As Jews worldwide prepare for Passover, which begins this Friday night, many people are wondering what they are allowed to feed their pets during the holiday. Which of the following are real rules?
Clementine Dresses for the Seder by Meryl Zimmerman Music is used with permission of the owner.
A. According to the Aish.com website’s Ask the Rabbi feature, pets should not be fed food with chametz in it, because it is forbidden to derive any benefit from chametz during Passover, and if your pet eats chametz, you are indirectly receiving a benefit. However, the Aish rabbi says that pets can eat kitniyot, or legumes, regardless of whether or not the pet owner eats kitniyot (traditionally only Sephardic Jews eat kitniyot during Passover).
B. According to Rabbi Yehuda Epshtein of the Orthodox Union, it is acceptable to include your pet on the list of items which you sell as chametz to a non-Jew, directly or through your rabbi or other religious authority. In that way, the pet is not considered to be yours, and you can then feed the pet chametz during Passover, as you are no longer benefiting from the non-Passover food.
C. According to Rabbi Zvi Goldberg of Star-K, the kosher food certification organization, it is okay to feed non-kosher food to animals during Passover because one is allowed to derive benefit from non-kosher food. However, Rabbi Goldberg says that pets cannot be fed food which mixes meat and milk products.
D. According to Rabbi Avi Weissman of Yeshivat Magen Torah in Brooklyn, it is only acceptable to feed your pets kosher for Passover food. However, Rabbi Weissman says that you cannot feed matzah to your pets. This is because matzah is viewed as the bread of freedom–the bread which the Israelites ate when they escaped from Egyptian slavery and crossed the desert. Because pets are not free, but are subservient to their owners, Rabbi Weissman says that it is not acceptable to feed matzah to your pets.
E. Rabbi Zakkai Zalmon Veisfisch of Temple Betta Al-Bakor in Pikesville, Maryland says that it is not acceptable to feed food flakes to aquarium fish during Passover, as these items are chametz. When asked what one should do with their aquarium fish since it would be wrong to not feed them for a week, Rabbi Veisfisch stated that he is happy to share his recipe for guppy-filte fish.