Cat food FAQ and update
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.
While researching BPA and feline hyperthyroidism, I came across your site and really appreciate all the great insights that you provide. I’m trying to find a list of cat food brands that don’t use BPA or BPA-alternatives in their cans because BPA-alternatives can be just as harmful as BPA itself. Have you already discussed this topic on your site, and if so, could you please share the page link?
I don’t see “Only Natural Pet Feline PowerPaté” Turkey or Chicken on your list. Can you give me any thoughts/research on this canned cat food?
My childhood cat is 20 now and has always been very healthy. He lives with my grandma now, and I think she gives him mostly dry food from Kroger, and a bit of fancy feast wet food as a treat once a day. Also temptations treats. I just took him to the vet, and they think he might have a stage 3 kidney disease or hypertension because his blood gluecose is above normal. She recommend that he be given high protein wet food for moisture. I have a couple cats that are around 1 yo, and i give them nature’s instinct limited ingredient diet 95% protein chicken canned wet food. I want to give this to the 20 yo, but a lot of your recommendations say the protein can be harmful to kitties with kidney and hypertension issues. Should i give him the food?
Regarding Holistic Select -many of their cans still have BPA in them. I recently emailed them to find out about this. My cats eat this food very well, but now I may be switching brands.
What about guar gum? catcentric.org and others say it can be problematic, although hard to avoid
my cat will only eat soulistic good karma and harvest sunrise she is indoors only she is a small cat but lots of energy is this total nurtrition for her , should I add something else to her diet.
Tammy, I’ve been trying to find out if the two Soulistic foods that your cat eats have BPA in the cans. My cat loves those flavors, too, but I don’t want to keep using them if they do have BPA. I have read on Weruva’s site (same Owners as Soulistic) that Weruva does not have BPA in their cans. Do you have any information that shows there’s no BPA in the Soulistic version? I also sent a message to the Owners, but have not gotten a reply yet. Barbara
what do you think of Verus cat food? I feed my cats their canned and dry food
I have a question to ask….where are these foods available…I live in Canada and just wondering if these are all American Pet Foods. None of the food names are familiar to me.
Ziwi Peak canned cat food (Venison and Rabbit and Lamb) is the only food that does not cause my cat to vomit and get constipated. Although it contains carrageenan, the ZiwiPeak site explains that it is the “good” carrageenan as opposed to the “bad” carrageenan.
I think it’s unbeatable.
Hi Liz – I stumbled across your website today and I’m very happy to see it! I have a 2 Ragdolls brothers – 1) Spencer – big and plump at 21 pounds and 2) his brother Julian who was very sickly and almost died when we got him, at 11 pounds. We had a heck of a time finding a food when they were young without too much protein as that ran right through the little one. Now at 6 years old, the big boy has developed constipation from the dry food and the vet switched him to RX food which we are mixing with a high protein food (honestly, they both pick around that and only eat the RX food). Now the big boy is back to normal, but with 2 very different intestinal issues to deal with, what would you suggest we feed them for dry and wet food? Of course they both eat the same thing. We have also added a can of food every night for moisture for the big boy, but the little one won’t eat any of it.
I don’t know if anyone else has asked this, but I thought I saw Nature’s Logic on here before? I don’t see it on any of the lists. It’s recommended by Susan Thixton, but I can’t remember if I read anything about it here. I’m always looking into their canned/frozen food. Thanks!
Megan, good question. Here’s a quote from a page where I address the Nature’s Logic question: “I had to remove Nature’s Logic canned until it can meet all AAFCO levels. Their challenge is they that they don’t add vitamins and minerals because they want to use only whole ingredients from nature. I respect that, but I would feel irresponsible recommending it for anything but intermittent feeding (in rotation with other foods) if they do not meet the minimum nutrient requirements. While they do have more than enough taurine, here’s a quote from their website: “For most nutrients there are 2 times, 3 times, or 4 times or more the required minimum amount of these nutrients in our finished products from the whole food ingredients. But because Nature’s Logic has a fraction less of one or two nutrients than the AAFCO Nutrient Profile, the intermittent [feeding] statement had to be used until the Nature’s Logic Diets are substantiated by an AAFCO Feeding Trial.” https://loveofacat.com/2013/03/best-cat-foods-update-march-2013/
I was wondering, how have you been able to verify for certain whether or not the can of a particular brand is lined with BPA?
Maybe you have it posted on the site and I missed it.
Jane, when I have verified that no BPA lining comes in contact with a food, I mention that on the Today’s Best Cat Food’s page: https://loveofacat.com/bestcatfoods
Thanks for the response, though it doesn’t quite answer my question.
