Category Archives: What’s In My Cat’s Food?

How to Choose Healthy Cat Food for Fluffy

Choosing healthy cat food poses questions and problems.  We look for healthy ingredients, try to avoid the bad ones and pray Fluffy will eat what we select, because felines are finicky creatures and often change their minds. It’s a learning  process. But what if someone made it easier for you?

Reviews.com researches all kinds of products to help consumers make wise choices in their buying decisions. A recent study of cat food conducted by the team led to their review of numerous brands of cat food, producing a guide to help consumers choose the safest and healthiest formulas for their feline pets.

The research team avoids bias by not interviewing manufacturers of the products they review, and they do not accept sponsorships for reviews.  All research is done in-house by the Seattle-based team, and they begin by reading all text available on a product. As they state on their website, they spend “weeks analyzing scientific studies, lab results, historical trends, and user experiences. We zero in on the authorities of a category and parse through their opinions to learn what really matters.”

97 veterinary professionals were consulted for the cat food review, along with hundreds of cat owners. Foods were cat-tested, as well as analyzed. The team analyzed 1759 cat food formulas before narrowing the list down to the 8 that fit their chosen criteria. They spent 300 hours researching the cat food industry and studied the science of what cats actually need for an optimum diet.  The source of cat food brands was also important.

The team’s graphic comparing the ingredients of cat food brands they approve versus grocery store brands speaks for itself.

 

Healthy cat food infographic

 

How Specific Cat Foods Were Eliminated

In choosing which cat food formulas to omit from their list of approved brands, the team used 4 criteria.

1.  Any formula where an identifiable meat was not the first ingredient was automatically eliminated.

2.  Foods that contained controversial ingredients, such as artificial colors and dyes, chemicals, or preservatives were deleted.

3.  The team removed foods that contained rendered ingredients, sugar, and questionable items that might be potentially harmful to a kitty.

4. And they removed foods based on the manufacturer’s history of recalls and took into account customer satisfaction.

Lauren's pet dines on healthy cat food.

Lauren of Reviews.com with her cat, “Bo.”

 

My contact with the team explained that “Brands that were eliminated based on their manufacturing location aren’t all necessarily “bad.” Rather, we assumed the position of someone choosing a cat food for the very first time and felt that this was criterion upon which to come to a choice.”

The Final Approved List of Cat Foods

  1. Addiction Grain Free Canned Cat Food
  2. Blackwood Chicken Meal and Field Pea Recipe Grain Free Dry Cat Food
  3. Earthborn Holistic Wild Sea Catch Grain Free Natural Dry Cat & Kitten Food
  4. Fromm Gold Holistic Adult Dry Cat Food
  5. Lotus Just Juicy Pork Stew Grain Free Canned Cat Food
  6. Now Fresh Grain Free Adult Recipe Dry Cat Food
  7. Redbarn Naturals Salmon and Delilah Grain Free Canned Cat Food
  8. ZiwiPeak Daily Cat Cuisine Venison and Fish Canned Cat Food

Before publishing this article, I quickly reviewed each of the 8 preferred, healthy cat foods that made their approved list and would happily feed any of them to my own felines.  In fact, I do alternate the Fromm Gold Holistic Adult Dry Cat Food with another brand for Chico and Lucy.

Chico eats healthy cat food.

The difficulty with cats is coordinating their picky appetites with the budget and what’s really good for them. Our now 11 and 12-year-old kitties have gone through many brands of food over the years, as we tried to keep them happy, please our budget and feed them healthy cat food. At least now, when our two fur-balls decide they no longer care for the current brand I’m feeding them, I have some trusted options to try, thanks to www.reviews.com.

 

Is Ethoxyquin Safe In Cat Food?

I often talk about the dangers of ethoxyquin in pet food, so I thought a more complete explanation of this scary preservative might be in order.  Ethoxyquin is used in many pet foods as a low-cost preservative, and there is a lot of bad information making the rounds about this chemical.

Ethoxyquin is used both directly and indirectly in pet food and treats.  When used directly, you will see it named on the ingredients list on packages and cans of cat or dog food/treats.  If used indirectly, it won’t be listed, and you won’t necessarily know if the food contains the chemical instead of a safer alternative.

