Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Quest for the Ideal Cat Food: Part 3

I've learned a bit more since I wrote the last post about my Quest for the Ideal Cat Food, a quest that began in earnest in late fall, months after realizing that I needed to research the subject because there's no simple way to provide a cat with optimal, safe, quality nutrition.

So many cat owners are old-school, buying well-known "premium" foods from a supermarket or pet store chain, trusting that they are good because there's so much advertising backing them up and because huge multinational companies are manufacturing them. That ignorance is bliss, until their cats develop diabetes, obesity, thyroid and kidney diseases, and lymphoma — almost predictably. Then most vets will sell them "prescription" food, which is often worse than the stuff in the stores. The pet food companies we've trusted most should be trusted least, I'm sorry to say. While cats are living longer, healthier lives in general, I credit improved veterinary care and not the food. It's common sense but most of us never get this far: feeding a complex creature like a cat properly has to be more complicated than opening a box and pouring out fish-flavored cereal twice a day.

My hat is off to you if you're also pondering this subject because the vast majority of us cat lovers are not. So, if you're interested in thinking about cat food with me, read on. If not, just enjoy this photo of Harris doing The Twist and skip this post.


You may have followed some of the links in my previous posts and learned that cats are obligate carnivores who need a very high animal-protein diet and not much more. If you want a good introduction to the basics of cat nutrition, go to those links or just read this, by Dr. Lisa Pierson, probably the top expert on feline nutrition whose work is accessible online. But I'll summarize: supermarket brands of canned and dry cat food are usually loaded with grains, carbs, and non-animal protein sources that are not nourishing for cats. The simplest way to improve your cat's diet is to stop feeding dry food. Even low-quality canned cat food is better than high-quality dry food, because cats need water to aid digestion and protect their kidneys and urinary tracts. They rarely get a sufficient amount by drinking, so it needs to be right in their food. Mixing water into kibble is not a solution, trust me. I'm not going to get into the disgusting ingredients that are in many popular brands of dry food. Use your worst imagination, and know that bacteria can grow even faster if you add water to the stuff.)

* * *

In a nutshell: there is no safe, perfectly nutritious, affordable, easy-to-serve commercial cat food. (And if there were, your cat still might not want to eat it. I'm not going to get into THAT problem, either!)

If you want "the best" food, you need to make your own. Option 1 is to grind your own raw poultry and meats, being careful to use a mix of different proteins (duck, chicken, turkey, quail, lamb, rabbit....), with the correct proportions of phosphorus and calcium (from bone), which I find a tricky proposition. Too little and you'll have deficiencies; too much and it could stress the cats' kidneys, and also cause constipation. You have to figure out the correct proportions of meat, fur, fat, etc., to approximate what cats catch and eat in the wild.

Then you should add poultry hearts, to provide taurine, plus some additional supplements: vitamins and minerals, Omega-3 sources, probiotics, etc. Dedicated cat people spend part of a day making a large batch of raw food about once a month. They buy ingredients in bulk, sometimes from a supplier that takes care of the grinding and then freezes the meat. Then they thaw it, tie on their aprons, get out their giant metal bowls, and measure and mix away. They weigh out portions, package them, and refreeze for rethawing later. Then they do a whole lot of disinfecting.

My freezer is the size of a breadbox and it's full of homemade chicken stock and soups that I can't part with quickly or easily. If we ever move, I hope we'll have a grown-up freezer, so I can join this merry band. Because they are doing the very best for their cats. And cats who are fed good raw food prosper.

When I do join the band, I'll be a nervous wreck, and not just because I'm worried about salmonella and  the other germs that vets and cat food companies warn about. If you're careful about cleaning and use common sense and good ingredients (no packaged meat from supermarkets, for example), you're supposed to be fine. I imagine I'll be pretty obsessive about cleaning. I'm more worried about getting the mix right every time. There are online calculators to help with this, and there are pre-made supplements you can buy that are supposed to include everything you need. For me, mixing a box of powder into the food seems to defeat the purpose of its being "natural." At any rate, it remains a very complicated operation as I see it. I'm also worried that I'll be grossed out by making upwards of 30 pounds of cat food a month, which is the minimum I'd need to feed mine twice a day.

