Since 2003, my best buddy has been my cat, Dexter. From the start of our friendship, I was determined to do everything I could to care for him. I don’t mean just the basics like: food, water, shelter, litter box. I want him to be a happy cat. I buy him his favorite toys (as long as they’re safe), I buy him the best food, I take him to the vet if he’s sick, and he even has his own room with a futon near the window. I suspect by his affection, that he is indeed a happy cat. I have felt that I’ve been doing right by him for all of these years and am sad that I have not, despite how healthy and good he seems.
When my husband and I first adopted Dexter, we immediately sought out the best food for him. Based on what we read in a book we had purchased, we were in search of one without animal by-products. We knew that we were not going to find one at the grocery store and instead headed to a pet store just out-of-town. After reading the ingredients on several bags of food, we made what we thought was a good choice for Dex. For about 5 years, he did really well with the food. Not too many hairballs, rarely threw up, his skin and fur was in great condition and anyone who came over and would pet him would be amazed at how plush his fur was for a short-haired cat.
After the 5-year run with that brand, the store we’d been buying his food from stopped carrying it because it was no longer going to be a pet store specialty food and was going to be sold in grocery stores. So, they started carrying a brand that seemed to be even better. I bought a small bag and took it home hoping Dex would like it since I didn’t have the chance to transition him from the old brand. Luckily for me, he really liked it and did well with it. His skin and coat was just as nice and he did not have any problems with digestion and has been eating that food for 2 years or so until recently.
For the past year, I’ve been coming across ads for a brand of cat and dog food that seems to be the best quality. It has meat as the first ingredient, has no by-products, has blueberries, and seems to be the obvious choice. While I want to give Dex the best of everything, I was a bit hesitant to change his food because of how well he’s been doing. Recently, I’d started seeing commercials for this new food and since my husband and I eat a healthy, balanced, organic diet, this brand sealed the deal when they say to ‘feed your cat with the same care you’d feed a family member.’
I’m not much for gimmicks and it irritates me that I fell for this one. I did purchase said cat food. Dex ate the food for about 8 weeks, except for the blueberries that were always in the bottom of an otherwise empty bowl or scattered on the floor around the bowl. Cute. But what was not cute and was very upsetting was that he started to throw up every time he ate. I thought at first he was sick and was about to make an appointment at the vet’s office. But the last few times he threw up, it looked like a puffed up version of the food in his dish. I knew I had to change his food, once again.
I first looked online to see if anyone else has had a problem with their cat throwing up this particular food and found quite a few reviews similar to mine. While I’m not sure what it was about the food in particular that made the cat sick, through some searching around, I realized that I’d been duped. My husband and I eat well. We wanted our cat to eat well. Well, guess what. Humans and cats eat well in their own way.
There is big market for holistic ‘natural’ cat (and dog) food. Earthy bags with labels touting, ‘whole grain’ and ‘meat is the first ingredient.’ It’s good that meat is the first ingredient. Do you know why? Cats are carnivores and are made to eat meat. Their bodies don’t do well on carbohydrates. They are not made for it. Did you notice that when you buy cat food at a pet store, the same brands that have food that says ‘wholesome whole grains’ also have food that says, ‘grain-free’ on the label? How could they believe that whole grains are a selling point and that food without them is a selling point? Apparently the former is for people who believe that cats eat the same as humans and the latter is for people who have done their homework.
Aside from the whole grain/grain-free debate, I’ve also learned that dry food is not a good idea altogether. It does not matter what the first ingredient is. A lot of cats like it, and a lot of kids tend to like junk food, too. But it’s not good for them. Not even a little bit. Kibble is junk food for cats. There are many reasons why. It lacks moisture, it has ingredients that cats do not need or digest properly, it contains a large amount of the wrong kind of protein (plant protein). Cats need a specific ratio of moisture, protein, and carbohydrate. Dry food does not do a good job of adhering to this and allegedly leads to renal failure and other common health problems. I also need to point out that plenty of wet cat food contains grain. Grain-free wet food is apparently best.
I have been feeding Dexter a high-quality wet grain-free cat food for the past week. Most cats, from what I’ve been reading, need to transition from their dry food before they will exclusive eat the wet food. Dex has actually been loving his new wet food. I occasionally give him a small amount of his dry food because he has a hard time with the fact that there are feeding times instead of just having dry food around the clock. He is only an 8 pound cat, but just likes having the food always available. He is a grazer and the hardest part in his transition to wet food is that he’ll sometimes leave some of it in his dish that he will finish a couple of hours later. I just don’t like that it gets dried out and weird. So, sometimes I’ll toss it out and give him a small portion of dry food. This routine will end shortly, as he is starting to warm up to the idea of feeding times.
The purpose of this post is to inform people who love their cats on my recent findings. I am clearly not an expert on cat nutrition, but have found that people who should be seem to be making cat food that is in their own best interest ($) instead of what is best for the health of cats. A good source of reference is catinfo.org. This is a site that does not promote a certain brand. It is just information. They actually feel that making your cat’s food is best, if done properly, but realize that this is not a reality for most of us. There are other sites with good information as well. This one seems to at least touch on most points, however it does go into great depth and pours over the minutiae of some aspects of cat nutrition.
Cats rely on their people parents to feed them what they need. It’s up to you to do a little research and find out what that is. It’s your responsibility and your cat deserves it. While the food my cat has been eating all of these years is good for dry food, I feel terrible that he wasn’t getting the proper balance of what he really needs. He has been eating the equivalent of cereal for cats. After all, fortified, processed, organic cereal isn’t the best that I can give myself either. Think about it.
The content in this post is written by a lay person with no veterinary training. The post is not intended to replace professional advice from your own veterinarian and nothing in this post is intended as a medical diagnosis or treatment. Any questions about your animal’s health should be directed to a professional animal health care provider.