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Cat Food Reviews - Introduction

• DRY FOOD HURTS CATS •

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

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

The Basis For Evaluating Cat Food

“Anybody can make decisions about cat food once they learn a few basic things.”   – Doug Hines, publisher CatNewsHeadlines.com

Evaluating cat food isn’t rocket science…

Just ignore the pretty pictures and fancy words on the can and look at the ingredients. That’s the place to start in evaluating whether or not a cat food is good for your cat(s). Secondarily, the source of those ingredients is important, but you have no control over that situation.

But maybe you do… You have ultimate control. You decide whether or not your are going to buy the product.

At first glance, you may think my reviews are generally negative. You are right… not because of my subjective opinion… but because overall, wet canned cat food today is of poor quality. Judge the ingredients for yourselves, and you’ll arrive at the same conclusion.

You know, the truth is that you, the cat food purchasing public, only have yourselves to blame for the crappy ingredients used in cat food.

Whatttt?

If you didn’t buy it, “they” wouldn’t make it. If you didn’t buy the advertising and marketing hype, if you didn’t send your money to these companies, they would either go out of business or they would begin to produce better quality cat food.

Learn which cat food ingredients benefit your cat and, conversely, which cat food ingredients are detrimental to your cat. Vote with your wallet, and someday cat food manufacturers may just wake up and pay attention.

I often wonder… “What’s in the can to benefit my cat’s life, and what’s in the can to benefit shelf life.” – Doug Hines

What’s in your cat’s food dish?

“After having studied the ingredients in over 1,500 wet, canned cat foods, I created this website. This is the place to hear some truth about cat food. It’s also the place where you can learn to evaluate cat food brands yourself.” – Doug Hines

Why be concerned about what’s in cat food? Because, ultimately, we are responsible for the long-term well-being of our cats. Our choice of cat food directly impacts our cat’s health and wellbeing.

Our choice of cat food also directly affects our own health and wellbeing. Just consider how you will feel about future vet visits and bills.

It isn’t very difficult to recognize the quality of a product once you know about specific ingredients. You owe it to your cat(s) to read every word, both in this introduction, and in the specific cat food reviews as well.

After all… Don’t you want to know what’s in your cat’s food dish?

Every cat food review on this website is solely my studied opinion

Note that everything on this website pertaining to cat food reviews is only my opinion. Although I am not a veterinarian or other cat health expert, I have studied cat food ingredients and cat physiology for years. It doesn’t take a ‘professional’ to compare cat food can labels to already-established ingredient guidelines and definitions to come to the conclusions I draw in this website. Study the ingredients for yourselves, and you will undoubtedly come to the same conclusions.

Cat food manufacturers… Don’t like my reviews?  Use better ingredients.

Understand my review process…

I assign review ratings based solely on the ingredients in the can. This is not some subjective bake-off where I am grading chocolate chip cookies because they taste good to me. My personal likes and dislikes have absolutely nothing to do with the rating process. An ingredient either contributes to, or detracts from, a cat’s health. Period.

Look at the can’s ingredients and compare it to the bad ingredients list HERE.

Protect your cat’s long term health by not feeding products which contain bad ingredients. Choose wisely now, give your cat a good, healthy life, and avoid illness and veterinary bills later.

How I rate cat food products/brands…

I assign values to cat foods as A, B, C, D, E, and X, where X is not only substandard cat food, it is, in my opinion, detrimental to a cat’s health. 

  • REVIEW RATING: A – Superior Canned Cat Food
  • REVIEW RATING: B – Better Than Average
  • REVIEW RATING: C – Average
  • REVIEW RATING: D – Less Than Average
  • REVIEW RATING: E – Poor Choice 
  • REVIEW RATING: X – Detrimental to a cat’s health

Notice that I don’t just award a grade to any particular manufacturer overall. I choose particular, individual products within a product line. Be careful – You may have an [X] -rejected product within the same product line designated with others designated as [A]s. Don’t take it for granted that all of a particular manufacture’s products are good, i.e., don’t generalize that ‘XYZ’ cat food is all good.

Here’s a screenshot of the database I created to track cat food ingredients

Before I could compare hundreds of products, I first had to create a database in which I tracked individual ingredients. This database allows me to quickly search for a term such as ‘copper sulfate’ and quickly come up with a list of brands containing that ingredient. The database also enables me to assign a letter grade to a product which assists me in deciding whether or not I want to feed a product to my cats.

In-depth feline physiology/dietary study comes before evaluating cat food 

Although the ingredients list is the primary consideration in choosing a quality cat food, it isn’t the only consideration. There’s an entire foundation to consider before assigning a product review grade. For example, What do we know after observing feline obligate carnivores for thousands of years?

There are preferable, overall general feeding categories as follows:

Feed 85% from this category

A species-appropriate diet for the physiology of an obligate carnivore should primarily consist of herbivore/ungulate animals including: (Read more here.)

