Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
Cost and quality
(This may give you a headache.....)
Contacting Pet Food Companies
Skip right to the food list
Note that these are examples only. They
are not necessarily
diets - comments only/no
get too confused when reading this page, I will say at the outset:
I would much rather see a cat eat any canned food versus any
dry food - regardless of the price-point of the canned food. This includes Friskies, 9-Lives,
Fancy Feast, etc.
Canned food is healthier than dry food:
canned foods contain an appropriate (high) amount of water which is
critical for urinary tract health.
Please see Opie's page
- Feline Urinary Tract
The protein in canned
food is more apt to be higher in animal-based protein versus
plant-based protein - contrary to most dry foods. Keep
in mind that we are feeding cats (strict carnivores) not cows.
carbohydrate level of
most canned foods is lower than that of most dry foods.
There is no dry food that covers all of
the very important points listed above.
None - because all dry food is, well,
cat is a dry food addict, please see
Tips for Transitioning Dry Food Addicts
to Canned Food.
If you are tempted to write to me to ask about a particular food, please
Contacting Pet Food Companies
If you need more help past what is contained on this extensive
website - including this page - you will need to set up an appointment for a phone consultation.
regarding selecting a cat food will not
be provided via email.
"Grain-free" does not necessarily
mean "low-carb." Many
companies add in large amounts of
potatoes or peas which are high in
carbohydrates but are not "grains."
and vegetables contribute to both
the carbohydrate and protein content of
food but understand that the protein from these ingredients is
plant-based, not animal-based. As explained in my
Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline
Nutrition, cats are strict carnivores and need to get their protein
from other animals - not plants.
Therefore, when comparing two
foods with the same percentage of protein, it is very important to note
the quality (biological value) of the protein. Plant-based
proteins are very low in quality/biological value.
often get asked for my opinion on
dry foods that are relatively low in
carbohydrates - e.g. - Innova EVO.
The people who ask me this question
have not read this website -
Urinary Tract Health page - and
have not taken a good long look at
Opie's pictures on that page.
Otherwise, they would know just how
strongly opposed I am to the feeding
of dry food to cats.
how many people would continue to
condone the feeding of a water-depleted
diet to cats if they had a cork inserted
into their urethra and experiences
the susequent excruciating pain that occurs when a
urethra becomes obstructed. After
experiencing the tremendous suffering
occurs when cats are fed dry foods I
would bet that their love affair with dry
food would end very quickly.
Carbohydrates are not the only issue
that we need to focus on when feeding
water content of
the food is also critical
given the low thirst drive of the
to popular belief, cats do not drink
enough water from a bowl to make up for
the hydration deficit caused by feeding
dry food. Studies have shown that
when cats are fed water-rich diets
(canned or homemade diets) that mimic
their prey (~70% water), they rarely
drink from a water bowl yet their intake
of water is double what it is when dry
food (5-10% water) is fed. This is
taking into account the water from the
food as well as from the water bowl.
If you do not want to read any further
and want three quick bullet points, here they are:
Get the dry food out of
your cat's diet.
Cat Food Composition chart.
Feed canned food with less than 10%
of calories from carbohydrates.
Next, look at the fat and protein.
In general, aim for higher protein
and lower fat.
If you are caring for a diabetic cat
that is on insulin please read
- especially the STOP sign section - and
make sure that you understand the highly probable need to decrease the insulin dosage
if you are decreasing the carbohydrate intake of your cat.
When determining the quality
of a pet food, there are two main factors involved:
ingredients - what
is in the food - with amount of each item an important issue but
this information is not available on the label
composition - the
percentage of calories that come from protein, fat, and carbohydrate
sources - also not on the label - see the
Cat Food Composition chart
I realize that the "not on the label"
comments are frustrating but welcome to
the world of pet foods where the
manufacturers are not required to put
much usable information on their
unlike the case with food targeted for
Unless you are dealing with
an allergy to a specific ingredient, the composition of a diet is
generally more important than the ingredients as long as you pay
attention to where the protein is coming from (i.e.- animals versus
The composition of a feline
diet is important because cats are designed to eat a high protein
(~50% of calories, or more), moderate fat (~40% of calories or
very low carbohydrate (1-2% of calories) diet.
Unfortunately, this fact is
at odds with the issue of profit margin given that carbohydrate and fat
sources are cheaper than animal-based protein sources.
When looking at the
ingredient list on a label, it is very important to keep in mind that
the label tells us nothing about the amount of each ingredient.