To explain, if a product includes the generic “fish meal,” that fish meal very likely was preserved at the source with ethoxyquin.  A named meal, such as salmon meal or Menhaden fish meal, would not contain it.  If the manufacturer of the pet food did not specifically add the ethoxyquin to the meal, and it was done by the supplier of the meal to him, he does not have to list it as an ingredient. Sneaky, but it works for the pet food manufacturer.

Ethoxyquin was developed by Monsanto (that same company that brings us GMO corn and soy that are sprayed with chemical fertilizers) and from the beginning, there were complaints from pet owners about Ethoxyquin causing cancers, liver problems, and skin lesions in cats and dogs.  But Monsanto conducted its own series of tests and determined that Ethoxyquin wasn’t the culprit and was safe to use in pet food. Note that it is only allowed in human foods in minute doses – in chili powder and paprika – to preserve the red color and is not used in other human foods. Since Monsanto conducted its own studies, it’s rather like the fox guarding the hen house.  The FDA ok’d the use of ethoxyquin in pet food based on those studies and isn’t concerned about all the reports that continue to surface.

“ChemicalBook.com states ‘Ethoxyquin may undergo a hazardous polymerization at temperatures above 320 degrees F.’  If any food that contains ethoxyquin is heated above 320 degrees, a hazardous chain reaction could alter the entire pet food/treat.” (http://truthaboutpetfood.com/misinformation-about-ethoxyquin-from-pet-food.)

We have no way of knowing the temperatures that many pet food companies use to cook their ingredients because many of them consider that to be proprietary information and don’t share it.  Therefore, we have no way of knowing if any ingredients containing ethoxyquin have been damaged.

Ethoxyquin is considered a carcinogen and is used as a rubber preservative.  Many studies have shown a correlation between the chemical and deformities in pets, diseases and sterility.  Yet many well-known and popular brands continue to use it in their products.  It’s cheap for use as a preservative, so look for it on the ingredients lists in lower-priced pet foods.  If you see fish meal, assume that it was preserved with ethoxyquin.  Many by-products are preserved with ethoxyquin but remember, if the manufacturer did not add the Ethoxyquin himself, he doesn’t have to list it.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) admits that the information on the risks and safety of ethoxyquin in pet food is limited. They state that known information suggests limited use of the chemical.  (http://www.epa.gov/oppsrrd1/REDs/factsheets/0003fact.pdf/ )

So…why do pet food companies use ethoxyquin in their products instead of a natural preservative?  We have to assume that it boils down to money.  The safety of our pets comes in second to the company’s bottom line.

Be your own pet advocate!  Read and understand the ingredients listed on pet food packages and cans.  Do not be swayed by sharp advertising gimmicks.  Buy what you know and from whom you trust.

Another Reason to Avoid Corn In Pet Food

According to a recent harvest analysis by Alltech, a global animal health and nutrition company, “all of the corn and corn silage samples submitted during the 2013 harvest tested positive for multiple mycotoxins.” (www.wattagnet.com/PrintPage.aspx?id=165155)

This testing demonstrated a need for producers/farmers to create a program to monitor the effects of toxins on all animal species.

The contamination caused by mycotoxins in pet food presents serious health risks to our pets, because the grains they attack are commonly used in the commercial foods we purchase for our dogs and cats.  In fact, several outbreaks of mycotoxin in pet food have been reported in recent years.

In an MSNBC News Services report in 2006, it was reported that “most outbreaks of pet mycotoxicosis remain unpublished and involve the deaths of hundreds of animals.”

“Mycotoxins are secondary fungal metabolites that exert toxic effects on animals and humans.”  These toxic secondary fungal metabolites pose a serious risk to humans and animals if cereal grains and animal feed become colonized by the fungi.

Mycotoxins grow on grains that are stored at warm temperatures with a lot of moisture present.  Proper care and storage could eliminate the problem.

Of the three main types of pet food – dry, canned and semi-moist – dry food is most likely to contain grains where mycotoxins can thrive.