Now for Option 2: Another dedicated group of people feed their cats whole prey. Raw chicken parts, for example, or defrosted frozen mice and small birds. This is more natural than feeding raw ground food because it gives a cat something to sink her fangs into. Besides the nutritional benefits, these cats exercise their jaws and clean their teeth as they munch (something no dry food will ever do, by the way). The difficulty with this is that you end up with body parts all over the kitchen. Cats like to play with their food. Needless to say, I'm not ready for this. I wanted to adopt the mouse that Possum found last summer and build it a lovely house. I still long for that mouse. I can't be cutting mice lengthwise so my cats can eat them.

Option 3 is raw frozen food, available in logs, patties, tubs, and nuggets. I have only experimented with the logs, also called "chubs," and found them a total pain to defrost, slice up, and repackage for re-freezing. They leak blood all over your fridge if you aren't careful; no one told me that. I need to try patties and chunks, which come in bags that shouldn't leak. But these are expensive and the quantity I need for four cats adds up to a small fortune, and also requires freezer space I don't have.

Then there's Option 4: freeze-dried raw food, in bags and boxes. Just add water to rehydrate and serve. My cats love this stuff but the brands available around here are outrageously expensive. It worked out to be something like $12/day to feed my foursome, if I did the math correctly. So I feed it as an occasional treat. It takes so long to rehydrate that the cats go crazy waiting for it while I attack the soaking nuggets with a fork to speed up the process. You're paying not only for quality ingredients but for the convenience of not having to deal with fresh meat.

Option 5 is my option: high-quality canned food that's very high in animal protein and low in starch and carbs. It's not the best nutrition because raw food has more nutrients, but it's still "complete" nutrition... allegedly. And it's safe nutrition... allegedly. And it's easy to serve, relatively affordable, and simple to buy, store, and handle. Ideally, you should rotate multiple brands and different flavors constantly. You should avoid fish (too many toxins). I also avoid beef and any meat from China.

Always keep an eye out for recalls if you use commercial food. Even the best brands have recalls, so stay vigilant. Sign up for Susan Thixton's newsletter on TruthaboutPetFood.com. (Here's a woman doing hard, important work to protect animals from the often-hidden dangers of pet food.)

What I'm Feeding

I chose my canned brands after consulting Liz Eastwood's Natural Cat Care Blog. She's done excellent research and recently revised her list of Today's Best Cat Foods. I believe this list is as good as it gets. While I spent weeks doing research online and grew more and more confused as I sought the best foods, Liz did the same work with real results, using the same criteria I did, and more. (There are many small, regional raw brands that aren't on her list, which aren't easily available in Boston; to find out about those, you should buy Susan Thixton's list of her highest-rated food. But that list has a lot more to offer dogs.)

So, I'm feeding the following brands, which are available in the Boston area — and I admit it isn't perfect. But less than a year ago, I was feeding Fancy Feast cans and Taste of the Wild kibble, so I consider that I've come a long way in a short time, with further to go. I'm feeding

1. Nature's Variety Instinct (duck and lamb, some chicken, and not rabbit because it's sourced in China). This stuff ranks in 2nd place on Liz's list because it contains montmorillonite clay, which is controversial. It also has a bunch of fruits and vegetables, making up about 5% of the food, which may provide essential nutrients or may not, depending on whom you believe. I'm generally against putting cranberries and carrots, etc., in cat food, but practically every "good" brand contains a small amount, perhaps because they think it makes it seem more appetizing to the humans buying it. Veggies and fruits are cheaper than animal protein, too.

2. Nature's Logic (rabbit and chicken). This brand was dropped from Liz Eastwood's list because it does not meet petfood industry standards for nutrition in a couple of ways. The company's argument is that it doesn't use chemical additives; all the supplements come from food, and that those standards are much higher than what cats actually need. I consider it good organic food but I use it as no more than a quarter of the cats' diet).  This stuff also has montmorillonite clay and fruits and vegetables. I talked to a customer rep and my impression is that they know what they are doing. I tend to be skeptical, but I like this food — as does Susan Thixton. I recommend subscribing to the paid portion of her site, where she analyzes and rates pet foods, if you're serious about checking out brands.