This is where the issue of composition (discussed below) helps us
For instance, if you see
species-inappropriate, ingredients such as rice,
potatoes, peas, broccoli, blueberries, etc., on the label, you know that the
amount of these inappropriate items must not be very high if the
carbohydrate level is low.
On the other hand, if we are
dealing with a known allergy to any ingredient, we do not want that
ingredient to be present in any amount so that is where the
ingredient label does provide value.
Here are a few general
guidelines that I like to focus on:
(chicken and turkey) and rabbit as
the bulk of your cat's diet.
to see liver in the diet but not as
the first ingredient. Liver is
high in vitamin A and D which can be
overdosed. Liver only
represents ~5% of a cat's natural
diet. Liver is cheap which is
why it often appears first on the
list in some diets.
allergy potential (manifested as
skin allergies or inflammatory bowel
disease, and possibly asthma)
(fire retardant chemicals) - PBDEs
are potent thyroid disruptors
high in phosphorus and magnesium
addictive - the cat will not eat
If you want to feed a
fish-based food as a treat, please limit it to once or twice a week.
(I do not feed any fish to my cats.)
Be aware that most of the
choices such as Wellness, Nature's
Variety, EVO 95%, etc., are high in
fat and relatively low in protein in
order to keep the profit margin high.
fact, I can't help but wonder if
Friskies, 9-Lives, etc. (all
by-products, no muscle meat) may
actually be better diets because many of
these by-product foods are higher in
protein and lower in fat than the more
expensive diets that are free of
protein/low fat is especially important
for cats trying to lose weight but do be
aware that some of the highest protein
by-product foods are high in fish and we
do not want to feed a lot of fish as
noted above so choose wisely.
Composition section below for more
Here is where a company can really increase their profit margin.
Most canned foods are ~78% water which helps keep a cat properly
hydrated given their low thirst drive. This leaves 22% (100% - 78%)
as dry matter (ie - food/calories/nourishment, fiber, and ash). I recently
encountered a pouch food with 87.5% moisture. Subtracting
87.5% from 100% left only 12.5% dry matter. You can
readily see that the food with only 78% moisture has nearly double the amount of dry matter in the can/pouch. Water is
cheap yet this particular company is billing this 87.5%
moisture-food as a "premium" food and is charging a premium price
I have noticed that many of
the products that come in pouches are very high in moisture content and
are not giving you much 'bang for your buck.' Water is a critical
nutrient but if you think your cat will benefit from more water in his
diet than the usual 75-78% because he has urinary tract issues, you can
just add water on your own.
foods that have a maximum guaranteed
analysis figure of no more than 78%
moisture so you are not paying a lot
of money for water.
Note: I am trying not to make
this subject too complicated. However, for the sake of
completeness, I do need to mention ash (mineral) content. Ash is what
his left over when all of the protein, fat, carbohydrates, fiber, and
water are removed and is what remains after the cremation process of any
living being. Ash is part of the 'dry matter' in
the above example. The higher the ash content, the less actual
food (calories) is in that dry matter.
Please don't get bogged down
with the issue of ash right now. However, understand that if you
are comparing two foods with equal dry matter, the one with the
lower ash value is going to give you more food (calories)
in the can.
Grains do not
belong in cat food although I will discuss this issue in more detail
below. They are there to add cheap bulk to the food and
increase the profit margin of the company. When you see a food
called "Chicken and Rice," please understand that the rice is there
to appeal to a human who is not educated regarding the cat's
obligate carnivore status. Please do not reward these
companies by purchasing their products.
Cats have no dietary need for
vegetables yet companies play on the fact that the average person really does not understand
the obligate carnivore status of the cat. Note that on, for
one example, Hill's Nature's Best dry food
there are 5 pictures: 1) rice 2) peas 3) wheat 4) carrots
5) fish or chicken.
Do you see that the above
ingredients (1-4) are simply catering to what many humans perceive as healthy
items to be included in their own diet? These first 4 ingredients
add to the carbohydrate load of the diet (30% of calories in this case) and
also represent a plant-based source of
protein which you now understand is
species-inappropriate for a cat.
Also note that wheat
is a very hyperallergenic ingredient that does not belong in cat food.
These ingredients simply increase the profit margin of the companies and
are marketing ploys to get unsuspecting consumers to purchase their
addition to the above issues, note that Hill's does
not put an ear of corn on the front of the bag since most people know
that corn is not the most nutritious vegetable available yet if you look
at the first ingredient in this food, it is cheap,
they put a picture of the very first
ingredient - which makes up the bulk of
the food - on the outside of their bag?
