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Cat Food

Our kitten is no longer a kitten. By our vet’s estimate, Ollie was born at the end of last August, so it’s now time for adult cat food.

I’ve never thought much about cat food. As a vegetarian, I feel bad feeding my cats meat, but I know that they actually must have it (unlike dogs). Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because of the taurine and other nutrients. While those are essential, synthetic versions and additives do exist—that’s what’s added to commercial cat foods (and Red Bull). The real issue is that they have a difficult time digesting vegetables and can develop urinary tract problems without enough meat in their diet. While some people claim that you can feed your cat a perfectly healthy vegan diet, I would be very worried about making mine sick. (Especially since Jasmine is already on vet-recommended cat food for kidney problems.)

Ollie tested. Brenda approved.

Ollie tested. Brenda approved.

I’m looking for something that’s the best choice for Ollie’s health and my morals. But it’s very difficult figuring out what that is. There doesn’t seem to be much of a consensus, even for the basic question of wet vs. dry food. (I’m going to ask my vet, but for the moment I’ll stick with dry.) I did find out that most pet food you find in the supermarket is made primarily from meat by-products. That’s just a nice way of saying all the parts we won’t eat: “lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents.” Those aren’t very high-quality protein sources and aren’t as digestible for cats. And they come mostly from animals that are 4D: “dead, dying, diseased, or disabled” when they get to the slaughterhouse, and often abused (videos abound online). Their meat isn’t allowed to be served to humans for health reasons, so it gets put into pet food instead.

(Note: “chicken meal” in an ingredients list is actually okay—or better. It’s made from just flesh and skin, and it’s just 10% water. Regular meat is about 70% water. So as a primary ingredient, “meal” contains no by-products and means more protein.)

So I started by looking for cat food without any meat by-products in it. As a bonus, these generally have a higher protein content, too. There are actually quite a few of them, including some major brands that you’d be surprised by, like Purina Naturals. This is easy enough—just look at the label.

Then I started looking for how the animals slaughtered for the food are treated. There doesn’t seem to be any humane certification for pet food, so I take any such claims on packaging with a grain of salt. For that reason I’d like to go with a company that I trust at least a little, and Newman’s Own has a good track record. (They also fund things like the Hole in the Wall Camp for kids with serious illnesses that an elementary school friend of mine used to go to, so I’m kind of brand-loyal.)

Newman’s Own cat food is 32% protein, with organic chicken and chicken meal as the first two ingredients. Their cage-free chickens are raised by Bell & Evans. I think that’s a compromise that Oliver and I can both be happy with.

In the end, the brands that use higher-quality meat are definitely a lot pricier than the regular brands (three times more to switch from Kitten Chow to Newman’s Own), but I’m told the higher protein content should make Ollie more full, so he’ll eat less of it. (I’ll believe that when I see it; he’s a little scavenger.) And because it’s more easily digestible, that’s supposed to mean less poop for us to scoop. I’m really looking forward to that.

I’m also looking forward to not having to think about this again. That was a lot of research just for cat food!

Comments

Comment from Mike
Time September 15, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Wow… Just, wow… No wonder there is a rising backlash against vegetarianism these days.

I like this blog – I really do. But I want to read about “pragmatic environmentalism”, not for preachy, holier-than-thou spiels about what I feed my cats. Cats eat meat – if you have a problem with that, why do you have a cat in the first place?

If you were to re-write the second and third paragraphs to eliminate any mention of vegetarianism and morality, and instead just talk about the health issues, there would be a lot less eye rolling on this side of the computer screen.

Comment from Brenda Pike
Time September 15, 2009 at 3:21 pm

One could argue that anytime we talk about things we’re doing to improve our lives, we’re preachy and holier-than-thou. But if I were to eliminate any mention of vegetarianism and morality, it wouldn’t be me. I’m a vegetarian for moral reasons, so if I must feed my cats meat I want it to be humanely raised. However, you’ll notice I’m not taking the chance of jeopardizing my cats’ health by trying to make them vegetarian, too.