Feed your pets as high a quality of food as your budget will allow, so that you are confident that it won’t be compromised by mycotoxins.  Always check the expiration date on dog or cat food and don’t give your pet outdated food.  When you get the food home, be sure to store it properly in sealed containers in the original bag to avoid any moisture getting into the food.

If you are still worried about the safety of your beloved pet’s food, choose a grain-free product that won’t contain any cereal grains.

Choosing Quality Cat Treats

Frankie likes healthy treats.

Frankie Loves Treats!

 

Recently, I read an article written by the staff of “Pet Age Magazine” about today’s cat treats.  Since I am in the process of testing various brands of cat and dog treats on my own pets, I was particularly interested to learn that customers are looking for:

  1. Single-ingredient treats
  2. Highest-quality products
  3. Good price
  4. All-natural treats with no preservatives, colors or artificial flavors

Being a proponent of healthy pet food, I certainly am on-board with all of those preferences by consumers.  However, one important point not mentioned in the article is finding a treat that Fluffy will actually eat.

Most cats are extremely picky eaters and just like humans, they often gravitate to junk food instead of what’s good for them.  My Lucy likes a particular brand of grocery store treats containing all sorts of horrible ingredients, like animal fat, brewers’s rice, corn gluten meal, soybean hulls and artificial flavors and colors.  Granted, we don’t buy that product for her now that we know how bad it is, but it would surely be her preference if we did.  Instead, we look to brands with healthy ingredients, and there are a number of them on the market.

The problem is that our cats won’t always eat them.  Lucy much prefers two brands of treats that were actually intended for dogs.  Clear Conscience Pet® makes Lamb Airy Bites, which I earlier reviewed on this site.  Lucy is certain that this bag on the shelf in our pantry was meant for her.  I don’t mind her eating them because there are only 4 natural ingredients:  Lamb lung, dried spinach, dried pumpkin, and dried carrot.  It’s all good!

Lucy and Chico both like Treats You Can Trust Original Doggie Delights, also reviewed on this website.  Again, these were intended for dogs, but you couldn’t convince either of my kitties of this.  Ingredients are simple but spectacular when it comes to flavor my cats will eat.  Read the review here.

Lucy likes these healthy treats.

Lucy thinks the dog treats are for her.

 

Sometimes, it is difficult to strike a balance between what Fluffy wants and what is good for her, but we should try.  The resulting benefits to her health will be worth the effort.

Choose Fluffy’s treats just as you would her regular food.  Be sure the ingredients are all natural, or as close as you can convince her to eat.

If your cat refuses to eat an all-natural treat, try one with the least damaging additives possible.  For me, that means I will avoid any treat with artificial colors or preservatives.  I won’t feed anything to my pets with corn, because it often triggers allergies or digestive issues.  Experiment until you find a treat that pleases your kitty.

Ideally, if you could make your own cat treats, you could completely control what goes into the mix.  You’ll find recipes here, with more to come soon.

Canned Or Dry Food: Which Is Best for Kitty?

Many cat owners prefer to feed their pets dry cat food, because it is easy and convenient.  Dry food can be left out for a cat to graze on all day.  However, that may not be the best decision for Fluffy.

A big negative to a diet of dry kibble is that it doesn’t contain enough moisture.  Because felines receive most of their water from their food, and with only 12% moisture in dry food, kitty could become dehydrated rather quickly.  That would lead to urinary tract infections or worse.

Cats in the wild do not eat kibble.  They don’t eat a lot of grasses or grains either.  They hunted for live creatures and their prey was fresh.  Why should we humans try to change the course of nature?

There is no question that canned – or wet – cat food should be at least part, if not all, of Fluffy’s diet.

Most popular dry cat foods include a lot of grains.  If you don’t see wheat, rice, brown rice or such, look for corn.  While pet food manufacturers like to use corn as a substitute for meat, it is still a grain, no matter what form they use.  Whole ground corn, corn gluten meal, or similar are all grains.

Dry kibble can contribute to feline health problems.  Diabetes would be my first concern.  Cats that live solely on a diet of high-carb-laced dry food risk contracting this disease that can wreak havoc with their lives.

