We cat owners know that feeding our fur-babies can be an act of futility. One day, Fluffy may gobble up the bowl of cat food you put out for her; the next, she may turn up her nose.
Finding a food that works for her picky palate and meets your own nutritional standards is the puzzle. Yes, it takes time and yes, she may eat one for awhile and then refuse it. Patience and determination are the keys to success.
A Truism Many Cat Owners Face
If you place a bowl of the highest quality cat food and a bowl of cheap, low-quality cat food down for a kitty to eat, she will invariably settle on the low-quality food. Why, you ask? Because just as we humans will guiltily choose a bag of corn chips and a soda in place of a platter of vegetable snacks or fruit, our cats prefer junk food.
Giving in to their preference might make them temporarily happy but in the long run, it could harm their health. Don’t take that chance!
Don’t Forget China’s History with Pet Food Safety
Remember the melamine in pet food poisonings back in 2007? The source of the problem was traced to cat and dog food imported from China. Or how about the jerky treats scandal just a few years ago that resulted in the illnesses and/or deaths of many dogs and some cats? That was also traced to China.
Having read about human and pet food processing in China, I would never buy cat food sourced from that country. However, some meats are sourced from countries with acceptable production controls. One example is lamb from New Zealand.
If “made in America” is important to you, look for the American flag symbol or the term “Made in America” on the package or can. Or you can phone the company and ask. If they won’t divulge that information, keep shopping.
Look for Manufacturers that Produce Their Own Cat Food
According to Mindy Bough who leads the ASPCA’s Pet Nutrition Services, a company that manufactures pet food from its own plant instead of out-sourcing it to another provides better quality control.
A number of companies claim a brand of pet food as their own when they actually out-source it to another manufacturer. One example of this might be Tractor Supply that claims Paws & Claws Cat Food as its own brand. I tried once to find the actual manufacturer of Tractor Supply’s 4 Heart brand of dog food and the company person to whom I spoke would only say that it is their house brand and they don’t give out any further information. Eventually, I learned from other sources that Diamond Pet Foods manufactures the Tractor Supply brands of pet food.
Diamond manufactures many house brands for other companies. This means the safety factor of those foods they make is dependent solely on Diamond, not on the businesses that claim to own them and sell them. Examples include 4 Health, some Canidae foods, Kirkland’s (Costco house brand), and some Wellness, Natural Balance and Solid Gold pet foods.
You need to know who makes your kitty’s food! Susan Thixton includes a list of who makes what on her website and says it is updated as they gather new information.
What To Do about the Dry Vs Wet Cat Food Debate
Cat owners have argued this puzzle for years, and present many pros and cons about their choices. Dry food is easier for pet owners. You can put it in a bowl and leave it out in Kitty’s reach all day, if necessary, for her to graze on it. Clean up is quick and easy.
Cat Blogger, Doug Hines, says he would never allow his cats to eat dry cat food. In his website, Cat Food Ingredients, Doug provides reasons and cites other websites’ reasons why dry food is not beneficial to felines.
For example, dry foods are high in carbs, which leads to diabetes, and likens dry cat food to eating a diet entirely of cereal.
Doug also links to another website, quoting Elizabeth Hodgkins, DVM, who believes cats should not eat dry kibble. Dr. Hodgkins says that it doesn’t matter if the ingredients are high quality. It’s the fact that the food is laden with carbs and is dry that makes dry cat food inappropriate for our pets to eat.
Dr. Hodgkins lists the problems with dry cat food as: low moisture content, high in carbohydrates, and protein from plants other than animal sources.
Cats Never Drink Enough Water.
Cats need plenty of moisture in their food because they won’t drink enough water. Dry food only contains around 12% water and that isn’t enough to keep Kitty healthy.
You can buy grain-free cat food to help eliminate the high carb problem, but there will still be the issue of not enough water in the animal’s diet.
Digestibility is Important.
The term, digestibility, is about the percentage of a food that your cat actually absorbs. It doesn’t matter how much you pay for a cat food or how upscale the quality, if Kitty can’t absorb the food, she won’t receive any benefit from it. Because pet food companies are not required to publish the digestibility percentage, you may want to call and ask them about it.
