Feline Nutrition

Carrageenan: Should It Be In Your Cat’s Food?

white_cat_eating_canned_food

Carrageenan is a common food addivitve both in pet food and human food. It is extracted from seaweed through the use of a chemical solvent. It is used as thickener and binder in canned pet food, as well as in many human foods such as ice cream, yogurt, and soy milk. You would think something that comes from seaweed is natural and healthy, right? Think again.

Two kinds of carrageenan

There are two kinds of carrageenan – degraded and undegraded. According to the Cornucopia Institute, the International Agency for Research on Cancer recognizes degraded carrageenan as a “possible human carcinogen,” based on research showing that it leads to higher rates of colon cancer in lab animals. Carrageenan processors claim that food-grade carrageenan falls entirely in the undegraded category; however, one study showed that not a single sample of food-grade carrageenan could confidently claim to be entirely free of the potential cancer-causing material.

Food-grade or “undegraded” carrageenan is on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) list of items that are “Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)” and the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) defines it as an acceptable emulsifier, stablizer, and thickener.

Degraded carrageenan, which occurs at high temperatures and acidity, has been associated with ulcerations in the gastro-intestinal tract and gastro-intestinal cancer in animals.

Should you err on the side of caution?

All of this has me increasingly concerned about feeding food that contains carrageenan. Even though foods without this ingredient may be a little harder to find, I think it’s well worth reading your labels and finding alternatives if your cat’s current food contains it.

Take the time to scan your cat’s food for this ingredient. Unless your cat absolutely refuses to eat the brands that do not contain carrageenan, I would make the switch.

Photo ©Robin Olson, used with permission. See more of Robin’s adorable foster kittens on her blog, Covered in Cat Hair.

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Can a New Prescription Food Really Cure Your Cat’s Hyperthyroidism?

cat_eating_from_bowl

For the past few months, the veterinary community has been bombarded with ads for a new feline prescription food that is said to cure hyperthyroidism in 3 weeks.

When the diet first came out, I was skeptical. I’m not a fan of prescription diets. While I respect the research that goes into these diets, sadly, they usually contain ingredients such as meat by-products, corn, soy and grains, none of which are optimal for an obligate carnivore like the cat.

Hyperthyroidism is a common disease that typically affects middle-aged and older cats.  It is caused by an excess production of thyroid hormones, which are produced by the thyroid gland, located inside the cat’s neck. Thyroid hormones affect nearly all organs, which is why thyroid disease can sometimes cause secondary problems such as hypertension, heart and kidney disease.

There are currently three treatment options:Continue Reading

More Reasons to Stop Feeding Dry Food to Your Cats

cat_eating_bowl

If you could do one simple thing that would improve your cat’s health for the rest of her life, wouldn’t you want to do it? Well, there is. Stop feeding dry food.

Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats

Dry cat food, even the high-priced premium and veterinary brands, is the equivalent of junk food for cats. It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically.  They need few or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease.Continue Reading

An inside look at how one small company makes safe pet food

raw_food_for_cats

The recent Diamond Pet Food recall has left many pet parents wondering whether it’s safe to continue to feed commercial pet food. This particular recall was surprising topet owners who did not realize that Diamond manufacturers a large variety of different brands.  As of this writing, 11 brands are involved in the recall, due to possible salmonella contamination.

Sadly, recalls have become a fact of life, and they happen in all kinds of industries, not just for pet food. While recalls may not be completely unavoidable, this one is unsettling because it covers so many brands – and because it’s not always transparent who actually makes the brand you’re feeding your cats. In most cases, pet guardians also have no way of knowing where the ingredients in a particular brand come from. Multiple brands share the same supplier, as we saw in the horrific 2007 pet food recall, which caused the death of thousands of pets who had eaten food contaminated by melamine, which was traced back to a Chinese supplier.

As a result, pet parents are looking for alternatives. Continue Reading

Purina recalls single lot of therapeutic canned cat food

Purina_canned_catfood_OM_recall

Nestle Purina PetCare is recalling one specific lot of its Purina Veterinary Diets® OM Overweight Management canned cat food, available through veterinarians in the U.S. and Canada.  Analytical testing of the product sample by FDA indicated a low level of thiamine (Vitamin B1).