I’d like to know HOW you verify this information.
For example, is it by contacting the company and asking them if their can liners have BPA?
I appreciate your work with this blog, and don’t mean to question you personally. It’s just that there is a lot of info online to sift through, and some sites info can be inaccurate.
Yes, the BPA info is based on what the company says – either on their site or directly. That’s how I get it. And in a few cases the BPA info may have come from Petsumer Report.
Of course, it’s only necessary to mention with canned foods. Other packaging doesn’t have it.
Has anyone else found an odd black layer on the bottom of their cans of Hounds and Gatos cat food? Is it part of the food? Is it fungus? My cat had a random week of gastritis and neither we or his vet have any explanation. I’m curious as to what this black layer is – I haven’t noticed it in the other cans of Hounds and Gatos he’s been fed (it may very well have been there in other cans and I haven’t noticed). He’s been eating their wet food for a good 7 months! It’s the only brand he’s really willing to eat.
Sam- I would definitely report that issue to Hound and Gatos and see what they see. I’ve never noticed that on the cans I had, but I only bought one case before. I got the chicken.
Hi there Sam,
I just recently started purchasing Hound and Gatos as well. I think it’s part of the “Lamb” flavor and the “Rabbit” flavor. Part of the meat itself. I’ve gotten all of the different flavors and the Lamb (which is naturally a dark meat) and the rabbit had a subtle darkness to it. Not mold in my estimation but just part of the natural pigmentation of the meat. The pork and salmon are pinky pigments. The chicken and the trout are more beigy.
Hope this puts your mind at ease! 🙂
I had recently contacted you to obtain a copy of the Caregiver Crisis Planning Guide, to which you kindly provided the link. My 14-year-old cat made it through her harrowing medical emergency and is now happy and healthy once again, which is why I was particularly alarmed to read your post concerning carrageenan (my cat’s illness involved injury to her intestine that required an emergency resection). The only canned food my cat will eat (honestly) is Newman’s Own Organics Organic Liver, which now contains carrageenan. I e-mailed Newman’s Own Organics earlier this week, and thought you might be interested to see the response I received, copied below:
Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. We use only a miniscule amount
(less than 0.03 percent including water) of un-degraded carrageenan in our
pet foods to prevent separation of liquids, improve performance and add
texture that pets enjoy. No chemicals are used in producing this
carrageenan and it is of the highest quality food grade.
The controversy has arisen because there are two types of carrageenan –
un-degraded (food-grade) and degraded (hydrolyzed with acid).
. Un-degraded carrageenan has been used on a huge scale in food
production worldwide since the 1930s, and its safety has been assured by the
FDA Gras status. The Joint Expert committee on Food Additives (JECFA) of the
United Nations’ Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the World
Health Organization considers this sea vegetable non-toxic, non teratogenic
. Chemically treated, degraded carrageenan, however, is a known
carcinogen (cancer causing agent) and is not used or permitted in food
Stonyfield Organic Yogurt answered the question on carrageenan very well on
their website and according to research that they hired a scientist for,
undegraded carrageenan resists degradation in the digestive tract and is
therefore unlikely to even be absorbed.
See below taken from
“Because carrageenan is extracted from seaweeds under alkaline conditions,
degradation to smaller polymerized polysaccharides is avoided. As long as
the pH is maintained above 6.0, carrageenan is stable to heat processing.
Once carrageenan is in the gel configuration, as is the case for its use in
food systems, the carrageenan becomes highly resistant to degradation, even
under more acidic conditions, such as occur in the stomach (see Section
1.2.3).” They go on to state, “Carrageenan ingested in the gel form (either
as a homogenous carrageenan gel or one consisting of a carrageenan /protein
gel from a meat or a dairy food) is also stable to the conditions of passage
through the digestive tract (Abraham et al., 1972; Benitz et al., 1973;
Arakawa et al., 1988; Weiner, 1988). Because of its large molecular weight,
carrageenan remains within the lumen of the digestive tract and is not
absorbed (Weiner, 1988; 1991). Thus, there are no systemic effects of
carrageenan following ingestion by rats, mice, or monkeys.” (Emphasis our
The 2007 report by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives does
state that more studies are needed to better understand whether degradation
does occur during digestion, but they conclude that there is no evidence to
show that if this degradation does occur that it causes any negative health
Recently, carrageenan was investigated by the FDA in response to a petition
filed by Dr Joanne K. Tobacman of the University of Iowa, College of
Medicine. The FDA researched the issue and concluded on April 1, 2012, that
undegraded carrageenan was indeed safe for human consumption. It is listed
under section CFR 172.620 as an additive that is safe for human consumption.