And not eating meat is an environmental issue, as well as a moral one. A 2006 UN Food and Agriculture Organization report said that “the livestock sector generates more greenhouse gas emissions . . . than transport”. It may not be something that you’re currently willing or able to do (there are a lot of things I could be doing that I’m not planning on anytime soon), but we should at least be able to discuss it.

Pingback from Focus Organic.com  | All Things Eco Blog Carnival Volume Sixty Eight »
Time September 21, 2009 at 12:46 pm

[…] Pike presents Cat Food posted at Pragmatic Environmentalism. Brenda says, "Now that my kitten's a year old, I'm looking […]

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Time September 27, 2009 at 2:41 pm

[…] Pike presents Cat Food posted at Pragmatic Environmentalism, saying, "Now that my kitten's a year old, I'm looking for […]

Comment from estrella
Time November 21, 2009 at 5:35 pm

Thanks for this article. I have had the same thing on my mind since I am also a vegetarian with cats. I have the option of choosing not to eat meat, which I have chosen to do primarily for health reasons, but also because I don’t believe in the inhumane way factory-farmed animals are treated. My cats on the other hand have to eat meat. They are obligatory carnivores. I do like to feed them meat that has been raised humanely. I grew up on a farm and routinely saw chickens that were happy, free range fed, healthy animals loose their head to an ax in one fell swoop and end up in a soup pot. Fine I can deal with that. But when I see animals with their beaks cut off packed tight with one another in squalid conditions, dosed with antibiotics and hormones to keep them alive and growing-it makes me sick.
I have fed my cats free range, organic chicken supplemented with the appropriate amount of calcium. I have also fed them Newman’s Own. I am always on the lookout for food that is healthy for them, and inevitably the food that is most healthy has been raised humanely.
Thanks again for the great post and your awesome blog.

Pingback from Switching Cat Food . . . Again « Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time December 23, 2009 at 7:41 pm

[…] I mentioned in my Cat Food post, this sort of urinary tract problem is one of the reasons why cats can’t be vegan. Male […]

Pingback from Cat Food « Citizens for Sustainability
Time December 30, 2009 at 11:10 pm

[…] This is from September when it was time to switch her cat to adult cat food: I’ve never thought much about cat food. As a vegetarian, I feel bad feeding my cats meat, but I know that they actually must have it (unlike dogs). Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because of the taurine and other nutrients. While those are essential, synthetic versions and additives do exist—that’s what’s added to commercial cat foods (and Red Bull). The real issue is that they have a difficult time digesting vegetables and can develop urinary tract problems without enough meat in their diet. While some people claim that you can feed your cat a perfectly healthy vegan diet, I would be very worried about making mine sick. […]

Pingback from Looking Back at 2009 « Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time January 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm

[…] Humane cat food – This was a bust. My cat liked the food but was prescribed special food by his vet because of health problems. […]

Comment from Rosa del Valle
Time February 19, 2010 at 9:47 am

Thank you x1000 for this article. I would never give my cat a vegetarian diet, but it’s quite expensive/complicated to track down a really humane source (unless I want to buy raw, frozen mice and the like…). Newman’s sounds like a decent compromise. Thanks again!

Comment from Rebecca Simmons
Time March 19, 2010 at 11:29 pm

Thanks for this blog posting! I am looking for humane cat food to feed my kitty. I will def. check out Newman’s Own!

Comment from Bobbi
Time September 16, 2010 at 1:52 am

Wow, Mike, your comments are deeply troubling. This entry is about how to make ethical choices as someone who is faced with the dilemma of caring for a companion animal, while at the same time wanting to do right by non-companion animals. Animal rights is about abolishing cruelty, and to call those who dare to see the suffering of non-humans in this world “holier-than-thou” is just the kind of disgusting, ignorant attitude that perpetuates the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, and research. Thanks for being That Guy.

Pingback from Pragmatic Environmentalism
Time September 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm

[…] One year ago: Cat Food. […]

Comment from Andrea
Time August 31, 2012 at 6:32 pm

I appreciated this article!

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