Other health issues that relate directly to a diet of dry cat food include chronic diarrhea, renal disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.  Why take the chance?  Consider gradually switching your furry feline to a diet of wet food.  It’s a slow process, but it can be done.

If you feed dry food to your cat because it is cheaper, think about the cost of veterinary bills, should your cat develop diet-related problems.  Those medical expenses could cost a lot more than a switch to a diet of canned cat food.

Grain-free cat food is available and does address the obvious problem.  But it isn’t cheap and you will still face the question of Fluffy getting enough liquid in her diet.

Our own cats were addicted to their kibble diet and wanted no part of canned cat food.  It was a very slow process, but we eventually reached a compromise.  Lucy and Chico get a small amount of kibble topped with a generous amount of a popular canned food twice a day.  At bedtime, we put a little more dry food in their bowls, so they don’t begin the morning meows for breakfast too early.

Just before bedtime, they receive a couple of Zuke’s cat treats, which are soft and contain no forbidden ingredients.

You’ll have to experiment with your own cat to adjust her diet to what is healthy and also what kitty will eat.  It does no good to switch her to a healthy canned food, if she won’t eat it.

Made In the USA….Or Is It?

There are no AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) or FDA (Food & Drug Administration) rules or regulations governing a pet food manufacturer’s right to place the “Made in USA” claim on their products.  However, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) does offer written guidelines for them to follow.  Until recently, no one checked to see if a manufacturer actually followed those guidelines.

One state feed control group has begun asking pet food companies for documentation proving that they are following those guidelines.  This probably means that other states will follow in the future, so companies that say they use said guidelines may find it necessary to show proof.

What this means to the consumer is that as of now, in most states no organization is keeping tabs on whether a manufacturers dog or cat food is actually all sourced in the United States or not.  We are left to assume that the companies are all honest and ethical.  Until feed control groups in every state step up to demand proof that a manufacturer is truly following the FTC suggested guidelines, there isn’t much we can do.

If an ingredient such as lamb is imported into the U.S. from New Zealand and is used strictly as lamb with only minimal processing, the label on a pet food product must say that the lamb is a product of – or made in New Zealand.  But if that lamb is imported from New Zealand and then processed into something like lamb stew or lamb quiche, no labeling of origin is required by law.  That’s fine with a product imported from a country like New Zealand, but what if it were imported from China.  I, for one, would be very concerned.

In order for a pet food product to carry the American flag or “Made in USA” label, the FTC says that “all or virtually all” ingredients in the product must also be of U.S. origin.  Unfortunately, the guidelines don’t say what percent of the ingredients made up “virtually all.”  (www.petfoodindustry.com/PrintPage.aspx?id=48818)

Another factor is weight.  In considering if an ingredient can carry that “Made in USA” label, the amount or weight of it is a consideration.  But they don’t explain how much weight matters.  Cost of an ingredient is also factored into the decision but again, no parameters are provided.

Many ingredients are sourced in other countries, some tropical fruits or vegetables, vitamins, green tea extract, to name a few.  But if they amount used is small, the country of origin, or source of the item, may not be named.  An example of this might be certain vitamins.  Many of the vitamins sold in the United States for both humans and animals are sourced in China.  But you don’t see that listed on the ingredients label or anywhere else on the package or can.  The reason is that the amounts are so small that the company doesn’t have to list the source.

Pet food manufacturers must consider a number of factors before adding that desired “Made in USA” label to their products but if neither AAFCO nor the FDA are going to enforce the rules, I wonder how many liberties with the truth will be made.

If you are concerned about the origin of ingredients in the pet food you purchase, call the manufacturer and ask specific questions.  If the person you reach doesn’t know the answer, ask that person to connect you with someone who would.

 

 

 

Rice Bran in Dry Cat Food Causes Taurine Loss

Research has shown that rice bran depletes taurine levels in cats and yet, you will sometimes find it listed as an ingredient in cat food.

Taurine is an amino acid found naturally in meat.  It is also produced synthetically and most of it comes from China.  Without the proper amount of taurine, cats would suffer numerous health problems, such as blindness or heart failure.