  • beef
  • sheep/lamb
  • rabbit
  • goat
  • venison
  • caribou
  • bison
  • elk
  • llama
  • alpaca
  • moose
  • beaver
  • ostrich

Feed 10% from this category

Because of their higher fat content and other factors, a lesser amount of poultry including:

  • chicken and turkey
  • duck
  • goose
  • quail
  • guinea fowl

Note: Poultry should be considered as a less-than-average quality protein choice for cats. Poultry is eaten by cats in the wild, but it is NOT their primary protein preference. 

“70% of human-grade poultry has small amounts of “arsenic” in it and the skins are also bleached. Additionally, many allergies including skin issues & ear infections occur due to feeding poultry. And finally, the skin on poultry is considered a “covered fat” which is difficult for dogs & cats to digest.” – Mary Marseglia quoted here.

Feed 5% from this category

Seafood, although a better-than-average protein source, should only be fed as an intermittent, supplemental, occasional feeding choice. You would be correct to assume that almost all seafood is chemically contaminated. Feed seafood infrequently, not as a main, continual diet. Or better yet… Don’t feed seafood at all.

Feed 0% from these categories

  • Pork is generally recognized as a poor quality protein choice for cats.
  • Dairy (milk / cheese / yogurt, etc) – cause allergies and intolerance conditions.
  • Carbohydrates (vegetables) may actually hurt cats. Read more here.

Additional Considerations:

• Be cautious when feeding protein-only products. Protein-only products (where protein is the only ingredient in the can) often need added dietary supplementation to achieve a whole and complete diet.

• My opinion: Any cat food manufacturer that promotes products according to ‘life stage’ is full of it. With the exception of days-old kittens, cats in the wild eat what all other cats eat, without regard for their age.

• Additionally, the level of hype used in product promotion, i.e. the beautiful colors, pictures and sensational language used on product labels and in websites, doesn’t necessarily equate to quality cat food. 

Always Remember:  The ONLY things that count are the ingredients in the can.

Making your cat’s diet nutritionally complete

Herbivore/ungulate animal meat isn’t the only thing your cat needs. Complete feline nutrition includes Meat + Organs + Calcium + Supplements.

Although experts vary in their opinions regarding percentages, most agree that a balance of 85% muscle meat, 10% secreting organs (including liver, heart, kidney, lung, pancreas, spleen), 5% (max) calcium, and additional supplements are needed to complete a fully raw diet.

Calcium should come from either finely ground (powdered) egg shells OR from ground bone. Only finely ground powder is bioavailable. 

Research and study to find recommended feline supplements which make the diet nutritionally complete. Many people get started feeding fresh with a completer supplement premix. Premixes are very simple to use. 

Question the protein sources in canned food

You may see a product with a terrifically high protein percentage written on the can label. For example, you might see 87% protein and think to yourself, “Wow that’s got to be good.” However, all things may not be what they seem.

Although one of the leading ingredients might be, say chicken, what else is in the can? What else could the manufacturer be using to bolster the ‘As Fed Basis’ protein amount and fool you into thinking that there’s 87% chicken in the can? How about chicken + peas + potato protein? You wind up with an inflated protein percentage on the label. Said another way, there’s less ‘chicken’ protein in the can that you might first think.

There’s a lot to consider when comparing cat food products, and unfortunately, you simply cannot take the manufacturer’s word when it comes to labelling.

A note about Guaranteed Analysis

The ‘As Fed Basis‘ is what you see on the can’s label. For example:

  • 11% protein (protein sources?)
  • 2.5% fat
  • 1% fiber
  • 79% moisture
  • Note, for the purposes here, I did not include the percentages of ash

The ‘Dry Matter Basis‘ excludes the can’s moisture content, and reflects the balance expressed as a percentage of all the dry matter alone. ‘Dry Matter Basis‘ is the only way you can accurately compare two products side-by-side. It is also the only way you can compare wet food to dry food. One must convert both wet and dry to ‘Dry Matter Basis‘ before you can compare them. For example, based on the above ‘As Fed Basis‘ this product converts to a ‘Dry Matter Basis‘ of:

  • 52.4% protein (questionable protein sources?)
  • 11.9% fat
  • 4.8% fiber
  • 0% moisture
  • 31% approximate carbohydrates

 

The important thing to keep in mind is that the original ‘As Fed Basis’ figures are supplied by the manufacturer, and as such, are questionable at best. After all… look at the integrity level we are working with here.

You can read about these calculations on the PawDiet website here.

A message to people who don’t think I’m qualified to review cat food…

Someone once wrote to me saying, “Anyone can post their opinions online, but you are not a Veterinarian, Scientist or Credentialed Expert on this subject.”

My reply: “One doesn’t need a doctorate and/or three letters behind one’s name to be able to read a cat food ingredients label and make a determination when a product contains ingredients detrimental to a cat’s well-being.

Similarly, one doesn’t have to be ‘credentialed’ to have empathy and compassion for cats and to try to make a difference in their lives. We all should be doing everything we can to encourage cat food manufacturers to produce better, more healthful cat food.”

Other things to consider…

Before beginning an in-depth study about cat food ingredients, there are other things to consider:

  1. This website is an excellent educational resource for cat parents. This  website is also an indictment of the cat food industry. It is both an allegation of a serious crime against cats, and an outright accusation of a lack of integrity. It seems like cat food manufacturers have so little care and concern for our cats’ well-being, or they wouldn’t be using such horrendous ingredients in cat food.
     
