It probably goes without saying that I put very little (okay, absolutely no) stock in the notion that specific breeds of cats have unique nutritional needs. All cats are obligate carnivores, regardless of their breed or, for that matter, whether they spend their time indoors or outdoors. It strains the imagination to think that knowing what we know with certainty now about cats’ very specific nutritional needs that anyone could, with a straight face, try marketing cat food on the basis that where a cat spends its time or what breed it is has any serious bearing on its dietary requirements.
And yet? You don’t have to spend much time perusing the websites of some of the more popular pet food lines to learn that in spite of the overwhelming, common-sense evidence that cats are carnivores that suffer from eating moisture-deprived, carbohydrate-based meat-flavored cereal, many companies are latching on to increasingly absurd and deceitful methods to peddle exactly these diets.
Methinks they’re getting more desperate.
It used to be enough to make inaccurate claims about the nutritional ‘completeness’ of various diets, but in recent years, the marketing pitches get increasingly more absurd. Now, we are told, certain breeds of cats have special requirements requiring special formulas. Never mind that more than a couple of companies are now hawking foods that ostensibly meet the differing nutritional needs of outdoor cats and indoor cats.
Just for kicks this not long ago, I spent a little quality time dissecting the claims made on some of the pet food company websites that are now aggressively marketing this way. Here are just a handful of the implicit and explicit conclusions one is led to draw from the ‘technical articles’ and explanations they offer:
All breeds are apparently quite fine eating nothing but dry food.
The shape of the kibble is paramount to ensuring that each cat gets what it needs. Maine Coons, for example, ostensibly benefit from especially large-sized kibble, according to one company, whereas Persian cats do best with kibble that’s shaped like an almond.
Corn gluten meal is a perfectly reasonable primary ingredient in the diet of an obligate carnivore.
Chicken meal is appropriate as the primary ingredient for all cats.
Outdoor cats, perhaps owing to the “greater stress they face,” have a greater need for corn gluten meal.
Need I go on? Really, if it weren’t for the fact that these dry, carbohydrate-heavy foods are overwhelmingly implicated in fueling illness in living, breathing, and deserving creatures, it would be funny. (One website boasts about “ergonomic kibble.”) Reading over a few of these company websites this morning, I was tempted to send several of them an email asking what I would do if, pray tell, I had a half-Persian, half-tabby cat that spends 20 percent of his time outdoors and has a history of digestive sensitivity to grains. Do I mix the various dry formulas in a certain ratio? Or in this case am I better off using a prescription dry food with plenty of rice protein concentrate and a bit of BHA-preserved soybean oil thrown in for good measure?
We’re not snowed any more. If we were before the pet food recalls and the attendant attention it’s brought to the laissez-faire attitude of many companies’ to the suppliers they use, we certainly have no excuse now.
The jig is up.
- A Maine Coon cat does best on the diet Mother Nature intended. One that is grain-free and contains real meat, bone (or another good bioavailable calcium source), and organs.
- A Persian cat does best on the diet Mother Nature intended. One that is grain-free and contains real meat, bone (or another good bioavailable calcium source), and organs.
- A Siamese cat does best on the diet Mother Nature intended. One that is grain-free and contains real meat, bone (or another good bioavailable calcium source), and organs.
- An indoor cat does best on the diet Mother Nature intended. One that is grain-free and contains real meat, bone (or another good bioavailable calcium source), and organs.
You get the idea.
Our cats don’t need a specially-shaped kibble and they never have. All they’ve needed is a diet that respects the fact that they’re carnivores.
The author of the groundbreaking book, “Food Pets Die For,” Ann Martin, has an article published just last week reminding readers that she personally traced euthanized pets from veterinary clinics in the city she lives to the rendering plants where they are processed and shipped to pet food companies. Thus, pentobarbital–the drug used to euthanize animals–ends up being fed to pets.
A senior official at the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, an organization charged with regulating the manufacture of food additives and drugs given to animals, told Martin that pentobarbital is not approved for use in pet food but that the CVM has no plans to undertake any special enforcement efforts to detect it in pet foods. We’re on our own, folks. Mostly.
This sounds like it’s all a Big Bad News Story, I know. But despite the rank absurdity that so many in the pet food industry tries to shove down our throats, I detect lots of Good News Stories these days: Unbiased information on how to safely and correctly feed our cats is readily available to anyone with the curiosity and an Internet connection. Dr. Elizabeth Hodgkins’ remarkable book hit the streets in June and we have no excuses left. The nutritional consequences of the cat’s carnivorous nature is well-documented in the mainstream veterinary literature and remains undisputed. Michelle Bernard’s information-packed and oh-so-readable book on the hows and whys of species-appropriate feeding is available to anyone wanting to dive deep into the individual ingredients while steering clear of the baffling overuse of smoke-and-mirrors “science” that characterizes the pet food company nutritional information websites. There are responsible, passionate, and dedicate people in the blogosphere who can keep us current on the latest things we need to be on the lookout for in the world of commercial food. And more honest, small companies are appearing on the horizon that offer truly great alternatives to the junk food that we find in the pet food superstores or, sadly, lining the shelves of veterinary clinics.
We’re not buying what the pet food industry is selling any more These companies that have contributed so conspicuously to terrible conditions like diabetes, obesity, inflammatory bowel disease, and urinary tract disorders? Whatever residue of benefit of the doubt was there once is fast slipping away.
We have informed choices to make now. And we have the information we need to defend those choices readily at our fingertips. We can share this information with our vets, demand straight answers, and confidently feed diets that are closer to what Mother Nature intended for these magnificent creatures — no matter the breed.
It’s about time.
There are two ways we can look at all this: through the prism of discouragement and anger over how dreadfully deceived so many of us have been for so many years; or through a welcome sense of hope over the shift that’s underway.
I vote we embrace the latter and move forward.