Cat nutrition

I was distressed the other day to discover that the cat food I give Freya is produced by a company that conducts tests on animals. It doesn’t just feed them the food and see how they do on it; it carries out operations deliberately damaging cats’ organs.

I suppose you could say it was naive of me not to check sooner but I had assumed that a company claiming to foster the health of the nation’s feline pets would be a humane one with animals’ welfare at heart. Stupid of me to forget that where there is money, humanity flies out of the window.

I am of course not going to buy any more from that company so I am in the market for a good cat food that is humanely produced. That probably excludes most products sold in supermarkets and, curiously enough, in veterinary surgeries. How vets can sell food produced by companies that maim and kill animals in the name of science is beyond me. (Yes, I know, I am naive.)

A quick search of the Web shows that there are several companies selling food for cats that is humanely produced. I would have to shop by post but I suppose that isn’t a problem as long as I get organized. However, there is one other consideration.

You may know that I am a vegetarian. To non-vegetarians, the fact that I keep a cat may not seen significant but it would cause many vegetarians, not to mention vegans, to look askance. (Actually, some would do more than look askance but we won’t go into that.) The reason, dear reader, is that it is received wisdom that cats cannot be vegetarians. Dogs can, so you canophiles have no excuse. Cats, so the story runs, need nutrients that they cannot synthesize and that they can obtain only by eating meat.

There is, however, a contrary story. (Isn’t there always?) This says that the nutrients in question can be found in plants but in concentrations too low for cats to get enough by eating the plants. But, the story continues, it is possible to take the stuff out of plants, concentrate it and put it in plant-based cat food. Then feed this to your cat and voilà, one vegetarian cat.

If it really is the case that cats can live healthy lives on such vegetarian fare, then, provided Freya will actually eat the damn stuff, I would be tickled pink.

This is where I make an appeal to the knowledge, wisdom and good will of my readers: do any of you know anything about vegetarian cat food and, if so, can you advise me as to whether it is as safe and complete as the manufacturers claim?

Any information will be gratefully received.

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About SilverTiger

I live in Islington with my partner, "Tigger". I blog about our life and our travels, using my own photos for illustration.
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9 Responses to Cat nutrition

  1. tikkiro says:

    I know just what you mean and undesrstand your desire to feed your kit something wholesome. I had a very ill cat 2 years ago who started me off on a whole natural food trend which taught me a lot of things – first off, you can spend a shocking lot of money trying to do the right thing for them, second, raw food isn’t all its cracked up to be – I’d read so many stories about how it was THE only appropriate food for felines who understandably are indeed carnivores, BUT not necessarily for domestic cats who’ve pretty much lost the ability to do the needful with a totally raw food diet (as I was aiming for). I also spent a small fortune on supplements – everything from EPO to Laetrile (B17 which is supposed to cure cancer in humans AND animals!!), right through to apple pips (until I discovered right after putting them in his food, that they’re poisonous when the outer shell is broken!! Talk about PANIC!). Anyway – I did actually come across a much safer, and more practical wholesome food that I’m now continuing to use with my other two kits (Inka having died over a year ago – no, not from the apple pips LOL, but his multiple diseases), so can highly recommend it. I get the sachets from my local bulk cat food supplier (I used to work in the industry) at cost, but while they are fairly expensive at probably £1.25 or so a sachet and they come in a box of 12 if you buy bulk, the food is the best I’ve ever found yet. You can tell from the smell and texture how wholesome it is. If you’ve not yet come across it – try Nature’s Menu – http://www.naturesmenu.co.uk/cats and see what you think. You can find your local stockist through their website as its sadly not sold online. Be interested in hearing what you think :)). TKR

  2. tikkiro says:

    Sorry – should have clarified – I tried to find vegetarian substitutes but like you, had no luck, plus you can really only consider such in very healthy animals for short periods, because they are indeed carnivores and cannot deal with much in the way of plant material – however, you could try green beans (I use frozen ones lightly defrosted in hot water which mine adore) as a possible starter. My ones actually eat peas and brussels sprouts too – so its not impossible, but just not as a staple diet I doubt :).

  3. It happens that I’ve spoken in depth to our veterinarian just recently about cat food, because Myra developed a terrible urinary infection and had crystals in her bladder, most likely caused by excess magnesium. This is apparently a common problem, most often caused by too high a percentage of cereal products in commercial cat food, leading to a high pH in the urine. In nature, cats eat very little or no cereal of any kind. Accordingly to Wikipedia, “Cats are purely carnivorous by nature and need many essential nutrients, such as taurine, in their food. Commercial cat food contains these supplements, which is why other pet foods are not recommended for cats.” See also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat_food#Vegetarian_or_vegan_food. Anyway, you can get vegetarian/vegan foods, but you need to read the labels carefully and be sure they’re nutritionally complete, paricularly with regard to vitamin A and taurine. Here’s one: http://www.veggiepets.com/acatalog/vegetarian_cat_food.html. On the other hand… the Animal Protection Institute says, “The long-term implications of these supplements are unknown. Therefore, API does not recommend that cats be fed a strictly vegetarian diet.” Personally, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to take an animal that is by nature a pure carnivore and try to make it a vegetarian. I’d be more inclined to follow tikkiro’s suggestion of finding a more “natural” food that avoids animal testing and the use of by-products, etc., while still matching the cat’s natural dietary preferences. All in all, it’s a tough call. (We’re now on a very expensive prescription cat food, to fight the urinary problems, so I’m researching alternatives, too.)

