Let's take a look at the ingredients on the actual label of a dry cat-food product. I examined one of the leading brands that's quite pricey and sold through veterinarians.
The ingredients are listed in descending order of weight:
- Chicken by-product meal. If the label said "meat," at least we'd know that it was the actual protein-rich meat of the animal. By-products aren't necessarily bad for cats, who do naturally eat many animal parts that we may not care for. But having this listed as the very first ingredient instead of whole meat doesn't assure us that we're getting good-quality protein. The word meal means that it's been ground or pulverized.
Actually, the most disturbing fact about this ingredient is that it's the only source of animal protein in this product. And an abundance of high-quality animal protein is one of the most important dietary requirements for cats.
- Cornmeal. Corn isn't well digested by our carnivorous cats and can be very allergenic. There's absolutely no nutritional need for this ingredient. Its presence helps boost the overall protein analysis of the product, but it's vegetable protein, which isn't well tolerated or utilized by felines.
Another major concern is the fact that most corn in the U.S. is genetically modified. As if that's not enough, corn is a major source of dangerous aflatoxin-the reason behind many pet-food recalls because it's quite deadly.
- Brewer's rice. More grain!
- Animal fat (preserved with BHA, propyl gallate, and citric acid). After the high-heat processing and rendering that occurs during manufacturing, it would probably be more accurate to call this ingredient rancid animal grease. To make matters worse, artificial preservatives are added.
- Corn gluten meal. More corn! When you add up all the grains in this product, they certainly outweigh the animal protein. This product is beginning to look more like chicken feed than cat food!
- Chicken liver flavor. The label doesn't list actual chicken liver, just the "flavor," and it doesn't tell us if this is artificial or natural. Many "flavors" contain the excitotoxin MSG.
- Taurine. Adding the amino acid taurine is the big thing now in cat-food products. Not too long ago, it was found that a deficiency in this nutrient caused fatal heart disease and blindness in cats.
- BHA and BHT. BHA has already been listed as being used to preserve the animal fat, and now they've added even more of these undesirable chemicals.
- Beta-carotene. When beta-carotene is ingested by some animals, the liver converts it to vitamin A, which is an important nutrient and antioxidant. But research on cats has shown that felines lack the ability to make the conversion from beta-carotene
- Minerals (potassium chloride, calcium sulfate, salt, ferrous sulfate, zinc oxide, copper sulfate, manganous oxide, calcium iodate, sodium selenite). These are about half the number of well-known minerals, not including the many trace elements.
Pet-food manufacturers have a choice as to what form of mineral supplements they use. The sulfates and oxides are considered less desirable than other, more expensive forms because they're insoluble in water. Also, there may be many other chemicals added to the mineral powders used in manufacturing, and the synthetic versions can act quite differently in the body than natural-food forms. For example, ferrous sulfate is an inorganic form of iron that destroys vitamin E; organic iron doesn't have this harmful effect.
- Vitamins (choline chloride, vitamin A supplement, vitamin D3 supplement, vitamin E supplement, ascorbic acid (a source of vitamin C), niacin, thiamine, calcium pantothenate, riboflavin, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement). There are at least 16 well-known vitamins, and this product contains 13. Most of the B vitamins are listed by their chemical names-except for vitamin B12 supplement. Why isn't it listed as cyanocobalamin? Or, conversely, why isn't choline chloride listed as vitamin B4?
Also, it would be preferable if they'd state the sources. For example, if you have a cat with an allergy to yeast, then you'd want to know if these B vitamins are derived from yeast.
Likewise, it's not very informative to simply list "vitamin E supplement". Studies have shown the synthetic form to be much less effective and potentially harmful. The same holds true for vitamin A. Which forms are they using here?
Personally, I wouldn't feel comfortable feeding my cat a product such as the one analyzed above. And remember, this one is sold in veterinarian offices and is considered a "premium" brand. I found that it contains poor-quality ingredients and many substances that aren't at all appropriate for the feline species. My cat may not be able to fully meet its nutritional needs by eating this product. And if that's the case, my cat's body might not be strong enough to maintain optimal health.
NATURAL NUTRITION FOR CATS: The Path to Purr-fect Health
by Kymythy R. Schultze, C.N., C.N.C.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, HAY HOUSE, INC. ©2008. http://www.HayHouse.com
About the Author
Kymythy R. Schultze is a Clinical Nutritionist (C.N.) and Certified Nutritional Consultant (C.N.C.). She has been certified as an Animal Health Instructor by the state of California, licensed by the federal government as a Wildlife Rehabilitator, and is a certified Veterinary Orthopedic Manipulation Practitioner (V.O.M.). Kymythy has completed a wide variety of health and nutrition course work, including small-animal nutrition at Cornell University. She's also an enologist (an expert in the science of wine) and winemaker for Gracie Vineyard. Please visit Kymythy's Website at: www.kymythy.com.