3. Tiki Cat (only non-fish flavors: Puka Puka Luau [chicken] and Koolina Luau [chicken with egg]). These are basically chicken breast in water, with supplements. Very simple, high-protein food. The one with egg is high-calorie, while the regular kind is low-calorie. Together, they average out, and calories aren't all that important when they come from a good mix of protein and fat rather than carbs.

4.  Hounds and Gatos (chicken, lamb, rabbit). This food also consists of a few basic ingredients, with lots of protein. Simpler is better.

We're spending $8 to $10 per day to feed four cats. It's a bit stunning, compared to how cheaply we were doing it for many, many years. But it makes good sense to me. I'm willing to pay more to feed these youngsters right. If they stay at healthy weights and don't develop kidney or thyroid diseases later in life, I'll be thrilled. I order my food from a local, independent pet store and they deliver it for free (120 cans a month, a heavy load). I might find better deals online but probably not when shipping is factored in.

I will eventually get some of that soup out of my freezer so I can buy more raw frozen food. I envision a 50–50 raw-canned diet as my next step toward optimal nutrition. I'd like to try Radcat, K9, and Feline Pride, but they are only available online, with high shipping costs, at least for those of us in the Boston area. Instead I'll try Nature's Variety and Primal. This might turn out to save us money, too.

Well, I'm worn out, and I bet you are, too! Thanks for reading! I love discussing cat food, and it would be fun to do so with others who are actually interested (instead of overwhelming every unsuspecting person who asks me a question in a pet store) for a change. So please send me comments, let me know your thoughts, what you're feeding, what your concerns are. I still have a long way to go.

34 comments:

  1. We got a lot of help from the folks at the Pet Cabaret here in Roslindale to help our cat live to a ripe old 23. We weren't doing as much research as you, but it may be worth a call to see if they carry what you want to try.
    http://www.thepetcabaret.com/links.html
    They are wonderful people too.

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  2. I, for one, am very interested in your research. I was a vet tech for years and all thru college and in the clinics we were indoctrinated by the big science 'food' company. We were given CE hours for listening to their speals and free samples etc. They made it sound so good. And, for years I bought into it. Now, not so much. I too think cats need more than a bowl of cat cereal. When I worked at a zoo the cats got raw diets and every now and again we would raise a few chickens for them. When they became adults we would dispatch them quickly and huamely and feed them whole to the margay, ocellot and caracals. The cats LOVED them. The cats would eat just about all of the bird...even the bits we cringe at. They relished in it. But....alas, I do not have any desire to raise, decapitate and feed a whole chicken to my gang of 3 house cats.
    I appreciate all the studies you are doing compiling all kinds of info from many sources. My life, these days doesn't allow any time for such research . I would love to hear synopsises (sp?) of what you learn as you learn it. I want to feed my boys well. They are important to me and I want them around for a while. (Freddy will not be with us many more years I am afraid..He is 19 or 20 now and getting thin, not wanting to eat like he used to and gets sub q fluids every other day. he enjoys getting them as they make him feel so much better...another reason for no more dry stuff)
    So, know there is someone out here, in Florida, appreciating the work you are doing, your taste in homes, furnishings, Traders Joe stuff and of course, all things kitty.
    Off to bed now, another busy day tomorrow. Anne.

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  3. PB: Sorry I'm late to the party here - I am reading and absorbing all you research with great interest, and appreciate all the brand-specific details. As you know, 4 cats adds up in terms of cost. Just wondering - are you feeding any kibble at all?
    Thx!

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  4. Hi Anne in FL and 4catstoo,

    Anne, thanks belatedly for your kind words. Good luck with Freddy! We have been there, and we know that sub-Q fluids can make all the difference and help a cat live much longer and happier than the vet predicted. I expect that my next major food foray will be into the wild world of raw itself, and I will document it, never fear!