L. Phillips Brown DVM
Newman’s Own Organics
It is noteworthy that the studies cited within this response, with the exception of the FDA study concluded in 2012, are not at all recent.
Thank you as always, Liz, for providing so much useful information.
Inger, I’m so glad your cat is ok now! Thanks for all the info you shared. Yes, my concern is that we see contradictory information from various sources. And this one about UNdegraded carrageenan: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5410598/ is dated 2007. The World Health Org in 2011 decided carrageenan is too questionable for infant formulas. For now, for the sake of putting foods on the “Best” list, I take these concerns and studies more seriously than the latest industry-funded study. However, I still put otherwise good foods with carrageenan on the “almost fabulous” Runner’s up list. https://loveofacat.com/2012/04/these-natural-cat-foods-didnt-make-the-best-list-heres-why-finally/ I realize the risk is probably minimal when the amounts are very small and the cat doesn’t eat carrageenan foods exclusively for his *entire* life.
I have a food dilemma-
I am trying to find a limited ingredient diet-single source protein, single carb diet in canned for my 4 cats with allergies. I do not want carrageenan in it and I want it grain free.
For the longest time my vet thought that they had a dermatitis that was causing them to itch and chew at their feet, and would give them a shot or a steroid which helped only short time and then they were back to the itching and chewing of feet. We have done the claritan and the antihistimines, but it all seems to come back to the possibility of true allergies to something in the food.
I rotate their food and have been doing this for a long time now with grain free good quality food. I need some help-Can you give me any choices or list of some foods to try-
Thanks so much-
To share my thoughts about Weruva which I consider to be an excellent choice food for the needs of my three cats. I have spoken at length with the both the company and it’s owner on several occassions… and find them to be very receptive, helpful and informative….and they return calls. Specifically I am refering to WERUVA CATS IN THE KITCHEN, not the original Weruva line. It is grain free, startch and carrageenan free.Stated right on the label. As Liz points out, several have synthetic Vit K. Two that do not, and the ones I use, are Double Dip ( Beef and Chicken) and Fowl Ball ( Chicken and Turkey). I rotate Splash Dance as it does have Ocean Fish. I feel it is important that we do our OWN research. With that in mind I have also spoken to the owner of Hounds and Gatos and felt comfortable with what he had to say. I am comfortable also with what I learned from Primal. I use only the freeze dried as a topping…so at least my cats get a little “raw”. Again, this is only MY opinion based on my individual research. I think we have to be VERY CAREFUL what we put on this blog so people do not take our views as anything other than opinion… and not the “expert word” of Liz whose blog it is, and who has the ability and background, to sort out the pet food issue….
I have already had my cats on the weruva-cats in the kitchen ones (chick & Beef, plus other ones and also hound and gatos, which they didn’t like.
I have decided to go with the limited ingredient diet of Instinct grain free in the turkey flavor in the canned food. I am looking for single source protewin and single source carb with no potatoes.
I may even go into and check out the Stella & Chewy freeze dried.
Thanks so much for your input-
18 yr old female feline with well managed kidney issues you recommended Great Life Essentials as a new entry… ..need a caveat-high phosphorous-Dr. Harvey of Grat Life says 1.00 tops
chicken is 1.04..phosphorus levels do matter with canned as well as raw thanks aa
Surfing the web and found your site just got a maine coon from Poland and having a hard time finding the best food I can provide for him so he has a good long healthy life came across health extension chicken and turkey and was wondering what your thoughts were on this food. thank you for what you do in educating people on what we are really feeding our beloved pets. God bless you:)))
Chicken & Turkey Entree
Health Extension Chicken & Turkey Entree uses high quality protein free from growth hormones and steroids. Feel good about feeding a can fortified with vitamins, minerals, rich fruits & vegetables to help maintain proper urinary tract health.
•No Rendered Animal Fats
•No Artificial Preservatives
•No Added Sugar
•No Artificial Flavors, Colors or Dyes
Available In: 5.5oz
Turkey, Chicken, Chicken Broth, Chicken Liver, Ground Brown Rice, Sweet Potatoes, Dried Egg, Natural Flavor, Alfalfa Meal, Carrots, Potassium Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Salt, Taurine, Sodium Carbonate, Cranberries, Blueberries, Dicalcium Phosphate, Vitamins (Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Niacin (Vitamin B3), Calcium Pantothenate (Vitamin B5), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Vitamin B6), Biotin (Vitamin B7), Folic Acid (Vitamin B9), Vitamin B12, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement) Trace Minerals (Zinc Amino Acid Complex (source of Chelated Zinc), Iron Amino Acid Complex (source of Chelated Iron), Copper Amino Acid Complex (source of Chelated Copper), Manganese Amino Acid Complex (source of Chelated Manganese), Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite.