Only cans with the following “Best By” date and production code shown are included in this voluntary recall:

Product NameCan“Best By” Date &Can UPC
SizeProduction Code*Code
Purina Veterinary Diets® OM5.5 oz.JUN 2013    1172115938100 – 13810
(Overweight Management) Feline Formula

*”Best By” Date and Production Code are found on the bottom of the can.Continue Reading

Diamond Pet Food recall expanded to include Costco’s Kirkland Signature cat food

Kirkland_Diamond_Pet_Food_recall

Diamond Pet Food began recalling certain lots of various dog food brands due to possible salmonella contamination in April. The recall has now been expanded to include two products for cats sold at Costco:

  • Kirkland Signature Super Premium Maintenance Cat Chicken & Rice Formula (Best Before December 9, 2012 through January 31, 2013)
  • Kirkland Signature Super Premium Healthy Weight Cat Formula (Best Before December 9, 2012 through January 31, 2013)

To determine if their pet food is recalled, consumers should check the production codes on the back of bagsContinue Reading

Does your cat have a food fetish?

cat_in_refrigerator

Cats are obligate carnivores, and they need meat not just to thrive, but to survive. Most cats prefer a diet heavy on meat, poultry, or fish. As carnivores, they don’t need carbs, so they really shouldn’t even like things like vegetables or fruit. And yet, there are cats who love asparagus, cantaloupe, pumpkin and all sorts of other strange foods.

Additionally, according to a  report from Scientific American, cats lack the ability to taste sweetness, unlike every other mammal examined to date. And yet, there are cats who love things like ice cream and flavored yogurt.

Cats have a reputation for being finicky eaters. But maybe that’s just what they’d like us to think? Maybe they just have a hankering for something a little different on those days when they turn up their little noses at what’s in their bowls?Continue Reading

The Best Food for Your Cat: My Recommendations

best-food-for-your-cat

Last update: July 2021

Editor’s Note: Even though this article was first written in 2012, I periodically update the information to keep it current. I try to answer as many general questions in the comments as I can. I cannot always verify the veracity or accuracy of information or recommendations provided by readers in comments.  If you would like me to evaluate a brand or product not mentioned on the list in this post, or if you would like individualized advice for your cat, please schedule a consultation. This post contains some affiliate links*.

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I’m passionate about species-appropriate nutrition for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores, and they need meat not only to survive, but to thrive. The optimal diet for a cat is a properly formulated raw, home-cooked or grain-free canned diet.

Never feed dry food

Cats shouldn’t eat dry food; even the grain-free dry varieties are too high in carbohydrates.

Dry food is the equivalent of junk food for cats.  It’s really not all that different from feeding sugared cereals to kids. Cats are obligate carnivores: this means they need meat not just to survive, but to thrive. They cannot get enough nutritional support from plant-based proteins such as grains and vegetables, because, unlike humans and dogs, they lack the specific enzyme that processes plant-based proteins metabolically. They need few or no carbohydrates in their diet. Feeding foods high in carbohydrates can lead to any number of degenerative diseases, including diabetes, kidney disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Dry food is the leading cause of most urinary tract problems, and it is responsible for the obesity problem among cats. Dry food has also been implicated as one of the contributing factors to diabetes, which is reaching epidemic proportions. 1 in 50 cats may be affected, with overweight cats being at increased risk.

And contrary to the myth that just won’t die, dry food does not clean your cat’s teeth. Most cats don’t chew their kibble long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory behind this myth to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

Eusoh Community Pet Health Plan for Cats

Articles about feline nutrition, and one-on-one consultations

You can find many of the articles I’ve written about this topic in the Feline Nutrition section right here on this site. I also provide one-on-one consultations if you need help with transitioning your cat to a healthier diet.

What I look for in a food

  • Protein is listed as the first ingredient on the label, and the meat/poultry used is fit for human consumption. If the meat is organic, that’s even better.
  • The food is grain-free (no rice, barley, or any other grains. Even though these are considered healthy in human nutrition, cats’ digestive tracts are not designed to digest the unnecessary carbs).
  • The food does not contain by-products, corn, soy, or any other fillers.
  • Ideally, I’d like to see no carrageenan in the food. Some of the brands on the list below have carrageenan in some of their flavors, so check labels carefully.
  • Ideally, I’d like a food to be GMO-free. Some of the brands on the list below may contain GMO’s.

New Dr. Goodpet banner

Avoid fish-based foods

A word about fish: most cats love fish-based foods. I recommend using them sparingly or avoiding them altogether. The primary fish used in cat food are salmon, tilefish (usually identifed as ocean whitefish on the label) and tuna. Each of them presents health issues, because fish can contain toxic doses of common water pollutants, heavy metals, and other contaminants.

Sadly, much of the fish that goes into pet food is contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. (On a side note, that is also true for fish sold for human consumption.) Mercury is considered one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern by the World Health Organization.

Fish used in pet food manufacturing often contains whole fish, guts and bones, which can increase phosphorus levels of the food. This can be a problem for cats with kidney disease.

Some cats are sensitive to fish-based diets and develop urinary tract problems that resolve when fish is removed from their diet. Additionally, fish based foods may contain menadione, a synthetic form of vitamin K, which has been banned by the FDA for use in human supplements.