    4catstoo, we aren't feeding any kibble. For treats, we use dehydrated chicken breast broken into bits or just 1 or 2 nuggets of freeze-dried raw food from Stella & Chewy's. Or they get some of our nitrate-free turkey breast. And, yes, I DO know how expensive all this better food is! I'm being honest when I say that our big savings from refinancing our mortgage is all going toward feeding the cats. People tell me that raw food will be cheaper and that the cats eat less, and so forth, and I will get there eventually. We are feeding four times a day, to keep Possum from licking the floor, and I think I open cans in my sleep....

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  5. Donna Cat said

    Hi, It's me- Donna Cat( from faceBook) - Harris's old mommy when he was Charlie. :) I have found the best prices online for cat food to be PetFoodDirect.com I have 14 cats and while I do feed raw- I also feed grain free canned. Evo 95% chicken. I think the case of 12 large cans is $21.99 and I get 4 cases a month. My cats get the raw mixed with the canned for breakefast, and real cooked chicken every night for dinner mixed with the canned. PetFoodDirect.com also runs specials ALL the time and I have never once paid for shipping. You are an awesome cat mom and Harris and the rest are so lucky to have found you. :)) Take care, Donna on The Quest for the Ideal Cat Food: Part 3

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  6. Hello Boston cat person! I live in central Massachusetts and have spent the last few days trying to find a real pet store that sells Hounds & Gatos cat food. I would like to try out several varieties out on my four cats before I buy it online in bulk. Where did you buy it in your area? Thanks a Bunch!
    Karen from Westminster

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  7. Hi Karen, I get my food from the Fish + Bone store on Newbury Street in Boston, but I'm not sure they stock it; I order cases. But I think the Polka Dog Bakery (617-338-5155) stocks it and might ship you some cans. They are a thriving dog-treat bakery but they also have two Boston stores that sell premium foods for cats, too. They are so nice. (If that doesn't work, try Brookline Grooming, another good source of better brands.) Once you know if your cats like it (mine love the lamb), you might be able to order cases via your own local, small-business pet store (saving on shipping even if they don't carry it). New England pet stores all get their stock from one or more of about three huge warehouses, so stores have access to many brands they don't carry. And H&G is pretty reasonably priced, which matters with four cats... Good luck and keep me posted!

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  8. Hi! I just found your article, and it's so funny because with as MUCH research as I've down prior to this article, I decided on these same exact brands.. I rotate Nature's Variety, Nature's Logic, and Hound&Gatos. Tiki Cat is also good but I didn't like how the chicken has a bluish tint at the bottom of the can, and never got a response from the company, so I'm weary of it. I love the way H&G smells, looks very fresh too. I can find NV locally at Petco which is convenient for emergency situations, but the others I have to buy online, saves money doing it all at once place(Chewy is my fav). Thanks for this article! Raw is just not feasible right now for us because of freezer space and still being a bit weary of the raw thing. Ordering pre made raw is SO expensive, it just can't happen right now :/

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    1. Hi Megan, thanks for getting in touch and sharing your food choices. I have also noticed that there's often one clump of bluish chicken in my cans of Tiki Cat and figured it's some vitamin supplement... but who knows? We are finding that the 3-lb. bags of frozen NVI raw medallions are a little cheaper than many of the canned foods, and if we could find the 8-oz patties locally (they come in 6-lb bags) those would be cheaper still and also convenient: one patty would be half a day's food for our foursome. I manage to fit a bag or two in my tiny freezer. I do plan to keep alternating canned and raw, though, until I am in a situation to make it from scratch... someday. I want to try more brands on Liz's list but so far these are the only ones my local store can get from their supplier. I should look into ordering online — when I first checked it out, I was overwhelmed by shipping costs and fluctuating prices. But I need to revisit it! Thanks again for writing!

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  9. Well, you have a healthy budget to work with. That always helps. Good luck on your quest to go raw.

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  10. You should look into Fromm grain-free options, it is a great brand with no recalls and high quality ingredients!

