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Bad Canned Cat Food Ingredients

Things Detrimental to a Cat’s Long-Term Health


(High Carb/Chem, Artificial Ingredients, No Moisture)

• Dry Food Now = Bad Health, Suffering and Vet Bills Later •

Adverse, Harmful, Unacceptable Ingredients –

Not For My Cats

I’ve studied/examined/evaluated canned cat foods, and I have compiled a database of over 1500 brand named products prevalent on store shelves today. This page is a list of cat food ingredients used abundantly throughout the cat food industry. You would be wise not to purchase cat food containing these ingredients. – Doug Hines, publisher,

I Reject Any Product Containing:

  • animal digest  (Wikipedia describes this as “a cooked-down broth which can be made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. The animals used can be obtained from almost any source and no control is in place over quality or contamination)
  • animal fat  (rendered or extracted fat. Restaurant grease is a major component of feed-grade animal fat)
  • artificial colorants & flavorings  (see reject #6 below)
  • ascorbic acid  (source of Vitamin C, but origin and acidity are suspect.)
  • barley  (see reject #3 below)
  • beet pulp  (residue from sugar beets – an unnecessary filler with little nutritional value)
  • BHA  (butylated hydroxyanisole) and BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) (artificial preservatives used to maintain food odor, color and flavor. Both are linked to cancer. It is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” according to The National Toxicology Program of the Department of Health and Human Services (source). While it is labelled as being safe in low doses, it has been shown to cause tumors in lab animals.)
  • BPA lined cans  (see reject #8 below)
  • brewer’s rice  (low quality grain containing few nutrients)
  • brewer’s yeast  (see ‘yeast’ below)
  • by-products  (see reject #4 below)
  • caramel  (see reject #6 below)
  • carrageenan  (red seaweed, binder & thickening agent – One of it’s forms, degraded carrageenan can create inflammation leading to fetal toxicity, ulcerative colitis, immune suppression, and yes – cancer)  “While the degraded form is not used in food applications, some people have concerns that the ingredient could become degraded from a cat’s stomach acid, therefore potentially increasing cancer risk. It is likely fine, but with so many other options on the market, many people choose not to take the risk.” Emily Read more by Susan Thixton – ‘Why Carrageenan Can Be Dangerous to your Pet.
  • cassava  (a thickener derived from the starchy tuberous root of a tropical tree commonly used in high-moisture cat foods. Care must be taken during preparation to remove traces of cyanide. Does that sound like something you want to risk feeding your cats?)
  • cellulose  (a filler high in insoluble fiber which can interfere with digestion and inhibit nutrient uptake. It’s typically made from sawdust. Want that for your cat(s)?
  • cereal food fines  (waste from breakfast cereal production)
  • cheese and cottage cheese  (cats can be lactose intolerant) 
  • copper sulfate  (linked to liver disease, copper storage disease and cancer) For more about copper sulfate read this article: A Veterinarian Takes A Stand Against A Common Pet Food Supplement
  • corn, corn bran, cellulose, flour, meal, gluten, starch  (see reject #5 below)
  • dried egg product, dried egg whites  (potential allergens)
  • ethoxyquin  (a chemical that helps preserve food to give it a longer shelf life. Can contribute to urinary, kidney and other problems in cats.) Read more from here and here.
  • ethylenediamine dihydroidide  (poor source of iodine – better would be kelp or calcium iodide)
  • flaxseed & flaxseed oil (also called linseed)  (cat’s cannot convert the fatty acids in flaxseed to beneficial fatty acids  (see reject #3 below)
  • garlic, onions  (can be incredibly toxic to cats. can lead to anemia, organ damage and/or failure, and even death. And unbelievable as it may seem, these are ingredients in cat foods produced today)
  • gelatin  (made from horses, cows or calves hooves)
  • glucose/dextrose/sugar  (nutritionally unnecessary additive which may cause obesity and diabetes)
  • gluten  (contains no nutritional value – comes from high-allergen sources such as corn – can trigger adverse inflammatory, immunological and autoimmune reactions in some pets. In their attempt to artificially increase protein content, unscrupulous manufacturers sometimes add melamine – with associated co-contaminants including cyanuric acid, ammelide and ammeline.)