My recommendations

I am often asked what brands I recommend. Unfortunately, there are many diets on the market that sound good based on what the pretty packaging says, but when you take a closer look at the label, you realize that there’s not much substance behind the marketing claims. The brands listed below are foods that I either currently feed to Allegra and Ruby, or have fed to them in the past.

This list is not meant to be exclusive, and it does not mean that there aren’t other really good diets out there. It just means that these brands are the ones I’m comfortable with after doing thorough research.

I recommend the following foods (listed in no particular order). If you would like me to evaluate a brand not on this list, I would be happy to do so – please contact me for fees for this service.)

Best Wet Cat Foods

Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein™ is  available from Chewy.com.

Weruva Read my full review of this brand here. Wervua is available from Amazon and from Chewy.com.

Hound and Gatos is available from Chewy.com.  Some varieties of Hound and Gatos are available from Amazon.

Tiki Cat. I only recommend the poultry-based flavors. Tiki Cat is available from Chewy.com. Some formulas are also available from Amazon.

Soulistic. This brand is similar to Weruva and is available from Amazon.

Ziwi is available from Chewy.com.

Instinct canned formulas only. The protein content of the Healthy Cravings pouches is lower than what I like to see in a species-appropriate food.

Nature’s Logic is available from Chewy.com.

Best Raw Cat Foods

Darwin’s Natural Pet Food

Fegnion

Vital Essentials is available from Chewy.com.

Stella and Chewy’s

Primal Pet Foods

Dehydrated raw diets

The Honest Kitchen is available from Chewy.com.

Stella and Chewy’s is available from Chewy.com.

Primal Pet Foods Primal Pet Foods dehydrated formulas are available from Chewy.com. Some formulas are also available from Amazon.

Gently cooked diets

NomNomNow

Smalls

Additional Reading

How much should I feed my cat?

How to wean your cat off dry food

How to get finicky cats to eat

How to read a pet food label

Homemade food for your cat: healthy, simple and economical

The right diet for cats with kidney disease

Feeding your cat: know the basics of feline nutrition by Dr. Lisa Pierson

*FTC Disclosure: The Conscious Cat is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to products on Amazon. The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of Chewy.com. The Conscious Cat is an affiliate partner of NomNomNow. This means that if you decide to purchase through any of our links, we get a small commission. We only spread the word about products and services we’ve either used or would use ourselves.

Photo: depositphotos

Don’t force your cat to be vegan

vegan-diet-for-cats

People adopt a vegan lifestyle for a variety of reasons, some of them health related, others as a conscious choice to help the planet. One of the most frequently cited reasons why people become vegan is because of a genuine concern about animal rights. There is no doubt that factory farmed animals live in abysmal conditions both prior to and during slaughter.

I admire people who can completely embrace this way of eating. It’s too restrictive for me, but the evidence I’ve seen, both scientific and anectdotal, makes me think that it is, indeed, a better way to eat. I’m mostly vegetarian, but I occasionally eat fish and seafood, and I do eat dairy. However, more and more, I try to incorporate vegan principles into my diet.

Unfortunately, the increased popularity of the vegan lifestyle presents an ethical dilemma for devoted cat guardians who believe that their cats should reflect their human beliefs about the treatment of animals and an environmentally sustainable lifestyle.Continue Reading

Feline Obesity: Don’t Let Your Cat Become a Statistic

feline-obesity

percentage of overweight or obese cats in recent decades

Did you know that a staggering 53% of America’s cats are considered overweight or obese? This trend has been on a disturbing increase, and mirrors the equally disturbing increase in human obesity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one third of adults in the United States are obese.

The serious health problems in cats which result from obesity are the same as in humans:

  • Diabetes
  • Arthritis, joint problems and and torn or strained ligaments
  • Heart and respiratory problems
  • Gastro-interstinal and digestive problems
  • Compromised immune system
  • Increased risk during anesthesia and surgery

There are several factors that contribute to weight gain in cats:Continue Reading

Product Review: Freshpet Select – Fresh, Refrigerated Cat Food

Fresh Pet Select cat food

I don’t usually accept food and treats for review here on The Conscious Cat, unless it’s something I’ve already thoroughly researched and/or tried. I won’t use Allegra and Ruby as product testers for diets whose claims I can’t verify. For those reasons, I was hesitant to try Freshpet Select, but after taking a look at their information, I agreed to a test.

Freshpet Select is a line of freshly prepared meals. According to the company, each recipe only includes select ingredients like high protein meats and eggs, and vegetables. The cat food contains no grains, although it does contain some pea fiber. As Freshpet Select states on their website, the recipe is much like a meal you would prepare for your family with simple ingredients you are familiar with and can pronounce.Continue Reading