When rice bran is included in cat food as a source of protein or a filler, extra taurine is also included.  My concern is placement of rice bran on the ingredients list.  If you see it listed early in the ingredients list, that means a large amount of rice bran is in that particular food.  If taurine is way down the list, I would be concerned that there isn’t enough extra taurine in the food to offset the larger amount of rice bran.  It’s a slippery slope, and I’m not comfortable giving a cat a food that might have questionable amounts of good and bad elements in it.

I realize that some experts and some manufacturers believe that rice bran is a perfectly acceptable addition to cat food, but I don’t see the point.

According to Dr. Greg Aldrich of Pet Food & Ingredients Technology, Inc, rice bran is rich in phosphorus, potassium and manganese.  That may be, but it is also difficult for cats to digest.

Perhaps if more manufacturers used higher quality protein sources in their food in place of such alternatives as rice bran or corn, there would be less need for the addition of synthetic taurine in the products and since most of the synthetic taurine comes from China, our pets would be better off if they could avoid the need for it.

Be very careful when choosing dry food for your cat.  Avoid rice bran.  Even better, feed your cat a diet of mostly canned or wet food with two real meats listed in the first four ingredients.  That food probably won’t need the addition of synthetic taurine.

Cheap Cat Food Is Not Always a Bargain

The sad truth is that with many commercial cat foods, we really don’t want to know what’s in them.  Yes, they are that bad!  Some brands include poor meat sources such as ground up chicken feet, beaks, brains, fetal tissue and more – all parts of an animal that may be high in hormones or even diseased.  The grains they include may be nothing more than hulls and tiny broken pieces of grain.  Some companies substitute a form of corn in place of a higher-quality meat source.

Many dry cat foods contain rendered ingredients, which can include rancid restaurant grease, spoiled meat from supermarkets and the so-called 4-D’s of cattle – dead, dying, diseased, and disabled.  The pet food industry does not ban such things.

The pet food industry still make food that contains chemical preservatives.  These preservatives give cat food a longer shelf life than do natural preservatives – which in turn, increases profits.  Watch out for BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and Propylene Glycol on cat food ingredients labels.

Buying cheap, low-quality food may seem like a bargain, but the veterinary costs down the road can make that an expensive choice.  Cheap food equals toxic animals.  Without easily-digestible food, a dog’s body can neither heal well nor thrive.  Cheap-quality food contains fewer nutrients than better cat food, and it’s more difficult for an animal’s body to break down those few healthy nutrients and absorb them.  Keep in mind that because high-quality foods are more dense in nutrients, instead of useless fillers, the cat won’t need to eat as much of it to maintain her weight.  They will instinctively try to eat more of a poor-quality food, trying to get enough of what their bodies actually need.

Feeding your cat a higher grade of pet food will result in positive changes in her body in just a few months.  Her body will be better able to digest and assimilate the higher-quality food and better able to ward off infection.  It is up to you to choose Fluffy’s food wisely, because the food she eats determines her future health.  Educate yourself.  She depends on you.

Cat Food Non-essentials: Brewer’s Rice & Brewer’s Yeast

Brewer’s Rice and Brewer’s Yeast both come from the beer-making industry.  Brewer’s rice refers to the tiny pieces of broken rice that remain after the milling process is complete.  It is commonly found as a filler in cat food.  Brewer’s Yeast is used in human supplements, because it is high in B Vitamins and chromium, and it is also found in pet food.  There are proponents who say Brewer’s yeast is good for a cat’s skin, fur and eyes and support various bodily functions.  But some cats are allergic to it.  Some nutrition experts say that Brewer’s yeast is toxic to a cat’s liver.

Because cats are obligate carnivores and do not need a lot of grain in their diet, Brewer’s rice is virtually useless in their food.  It is missing the nutritional benefits found in whole brown rice and is high in carbohydrates.  Cats just don’t need this additive.  Why take the chance that it might cause damage to your furry friend?

If you see Brewer’s rice on the ingredients label of your cat’s food package, it should be way down the list, so that the amount is very small.  Otherwise, you would be providing your furry friend with a lot of unnecessary carbohydrates that won’t help her at all.