What Ingredients Should be in Your Cat’s Food
Your cat needs a canned food containing high quality ingredients. The first ingredient should be a named meat. Ideally, two of the first 4 ingredients should be named meats, like beef or fish or chicken or lamb. Given the current swine illness issue in China, I would avoid pork in your kitty’s food. Some of the pork that pet food manufacturers use comes from China, and you have no way of knowing the actual source unless the pet food company will tell you. Accept only natural preservatives, natural flavorings and natural colors.
Why Cats Need Real Meat
Cats are obligate carnivores and need real meat as the protein in their food. They do not thrive on plant proteins alone, and some felines cannot tolerate some plant-based foods in any amount. But there’s meat and there’s meat. A chicken breast presents much higher quality meat than what you would get from chicken feet.
Doug Hines explains the difference and descriptions of meat labeling in cat food. For example if a food name says something like “Chicken Pot Pie with Real Chicken,” the manufacturer only has to include 3% chicken. That isn’t very much meat. If a cat food is labelled “Chicken Dinner,” the product only has to contain 25% chicken.
If a food title uses the term “Chicken Flavor” in it, the actual food may not contain any real chicken meat.
Read the label on the cat food package or can. Know what your fur-baby eats.
Select Cat Food that Contains a Natural Fat
Pet foods containing natural fats work best for your cat. Sunflower oil, flaxseed oil or olive oil are good, as are named meat fats like chicken fat or Menhaden fish oil.
Avoid the generic terms, meat fat or fish oil. Fish oil could come from anything and might contain dangerous preservatives. Meat fat could also derive from anything and likely results from the rendering process.
Avoid These Ingredients at All Costs!
Some ingredients could truly endanger your cat’s health. Humans eat a varied diet. We don’t eat the same meal 2 or 3 times a day as do our pets. Any questionable ingredient becomes multiplied when a cat consumes those same ingredients for all meals over a period of years. Yes, some ingredients could build up in certain organs in their little bodies.
By-Products Are Bad!
Some pet food company spokes-people will tell you that meat by-products contain vitamins and amino acids and other important ingredients that benefit a cat’s well-being. I call B.S. on that! Whatever good might be contained in by-products is over-shadowed by the back that anything could be in those rendering vats. Yes, Kitty’s dry food might contain some real beef. But it may also contain your neighbor’s pet cat or dog that was euthanized recently at the vet’s office, along with the pentobarbitol used to euthanize said animal.
Examine the label of any low-cost pet food bag and you are likely to see some form of by-products listed. By-products are part of the rendering process. The manufacturing process cooks the ingredients at extremely high temperatures, causing it all to melt. Another machine separates the good, usable parts from the rest of the “goop.” By-products contain the unusable part of the animal and not anything you want your fur-babies to eat.
Canned, or wet, cat food will help you avoid by-products when shopping for cat food.
Cats Don’t Need Plants.
In the wild, a cat would not choose to eat plants of any kind. But if a rat that a cat chooses for lunch has eaten some greenery, then kitty will also consume said greenery. However, the cat isn’t choosing that; the meat of the rat is what she wants.
Cats do not thrive on plant material. They need real meat. Grains should not be part of their diet. That includes corn.
You may see corn listed on the ingredients list in several forms. Some companies use corn in place of real meat for the protein in the food. Corn, corn gluten meal, corn syrup and any other form of corn will not benefit your pet. One fear is the possible presence of mycotoxins in corn and corn silage. Another possible concern is that some cats have an allergy to corn.
Chemical Preservatives Could Kill
Stay away from such preservatives as propylene glycol, BHA and BHT. Natural preservatives work just as well and are safe. Ethoxyquin is a preservative found in some fish meals or fish oil. You won’t find it in named fish oils, such as Menhaden Fish Oil or salmon oil.
Don’t Forget the Budget When You Shop for Cat Food
In a perfect world, we would find the perfect cat food, kitty would eat it happily, and never worry about the cost. Most of us can only dream about that perfect world and need to shop with our budgets in mind.
Commercial cat food comes in a wide price range. Doug Hines shares ideas for frugal shoppers beginning with his “Tips # 3.”
Shop for Cat Food with These Tips in Mind
Look for 1 or 2 quality meats in the first 4 ingredients listed on the label. Know where the food was manufactured, and know what ingredients are included. Choose canned food over dry kibble. Know what’s bad for your kitty and avoid those ingredients.
A little knowledge and taking time to read the ingredients labels will make you an expert cat food shopper, as well as go a long way toward keeping your kitty healthy and happy.