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Warning: Dangerous pet food storage bin a death trap, cat dies trying to escape

An airtight pet food storage bin, called Top Paw Airtight Storage Container sold at PetSmart, is blamed for the horrific death of a cat that died of suffocation after trying futily to escape its plastic prison. Pet parent Kari Willett came home to find her beloved cat dead at the bottom of the bin among tins of pet food, lying in a crumpled heap, after furiously trying to get free.

One can only imagine the terrible, frantic cries for help that went unanswered until her cat finally ran out of oxygen.

Ms. Willett said that though the container’s lid had been closed and locked, her cat still managed to get himself inside the bin, and was accidentally trapped inside the airtight container.

Unfortunately, because the design of the container does not allow for the lid to be opened from the inside, her cat had no means of escape and suffocated after being trapped inside the pet food container.

Ms. Willett took to Facebook to warn other pet parents of the product’s potential danger by posting a heartbreaking plea to share her tragic story with others:

“As many of you know, my sleeping companion, my caretaker from 5 hospital visits just this past calendar year died tragically yesterday. I do not post for sympathy but in hope of protecting others from what I experienced yesterday.

About a month ago I bought two “Top Paw” food storage bins from PetSmart. I loved how sleek and stackable they were.

Unfortunately, my cat of 5 years was able to open the lock, climb in (granted to steal extra rations), however after climbing in the bin, he was trapped when the lock fell back down on him. He was unable to get back out.

Mowgli died when he ran out of oxygen while I was gone from home.

When I came home to feed my family, I found him in his food bin. It is one of the more tragic experiences in my life. I would do anything to hold him. I feel incredible guilt not being there for him. I hate the last image I have of him is from this accident.

If any of you have these bins, I beg you to take them back. You may tell them about Mowgli and let them know you want to protect your family from this same fate.

Please feel free to share.”

Not long after posting her tragic story on Facebook, another pet parent shared her story about the same airtight pet food storage bins on Ms. Willett’s Facebook post.

Since contacting PetSmart about the tragedy, Ms. Willet was sent a compassionate letter of sympathy and PetSmart informed her that they have begun an investigation into the safety of the product with the product manufacturer.

Meanwhile, the death trap is still available for sale on PetSmart’s website, despite their note of sympathy.

To report an incident involving an unsafe product (other than food), go to the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission and file a complaint.


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Mollie Morrissette

Mollie Morrissette, the author of Poisoned Pets, is an animal food safety expert and consumer advisor. Help support her work by making a donation today.

Comments (20) Write a comment

  1. Im sorry but I dont believe this for a moment after having one myself for years I just cant see a cat opening the thing enough to plop in like that if you closed and locked the lid.


    • I have six cats and they are capable of many things including getting into a bin like this one. Obviously, if the lid is not snapped shut they can get it open, which is what the complaint was addressed.


  2. I have these and don’t understand how a cat could open it, but once opened I don’t understand how it could possibly lock itself after a cat would climb in….or even how it would stay upright. If my cat tried to jump in it would tip over. The thing isn’t heavy. If it were filled with cat food and heavy the cat would not be able to get in, or in the least would be standing on the pile of cat food without the lid closing. The lid does not bounce open. I have to lift it up, but to close it I must push it down and lock it by pushing the handle down hard to click into place.

    Am I missing something?


    • Yes, you are missing something. Some of these containers were not snapped shut completely and curious cats can climb in them and then the lid can snap shut locking them in. Presumably that is how it can happen. If the container is only half full there is plenty of room for a cat or a small dog.