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    1. Fromm means well but almost all of their options for cats are dry kibble. Any pet food company that concentrates on selling high-profit dry food for cats doesn't care about what cats need for optimal health: moisture! So they are off on the totally wrong foot from the get-go. They make a few canned foods, but these contain things like potato starch and pea fiber, which are fattening starches that cats don't need. And all their canned foods contain fish — even in their "duck and liver paté." The cheapo fish that makes it into commercial pet food is rarely "human quality", meaning it's possibly loaded with toxins so they can't sell for human food.

      So Fromm is not a brand I would ever consider feeding my cats. It's too bad; they're a family operation, which seems promising, but they have no clue about feline nutrition. If they cared about cats, they'd stop selling all that kibble and make canned or raw foods that are essentially all meat and moisture. I hope they will someday. It's the future!

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  11. We have been down this same road for years so it's refreshing to see someone else. We did start out a bit better (or so we thought) feeding some wet as 25% of diet, Evo but mostly grain free kibble - EVO or Wellness. At that time we had one cat, well we know have 9 so you can imagine the cost. We don't feed dry anymore at all and have bounced around with food and what all 9 cats will agree to eat (sadly they crave fish). Some will not eat chicken or turkey unless there is some fish mixed in so we tried to stick with salmon, wild caught and stay away from tuna and larger fish. If we can use minimal salmon to "flavor" the chicken and or turkey they seem to be happy. Not ideal to still feed fish but we are doing the best we can to satisfy 9 cats and keep them all happy and healthy. They have been eating mostly Wellness grain free for the past few years with some Weruva and BFF food mixed in. Cost wise it was manageable, we used to place large orders at our local pet store and they would give us 5% off but lately I have looked online again and we can save a substantial amount (and get it delivered to our door) Just ordering Wellness from Amazon with Prime saves us $5-$6 per case and when you are going through cases per week it adds up. The problem now is that we are not comfortable with Wellness anymore, specifically the carregeenan. So we have been experimenting with other but boy, our price to feed is literally going to double. The nice thing about Wellness is that it comes in big 12.5 ounce cans. All these other brands the biggest we can get is 6 ounces, it's such a pain and seems to really affect the price. I just placed and order for Tiki Cat but it's probably one of the most expensive per ounce, but the ingredient list seems the best to me. I have looked at Hounds and Gatos too but for some reason I didn't like the ingredient list as well - maybe it was all the "gums" but I have seen it on a few list so maybe I should take a look at it. Maybe it is cheaper then Tiki for daily feeding and I can do as you have done and mix brands and varieties. I am glad I found this to know that others are going through the same thing. We tried raw chubs in our house once and it was a disaster, not only did the cats not like it but it was such a pain to handle and deal with. We don't have any meat in our house either (besides the cat food) so I was a bit disgusted with it too. Here's to hoping we don't need to take out a 2nd mortgage to feed our fur kids.

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    1. Thanks for writing! We are not alone! I worry about those gums in Hounds and Gatos, too.... if only more cat food companies would get their acts together and make their food purer and safer. As you know, the most important thing is to not feed dry, and then to avoid rendered products, and then grains and starches to prevent obesity. And just doing that is doing a LOT. Or so I keep telling myself; I fed kibble exclusively for years and can't believe how oblivious (and trusting of our vets) I was. At least I'm not that person anymore. And I'm still hoping to have a bigger freezer someday so I can try to make the raw... or at least some of it. I think I'd need to somewhere around 50 pounds a MONTH to feed it exclusively! It boggles the mind; I will have to sing folk songs or something to distract myself the whole time. But apparently it's a LOT cheaper... Best of luck to you, and here's to us both avoiding bankruptcy.

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  12. I was grateful to find this post online. My older cat is suffering from what the vet suspects is Inflammatory Bowel Disease. I'm trying the Nature's Variety Rabbit. So far, so good. I wanted to let you know that I called the company this morning and they tell me they now source the rabbit in France, so I feel a lot more confident about the quality. It's not clear if the cause of my cat's problem is the protein source or some other dubious cat food ingredient, so I'm trying to feed a better quality food and/or foods with limited ingredients. Tried Honest Kitchen first but none of my cats will go for it yet.