  2. The fact is, in general, cat food industry manufacturers have betrayed our trust. As you’ll see later herein, a whopping 91.5% (1,148) of 1,250 (graded D or E or X) canned cat food products were judged as substandard. The good news is that the industry as a whole has a lot of room to improve. Will they criticize my work, or will they take the positive road and begin producing better, more healthful cat food.? Let’s hope they choose to put our cats’ health first.
     
  3. As with everything in life, higher price doesn’t always mean higher quality. Even a really expensive cat food brand can have issues with ingredients quality.
     
  4. The frugal shopper must pay attention to both can sizes and price. Whereas some manufactures use 3 ounce cans, others may use 2.8 ounce, or 2.75 ounce cans. Are the latter companies trying to deceive you?
     
  5. In comparing product prices, one must break down the can size price structure to arrive at the ‘price per ounce‘. Use the simple formula (cans per case) x (ounces per can) = (ounces per case). Divide the (price per case) by the (ounces per case) to arrive at the (price per ounce). Now you can compare products accurately.
     
  6. Don’t let a product’s fancy label design sway you. A product with a relatively plain label can be more nutritious for your cat than one created by a highly-priced graphics artist.
     
  7. Don’t just assume that, because a manufacturer produces a particularly good product, that all of their products are good. I’ve seen plenty of good products that sit side-by-side on the store shelf with bad products from the same manufacturer.
     
  8. Pay attention to cat food recalls. Even the best cat foods have occasional safety recalls. I have an entire section about product recalls here.
     
  9. I question manufacturer’s claims of “human grade” cat food. That designation doesn’t necessarily make a product more nutritious or safe than another other ingredients destined for cat food.
     
  10. “Ingredient Splitting’ – a trick-of-the-cat-food-trade. Watch for similar ingredients that may appear in a product multiple times. By separating ingredients of the same species into different components, manufacturers can make them appear lower on the ingredients list while still adding substantial amounts to the food. For example, corn gluten meal and ground yellow corn. Another example, 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)
     
  11. Call me cynical if you will, but I think I’ve earned the right to be suspicious after having reviewed hundreds of cat food products. In all of this ingredient label reading, you have to wonder what the manufacturer isn’t telling you. What horrible ingredient isn’t on the list but is in the can?
     
  12. I believe that one of the greatest myths in the pet food industry distribution/sales business is that independently operated, local pet stores are somehow superior to mass merchandisers (like Chewy). Many cat food manufacturers support the business model of only selling through local retailers. They argue that local stores stock a higher quality of cat foods in a variety of flavors. They also say that pet store employees are more apt to give you personalized, (seemingly) professional guidance about what to feed your cat(s). Believe me, any ‘guidance’ that you need should come directly from reading a product’s ingredient list. While it’s true that many retail store owners know more about pet food ingredients and quality than most veterinarians, it is also true that that ‘expert knowledge’ may not be passed down to the average hourly paid store employee. Chances are, those well-intentioned pet food store employees are not any more knowledgeable about pet food ingredients than you are. In fact, in reading this website, you will become far-and-away more knowledgeable than someone working in a pet food store. And… from personal knowledge I can tell you that the vast majority of products sold in local stores are of poor quality – no matter the price. I’m a big proponent of shopping at Chewy. Their selection of cat foods is vast, compared to a local pet store with limited shelf space. Click on any of their products, then click on the ‘Nutritional Info’ tab. There you will find a food’s Ingredients, Caloric Content, and Guaranteed Analysis – all the things you need to make a well-informed purchasing decision.
     
  13. Next, I don’t trust ANY web cat food reviews wherein the review is linked to a product sale. An article like “The 10 Best Cat Foods of 2019”, while seemingly the answer to all of your cat-food-searching, is little more than someone’s opinion, and I doubt that it’s backed with the in-depth ingredient study as presented herein. Furthermore, most such sites are just trying to make a buck.
     
  14. I want to make an opinionated comment about the Guaranteed Analysis contents in a can. Say, for example, that a can contains 8.5% protein, 4.5% fat and 87% other (the other being mostly water). • Since protein is the primary ingredient we want to feed the cat, why is there so little protein in the can? The highest percentage of protein in all of the cans I have reviewed is only 17% (two solitary products out of hundreds). That’s the best that manufacturers can do with the most prominent, most important ingredient in the can? This is a gross situation representative of  the entire wet cat food industry. • The fat content is too often too high. • Obviously cats need moist food. They get a significant amount of water from their food (unless you are ignorant enough to be feeding them dry food). My point here is that if a can has 87% water content, isn’t that a little excessive? Why is there so much water in the can? Doesn’t that leave the cat-parent-consumer purchasing little more than a can of water? And here’s another thing to ponder… Where does the water come from? You know its only tap water at best. It’s time we raised more than a little political, consumer action about cat food can contents.
     
  15. Remember… “Quality food today means fewer vet visits in the future!“®

A message to cat food manufacturers who don’t like my reviews…

Want better reviews? Use better ingredients.