These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s why

113426416911 300x225 These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres why

“WHAT? This can’t be right! My food’s perfect!”

UPDATED July 2013
You can help me keep this list current by leaving info or questions in the Comments. (To be notified of big updates, get on the news list here.)

There I was cursing at a coffee house and nearly giving up on getting those “best cat food” tables to format.

The cat food cost calculations also made me cranky, but writing buddy and fellow cat fan, Teresa, gave me the moral support to see through publishing Today’s best cat foods and Today’s best dry cat foods.

Why isn’t _____  on this list?

The project was worth the trouble because of all the people, like you, who continue to respond with great interest in finding cat food that’s truly healthy.

A common question is: “Why isn’t ________ on the list?” Sometimes the answer is: “You’re right, I need to add it.”

One of the challenges is that some good brands, like Wellness and Blue Buffalo, have some stellar products as well as some I cannot recommend.

And it depends on whether we’re talking canned or dry here too. It would be so much easier if we could just say “This brand is always great.” But it’s not that simple. So, most of the time the answer is one of the following…

Almost fabulous Runners Up: One iffy ingredient

These are still decent choices if your family is attached to them.

Here are the reasons these Runners Up for Today’s best cat foods didn’t make top billing:

  • Newman’s organic Grain Free canned - carrageenan was recently added
  • Wellness Grain Free Canned – carrageenan
  • Halo Canned – some have carrageenan, some have garlic powder  (UPDATE April 2013: cans do not have BPA in lining)
  • Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain Free Canned and Blue Buffalo Basics Canned – carrageenan
  • BeforeGrain Canned – carrageenan
  • Evo Canned by Innova – carrageenan
  • Natural Balance LID Canned (Limited Ingredient Diet) - carrageenan
  • ZiwiPeak Canned (lamb or venison) – carrageenan

To understand the carrageenan concern, scroll down to the section titled “Shock #2″ on this post here or see this article by Susan Thixton. Garlic? A little probably doesn’t matter, but since a lot will cause a blood cell disorder (hemolytic anemia), many vets recommend not using it on regular basis.

Special exceptions! Where a good product has variations

The following products are mostly great, but have variations in the ingredients.

Just check the labels to get the ones that don’t have the iffy stuff, as follows:

  • Weruva Canned - I feel pretty confident in the quality of Weruva, and I love that they are BPA-free, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan. 
  • Tikicat Canned - These guys have a reputation for strict quality and eco-fishing sources. They are also BPA-free, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan. 
  • Addiction Grain Free Canned - Good stuff, but check the ingredients of each can before you buy because some have carrageenan (currently: salmon, venison, unagi, and brushtail have it). The salmon also contains citrus, which is supposed to be toxic to cats. (What were they thinking?)
cat scale These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres why

High carbs increases obesity and diabetes risk

Cat foods with too many carbs: Fattening

I believe high carb percentages are to blame for the obesity and diabetes epidemics in indoor cats today.

  • Halo Grain Free Dry – 25% carbs (could be worse – this one is on the border)
  • BeforeGrain Dry - 30% carbs
  • Fromm Dry Grain Free – 29% carbs
  • Blue Buffalo Dry – 28 – 40% carbs (also some have grains)
  • Natural Balance Grain Free/LID Dry - 40% carbs
  • Taste of the Wild Grain Free Dry- 27% carbs
  • Addiction Grain Free Dry – 31% carbs

For more on this fattening carb business, see Overweight Cat? The Hidden Cause and Solution.

Cat foods made with grains: can lead to digestive problems (and hairballs)

  • Wellness Canned (all the ones NOT labeled grain free) – grains
  • PetGuard canned – grains

For more on the grains and digestion topic, see WARNING: Your Cat’s Tummy Troubles Could Lead to Cancer, by Karen Becker, DVM and Some Startling New Thoughts on Cats and Hairballs by Fern Crist, DVM.