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    1. Thank you for writing, Peggy! I hope your cat continues to do well. Thanks for the info about the NVI rabbit coming from France now. I've been feeding Hound & Gatos rabbit instead and there's been a shortage because they recently had to find a new rabbit source (and they won't use any Asian ingredients at all). I'll be buying some NVI rabbit soon, thanks to you. You might also have some luck with the NVI Limited Ingredient canned flavors. Our cats prefer the lamb to the duck and chicken flavors, but all have relatively simple ingredients. Hound & Gatos lamb is also very popular around here.

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    2. @Peggy G - If you are feeding the medallions or patties, please double check the label of the Nature's Variety raw food that you have. NV discontinued the cat/dog raw formulas this past summer (I couldn't find bags after August). Since then the NV raw medallions and patties have been dog-only and contain no essential taurine for cats. NV did come out with Raw Bites for Cats and just recently came out with medallions for cats. The medallions are hard to find and are"special order" items at two independent pet stores that I shop at.

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    3. A comment on Option #3 - Many chubs/rolls/logs of frozen raw food are not complete diets. Some are boneless meat, others are meat with bone and organs. They need to be used as part of a raw recipie or have a pre-mix added to them in order to be a complete det for cats. And, yes, the package tends to leak so place it in a baggie or shallow container when you take it out to defrost.

      Some patties are not complete diets, either. The Bravo brand comes to mind. I've seen others at the pet store, mostly for dogs but some are for cats as well.

      Always check the label before you but. Generally if there are no vitamins or minerals listed or have some statement that says the food is complete and balanced, it is only a supplement and needs stuff added to it.

      I've been feeding raw to my two cats for 4 years now. I previously fed strictly Nature's Variety medallions but when NV changed the formula to dogs-only I switched to a chub of raw meat with a pre-mix. Now that NV has brought back the medallions for cats, I'm feeding that as well. I do keep cans of NV and Weruva and freeze dried raw on hand in case I need it for a finicky cat.

      Brookline Grooming has a decent selection of raw products and the only store in the area that sells raw products from Hare-Today, a popular online source for raw meats for pets. I also frequent Especially For Pets and Pet World. I'm now looking into a raw pet food co-op that has monthly pick up locations in the area.

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  13. Though the post is a bit old now, I really appreciated it as I had previously come to the same conclusions as to what I should feed my cats...mostly Tiki Cat Koolina and some Nature's Variety Instinct Duck. (It used to be the other way around till my male cat came down with mild pancreatitis & fatty liver....the Nature's Variety is quite high in fat & not good a main meal for him now. Tiki Cat is too low in fat so a little Nature's Variety thrown in is perfect.) Thank you for writing your article. I've really struggled with balancing my needs over my cats needs, but as a vegetarian of 26 years, I just can't stomach the idea of raw cat food. +I live in a tiny nyc apt w a tiny fridge/freezer so storage would be really difficult as well. I'm glad to see a fellow cat lover with some of the same thought process I had. Thank you!

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  14. Have you considered Wild Calling?

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  15. Hi Beth, while it sounds like a good food, it is manufactured by Evanger's, which makes it suspect for a lot of people, including me. I can't trust that company to be honest and safe. But thank you for reading and posting the suggestion. I wish you good luck in locating healthy commercial cat foods your cats will also eat... it's hard. No canned food, at least, is perfect yet, including the ones I've chosen, hoping for the best.

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  16. I have 3 cats and 1 previously had a major constipation issue. At the time, I didn't know any better and my boys were free fed dry food. Now they get measured amounts of wet, twice a day. My vet wanted to keep Wicket (constipated boy) on Science Diet Kibble as a between meals supplement to keep him feeling full,only 1/3 cup per day. So they had that and then primarily Wellness canned food.