Another marketing ploy that
Hill's is now incorporating into their labeling is the substituting of
the word "corn" with "maize." Maize IS corn and since this company
is well aware of the fact that consumers are becoming more savvy about
pet food ingredients, they are now trying to disguise the corn in
their diets by calling it "maize." These deceptive
marketing practices should be abhorred and certainly not rewarded with
you purchasing dollars.
We all know
that ingredients are listed in descending order by weight but that does
not tell the whole story. Manufacturers are required to be very
specific when naming their ingredients
which works in their favor because it
allows the grain fractions to be split
up so that they are listed below the
meat. Study this unhealthy
ingredient list for Hill's dry i/d:
by-product meal, brewers rice, corn
gluten meal, whole grain corn, etc.
consumers will simply focus on the fact
that "chicken" is the first word on the
However, when all of the grain sources are added together, they often total more than the
animal-based ingredient that is
consider that meat or by-products (not
meals which are dry) are high in water
weight and therefore lower in protein
density. Grains are lower in water
and higher in protein density.
This means that diets like the one
listed above derive most of their
protein from plant sources. This
would be fine if we were feeding cows or
about 'meals': Yes, they are
higher in protein by weight when
compared to "chicken" but they are also
heavily processed (cooked at a high
temperature until ~95% of the water is
gone). This intense processing
destroys and alters nutrients.
the 'ingredient splitting' issue and the
fact that most commercial canned foods contain some species-inappropriate
ingredients, we have to look at the composition of the food to
determine if it is a reasonably appropriate diet to feed.
Composition refers to the
breakdown of the 3 basic food components that provide calories:
One of the most confusing
aspects of food evaluations involve the terms:
The most accurate way to
evaluate food is to consider the calories (ME) that come from the
protein, fat, and carbohydrate fractions. This allows us to
compare various diets without worrying about their different water
Keep in mind that
the percentage of calories from
protein/fat/carbohydrate must add up to
100%. Therefore, if you lower one
fraction either one or both of the other fractions must rise.
It is like a 3-way teeter totter.
If we want to keep the
carbohydrates below 10%, that leaves 90% left over to split up between
fat and protein. Given that animal-based protein is expensive and
fat is cheap, it is not surprising that, in the interest of profit
margin, pet food companies are now making high fat diets.
With the introduction of the 'low-carb' diets, in marched the high fat diets.
However, on a good note, most cats do
very well on the relatively high fat
designed to process fats much more
efficiently than carbohydrates.
Cat Food Composition chart, the
general rule is to look for choices that
are ~ < 10% carbohydrates.
for one that is higher in protein
(preferably ~40% or higher) and
lower in fat (preferably ~50% or less).
Pet food labels
Unfortunately, pet food
labels ("Guaranteed Analysis") give us very little usable information
regarding composition since they do not list the carbohydrate percentage
and they only list the protein and fat and water in terms of minimums and
maximums which are, by
For instance, if a food
states that the fat is a minimum of 6%, it could very well be much
higher than that. Any value listed as a "minimum"
or "maximum" is inaccurate and not very helpful.
Human food labels list the
actually measured grams of protein, fat and
carbohydrate - not just minimums and maximums.
All is not lost, however.
Let's say you pick up a can
of food that is free of grains (including whole grains and flours) and vegetables
(including starchy potatoes). You know that
this food is going to be very low in carbohydrates.
However, you still have no
idea what the fat and protein levels are.
What is really crazy is that the pet
food manufacturers are allowed to list
fat as a 'minimum' - not a 'maximum.'
This gives them free-rein to make high fat (read:
high profit margin) pet foods.
An example using the can's
Guaranteed Analysis values follows:
I often hear people say that
you can determine the carbohydrate content of a food by adding up the
water ("moisture") + protein + fat + fiber + ash and then subtracting
the sum from 100%. Unfortunately, this can be extremely misleading
in some cases.
Since profit margin is a pet
food company's number one priority, you can bet that the protein
will be pretty close to the minimum value listed on the can but the fat
(cheap) may be much higher.
Let's use Wellness canned
Chicken as an example of how misleading the carbohydrate calculation
from the label values can be:
Protein (min) 10.0%
Fat (min) 6.0%
Fiber (max) 1.0%
Moisture (max) 78.0%
Ash (max) 1.8%
If you add up all of those
numbers, you get 96.8%. Subtract this from 100% and you get 3.2%
carbohydrates on a wet-weight basis. However, values should be
considered on a dry
matter basis (DMB). In order to convert that 3.2% into a dry
matter basis, we must divide it by the dry matter in the food which, in
this case, is at least 22%. I say "at least" because the moisture
is listed as a maximum so it could be
less than 78%. (100% - 78% moisture = 22% dry matter.)
