CAT FOOD: ARE YOU FEEDING YOUR FELINE FRIEND TO HELP OR HINDER HER HEALTH?
Would you believe that most poor companion feline diets are due to a lack of education on the part of their people? In almost every home I enter into, cat people are madly in love with their cats and wish to know how to help them. Interestingly, in about 95% of these homes, not a single cat’s person has any idea what a species appropriate diet or proper feline nutrition entails.
By now, most of you know how much of a stickler I am for proper animal nutrition. Just like humans, companion animals need a balanced diet to live a healthy and high quality life. It is truly a sad day when innocent people ask medical professionals for help and receive either false information about their cat’s ideal diet or receive information that leads to vast confusion and eventually frustration.
Cats should always eat a balanced diet rich in fresh meat such as organic chicken, sardines and salmon. If only these options were always available! Though I believe wholeheartedly in feeding cats and dogs whole foods as much as possible, there are often circumstances where this is not possible. Learning about species appropriate diets can seem overwhelming at best. There is a lot of information that can seem contradictory, questionable and nonsensical. So where do you turn to find the best source of information about what to feed your cat companion?
I was recently sent a highly in-depth study about feline nutrition by an American research group called Reviews.com. In this study, 1759 cat food formulas were examined, 97 veterinary professionals were consulted as were 437 human cat companions. They all agreed that feline diets are intricately complicated. Ideally, every house cat should be eating four mice per day. However, this is not always possible as most cats live in urban environments and many are not allowed outside. Though processed food itself is a second choice for optimal feline nutrition, there are several choices within that choice that you as a conscious cat companion can make to optimise your cat friend’s quality of life.
Out of the 1759 formulas the research team tested, only 145 of them made it to the “risk free” list. Though the study is an American one, we as Canadians can certainly use the same elimination process when seeking the best quality food for our beloved feline friends. The process of elimination used in this study is thorough. While most of you know that I strongly disagree with feeding cats kibble (dry food) of any kind, it is, on occasion, acceptable. Personally, kibble is a fun treat for my cat who subsists on a 97% high quality wet food diet.
I will remind readers that cats cannot subsist on a strictly (or even mainly) dry food diet. This type of diet can severely dehydrate your feline friend and lead to early stage renal failure. This is because cats do not derive adequate moisture from water alone. They need alternative sources of moisture that are found in wet food. Without these alternative sources of moisture, the feline GI system will have trouble passing the dry food to be eliminated. It will draw moisture from all of the organs – even the skin- in order to sufficiently process the dry food. This can lead to dry coat, skin and eyes. It can lead to the body’s water systems early depletion. In addition to bladder and kidney problems, a dry food based diet can cause constipation.
Additionally, lower quality wet food is extremely high in magnesium that will cause urinary bladder crystals. It is important to be mindful that we choose canned food that is high in protein, lower in magnesium and is grain free. The latter is due to the fact that cats lack the digestive enzyme (amylase) that is responsible for the breakdown of grains. When these grains are ingested and not broken down properly, they metabolize as sugar. With prolonged ingestion, cats are prone to feline diabetes. This is why it is best to avoid cat foods with grains.
What may be surprising to note for some of you is that the veterinary recommended diets have been eliminated from the list. Though it is no surprise to those of us who read ingredients and note where the food was manufactured, it may be pause for thought. It seems that trusting one single source for information on the healthiest foods to feed your kitty is a thing of the past. It is extremely important to read labels and research our cat foods as many veterinary professionals will try and persuade us to buy their product. In fact, it has been my experience that they are unaware of the ingredients that they are even selling us! To me, this is frightening. It is frightening that we live in a world where professionals whom we look up to will blindly sell us products without knowing exactly what it is they sell. Many of them refuse to research what they are selling and if it is more beneficial to our animals than other brands! Our cats cannot speak for themselves. They are at our mercy. It is our responsibility to understand how what we are feeding them affects their bodies, minds and spirits. Isn’t it time that we gave them the life they deserve?
Does all of this information sound confusing? That’s because there are a myriad of components of information that go into healthy feline nutrition. The good news is that there is a lot of good research and progress being made about species appropriate diets. There is also a lot of great research about which cat food brands are suckering consumers into buying their low quality brands by emotionally manipulative advertising. Be advised that a few of these emotionally manipulative marketing schemes belong to cat and dog food companies that have been linked to feline and canine deaths as a result of eating these companies’ foods!
In addition to researching the ingredients of the food you are feeding your cats, please be sure to research the location of processing. Many low grade cat food companies will have their foods processed in countries with lower feeding standards. They will then fudge the ingredients list to make it sound more appealing to North Americans.
Pay attention to food recalls. There are well known cat food companies who have had several recalls due to incorrectly following guidelines, fudging ingredients and even feline deaths relative to food.
Much of this precise information is listed in the following article. Again, though this is an American study, it does account for a valid education and elimination process. Here is the link to this 300 hour study: http://www.reviews.com/cat-food/
Let us know what you think!