  • glyceryl monostearate  (an emulsifier in lower grade cat foods – may contain BHA and BHT)
  • goat milk  (cats can be lactose intolerant)
  • grains  (see reject #3 below)
  • honey (may in fact be corn syrup and a mixture of coloring agents)
  • iron oxide  (coloring additive which is derived from rust)  (see reject #6 below)
  • lard  (from swine fat – typically hydrogenated which produces trans fats as a by-product – often treated with bleaching and deodorizing agents, emulsifiers and antioxidants such as BHT)
  • linseed (see flaxseed above)
  • maize  (corn)
  • maltodextrin  (derived from corn – has a high glycemic index which can contribute to diabetes and other problems)
  • meal  (see reject #5 below)
  • menadione sodium bisulfite complex  (a cheap and artificial form of Vitamin K that can interfere with glutathione resulting in oxidative damage to cell membranes. Toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes)  SEE OUR SPECIAL REPORTS PAGE.  Read more by Susan Thixton – ‘Toxic Menadione‘ and ‘A Pet Food Ingredient to be Wary of: Menadione Sodium Bisulfate.
  • milk based products (can include anything from milk powder, oil, urea, sugar, salt and skim milk. Cats are often lactose intolerant.)
  • milo  (another name for sorghum)
  • montomorillonite clay  (a thickener and anti-caking agent believed to provide resistance to environmental toxins, though research is far from conclusive, and it sounds more like ‘hype’ to me. Nonetheless does that sound like something you want to feed to your cat?) 
  • oats, dehulled oats  (see reject #3 below)
  • oils: vegetable/grain fatty oils  (corn, canola, flax, safflower, soybean, olive, ‘vegetable’ oils – which can be allergenic – cats have difficulty converting these to the appropriate fatty acid.)
  • porcine plasma  (pig blood)
  • propyl gallate  (synthetic chemical preservative linked to liver damage and may cause cancer)
  • rice  (see reject #3 below)
  • skim milk (dried)  (residue obtained by drying defatted milk – contains lactose which cats cannot digest properly)
  • sodium carbonate  (used as an acidity regulator, anti-caking agent and helps kill mold)
  • sodium hexametaphosphate  (from phosphoric acid – potential allowable heavy metal/arsenic content)
  • sodium nitrate and nitrite  (unnecessary synthetic chemical preservatives and color enhancers known to be carcinogenic)
  • sodium propionate  (synthetic preservative)
  • sodium pyrophosphate a/k/a tetrasodium pyrophosphate, a/k/a tetrasodium phosphate  (often called sodium acid pyrophosphate) (buffering agent, emulsifier, thickening agent – twice as toxic as regular table salt)
  • sodium selenite  (linked to liver disease. The only real danger with sodium selenite comes if it is overdosed, i.e. if the manufacturer (mistakenly or not) uses too much of it. An overdose can kill a cat. I guess you either have to blindly trust that the manufacturer will use the correct amount or reject this ingredient altogether. I won’t take that kind of risk with my cat’s health. I have found sodium selenite in 57% of the products that I have reviewed. I also wonder about the cumulative effect of continued feeding of sodium selenite. Does that equate to an overdose over time? Someone smarter than I will have to answer that question for us.)
  • sodium tripolyphosphate  (The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (a division of the CDC), suspects sodium tripolyphosphate may be a neurotoxin. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognizes it as an insecticide, fungicide and rodenticide.)
  • sorbitol  (sugar substitute usually derived from corn – highly processed and unnecessary)
  • sorghum  (grass which is indigestible for pets)
  • sucrose (sugar)
  • sugar  (addictive, no nutritional value, contributes to immune problems, cancer and diabetes)
  • tetrasodium phosphate, a/k/a sodium pyrophosphate, a/k/a tetrasodium pyrophosphate  (often called sodium acid pyrophosphate) (buffering agent, emulsifier, thickening agent – twice as toxic as regular table salt)
  • titanium dioxide (potentially carcinogenic artificial color used as a white pigment  (see reject #6 below)
  • turmeric (used for color, can contain lead chromate)
  • wheat  (see reject #3 below)
  • yeast  (common allergen for pets – completely unnecessary)

General Category Reject #1 –


I reject products that contain: 