  4. Julia says:

    I’ve agonised over this same issue myself. I’d love to have a cat, but I just can’t face the idea of having to buy meat for it. I often think about it, but always conclude that the best thing is for me not to have one.

    If I did have a cat though, like if someone I knew died and I had to look after it or something – or if I was in your position and already had one – I think I would do what you’re doing and try to feed it the most ethically produced meat I could find. I don’t think a veggie diet is good for cats, they’re strict carnies unfortuantely.

  5. SilverTiger says:

    Thanks to both for your comments.

    tikkiro: “Wholesome” is certainly one element in the combination, along with “humane”.

    Manufacturers are apt to be sneaky. For example, many claim they do not test their products on animals but in fact either contract out their testing to specialist companies or buy ingredients that are animal tested. This is called “Lying with the truth”.

    There is also ignorance. Finding out whether products are animal tested or contain animal ingredients is often difficult or impossible because manufacturers and retailers don’t always know the status of the goods or ingredients they use or sell. I recently emailed Superdrug to ask which of their nail varnishes were not tested on animals. I received a polite reply saying that their own products were not so tested but that they couldn’t say about the others. I have taken to emailing manufacturers direct.

    Online lists of “animal-friendly” v “animal-unfriendly” manufacturers are not very useful as they cover only the big names.

    Julia: I do not even have the excuse that Freya was living with me when I turned vegetarian. That was true of my previous cat but I sought Freya “post-veggie”, because I missed having a cat.

    Currently I feed her on dry food but I am as aware of the moral dilemma as I would be if it stank of raw meat.

    Both: Opinion on the vegetarian issue seems evenly divided with many sources stating boldly that you cannot feed cats a vegetarian diet, even one enhanced with the required nutrients, and as many saying that you can, as long as it is properly constituted. One source pointed out that even non-vegetarian cat foods contain artificial taurine. To that extent it is no “better” than vegetarian cat food.

    I think my next step will be to seek veterinary advice and in the meantime try to obtain an “ethical” non-veggie food to tide us over.

    Email SilverTiger

  6. Ted Marcus says:

    I hope I’m not stating the obvious, but a Google search on “vegetarian cat food” turns up over a million hits. One of the first ones is veggiepets.com, which is presumably British since it lists prices in Sterling. They have “Vegan Cat Food from Ami,” which is “enriched with all the vitamins and minerals required by cats and also includes essential Taurine.” An amino acid is an amino acid, so Freya’s body can’t distinguish whether the taurine is extracted from meat or synthesized from petroleum.

    Then there’s the inevitable question: If you manage to obtain an appropriate vegan cat food, will Freya eat it? Cats are notoriously finicky, a fact that features prominently in advertising for cat foods.

    Seeking veterinary advice is a good idea. And also perhaps finding some Web forums that might include cat owners who have experience with veggie foods, as your vet may not.

    Finally, I’m obliged to point out that rats are quite happy with a vegetarian diet, although they’re officially omnivores. Still, I used to buy a commercial product for my rats labeled “Rat and Mouse Mix.” I often wondered whether it actually contained rat and mouse, even though there was no such mention in the ingredients list.

    I hope your Saturnalia was most enjoyable.

  7. SilverTiger says:

    Yes, I have checked out quite a few of these vegetarian/vegan catfood sites and have a few bookmarked. If that were all it needed, then I could consider the matter “case closed”.

    Unfortunately, there are many sites, some of them seemingly respectable, that say that a vegetarian diet is not suitable for cats even if manufactured specifically for that purpose. It is hard/impossible to tell whether this judgement is based on sound scientific research or is just a prejudice. Veterinary advice therefore seems required though in my experience, vets are not above entertaining prejudice.

    Feline finickiness is of course a problem. I once managed to keep Freya on an exclusion diet (a rather plain and boring dry food used when testing for allergy) for something like 12 weeks. Neither of us enjoyed the experience but we kept it up. I would hope the new food would be more palatable than this. It would have to be introduced little by little because Freya, like me, prefers things to be the same most of the time.In any case, I would like to find a food that has several flavours to ring the changes or, failing that, several cat foods that can be alternated to the same end.

    As for Christmas, maybe I will post about it.

    Then again, maybe not.

    Email SilverTiger

  8. SilverTiger says:

    tiffanytaylor: Sorry not to acknowledge on your comment earlier but it got held up by WordPress as a possible spam (no doubt because it contains two hyperlinks). I have only just seen it as I wasn’t notified by email.

    Thanks for your input. More grist for the mill 😉

    Email SilverTiger

  9. Pingback: Cat food revisited « SilverTiger

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