3.2% divided by 22% = 14.5%
carbohydrates on a DMB. Most of us would walk away from a food
with that carbohydrate level.
However, when I obtained the
more accurate measured values (versus minimums and maximums) from
the company, it turns out that the fat content is closer to 11% - not 6%
as listed on the label (as a minimum) and the protein was actually 12%
not 10%. The moisture content was measured at 73% - not 78%. The
wet-weight carbohydrates measured at 1.7% and the carbohydrates on a DMB
So you can see by the above example
(14.5% versus 6.5%) just how misleading
it can be to try to
evaluate the carbohydrate content by looking at the guaranteed analysis
values on the can. When using the values on the can, the carbohydrate
number came up at more than double the actually measured amount -
and the fat content appeared to be about half of the actually measured
However, keep in mind that all food
products are going to vary from batch-to-batch so it is conceivable that
one batch of Wellness Chicken may actually be closer to the 14%
carbohydrates if the protein and fat amounts are closer to the minimums
for that batch. The same is true for all of the numbers on the Cat
Food Composition chart, although
hopefully to a much lesser degree since
the chart is based on 'typical nutrient
analysis' figures - not vague minimums
I often hear people get far too fixated
on a chart's numbers -
comparing a food that is 3% versus 8% of calories from carbohydrates
without realizing that the food marked "3%" today could be 8% with the
next batch.....and the food marked "8%" could be 3% on the next batch.
Nothing in life is 100% consistent but I would
much rather base my decisions on the 'typical nutrient analysis' values rather than
the values found on the can under minimums and maximums.
Important point: Do not
fall for labels that state "95% meat".
Why? Because "meat" can simply be
high-fat meat trimmings. The word
"meat" includes fat as well as protein
so "meat" does not necessarily mean
"high protein." Keep in mind that
lean meats go to the human market
and the high-fat meat trimmings are
routed to the pet food market.
95% Chicken & Turkey:
Does this annoy me? You
bet it does given how much some of these so-called 'premium' diets cost. Considering
their price tag, it would be nice to see a higher protein/lower fat level -
especially for any chubby cat that is on a weight loss program.
Otherwise the cat can end up in a state of protein malnourishment when
the calories are restricted for weight loss. (See my
Feline Obesity page.)
However, as noted above, cats do not
necessarily need diets that are >50%
protein and <40% fat. For
instance, I have had ~550 cats and
kittens go through my foster room over
the years that have grown and thrived on
adult canned Wellness - Chicken or
Turkey. (I use Wellness because it
comes in 12 ounce cans which are more economical
than the smaller cans.)
Note that kittens do not need
"kitten" food. They just need plenty of canned,
species-appropriate (low carb/meat-based) adult food.
Keep in mind that there are no mice running around in the wild with "kitten"
or "adult" stamped on them. Kittens eat just what their parents eat - just
more of it on a per-pound-of-kitten basis.
This is an area of controversy.
However, by-products have a much
worse reputation than they deserve. By-products are normal parts of a carnivore's diet and
consist of some very nutritious organ meats such as liver, spleen and kidney.
On the other hand, by-products can also include feet and feathers which
are of very low biological value. The problem is that it is
impossible for the consumer to determine the quality of by-products
contained in any food and the quality
can vary with each company and batch of
As just stated, by-products that end up
in cat food include very nutritious
items but they also contain organs that
have been deemed "unfit for human
consumption". Organs that show
signs of disease such as cancer or
infection are re-routed from the human
meat market to the pet food market. The fact
that cats eat by-products in the wild cannot be disputed. However, by-products
that are consumed fresh 'on the hoof' are not the same as those that
have been designated as unfit for human consumption. Therefore, the two
situations are not entirely comparable.
much rather see a cat eat an all-by-product canned food than any
The whole issue of
by-products or no by-products is a personal one. We also have to
pick our battles with our cats. For instance, many cats love
Friskies, 9-Lives, and Fancy
Feast varieties that contain by-products and we all know how picky cats
can be and how important it is for them to eat - especially when they
are ill or are diabetic and must eat on schedule.
personal note, my parents' cat ate
only Friskies canned food since he was
rescued from the euthanasia list at our
local shelter when he was 5 months old
up until he was 18 years old.