  • starchy vegetables – carbohydrate/starches such as pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, tapioca, sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, beet pulp, turnip, aubergine/eggplant, zucchini etc. (All starches are used as filler ingredients, and are not biologically appropriate for cats. The fact is, cats have zero carbohydrate/starch requirements, and both can be bad for a cat’s blood sugar/insulin balance. In general, plant protein sources are processed inefficiently by the cat’s body, increasing the burden on the liver and kidneys.) Besides all of that, potato’s consistency is little more than gooey wallpaper paste which can, in fact, inhibit nutrient absorption.
  • legumes – such as peas, chickpeas, soybeans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, alfalfa or clover (Peas or pea protein or pea starch or pea fiber). Peas and pea fiber are inexpensive fillers and highly insoluble. Peas contain lectin proteins which carnivores like cats cannot digest well. Peas are mostly used in place of grains, and are linked to gastrointestinal issues (can block nutrient absorption). Soy (soy, soy protein, or soybean meal contains phytoestrogens and negatively affects the thyroid gland) etc.)
  • fruit – like cranberries, blueberries, apples, papaya, pomegranate, mangoes, raspberries, avocado, coconut, tomatoes and tomato pomace (cranberries and tomatoes are both very acidic). (avocados have been found to be toxic to cats.) (the benzoic acid in cranberries has been proven toxic to cats.) 

As has been repeated many times before, cats are obligate carnivores and get their protein from animal sources, not plants (grains, legumes and vegetables). Cats have zero carbohydrate requirements. To paraphrase Dr. Andrew Jones, Online Veterinarian, “Cats lack certain enzymes such as salivary amylase. These are enzymes that are there [in humans, for example] to help break down carbohydrates. Cats don’t have those. Cats are uniquely designed for short, more frequent meals that are protein based.” 

“Because cats are carnivores, the short length of their long intestines limits their ability to ferment fibers that are found in many carbohydrates.”  – Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs, published by the National Research Council of the National Academies, pg4

*This quote is from an article on the website: “… cats have a relatively short digestive tract with a smaller stomach… Cat’s livers are also lighter and much more simple…Because they lack essential enzymes and amino acids, [cats] simply don’t have the capacity to digest other food sources, like vegetable matter or fruit.”

And another thing… “… in pet food any vegetable or fruit listed on a label could be sourced from spoiled, damaged, or even contaminated (such as with pesticides) vegetables and fruits that cannot be sold as human food.”Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.comLearn the Truth about Pet Food Ingredients Part 4

(By the way… Think cats need vegetables, legumes or fruit? Let me know the next time you see a cat digging up someone’s garden to eat their potatoes. Let me know the next time you see a cat shucking peas or shimmying up a tree to eat mangoes.)

General Category Reject #2 –


Next, I reject any product containing gums – xanthan, locust bean (carob bean), ghatti, polysaccharide, cassia or guar gum (These fructooligosaccharides (FOS), used as a gelling agent, stabilizer and food thickener, are highly processed and have no nutritional value. They are actually too high in fermentability, and can cause gas, diarrhea and nutrient loss. Some research has shown that gum had a significant negative effect on apparent protein digestibility and tended to depress apparent fat and energy digestibilities. Interestingly, the FDA has banned guar gum as a human weight loss pill ingredient due to reports of the substance swelling and obstructing the intestines and esophagus.

General Category Reject #3 –


Next, I reject any product containing grains, especially genetically modified grains, (wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, rice, flax (linseed), corn (corn starch, corn gluten meal). Less costly than meat, grains are often used to boost the crude protein numbers in place of adding more meat to the product.

See Ms. Thixton’s article ‘What you should know about Grains in your pet’s food.’

To repeat, cats are obligate carnivores and get their protein from animal sources, not plants. Grains, fruits and starchy vegetables are ‘fillers’, none of which have any nutritional value for cats, and all of which have questionable effects on a cat’s digestive system.

General Category Reject #4


And how about by-products?  – Reject them. Obviously cats in the wild eat nearly anything and everything from their prey. (Cats in the wild do reject various parts of their prey and leave the parts strewn about the kill site.) Examples are below. No… I reject by-products because it’s a category ripe for manipulation by unscrupulous manufacturers. 

According to AAFCO, meat by-products are “non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. Includes, but not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brains, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.”

( I wonder… how do pet food manufacturers separate the fecal matter contaminants from the ‘by-products?’ How much chicken or cow poop is in ‘by-products’?) 

Here’s an article title that makes me laugh out loud (who are they trying to con), again by Susan Thixton,  “Purina Says By-Products are “Nutrient Rich.”

General Category Reject #5 –

“Meal” – as in Chicken Meal

I put the can back on the store shelf if the description contains the words ‘meal’ or ‘bone meal’, like in Chicken Meal. ‘Meal’ is the rendered product from animal tissues, excluding the things noted above under ‘By-Products.’  Rendering is a process wherein meat is first over-cooked to remove the water. It is then baked until it becomes a residue. It becomes a highly concentrated powder – or meat meal. Low quality meat meals can come from slaughterhouse waste, spoiled meat, and/or dead/dying or diseased animals.

