Cat moms and dads, take note: Bobby Flay hears you. He sees you. And he’s here to speak out for every ignored, overlooked, maligned owner of felines, those four-legged creatures dubbed aloof and haughty and indifferent.
“I feel like the cat parent is the forgotten pet parent. Dogs get all the juice, so to speak,” he says.
Flay is deeply attached to his two cats, Nacho and Stella, currently holding court on his spacious kitchen counter in New York City. And they’re the reason he’s gotten into the pet food business, creating a line of premium chow named Made By Nacho, after — well, you can figure it out. The stuff is solid: This writer’s cat, a chronic vomiter, hasn’t upchucked once since switching over to Flay’s brand. He worked on the line for three years before launching it, turning down numerous endorsement deals in favor of doing it himself.
“I was an only child and I’m still an only child. And so, because I was an only child and my mom always had two or three cats, they were literally my siblings. I joke around that I was raised by cats. And so they’ve always been an important part of my life,” Flay says. “I have to say, as a cat person, or a cat parent, I was always not really sure what to feed them. I feed people every day in my life, my entire career in one way, shape or form or another. And I was looking at these guys and I was like, ‘I need to take this and really do something. And I’m going to do it the way I do everything else, which is from scratch.’”
If you’re making cheese, chips or pretty much anything intended for human consumption, you have taste testers and test kitchens. So it begs the question: Did Flay’s cats try his own cat food? That’s where his employees and his own pets came into play. “We have cats all over our team, and so they literally are the taste testers. If Nacho and Stella don’t like something, it doesn’t hit the shelves. They eat most things, but not everything,” he says.
As for Flay, he plans on expanding the line. And promoting it involves heavy travel. So as a pet parent, here’s what it takes to make an otherwise painful process — as anyone who has flown with a cat can attest — relatively simple.
$94.95 at Amazon
Without body shaming his pets, Flay acknowledges that they’re not, well, petite, and thus they need proper travel accommodations. “These are not small cats,” says Flay. This extra-large pet carrier has retractable privacy flaps, seatbelt safety straps and a comfortable fleece pad so your cat can get comfortable. The carrier can accommodate pets that weigh up to 50 pounds. Plus, it comes in 10 color options so you can get one that suits you and your cat best.
$25.99 at Amazon
Every cat owner should consider traveling with treats for their pet — and Flay’s own Made by Nacho treats are naturally his favorite choice. “I definitely bring treats because they’re easy to give them,” Flay says. “These are all single-ingredient treats. They’re just freeze-dried.” With this four-pack, you’ll receive two chicken- and two salmon-flavored pouches.
$35.90 at Amazon
Accidents happen, so it’s best to be prepared. “I bring cat pads, like Tidy Cats pads just in case they pee,” Flay says. “Honestly, they never do. But they could get sick. Stella throws up in the car every time, not 99% of the time, but 100% of the time. It’s a given. She is not a good traveler. He [Nacho] is way better than she is.” While these pads are part of a litter system, they can also be used on their own for travel.
$14.99 at Amazon
These fragrance-free pet care wipes are great for keeping mouths, paws and butts clean. “There’s a company called Earthbath that has these hypoallergenic cat wipes. And again, keep their face, their nose and their mouth moist,” he says. “That stuff is really important.” These wipes are safe for animals older than six weeks and don’t include soap, gluten, DEA, parabens, sulfates, synthetic dyes or phthalates.
$8.60 at Amazon
A bored cat is an unhappy cat, which is why these refillable catnip toys are so brilliant at keeping them entertained. “It gives them something to do while they’re just hanging out in the carrier,” Flay says. This set of refillable catnip toys comes 10 different designs — from a plush squirrel to a plush hen and even fish.
$18.95 at Amazon
Flay himself keeps things ultra-streamlined. “I bring a lint roller for myself. When I have to take Nacho through security, first of all, people think I have a lion. I get up to security and I have to take him out… there’s a lot of people around, so he grabs on to me and he takes up half my body,” Flay says. And that leads to piles of cat hair, everywhere. So, he’ll pack a sticky roller in his carry-on bag to pick up excess cat hair.
$125 at Amazon
Flay makes sure he’s fresh and somewhat groomed when he lands, and he keeps his essentials in a bag like this Tumi option, which has three zip pockets and is made from ballistic nylon. “I bring a little miniature toiletry bag so I can brush my teeth before I get off the plane. I have some deodorant in there. I have a little cologne and that’s basically it,” he says.
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