Tyke is now 19 years of age and has
kidney disease so he is on a homemade
diet but he is in
great shape and still runs up and down
the hallway like a kitten.
On a favorable note, at
are not hyperallergenic if coming from an animal the
cat is not allergic to,
do not contribute a carbohydrate load
to the food, and
of animal origin - not plant origin.
makes much more sense to
include some animal-derived by-products in a carnivore's diet than it does to
add potentially hyperallergenic, high carbohydrate grains like corn, wheat,
rice, or soy. Note that soy is also a thyroid disruptor.
Cost and Quality
have read this entire page up to this
point, you will understand how difficult
it is to talk about the "quality" of pet
On the one
hand, we have the issue of by-product
quality always being a big
question/unknown, but on the other hand,
the more expensive foods that are void
of by-products are very high in fat and
relatively low in protein.
is a very frustrating trade-off.
I will attempt to address this issue
must be factored into any decision regarding what we feed our pets.
The foods listed below can be quite expensive and may be outside of a
person's budget so let's look at this further and prioritize things a
bit. Of course all levels of quality can be mixed and matched
according to a person's budget and the needs - and always-picky taste
buds - of the cat. Some cats really like the all by-products foods better than the foods
without any by-products so this is where 'taste bud negotiation' comes into play.
If you want your cat to eat a
by-product-free food but all he wants is
Friskies or 9-Lives, play around with
the percentage of each. He may eat
the no-by-product foods at 80% if you
mix in 20% of the with-by-product foods.....or 50:50....or......
Generally speaking, there are
4 basic categories of canned food:
Products that contain all
by-products and no muscle meat such as Friskies and 9-Lives.
Please note that Friskies has started to add rice to some varieties
of these foods which is very disappointing as it just
adds carbohydrates to an otherwise low-carb food.
Products that have a
muscle meat listed as a first ingredient followed by by-products.
Examples include some varieties of Fancy Feast. (Always
read the labels because some flavors of Fancy Feast start with
by-products as a first ingredient and do not list any muscle meat
after the by-products making these varieties fit into category 1.)
Products that contain
only muscle meat and no by-products but also contain high
carbohydrate ingredients such as
grains, potatoes, peas, or other
Products that contain
only muscle meat and no by-products or carb-contributing ingredients.
I would use the carbohydrate content as my guide -
feeding the lowest carb choice.
After considering carbs, look at the
protein and fat amounts.
carbohydrate content of a food is high, that tells you that a
substantial portion of the protein in the food may be coming from plants
- not animals.
are a source of carbohydrates and protein. So if you see
something like "whole grain corn" in the food, this tells you that some
of the protein listed on the can is coming from plants, not animals.
While most canned foods are
low in carbohydrates, the Hill's Science Diet line of canned foods are
Many of these foods (both the prescription and non-prescription foods)
are very high in carbohydrates and are not diets that I would recommend
For the math-inclined, I have
added a section below showing two methods to roughly calculate the percentage of
carbohydrates in food. You can skip this section if you plan to
Cat Food Composition chart or plan
call the company for more accurate 'typical nutrient analysis' values.
(Even though I discuss above just how
inaccurate the labels are, I will
include this section anyway. You
can skip this section
if you don't want a headache.)
You will see conflicting carbohydrate values listed for the
same food depending on how the value is calculated. There are three
basic methods used to calculate the value of an individual nutrient:
food weight (includes water)
When determining the
carbohydrate content of a food, method 2 and 3 will yield roughly the
Even though it is preferable
to discuss nutrition in terms of the percentage of calories that a nutrient
provides, most pet food manufacturers list their products' nutrients in
the form of percentage of weight.
Nutrient information may be
listed in two different formats on the manufacturers' websites.
One is the guaranteed analysis (GA) figures (should be on all
websites and on the side of the actual can of food).
discussed above, GA
values are only minimums and maximums and can be very
The other format is the
actual measurement of the
ingredients in one (or more) sample of the food. These values more
accurately reflect what is in the product.
Even though the GA values are
not terribly accurate, they can provide a rough guesstimation of the contained nutrients.