“This is one of those rendered products that could contain anything from euthanized pets to zoo animals to roadkill to expired meat and the styrofoam wrapper it comes in.”Emily

“There is a very suspicious reason as to why the pet food ingredient ‘chicken’ is not required to be sourced from a slaughtered animal. That reason is the common practice of culling baby male chickens and spent layer hens by a macerator. The birds are ground alive (they are not slaughtered). As explained to me, the end product is sold to pet food as ‘chicken’ and/or ‘chicken meal’.”Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.comInexcusable Pet Food Ingredient Definitions

General Category Reject #6 –

Artificial Colorants & Flavorings

Throw out artificial colorants and flavorings too. Coloring is added to cat food to make it more appealing to the human eye. It is a potential allergen and completely unnecessary for a cat.

Why would a cat food manufacturer be so obsessed with food color? Adding color is a 100% marketing gimmick. It’s a subtle example of hype. Here’s a list of the color additives just one company uses to influence your visual, aesthetic sensibility: Titanium Dioxide, Beta Carotene, Sodium Nitrite, Canthazantin, Caramel Color, Iron Oxide, Red 3. Read about these color additives below.

‘Natural flavor’ (as contrasted with unnatural flavor?)  I’m very suspicious of something called ‘natural flavor.’ That term could mean anything at all. Old car tires could be used to flavor something. Ground up roofing shingles could be used to flavor something else. The term is just too broad to not be a catch-all, blanket phrase for anything manufacturers want to put into the food. Worst of all, ‘natural flavor’ usually occurs high up on the ingredients list. I simply do not trust the term – or the ingredient -at all.

  • caramel (produced from caramelized sugar, caramel is a brown colorant in pet food that is designed to ‘produce appeal’ by making the color ‘richer.’ One might ask – “Who’s appeal?” “My cats?” I suspect that my cat doesn’t give a hoot about his food’s color. lol  (for more about caramel read this article, again by Susan Thixton, Coke, Pepsi and Pet Food)
  • sodium nitrite (promotes color retention and can be carcinogenic)
  • red 3 (artificial colorant)
  • beta carotene (color enhancer)
  • canthaxanthin (color enhancer)
  • carmine (red colorant)
  • annatto extract (color enhancer)
  • iron oxide (unnecessary coloring additive which is derived from rust! – 100% marketing gimmick, and usually the sign of a cheap cat food.))
  • titanium dioxide (potentially carcinogenic artificial colorant which may cause DNA damage, inflammation, cancer, and genetic disorders. Used to provide whitening to offset the natural, normal gray appearance in canned poultry and fish cat food to make the product more visually appealing to the consumer (and I don’t mean the cats). It is indigestible.)
  • sometimes the label just says “added color”
  • sodium acid pyrophosphates (SAPP) (used as a palatability additive, a flavor enhancer)

General Category Reject #7 –

Anything from a Metal Can that contains BPA

I also reject any product where the metal can contains BPA – a commonly used chemical in the plastic lining of canned foods. BPA is an “endocrine disruptor chemical”, and as such may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverts developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.” – from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

Just how prevalent are these bad ingredients?

In trying to get an overview of the industry, it is interesting to note what percentage of products contain some of the worst elements. Here are just a few:

  • menadione sodium bisulfite complex   20%
  • copper sulfate   46.9%
  • carrageenan   15.5%
  • salt   60.5% (which, at first glance, doesn’t seem that bad – except add it to the next one on the list to see how much salt is really in cat food.)
  • other sodium ingredients  69.1%  (now how could there be more than 100% salt/sodium ingredients? These are percentages of each thing quoted in the can. In other words, manufactures double up on the salt by calling it other names.)
  • by-products   16.3%
  • ethylenediamine dihydroiodide   6.3%
  • natural flavors   12.5%
  • sodium, tripolyphosphate   12.2%

Here’s an even more in-depth ingredient analysis

from Dr. Lisa Newman

Here’s an even more in-depth ingredient

analysis from Dr. Lisa Newman

This is a wonderful analysis of ingredients found in most pet foods. The list was produced as a collaborative effort between pet food formulator Dr. Lisa Newman, N.D., Ph.D. (, Mike Adams ( and the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center ( Mike Adams and the Consumer Wellness Center compiled the following list of 448 ingredients found in pet foods available to the US market, and Dr. Newman has provided nutritional analysis and a description for each ingredient.

