While most people are aware it is forbidden to derive benefit from chametz on Pesach, it is perhaps unknown to most that the rule also includes the feeding of chametz to your pets.
During the eight days of Passover, depending on how you practise, you may be required to rid your home of chametz, and as most pet food includes wheat, barley, rye, oats or spelt, this includes Scruffy’s dinner as well!
A pet-friendly passover
To ensure no pet goes hungry during Pesach, many in the Jewish community will choose to change their pets’ diet for the holiday period, switching to home-made food instead, or to simply feed them food without chametz.
Some pets may look forward to Pesach. Rabbi Gabi Kaltmann of the Ark Centre fondly said: “My mother’s cat loves Pesach because it gets to eat tuna for a whole week!”
Considering even most fish flakes contain chametz, it is important to consider stocking up on some Passover-friendly nosh for our feline friends too.
Rabbi Yaakov Glasman of St Kilda Shule shared, “An option is to purchase non-chametz based pet foods to feed pets over Pesach. A list of approved Kosher for Passover pet foods can be obtained from the annual Pesach Guide produced by Kosher Australia.”
Another option is to feed your beloved pet kitniyot, which includes legumes, buckwheat and lentils.
Rabbi Glasman continued: “Kitniyot may be used to feed pets on Pesach even among Ashkenazi pet-owners who would not consume kitniyot themselves.”
A gradual process
When changing a pet’s diet, it is important to do it slowly over a seven-day period leading up to Passover, as recommended by the team at Elsternwick Vet Clinic in Melbourne.
The best approach is to add a little bit of the new food to your animal’s diet, each day increasing the new variety and decreasing the old. Pets often eat the same food every day for years on end, so abruptly switching diets without a gradual introduction may cause vomiting, diarrhoea or excess gas.
“Some families actually ‘sell’ their pets to a non-Jewish person for the duration of Pesach. However, this option would require the pets to actually live with their temporary owners over the entire Pesach holiday and may therefore be impractical,” Rabbi Glasman said.
This is a far less common approach to pets on Pesach. However, as diet switching can be disruptive to some animals, it may suit certain families. The way it works, according to Rabbi Glasman, is that a sale can be made whereby the pet would be transferred to a gentile, and the ownership and responsibility of caring for the animal would be theirs. Once Pesach is over, the original owner would then buy Scruffy back!
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