    I started researching and my head went crazy. I wish it made more sense to me. I switched the boys to BFF canned food for awhile but they're starting to not want that anymore. I just ordered Hound and Gatos Chicken and hope they like that. They still get a bit of dry, before I go to work and before I go to bed. If I don't, my oldest (Willow, Maine Coon, 13), will do his angry puke. He also does it if he's scolded for doing something he's not supposed to do.

    Am I doing more harm than good, allowing them a small amount of dry per day? I try to get grain free dry and again, it's 1/3 cup pet day, split into 2 times.

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    1. Hi, I believe the nutrition research I've read, which strikes me as common sense, that says that wet food is much, much better for cats than dry (and that a raw diet is best). There is supposed to be a major update coming to the Best Cat Foods page of Liz Eastman's Natural Cat Care Blog. I'd go there, read up, and select from those foods:

      http://www.naturalcatcareblog.com/2010/12/the-7-best-natural-commercial-cat-foods-so-far/?utm_source=Natural+Cat+Care+Blog&utm_campaign=eeacc49cc4-jan+update&utm_medium=email

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  17. Hi,
    Thank you for all the information and for summarizing all that you've learned in your journey toward better nutrition for your cats. This post got me started on my own path of changing my cat's diet for the better, so thank you very much! I just moved to Boston and was wondering if you could share with me where you get your food delivered from? I have one good store so far (The Fish & Bone on Newbury St.) but it doesn't seem to carry all the brands you mentioned. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Jennifer, welcome to Boston! I do order my food from Fish & Bone because they can get other brands from one of the huge warehouses that supply most of the stores in our state. They give a 10% discount when you buy a case, and they give rewards points you can redeem in the store in $10 and $20 amounts. I have a small fortune in them, so I use it to buy more food, toys, and treats. They are a great small business and I really like Cathy Palmer, the owner. Do check The Natural Cat Care Blog since there was an update in October that added a number of new foods to the list. That is is still my go-to source for brands. Eventually, I still hope to make our food, which is the best option and also affordable. But first we need a grownup-sized freezer.

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    2. Here's the Natural Cat Care blog link:

      http://www.naturalcatcareblog.com/2010/12/the-7-best-natural-commercial-cat-foods-so-far/?utm_source=Natural+Cat+Care+Blog&utm_campaign=eeacc49cc4-jan+update&utm_medium=email

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  18. Hi, I was wondering your thoughts about giving Stella & Chewy's freeze dried raw food to a cat with lymphoma? She's 7 years old. I have the salmon and cod dinner and it's the only "wet" food she likes. I've tried the Instinct brand but she doesn't like it. I told her oncologist about it and she said not to give it to her due to risk of bacteria being in it. But I called the manufacturer and they said it's perfectly safe and they have a process to kill any bacteria in it during the manufacturing process. I'm just wondering your thoughts/recommendations. Thank you for your blog!

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    1. Hi Robin, I'm so sorry to hear your cat has lymphoma, especially at such a young age. I am not an expert on food, but I think that many vets are suspicious of any type of raw food because they aren't familiar with it. Personally, I think the most important thing is getting a sick cat to eat well, and Stella & Chewy's is considered very good food. If you're on Facebook, you might go to Tracy Dion's CatCentric page and ask for her opinion — she knows much more about feline nutrition than I do, and may have some tips for you. https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatCentric Best of luck to you!

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  19. Thanks for this helpful and thorough blog. I'm back in "what to feed" mode, having just found out that Blue Buffalo is in legal trouble for lying about their ingredients. Good grief, there go two of the four kinds of cat food that my picky senior cat will eat. I have read so many ingredient lists in the last two hours that my head is spinning. I don't think you mentioned carrageenan? I've been reading that it's been pegged as a possible intestinal inflammatory in both humans and cats. Ick. The difference is I can fix my own raw and cooked food. Like you, I find the thought of cooking for my cats overwhelming (and then what if Senior Cat refuses to eat it?! - I've donated a lot of expensive cat food to the local humane shelter in the past year).

    I think I am going to try a few cans of Nature's Variety Instinct, and perhaps Tiki Cat chicken if I can get it, and see how those go over with Miss Picky (not her real name). The other cat, Lord love her, eats pretty much anything.