Dr. Lisa Newman has over 20 years experience in pet nutrition and nutritional therapies, and neither her nor Mike Adams were funded for this research.”  Read Dr. Newman’s list here.

[Doug’s note: Dr. Newman and I have our differences over the benefit of feeding certain ingredients. I advise you to gather information from many sources before you decide what to feed your cat(s).]

And Whoever Thought of Putting Ground Pecan Shells in Cat Food?

It’s Real Folks!

And Whoever Thought of Putting

Ground Pecan Shells in Cat Food?

It’s Real Folks!

It’s right there in black and white on the can’s ingredient list. It figures… Hill’s® Prescription Diet® ‘Gastrointestinal Biome Digestive/Fiber Care’®   Ground Pecan Shells is the least horrible ingredient in this cat food. It also contains  • rice starch  • wheat gluten  • chicken liver flavor  • flaxseed  • soybean oil  • whole grain barley  • dried citrus pulp  • dried beet pulp  • natural flavor  • pressed cranberries  • powdered cellulose  • guar gum  • oat fiber  • sodium tripolyphosphate  • fructooligosaccharides  • copper sulfate  • and menadione sodium bisulfite complex. And this product is so special that it’s only available via prescription. What B.S.

I got it. Cats in the wild eat insects.

But replacing my cat’s primary animal protein with insects?

I got it. Cats in the wild eat insects.

But replacing my cat’s primary animal

protein with insects?

Roger Harrabin, a BBC environment analysts, reports the British Veterinary Association (BVA) is urging the public to consider insect-based pet food – all in the name of the ongoing battle against climate change. “Advocates say insect protein provides a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional pet food” – BBC News

Here’s what I have to say about that… “Buzz Off”

“How low can humans go?” –

Plans to Extract Pet Food From Chicken Poop

Again, I refer you to an article by pet food safety consumer advocate Mollie Morrissette from her website  “Just when you think the pet food industry can’t stoop any lower – they do. This time, plans are in place to recycle poultry industry sludge into – you guessed it – pet food. The plan is to develop a “novel recycling operation,”… upcycling poultry sludge into proteins and fats from poultry processing wastewater sludge for use in the pet food industry.”

We Pet Parents Really Need To Do Something To Stop This Nonsense. To learn more (and possibly loose all faith in humankind) see Ms. Morrissette’s article here.

“How low can humans go?” –

Poop, Garbage, and Other things in Cat Food

Here’s an article about the (shady at best) ‘arrangement’ between the FDA and the Association of American Feed Contol Officials (AAFCO) which talks about ‘approved’ cat food ingredients such as poop, dust, plastic, breakfast cereal, donuts and others. It’s difficult to believe that humans could rationalize using such horrid ingredients, but then look at the ‘quality’ of some humans. Again by Susan Thixton,  “Dehydrated Garbage” and Other (absurd) Legal Feed Ingredients

Nothing Else Matters…

  • The manufacturer’s website claims don’t matter.
  • Product label statements don’t matter.
  • Advertising doesn’t matter.
  • Internet product reviews don’t matter.
  • Satisfied customer’s testimornials don’t matter.
  • Whether or not your cats “like” the food doesn’t matter (all kids like junk food).

“If you are feeding canned cat food, the ONLY things that matter to your cats’ future health and wellbeing are the ingredients in the can and the quality of those ingredients.” – Doug Hines

And There’s No Telling What Else Is In The Can…

A Serious Subject – Herbicides in Pet Food

Roundup® – an invisible killer that effects our dogs and cats.

Roundup® is a Monsanto/Bayer brand of glyphosate-based herbicides. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the Untied States.

Most of us are aware of the grave situation on our planet whereby Roundup® is used to inhibit weed growth in a broad spectrum of plant life. Most of us, however, don’t stop to think about Roundup®’s effect on our pets.

The concern surrounding Roundup® may not have motivated you to become an active participant in environmental issues, but it should. Once you become aware of its effect on your companion animals, maybe you should shift your awareness into some kind of political/societal action.

Watch as Dr. Andrew Jones, DVM and Online Veterinarian, in his video series on Veterinary Secrets (the #1 Natural Pet Health Network on YouTube!), addresses a recent study which revealed that 18 dog and cat foods tested at Cornell University contained the herbicide Roundup®. Here’s a direct link to the study: Cornell

Herbicide ‘Roundup’ Found in 18 Dog and Cat Foods

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