Are Breed-specific Cat Foods Designed for Better Feline Health?

Pointed Oriental Shorthair cat

The pet food industry is one of the most lucrative groups of businesses in the United States and Europe, continuing to grow exponentially. According to a report recently released by Petfood Industry.com, the extremely strong animal/human bond is responsible for helping to sequester the industry from the ravages of a bleak economy.

Reported in Market Research’s February/March 2013 online survey on Packaged Facts, “83% of pet owners agreed with the statement “I consider my pet(s) to be part of the family,” with 59% agreeing a lot and 25% agreeing a little. This “pet parent” sentiment has never been stronger, putting premium and superpremium products that rise to “human grade” standards at the forefront of the U.S. pet market.

With the almost overwhelming variety of cat foods available on the market today, it’s no wonder that the pet-food advertisers have found so many “creative ways to inspire cat-loving consumers to use their products”. The advertisers are betting on the fact that kitty guardians will make giving their pets what they think is nutritionally sound food and other products a priority.

However, when it comes to advertising pet food, perhaps the words attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson,

“If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor…the world will build a path to his door.”

…sums up the pet food industry’s strategy quite nicely.

What makes these advertisements so appealing to many is the seductive manner in which the manufacturers describe their products. Unfortunately many people take their word to be the “Gospel” truth.

Is it more appropriate to feed a breed-specific cat food than an ordinary high-quality cat food to help keep your purebred pedigree kitty in top condition? Although it is necessary to feed species- specific products to obtain optimum feline nutrition; apparently the pet food industry would like for us to believe that “breed-specific” nutrition is far more appropriate.

One of the prominent cat food manufacturers in both the USA and the United Kingdom describes Siamese cats as one of the most out-going- people loving kitties. But the breed is also depicted as having unpredictable personalities, and sometimes “volatile”; a highly active feline. As a result the company recommends that Siamese cats are better fed with a high protein- low energy diet to help them keep “sane” and maintain their tight, muscular bodies.

The first few ingredients listed in a popular brand of “Siamese-specific” kibble is chicken by-product meal, wheat gluten, corn, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, brewers rice and brown rice.

Compare that with the first human-grade ingredients contained in the cat food that Sir Hubble Pinkerton and Dr. Hush Puppy are fed. They are listed as chicken, turkey, chicken broth, chicken liver, chicken meal and turkey liver. No by-products, no grains, or wheat products; the carbohydrates that cats cannot digest adequately.

What about those products touted to contain aids to better dental health? Chewing the specially designed kibble will give cats cleaner teeth, reduce tartar and freshen their breath. I wonder if the folks involved in creating this food understand that cats don’t chew their food; most cats swallow kibble whole. As far as this writer is concerned maintaining optimal dental health is brushing their teeth and an annual dental examination.

I imagine the Petfood industry has truly built that better mousetrap. These products are being sold at record –level rates. I just wonder about the long-range negative health effect of cats being fed primarily a diet of meat by-products and carbohydrates on a daily basis.

What are your thoughts about inferior-grade cat food advertised as a feline panacea? Tell us in a comment.

Jo

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Are Breed-specific Cat Foods Designed for Better Feline Health? — 53 Comments

  1. To claim that there are high quality and low quality cat foods is nonsense. They are all bad because they do not contain high quality animal protein. The ingredients are mostly byproducts and carbohydrates. The claimed 30% or so protein is actually plant protein which is not bio-available to cats.
    Regarding the following statement.-

    “As a result the company recommends that Siamese cats are better fed with a high protein- low energy diet to help them keep “sane” and maintain their tight, muscular bodies.”

    The is absolute nonsense because cats get their energy from protein whereas human get energy mostly from carbohydrates. How can they say that a high protein food is low energy? And what protein are they referring to? Certainly they are talking about useless plant protein.
    The requirement for “Truth in advertising” is clearly not respected.
    To suggest that different breeds require different food is transparent sales talk. Then they go on to show that the ingredients of their special food is just the same as any other cat food. They really do think that people are idiots. Having said that I have met a lot of ladies with cats who only buy the most expensive foods thinking that it is better. They are wasting their money.

  2. What I mean by not being bio-available for cats is that a cat cannot take simple plant protein and re-make it into the complex amino acids that it needs. A cat has to eat animal protein

  3. Breed specific food is all hype, but no doubt a large number of people will fall for it.
    I’m working on some of Harvey’s way of feeding. It feels right and good.

  4. Harvey and Dee- AMEN!

    I can’t believe what hype that many people swallow (pardon the pun). Cats are obligate carnivores- I keep telling people that.. but they don’t seem to get it!

    The problem is compounded by the veterinarians who sell products that no self-respecting kitty should eat. I ran across a message board that was created by veterinarians who continued to tell members that grain is fine for kitties- grain, corn, all the rest of the “crap” that manufacturers are peddling.

    When I heard about Breed-Specific cat food (and dog food no less) I nearly fell off my chair in hysterics. But these companies are getting rich at the expense of the health of our magnificent cats.

    • Here is a thought…breeders create cat breeds that tend to have certain defects – genetically inherited.

      Then the cat food manufacturers create a food that in a poor way might address those defects. If that was the case there could be something like “breed-specific” cat food even though the reasons for it are highly unsatisfactory.

      For example: There may be a predisposition in the Siamese cat to diabetes. The cat food manufacturers could produce a low carb food that they say is good for Siamese cats.

      Or the Siamese cat (no mention of the type of Siamese cat) may have a predisposition towards Psychogenic Alopecia (hair loss through excessive grooming as a result of behavioral problems). So a manufacturer could make a cat food that helps with regurgitation hair balls.

