason for the growth, and pet food sales in 2020 accounted for nearly half the market.

Susie Yonce, of Johnston, came to the Greenwood Publix this week to find the right flavor of cat food at the store. An Index-Journal survey of area pet stores and grocery stores revealed mostly empty shelves where canned cat food is generally displayed.

“It’s been a problem for a while,” Yonce said. “I think my daughter is ordering it from a veterinarian locally here. She’s got tons of cats — 20 or more.”

Yonce has three cats, and she was piling her buggy high with what was remaining of the food her cats like.

“You can only feed them so many scraps,” Yonce said. “That’s why I came to Publix. In Edgefield, we have only one grocery store. When it’s out, you’re kind of out of luck.”

According to Nielsen, pet owners spent 46% more on online pet food purchases in 2020 than they did the previous year.

“As the entire food system faced incredible disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic, U.S. pet food makers were also forced to address new ingredient sourcing and transportation challenges,” Dana Brooks, president and CEO of the Pet Food Institute, said in a press release.

There hasn’t been major issues with dry, bagged pet food.

“It’s just everything from supply chain crisis, truckers, COVID, shortage of people to work, every excuse in the book,” Yonce said. “We’re hearing all those things.”

Contact staff writer Greg K. Deal at 864-223-1812 or follow on Twitter @IJDEAL.