To calculate the approximate
weight of the carbohydrate
food, add up the values for moisture, protein, fat, fiber, and ash and
subtract this value from 100%. Here is an example from the PetGuard website for their Organic Chicken and Vegetable Entree:
Crude Protein 9.0% Min
Crude Fat 7.0% Min
Crude Fiber 1.0% Max
Moisture 78.0% Max
Ash 2.3% Max
If we add up the above
figures, and then subtract this value from 100%, we come up with a rough
idea of the carbohydrate content of this food:
But we are not finished
yet. The value of 3% needs to be converted to a 'dry matter basis'
(DMB) for accuracy. This calculation takes the water component out
of the equation and then allows values for canned and dry foods to be
For the DMB value, we see
that there is 78% water in this food. That leaves 22% as dry
matter. If we take our 3% and divide it by 22% we come up with 14%
carbohydrates (by weight) on a dry matter basis. With further
calculations (see below) to compute the calories from carbohydrates, we come up with
a value of 11%.
the percentage of calories from the
carbohydrate part of the diet can be done with a few equations
less than 10% of a carnivore's calories should be derived from a
When calculating the
percentage of calories derived from the proteins, fats and carbohydrates
we use the figures of 3.5 calories contributed by every
gram of carbohydrate. For every gram of protein, 3.5 calories are
provided and for every gram of fat, 8.5 calories are added.
For these calculations, you
don't have to worry about converting the values to DMB since the
water content does not matter when looking at the percent-of-calories
issue. (You must stay consistent, however, by using all figures
leaving the water in [as fed or "wet weight"], or using all figures taking the water out
[DMB]) This is the nice thing about 'percent calories' values - you can compare
canned and dry food and not worry about the vastly different moisture
content of the two types of foods.
We will use the PetGuard
example above - keeping in mind the limitations for accuracy when using
Crude Protein 9.0% Min
Crude Fat 7.0% Min
Crude Fiber 1.0% Max
Moisture 78.0% Max
Ash 2.3% Max
We see that 9% of this food is made up of protein (9 grams of protein
per 100g of food) so 9 X 3.5 = 31.5 calories from protein. Repeating
the calculation for the 7% fat, we get 7 X 8.5 = 59.5 calories and from our
calculations above, we know that this food is 3% carbohydrates. 3
X 3.5 = 10.5 calories from carbohydrates.
31.5 + 59.5 + 10.5 = 101.5 total
calories per 100 grams of food
To calculate the percentage of
overall calories from each food source, divide each amount by the total
Protein: 31.5 divided by 101.5 =
Fat: 59.5 divided by 101.5 =
Carbohydrate: 10.5 divided
by 101.5 = 10%
To double-check your math, add
up the percentages to make sure they equal
31% + 59% + 10% = 100%
Now.....go take some aspirin. :>)
Dusty and Dylan growing up together
Contacting Pet Food Companies
I frequently receive emails
asking me to evaluate various canned food choices on the market.
Unfortunately, it is just too time-consuming to answer these requests
individually. I wrote this webpage to help the reader decide for
themselves what could potentially be a suitable diet.
It is up to
the reader to do their own research if they are interested in feeding a
diet that is not on
Cat Food Composition chart. This means calling the company
and requesting 'typical nutrient
analysis' (TNA) - not
'guaranteed analysis' (GA) figures which can
be found on the can of food.
Keep in mind
that new products come out on a regular basis and
it would be impossible to keep the composition chart up-to-date.
To ensure the
most current values for any food, you will need to contact the company
that manufactures it. However, please be
aware that it can be like pulling teeth to get usable information from
the pet food companies. Some companies are better than others
but you have to be persistent with many of them.
If a company does not willingly divulge
TNA information, then I will not
use their products.
following dialog when calling the companies:
"I would like
to know the percentage of calories that come from protein, fat, and
carbohydrates." This is also known as the "metabolizable
energy (ME) profile."
If they do
not have ME values, at least obtain dry
you do not want the GA figures as they are
nothing more than minimums and maximums and this information (as it
pertains to protein and fat but not carbs or phosphorus) is already
contained on the can.
expressed as minimums or maximums are, by definition, unreliable
since there is no floor or ceiling with regard to the amounts. In other
words, if a can lists a "minimum of 6% fat," it could be 10%....or
If you have a
cat with kidney or urinary tract problems, you will also want to ask:
milligrams of phosphorus are in the food per 100 kcal?"
companies will give you the phosphorus value in terms of dry matter
percentage and will not provide the mg/100 kcal value.
This is a
complicated subject that is impossible to cover in one webpage article. If the reader needs more detailed help, I am
available for phone/Skype
consultations. (See the bottom of
this page for an email address to
trying to pick a suitable commercial cat food based on
the very limited information provided on pet food labels;
the numbers of species-inappropriate
ingredients contained in commercial
fact that the low carb
choices are so high in fat and low
led me to start
making cat food.
