All three of these dry cat foods share one purpose: to inhibit the formation of hairballs in the cats that eat the foods. Let’s begin with Iams®.
The Iams product begins with real chicken, but a good beginning is spoiled with chicken by-product meal and 2 corn products. As I have written before, by-products in any form should be avoided because you don’t know what might have gone into the rendering vat to create them. Cats find it difficult to digest corn and many cats are allergic to it.
Further down the list, poultry by-product meal is included. Same problem as before: by-products in any form are bad news! And with the generic poultry, instead of a named meat such as chicken, you have no idea what might be considered poultry.
Brewer’s dried yeast and the generic “fish oil” are not very healthy additions. If it is not a named fish, such as Menhaden fish oil or salmon oil, you have no way of knowing if ethoxyquin was used to preserve it. Certainly the package won’t tell you. If the ethoxyquin was added to the fish oil as a preservative before it was received by the manufacturer of the cat food, they don’t have to list it.
The remaining ingredients are ok but overall, this isn’t a food I’d want my cats to eat for their hairball problems.
Royal Canin’s hairball formula is designed for indoor cats only, or cats living a sedentary lifestyle. That kind of lifestyle results in heavier shedding and leads to an increased risk of hairball production.
This product uses a “combination of different types of fibers that encourage intestinal transit and helps to facilitate the elimination of the hair your cat swallows every day.,” according to the company’s website. That all sounds great until you read the ingredients list:
Royal Canin’s offering is a tad better than the Iams product. It begins with chicken meal, which is high in protein. The corn gluten meal and corn that follow … not so much. Corn is considered a plant-based protein and adds to the protein count. But as stated before, many cats cannot tolerate corn. An allergic cat will lick more than usual, thereby adding to the ingested fur and creating more hairballs.
Rice hulls and dried Brewer’s yeast could have been left out. Rice hulls have no nutritional value, but I assume they are intended to add fiber.
Nature’s Recipe® begins its ingredients list in a healthy manner with 2 chicken sources, followed by turkey meal and some vegetables. The fish meal and poultry fat could have been improved by using a named fish meal or clearly stating that there is no ethoxyquin in the fish meal, and by using a named fat such as chicken fat.
Other than the unnecessary addition of salt, the remaining ingredients are fine.
When you compare these 3 cat foods, all of them contain some good ingredients, but they each include some less than optimum choices. I cannot speak for their effectiveness in eliminating or even reducing hairballs but I will say that the least objectionable of the 3 products to me would be the Nature’s Recipe cat food. I think it is definitely healthier than the other two.