  3. Dearest Kari,
    I am so sorry this happened to you and your baby! I saw the container on the PetSmart website still for sale while it’s “under investigation.” Now that’s backward! I contacted corporate headquarters with a huge shame on you to them, and today will visit my local PetSmart to see if these containers are being sold. If so, I’m going to take them off the shelf and present them to the manager, demanding they be taken off the shelves, period. I will not take no for an answer!
    I read the comment about can sizes, etc., and all the ways our fur kids can get into trouble. Given that manufacturers will not give priority to our pets’ safety, I’ve taken the paranoid approach – keep all these things out of reach and think in terms of how products can backfire. It’s difficult to anticipate every scenario. I do agree, too, with Peter’s comment – get the smaller bags to keep food fresh and keep it in the bag.
    God bless you for getting the word out there. And your precious kitty is a hero, a catalyst for the change that you are bringing about. My heart is with you.


  4. The moment you open a vacuum sealed bag, you expose the product to air and unless you vacuum seal it after every use air is still present – its still very likely that it is present in nearly all vacuum sealed bags in any case.


  5. What a horror. I can’t imagine what Ms Willett felt when she saw her beloved cat. The size of these bins wasn’t mentioned, but I’m thinking that a very clever small child could also get trapped. So, possibly this bin could also be reported to the human division of the Consumer Product Safety Commission as well? Unlike animals, when a human gets sick, injured or dies, they sit up and listen. A child could get trapped inside but doesn’t die. Splitting hairs, but I hope that the public doesn’t have to wait until a child actually dies, before they take action. I only mention a human incident, because the more complaints of this death trap the better – to get it off the market.


    • Thank you for your response. My friend wrote this article so that I could save lives of cats. I have been in contact with IRIS the manufacture and PETSMART where I purchased the product mentioning that a child would also fit inside. I will make the complaint you suggested. I have found 5 others that have lost cats. I will continue to look for anyone with losses. I am on a mission for design change. I appreciate your response. Thank you.


  6. The same thing happened to my cat, Max. Do you know of any other people this has happened to? I’m trying to find people that have gone through the same thing.


    • I know this could happen because it just happened to me personally. I came home from work this morning searched all over the house for my kitten Princess and finally found her deceased in the smaller food bin.I had seen her and her two brothers open the bin quite a few times but was unaware of how dangerous it was. I assume she bumped the latch up climbed in to steal some food and when she climbed in the lid fell and latched shut. Drives me crazy thinking about her being stuck in there and me not being there to help her! I bought mine in January 2019 And was unaware of these hazards.


  7. I know you’re not seeking sympathy, but my heart goes out to you nonetheless. Thank you for informing the public of this serious safety issue. I had a cat get their head stuck in a can of cat food and wrote to the manufacturer asking them to consider resizing their cans, although they were sympathetic no action was taken and thats why it’s so important to let people know.


  8. This sounds like another situation where the almighty dollar trumps responsible action by a corporation. Maybe an online petition will get the attention of the CEO of Petsmart?


  9. Ms. Willet deserves credit for her willingness to share this horrific story. My cats are determined and resourceful, and would certainly find a way into these bins. I would never be able to live through this.

    In truth, use of these types of storage can actually accelerate deterioration and spoilage of dry foods.

    The best place for these products in generally in the package that they come in. Emptying the product into a storage bin exposes it to air, and bacteria will begin to form. Insistence on buying in those huge bags plays a factor: common sense should tell us that by the time one gets to the “bottom of the bag,” the food simply isn’t fresh any longer (if it ever was). The best way to purchase is in small bags, hopefully vacuum sealed so that they are packed “hard” (that is, you can’t “squish” or manipulate the bag until it is opened).


  10. Ms. Willet deserves credit for her willingness to share her horrific story. Manufacturers do not analyze these issues effectively: products are designed simply to accomplish a singular purpose. My cats would do nearly anything to get into that container. I would never be able to live through this.

    The truth is, the best place to store pet foods is generally in the package that the product comes in. Removing it and pouring it into a secondary container exposes it to air, and the degradation process accelerates. In the end, use of these “airtight” or other storage bins often results in contamination as bacteria forms on the food that the consumer has “stirred up” while pouring it out. Our insistence on buying those huge bags of dry food is also a factor, as it means we rustle the contents around for longer periods… common sense would tell you that the latter part of the bag is, at the very least, “stale.”



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