Cat foods with more than one issue: High carb, grains, and/or iffy ingredients

All good brands, but these specific products from them are too flawed to recommend – here’s why:

  • Blue (Buffalo) Spa and Blue (Buffalo) Healthy Gourmet Canned - carrageenan; grains
  • Lotus Dry – grains; 25% carb
  • Wellness Indoor Dry - grains; 30 -35% carbs
  • Life’s Abundance Dry - grains; 35% carbs
  • Organix Castor and Pollux Dry - grains; 32% carbs
  • AvoDerm canned cat food – carrageenan, avocado (may be risky over time – see comments discussion), synthetic vitamin K

w thanks 150x150 These natural cat foods didnt make the best list: heres whyAgain, thank you for continuing to help me keep this and the Best cat foods “living lists” correct and up-to-date!

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132 Responses to “These natural cat foods didn’t make the “best” list: here’s why”

  1. Larry February 14, 2014 at 10:30 am #

    Anyone tried Nutrisca dry cat food by Catswell ?

    • l.r. March 10, 2014 at 10:24 am #

      I believe their cat and dog treats were recalled this year so I will not be giving my cats Catswell food.

  2. April April 3, 2014 at 7:04 pm #

    Has anyone tried or have any info for “Fresh Pet Select”?

    • SA April 4, 2014 at 6:01 am #

      Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Liver, Ocean Whitefish, Natural Flavors, Eggs, Carrots, Spinach, Pea Protein, Pea Fiber, Vinegar, Vitamins & Minerals (Zinc Chelate, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Iron Proteinate, Niacin, Vitamin E Supplement, Copper Proteinate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Manganese Proteinate, Vitamin A Supplement, Riboflavin, Calcium Pantothenate, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), Salt, Taurine.

      The red flags for me are: “Natural Flavors: — usually means MSG which is very bad for animals. Ocean Whitefish — cats — especially male cats — shouldn’t have fish every day (see below). Spinach — (from the ASPCA — While a leaf or two may not be an issue for a healthy adult cat, chronic and/or large ingestion of spinach could potentially cause crystal formation in the urinary tract. (And P.S., Because of this, spinach should be avoided completely in any cat with a history of urinary problems, including infections, crystaluria and kidney disease.).

      Fish for cats — By Jean Hofve, DVM

      A lot of cats love fish, but it’s really not a good idea to feed it to your cat! Why not? Because it is simply no longer safe to feed to cats (and humans should be very careful about eating it themselves and feeding it to children!).

      * The fish used in canned pet foods usually includes bones, and is high in phosphorus and magnesium, which can be an issue in cats with a history of urinary tract disorders or kidney disease. In practice, I have seen quite many cats develop urinary tract infections and blockages if they eat much fish–even boneless fish like canned tuna.

      * Many cats are sensitive or even allergic to fish; it is one of the top 3 most common feline food allergens.

      * Fish-based foods contain high levels of histamine, a protein involved in allergic reactions.

      * While cats can synthesize their own Vitamin K from most food sources, fish-based foods may not support sufficient Vitamin K synthesis. Vitamin K is necessary for proper blood clotting. The most common synthetic Vitamin K supplement, menadione, has toxicity issues. We do not recommend feeding any cat food containing menadione.

      * There is a known link between the feeding of fish-based canned cat foods and the development of hyperthyroidism in older cats.

      * Predatory fish at the top of the food chain, such as tuna and salmon, may contain very elevated levels of heavy metals (including mercury) as well as PCBs, pesticides, and other toxins. Tilefish (listed on pet food labels as “ocean whitefish”) are among the worst contaminated, along with king mackerel, shark, and swordfish. These fish are so toxic that the FDA advises women of child-bearing age and children to avoid them entirely; and they recommend only 1 serving of albacore tuna per week due to its high mercury levels. If these fish are dangerous to children, cats are at even higher risk!

      * A substance called domoic acid, a very stable, heat resistant toxin produced by certain species of algae that are becoming more common in coastal regions due to climate change. Domoic acid particularly accumulates in mussels, clams, scallops, and fish. Because it is so dangerous, the FDA limits the amount of this neurotoxin in seafood. However, new research indicates that domoic acid causes damage to the kidneys at concentrations 100 times less than the amount that causes brain toxicity. This is especially concerning for cat guardians, because not only can the legal level of domoic acid in any seafood harm the kidneys, but fish that are condemned for human consumption due to excessive domoic acid may instead be processed into pet food. Could contaminated fish in cat food be a hidden factor in the high rate of chronic kidney disease in older cats, who may have been eating this toxin every day for years?