I fully realize that this is not the direction that most people want to
go in so I wrote this page in order to help the reader as much as
mind that I am no more privy to the
inner workings of any of these companies
than the reader. I am at the mercy
of what they put on their websites or
provide verbally -
just like all of you are.
ingredient that has caught my attention
lately is carrageenan. If
one does a PubMed search of carrageenan,
they will find many references to "carrageenan-induced
inflammation" which is very disturbing
in light of how common IBD (inflammatory
bowel disease) is in cats. Please
link to an interesting study showing
carrageenan to be an inflammatory
mediator in human intestinal cells.
Unfortunately, ~80% of the commercial
contain carrageenan. If your cat
has chronic diarrhea or vomiting, I
suggest trying to find a food without
this ingredient listed but just know
that your choices will be limited.
I spent hundreds of hours
during the summer of 2012 working to
Cat Food Composition chart. This
was a daunting and incredibly
time-consuming task as it involved
calling over 40 pet food companies - up
to 5 or 6 times for many companies - and
sending follow-up emails. After
receiving the data, there was a lot of
number crunching to be done.
time has gone by (it is now June 2016),
some of the formulations may have
changed. Also, there have been a
lot of new products that have come to
the market. Therefore, it is up to
the individual to call the respective
companies if the most current
information is desired.
important to understand that I only
accepted typical nutrient
analysis (TNA) data for the Cat Food
Composition chart - not guaranteed analysis
figures which are only the minimums and
maximums that are listed on the can.
GA values, by definition, are
required to be included on the Cat Food
Composition chart is very basic.
In fact, several companies have the
information right on their website.
For example, visit Natura's website and
see the TNA
figures for their food. Kudos to
them for full transparency.
other hand, it was extremely difficult
to get data from many of the companies.
Several refused to
provide it stating that it is
"proprietary" information. This
attitude shows a complete disregard for
the consumer's right to know what they
are feeding their pet.
companies refused to provide
their "proprietary" data:
Stella & Chewy's, and
Mars has also
refused to provide TNA data for
and Sheba stating that they
are worried that the chart will not be
kept up-to-date which is a valid concern. Consumers must call them for any nutrient
information. If you call them, I
do not know if they will provide GA or TNA data.
I will not
use or recommend any products
manufactured by companies that exhibit a
lack of total transparency with respect
to basic nutrient information.
There are too many other companies to
choose from that are more cooperative.
nearly all of Blue Buffalo's
canned foods are high in carbohydrates -
including their 'grain-free' lines.
does not necessarily mean low-carb.
Many grain-free foods are loaded with
peas and potatoes which are high in
carbohydrates. This drives home the
point that you need to consider the
composition of the diet (breakdown of
protein/fat/carbohydrate) and not just
the ingredient list since it does not
tell us how much of any one ingredient
is in the product.
commercial cat food you buy is without
some drawbacks, but listed below are
some companies that have low
carbohydrate selections within their
this is not necessarily a list of
recommended foods but is merely a
list of foods that may have some decent
choices within their product line.
is certainly not comprehensive given the
fact that new products come on the
market frequently and I can't possibly
keep up with all of them.
(Cat and Kitten)
(only a few are low in carbohydrates
and not fish-based)
Canin Baby Cat
(fine for adults)
(only 2 are poultry-based - Puka
Puka Luau and Koolina Luau - the rest
This company has chosen to add rice
to some of their foods. This will increase the carbohydrate
content. Be sure to read the labels.
Raw Meat and Bones -
- general comments:
that I put the word "balanced" in
quotation marks. The dialog below
will address this issue as it relates to
the bone content of with-bones diets
because many of these commercial
products are not properly
balanced with respect to the amount of
I am not
any more privy to information about
commercial pet foods than the reader is.
I am not a 'fly on the wall' in these
companies' manufacturing plants. I
have no idea how clean or contaminated
their process is and I have no idea
how much bone material is included
in these diets. The first part
(contamination) does not worry me as
much as the second issue (bone content)
which I am addressing here.
point: The more bone material
that is contained in the product, the
higher the profit margin is for the
nutshell, when feeding some (which
ones??) of the commercial with-bones
diets to our cats, we are forcing
them to consume far more bone material
than they would be eating in the wild.
about it: When you watch Nat Geo
Wild and you observe a lion take down a
cape buffalo and eat it, that lion walks
away leaving close to 100% of the
skeleton (bones) behind for the smaller
animals/vultures to pick over.