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    1. Hi Elizabeth, Liz Eastman's list of the best cat foods does take carrageenan into account as well as cans lined with BPA. I hope you will have some luck with some of those foods. Our cats like the Nature's Variety lamb, chicken, and duck, and Hound & Gatos lamb. They used to love their chicken and rabbit, too. We also have good luck with Weruva Paw Lickin' Chicken. It has some potato starch, but is otherwise pretty good food and no scary additives. Some Weruva products have carrageenan so check labels before you buy other flavors. Good luck!

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    2. Thanks, I've looked at Liz Eastman's list; it's very helpful. Unfortunately a lot of the things on it are not available in my area (Middleofnowhere, PA), and I'm leery of buying a whole case only to discover that Miss Picky won't eat it. I also share your freezer challenges so raw food is out, even if I could get it. I'm going to try to get a few cans of the Nature's Variety and Tiki today - and Hound & Gatos if they have it - and we'll see how the girls like it. :-)

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    3. Hi Elizabeth. I'm very lucky that my local pet supply store will order cases for me and take returns if my cats hate the food. (I had trouble with Hound & Gatos rabbit. My cats loved the original formulation, but they lost their source and the cats refused to touch it when they restocked after about a year). If you live in the New England area, there are a few major pet food warehouses that stock a large number of pet stores, and they will carry brands you may not see in your local stores. Your store can still get them. Mine gives me a 10% case discount, too. You can sometimes get sample cans from the food companies themselves; Nature's Logic was nice enough to send me some. Keep me posted!

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  20. I have been feeding my 5 cats Hound & Gatos for over 2 years and they have all done well on this food. Recently, one of my kitties developed IBD as a result of a previously undiagnosed allergy to beef, which was one of the formulas they were eating the most. Of course this has nothing to do with the brand itself, and I wouldn't dream of switching from H&G as I believe it to be an excellent food. I decided to feed my kitty the lamb formula exclusively since lamb is much less prone to cause allergies, and over the past couple of months my kitty has been doing much better. He's gained back most of the lost weight and is just more like he used to be. The issue is that I live in Ontario Canada and there is only one food chain that carries H&G. There are now problems between the Canadian distributor and H&G and the lamb formula has stopped being shipped to the stores. This has been going on for almost 2 months. The stores have no idea when shipping will be resumed and H&G has told me it's the fault of the distributor. The fact is I don't care who is at fault, I only care about the health of my little IBD kitty. I have found only one other single protein limited ingredient lamb formula on the market, and that's Nature's Variety. The price of this food is incredible, much higher than even the H&G, but I've bought it anyway since my cat's health is the priority. I just started introducing it to him yesterday, by adding a bit to his H&G lamb. I still have enough of that to last a couple of weeks. I'm still hoping the problem with H&G is resolved because I believe the H&G is superior to the Nature's Variety, which has added montmorillonite clay, a controversial additive. It's ingredient #4 so not just a trace amount either!

    We try so hard to do what's best for our kitty companions but sometimes our best just isn't enough...

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    1. Hi there, fellow 5-cat person! Congratulations on figuring out the cause of your cat's IBD — I'm glad he's doing better. I didn't know H&G was having issues with lamb; we used to feed their rabbit as well as their lamb until they lost their rabbit supplier and didn't get back into production for about a year. Our cats hated the new food. I hope nothing similar happens with the lamb because everyone's favorite. Nature's Variety claims that their montmorillonite clay is the pure kind, not the sketchy kind, and I am taking them at their word. No one makes the perfect food... at least not in cans! (And why is that so hard??) I continue to hope that someday I will have a kitchen/freezer big enough to hold a supply of homemade frozen raw. In the meantime, I continue to check Liz Eastwood's blog for updates. Best of luck to you!

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I love getting comments and do my best to follow up if you have a question. I delete spam, attempts to market other websites, and anything nasty or unintelligible. The cats and I thank you for reading — and please do leave a comment that isn't spam, etc.