      * Fish and other seafood in the Pacific Ocean have been exposed to leaking radiation from the damaged Fukushima nuclear power facility in Japan for nearly three years. While the authorities continue to assert that there is (so far) no danger from eating Pacific seafood, the plant is still releasing 300 tons of highly toxic radioactive water into the ocean every day, with no end in sight. The first part of the initial radioactive plume has already reached U.S. shores; and low levels of Fukushima-specific radioisotopes have been found in West Coast seafood. While the Pacific Ocean’s vastness can and does greatly dilute the radioactive materials, the continuing leakage–as well as Japan’s recently-revealed dishonesty about its estimates of the amount of radiation involved–is cause for some concern. Arecent meta-analysis found reported significant negative effects on the immune system, and well as increased mutations and disease occurrence even at extremely low levels.

      * Salmon is a popular cat food ingredient, but today nearly all of it comes from factory-farmed fish. These unfortunate animals are kept in overcrowded net pens– feedlots–in polluted coastal waters. They’re fed anti-fungals, antibiotics, and brightly-colored dyes to make their flesh “salmon colored”–it would otherwise be gray. Common water pollutants such as PCBs, pesticides, and other chemicals are present in farmed salmon at 10 times the amount found in wild fish. These contaminants will be present in any product made with farmed fish, including cat and dog food.

      * “Organic” salmon is also farm-raised, and does not have to comply with USDA organic standards. In fact, there is currently no regulatory agency in the United States that sets organic standards for fish. The contaminant level of organic farmed salmon may be just as high as that of conventional farmed salmon.

      * Even “wild-caught” Alaskan and Pacific salmon may have been born and raised in a hatchery.

      * Farmed salmon transmit diseases and parasites; those who escape their pens (and they do) outcompete and interbreed with wild salmon.

      * A 2006 study confirms that salmon farms are “massive breeding grounds” for sea lice. Under natural conditions, wild adult fish carrying these parasites are not in migration channels at the same time as the defenseless, inch-long baby salmon, so infestation of the young fish is not a problem. But today, in waters near fish farms (which tend to be located at the end of those same migration channels), up to 95% of baby salmon are fatally infested. It is feared that that farmed salmon from nearly 300 fish factories in North America may ultimately decimate the wild population in the Atlantic.

      * New research (Dec. 2013) from the University of California raises concerns that the plastics floating in our oceans are absorbing chemical pollutants from the water. Toxins can move up the food chain, starting when fish eat small, contaminated pieces of plastic. Those contaminants enter their tissues, and are transferred to those who eat the fish: including bigger fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel, and tilefish–the fish most commonly referred to as “ocean whitefish”), as well as people and pets.

      * Fish tends to be “addictive” to cats. They love it, and will often stage a “hunger strike” by refusing their regular food in favor of fish. Tuna or other fish should be reserved as a rare and special treat. Feed fish no more than once a week, and even then in very small amounts only.

      * The meat is unhealthy, and the fishing/aquaculture industry is environmentally destructive–need we say more?

      In general, the small amounts of “fish meal” included as a flavoring and/or source of omega-3 fatty acids in cat foods are not a problem, but fish should not be a mainstay of any cat’s diet. Fish should be limited to an occasional–and small–treat.

      • SA April 4, 2014 at 6:18 am #

        So I wouldn’t feed it every day — but as a twice a week food topper to provide a mix of proteins, tastes and textures to prevent “food fatigue” it’s not so bad. I tried it twice and may cats were pretty luke warm toward it so I switched to other things.

  3. Karen April 15, 2014 at 7:04 am #

    What do you think of Merrick’s Cowboy Cookout? I bought a can to try for my suddenly finicky cat(she will eat Fancy Feast and Meow Mix wet foods but no longer loves her Wellness or several other better quality wet foods we tried. I’m hoping the issue is that she now prefer chucks/shredded food to pate) She seemed to like it and our other 3 cats loved it but now I’m discovering they changed their recipe a while ago and now it may be not so good? Any advice on feeding this one?

    • SA April 15, 2014 at 4:13 pm #

      You can also try Fussy Cat, Against the Grain, and Red Barn for chunky food.

      • Karen April 16, 2014 at 6:37 am #

        Thank you,I had never heard of these brands. Discovered last night that she loves Tiki chicken food. Because of the price that one will be served only occassionally


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