They consume very little bone material.
at the other end of the spectrum - the
small, wild or domestic, cat that eats a
whole mouse or bird - meat and all, or
most, of the bones.
two are compared - large and small cats
- you can see that there is a wide
variation in bone consumption.
However, the larger the prey animal
(buffalo vs mouse), the higher the
bone-to-meat ratio so the small cat is
not consuming as much bone (relative to
the meat) when it eats a mouse when
compared to a lion eating an entire cape
much bone material relative to muscle
meat/organs is optimal for our small
cats to consume? I don't know that
there is a correct answer to that
question but I do know that the range is
wide and some cats may be able to handle
more bone material than others.
does "handle" really mean? Does it
mean that they are barely dodging the
constipation 'bullet' or are lucky
enough to not end up with a
life-threatening urethral obstruction
due to too much bone (minerals) in their
feeling is that cats should not be fed
ground up whole carcasses (e.g., rabbit,
chicken, duck, etc.) because it
forces them to eat more bone material
than is optimal/safe.
bone material contained in the diet, the
more minerals are filtered through the
kidney and end up in the bladder.
Minerals (calcium, phosphorus,
magnesium, etc.,) are building blocks of
crystals/stones which can obstruct the
ureter or the urethra - especially in
male cats since their urethra is longer
and narrower than a female's urethra.
EXTREMELY passionate about, and
sensitive to, the tremendous amount of
suffering that cats with urethral
obstructions have to endure. Many
"blocked" cats end up with a ruptured
bladder resulting death. The
process is slow and painful.
if the patient is lucky enough to be
taken to a veterinarian before it loses
its life? Well, the client is
faced with a huge vet bill and the
patient must endure being catheterized
(often more than once) and several days
in the hospital in a very unhappy state.
story and pictorial
here to witness the suffering that a
blocked cat must endure.
veterinarians drastically 'jump the gun'
and start talking about penis amputation
(perineal urethrostomy) before the poor
cat is given a fighting chance to keep
his penis and go forward being fed a
more appropriate diet.
understand that because bones contain a
lot of phosphorus, the typical
with-bones diet is unsuitable for
cats with chronic kidney disease.
have visited this page in the past, you
will note that I have removed all names
of the raw/with-bones diets that were
listed here previously. Since I
have no idea what the bone-to-meat ratio
is in any of these diets, no product
names will be listed here.
If you are
tempted to write to me asking which
raw/with-bones diet I would recommend,
please don't. I have not taken the
time to scrutinize (including calling
the companies) the dozens of options on
the market and, as stated elsewhere on
this webpage, I make my own cats' food
so that I can control the bone content,
etc. I am not interested in
feeding any of the commercial
raw/with-bones products to my cats.
said, I am sure that there are many
healthy, well-balanced (with respect to
bone-to-meat ratio) products on the
market but which ones fall into that
category? It is up to the reader
to do their own research and come to
their own conclusion.
please see my Making
Cat Food page.
Even though I am hoping that
you have read my Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics
of Feline Nutrition article and will not be feeding any dry food
in the future, I had to add a link to this commentary on the
'breed-specific' dry foods that are currently being marketed by
companies obviously desperate to gain more market share by hoping that
the consumer will actually believe the absurd claims that they make
regarding these diets. Please see this
for more information.
As is evident by my website, cats are my
passion and my goal is to help as many as I
can before I depart this earth. To
this end, I have spent a tremendous amount
of time over the past 12 years reading and
responding to thousands of emails that have
been sent to me asking for help/advice and
"further explanation" of information on my
Unfortunately, this has resulted in a
significant sacrifice of my personal time
and I have reached a point where I can no
longer read or respond to the large volume
of emails that I receive.
On a very good
note, the emails make me smile because I
know that the message is being heard and
more cats are receiving better nutrition and
On the other
hand, the large volume of people asking for
my time has become overwhelming. Therefore,
this statement will appear throughout this
site as well as the bottom of every page:
No individual advice or further explanation, for any reason,
will be provided via email.
That said, if
you desire personalized help and would
like information regarding my phone/Skype consulting
service, please send your request to DrPierson (at) catinfo.org.
Make sure that you put "Consultation
Service" in the subject line which may
help prevent your request from ending up in
my spam folder and increase your chance of
hearing back from me.
Updated February 2013,
November 2014, and
Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
DrPierson (at) catinfo.org
this site is for general informational
purposes only and is provided without
warranty or guarantee of any kind.
This site is not intended to replace
professional advice from your own
veterinarian and nothing on this site is
intended as a medical diagnosis or
treatment. Any questions about your
animal's health should be directed to