How important are ingredients? Check out our Ingredient Index.
Crude Protein, Not Less Than
Crude Fat, Not Less Than
Crude Fiber, Not More Than
Moisture, Not More Than
Feeding requirements may vary based on your dog’s age, activity level and environment.
Can be fed as a complete balanced diet for cats. Feed 1 can per 3 lbs to 3 � lbs body weight. Divide into 2 or more feedings per day. Adjust feeding amounts to body weight condition.
© 2013 Vets Choice Professional Pet Products. All Rights Reserved
I’ve searched your site to see if you have any opinion on xanthan gum. A cat food I’ve used for a long time has recently added this. I can’t see any benefit of it, only potential risks. I’d love to get your take on it.
Liza, pardon my very delayed response – I get so many comments and messages. Honestly I’d never taken a hard look at xanthan gum before. It just wasn’t on my radar. Now that you’ve brought it up I have to say it does look like my least favorite “gum.” Unlike the other gums it’s associated with digestive reactions and allergies. Definitely one to avoid for cats with IBS or digestive issues.
Thanks very much, and no worries about the response. I appreciate it. Xanthan gum doesn’t seem to have anything good going for it, so I’ve made a change to my cat’s diet. Thank you for your blog. I pass it on to friends.
I prefer to purchase canned cat food that are BPA free. However, other cans are lined in vinyl, I am still concerned as vinyl usually contains lead and PVC. What are your thoughts. Thank you.
Beverly, my understanding is these are typically an epoxy resin alternative or additional epoxy protective lining that does not leach toxins into the food. I don’t believe epoxy would contain PVC. Not sure about lead. I don’t see any reliable sources talking about such possibilities, so I’m not worried at this point.
On the CRF website it states that the best food is one your cat will eat!!
I have known 20 yr old cats who grew up on friskies and clay cat litter and
5 yr olds raised on Primal and Bravo and peed on The Worlds best
and left us young. Much has to do with Vital Force-constitution and genetics.
our rescue cats dont come with histories and genetic profiles. My take on the
“Best Foods” is that it is a wonderful road-map guidance tool. Use only the best
wet or raw-do not feed dry or “kibble and no vaccinations-steroids or anti-biotics
unless cleared by a holistic-alternative nutritionally savvy vet. put the obessions
into play-and love . thank you Liz. one of the foods I had mentioned last yr is now
on your revised list Great Life Essentials and I am hoping all true cat lovers thank
you for the work and love you have given. I am hopeful that we can keep our human
projections real and love more.
Heya first thank you so very much for this. The list is amazing and I wholeheartedly agree with the things you are mindful of in cat food and I am very grateful to have this list to keep all us pet parents informed.
I do have something to note about the recalls. Not a food inspector but I have worked with a VP of food safety at a moderately-sized food company before and we chatted about recalls.
He said the deal with voluntary and involuntary recalls is the same. In both cases, the company gets the dreaded phone call from the FDA saying that there is something wrong with the food and it needs to be recalled. FDA gives them the option of either you recall on your own (voluntary recall) or we will do it for you (involuntary recall). 99% of the time, he says, the company will choose to do it on their own, since nobody wants the FDA to go into their production plants as it will severely disrupt business operations.
I know this is one single comment from one person, but I thought I would throw it out there as I think the procedure is pretty much set!
With the EVO/ Innova recalls from April to June this year, they were all “voluntary” making it sound like they are doing it to be cautious. Well, after the 3rd recall in 3 months…it kind of leans towards that there was something wrong to begin with (my opinion only).
Just a note to say I love your site (naturally) and I’m most interested in the ebook info!
I did find it interesting that you include Soulistic but not Weruva – since Soulistic is Petco’s private label OF Weruva products. Weruva calls it one of their “baby brands”.
And thank you thank you thank you for linking something to wholepetsholistic – finally someplace online you can purchase by the can and not have to buy in case lots!
Thanks Holly! I do have the Weruva pouches on the list. I put Weruva canned on the Runners Up list because some of them have carrageenan, which isn’t fair because I put Addiction & Soulistic on the Best list and listed the carrageenan-free versions. I think I didn’t attempt it with Weruva because they have so many diff formulas I didn’t think I could keep track! Incidentally, I think I will be adding Weruva Cats in the Kitchen canned, though some of those have synthetic K (iffy) and many have ocean fish so I would recommend those only in rotation.