As it turns out, the cat food universe changes and expands almost as fast as the number of questions I get about cat food grows each day.
The time has come for Frequently Asked Questions!
What do you think of [fill in the blank] pet food company?
As much as I wish it were as simple as dividing the cat food world into good and bad companies, it’s not that simple.
There are some small, high-quality companies run by great people who make some formulas that are ideal and also sell formulas that are not ideal. The same can be said of some of the large pet food companies – some make a few high quality, solid formulas in addition to a lot of really awful ones.
Could you limit your list to food made by smaller companies?
I agree that small pet food companies are usually more trustworthy and careful with quality than big ones – especially more than ones owned by non-pet-food conglomerate. So when a company is small and pet-focused I try to mention that as a bonus.
But if a food meets my criteria, I include it even if it’s made by a larger company because it tends to be more available and better priced for some people. Plus, I want cats and people to have as many options as possible – so they can find one that works for them.
Maybe we will get to a point where there are so many amazingly healthy, affordable, widely available cat foods that I’ll feel I can whittle the list down by company size.
Which companies have had the fewest (or no) recalls?
First, bear in mind that not all recalls are created equal. There are the big ugly fatal ones where companies are forced to recall and then there are super-cautious voluntary recalls where no animal ever got sick.
Also, if a company is new, “no recalls” means nothing.
But no, unfortunately, I don’t have a list of companies with a clean recall “bill of health.” If someone has the answer and can prove it with solid documentation, please let me know.
What are your cat food selection priorities and criteria? What about the source or quality of [ fill in blank] ingredient?
I introduced the method to my madness here.
But let me say more:
I prioritize based on what’s important to me and what’s important to you might be different.
My main concern with cat food is how it affects:
- cat metabolism in regards to diabetes and weight
- cat kidney and urinary health
- cat digestive system, IBD, and intestinal cancer prevention
Those items are my first priority and what I geek out about more than the quality and source of the smaller ingredients in a food. But, there are some small ingredients I’ve taken a great interest in – mainly carrageenan (see below) and BPA. This is because there may be life-threatening problems associated with these substances if they are consumed regularly over time. People ask about a lot of ingredients, like guar gum, that are not – to my knowledge thus far – known to be a big risk.
In other words, if there is not highly convincing evidence a substance is a big risk, I don’t dismiss a food based on that substance. If I did, people would have fewer good choices – choices that prevent diabetes, IBD, intestinal cancer, FLUTD, and kidney disease.
It’s about keeping things in perspective.
I also put those concerns above whether food is made in another country or has fish. I avoid regularly feeding fish if it’s a large ocean fish because then it’s likely to accumulate pollutants, but small fish isn’t such a concern.
I do highly value organic, ecological sourcing practices, and made in America (or other country with high standards), so I try to note those qualities as a bonus if a food has them.
I don’t even have time to track down the source and quality of every single vitamin or herb I take, let alone the sources in cat food. However, if you are looking for the details of the source and quality of each ingredient, you will love the work of Susan Thixton at truthaboutpetfood.com. She provides a tremendous service there – I highly recommend it and it does influence me. Just bear in mind that her focus is not on the matters of feline nutrition and common feline health problems that I worry about.
What’s the deal with carrageenan?
There is so much confusion about this.
First, the trouble with carrageenan does not appear to be the seaweed from which it is sourced, but the chemical process used to extract it.
Carrageenan is used in many cat foods and human foods, but it seems the government is slow at heeding the latest research about it:
- Degraded carrageenan, which occurs at high temperatures and acidity, has been associated with ulcerations in the gastrointestinal tract and gastrointestinal cancer in animals. We aren’t sure if the carrageenan in pet food has been degraded or not, and one study of various samples of human foods with carrageenan found no degraded carrageenan.
- And yet, a quick review of several research articles cited by Wikipedia says that, at the very least, even regular (nondegraded) carrageenan looks guilty of suppressing the immune system and inflaming the intestinal lining–which, I might add, is the kind of thing that causes intestinal bowel disease (IBD). Most cat food companies don’t seem to have heard about this particular study on non-degraded carrageenan yet.
What about [fill in blank] cat food?
If you are asking about a food that hit the market in the last year or so, there’s a good chance I haven’t investigated it yet, so thanks for bringing it up. I will try to hit it with the next big round.
If you are asking about a high end “natural-ish” cat food that’s been around for many years, chances are I’ve already investigated it and dismissed it for one of the reasons described here . And check here for more info and a list of foods that didn’t make it. (Unfortunately that list is not comprehensive – there are more I have dismissed and not had time to add.)
If you are asking about a DRY food, I am not reviewing new dry foods at all for the time being. However, a while back I started a list of best dry cat foods here–with some health caveats.
I recently saw questions in the Today’s Best Cat Foods Comments about whether I’m reading all the comments and if anyone’s responding. The answer is I cannot keep up with them right now. So it’s catch as catch can, at least for a while.
I do still encourage others to bring up questions and new foods, and to help each other out in the Comments. Big hug and gratitude to those of you providing a service to humans and felines there (too many to list!). As well as those who recently expressed understanding and support for my work (LT, Wendy, KitKat, Robyn...). Actually, I love all of you who comment because you all love your cats so damn much.
Latest Changes on the Today’s Best Cat Foods Page
I have not had time to review new foods, but there were a few significant changes to the Best Cat Foods list recently:
- I moved Pure Vita up to the “first choice” list because it has less than 5% carbs even though it contains some potato starch.
- I narrowed the Soulistic canned foods down to just two formulas because all the other ones now contain carrageenan and menadione (synthetic vitamin K).
- I moved Newman’s organic grain-free canned to Runner’s Up list on the “These foods didn’t make the Best list“ page because they came out with a chicken formula that had carrageenan, and now there are reports they are adding carrageenan to the beef formulas too.
- And I removed the Feline Natural raw FROZEN product entirely because we tried it and the ground bone pieces were way too big in my opinion. When you’ve had a cat in the emergency room because his gut is blocked by undigested ground bone, you get hung up on things like this. My concern is these pieces seem too big to digest and yet too small to be further ground down by the cat’s teeth. Note: In the freeze-dried raw version of Feline Natural the bones crumble easily – so I have left that one on the list.