      It is feeble and crass but I am just making a point.

      Other than that all cat breeds and moggies are felis silvestris catus and all require the same cat food, something as close to the mouse as can be made.

      • Michael, that might be a good idea IF the quality of the food that is “specific” to a breed was at the forefront. But this particular brand of food is feeding Meezers massive carbohydrates that could certainly promote Diabetes.. in a heartbeat.

        Siamese tend toward kidney problems. I certainly would not want to feed my Siamses carbs. In fact, the prescription diets being sold to handle kidney problems may only help alleviate symptoms but not the progression of the disease. Additionally cats with kidney problems need protein- to prevent muscle atrophy.

        Low phosphorus and raw diets are more appropriate. I would bet my bottom dollar that most commercial cat food manufacturers wouldn’t “go there”.

        http://feline-nutrition.org/answers/answers-kidney-disease-phosphorus-and-raw-diets

        • I agree that the manufacturers are cynical sh*ts 🙂 It is all a con as Harvey says. They can use breed specific illnesses to cynically make and market crappy cat food on the pretext that it is specifically beneficial to a certain cat. We – people who are wised up to it – know that it isn’t beneficial but a lot of people are taken in and how can you check whether it is beneficial or not? No one can.

    • Ok Jo – you have hit the nail on the head. I have a crappy keyboard on the weekend so sadlyI can’t make a big comment right now but I sure as hell could.

      Did you read about Robin Olson’s trip to the Hills factory? Or any of the other ladies who were there that wrote about it? I thought it was a great eye opener as to how those big brand people think. I’ll find you the links if you didn’t read those.

      This subject needs to be addressed seriously. I’m rather ashamed that Nestle,who owns most cat food companies, are from Switzerland. Awful company.

      It’s amazing the tactics and lies and mis-leading that goes on throughout all this industry.

      Your food sounds excellent!

      • Marc, you know that Olson was invited by Hills to visit the factory as was another cat blogger.

        Hills paid for the flight and sent a car and paid for the hotel. I guess they were looking for positive reviews but failed to get one from Olson.

        I am not sure what the thinking behind it was.

        • Yes I know that. Connie from ‘Tales From The Foster Kittens’ wrote about it too. She is an expert on cat nutrition in my opinion – with so much knowledge and person experience. Same with Robin and the other ladies.

          They really believe they are doing it right (to some extent) I think.

  5. Well, two nights ago little black Cisco tried to sell me on this breed-specific food thing. I was eating Thai food and he insisted that he is Siamese and therefore entitled to a share of my Thai food. It didn’t work.

  6. Marc- with the exception of ONE Hill’s product that actually was the only thing Dr. Hush Puppy would eat- on the advice of a friend who is a Holistic feline veterinarian- since he HAD to eat- we gave him A/d. He loved it and eating it gave him his appetite back for appropriate food.

    I am totally with you on Hills.. UGH.. and love to see those links.

    • Hills make tasty dry cat food but all dry cat food is inadequate in my view. I guess taste is added in. One thing Hills are good at is knowing what taste cats like and adding to the “cardboard” that is the cat food.

      • And vets push Hills for the same reason allopathic practitioners (“Doctors” in western belief) push drugs, drugs, drugs. It’s all about the $$$ and if they can get people on a treadmill of sickness>doctor visits>drugs endlessly, it keeps them in Benzes and mansions. Ditto the “pet” food industry and the vets who are now increasingly showing their hands as being in it for the money while caring little, if at all, for their patients.

        • Benzes and mansions

          I like that. We are all exploited by big business, the human animal and the animal. I guess animals are exploited more than humans because they have no voice other than ours and people like us.

          • Agree 100% — just like kids, the elderly and the “challenged” among our own species. It’s diabolical, actually. The vulnerable, innocent and blameless should receive the top priority and the most care. We’re mammals, hardwired to be compassionate and caring. That’s been hijacked wholesale — or retail, actually ;(

            • The older and wiser I get the more I realise that the world is run by big business in conjunction with politicians and of these two, business is far more potent a force. And they are run by alpha males who want one thing quick: bucks.

              • Well, we all survive on money, but these people — and there are more than a few females among them, contrary to what the mainstream media may say — are avaricious on steroids. As someone wise once sang, “There’s enough in the world for everyone’s need/but not enough in the world for everyone’s need” (Jimmy Cliff) (And personally, I’m in it for the cat food)

      • Michael- I only would feed a/d to our cats in a health emergency when they refuse to eat. The product is called a/d Canine/Feline Critical Care and it is packaged only in 5.5 oz cans.

        What’s nice about this product is that it is easily mixed with water- since it is very moist to begin with, so can be administered with a syringe if necessary. It is also used when having to tube feed a kitty.

        • We get a/d here. I fed by darling cat Binnie Hills a/d when she was dying of kidney disease and old age. It is very palatable and expensive! The idea was to boost her appetite. It upsets me to think of her.

          • That food is a lifesaver. Sealy had it and its what saved Jubi when she had the calicivirus and almost died. I even did a review on it on the company website. Its $2 a small can at the vet and I never ever have fewer than 3 cans for emergencies.

            • This is Jubi being syringe fed the a/d. She was too weak to even stand on her own. Vet had to give her fluids and antibiotic injection and sent her home with antibiotics. The day after this was made she was able to eat laying like this out of the actual food bowl.

          • I think we all loved your Binnie too, Michael.
            I’m the same about many and can’t even bear to look at pictures. I’m afraid that I’ll never stop crying.

            • I have crystal clear images of the moments when I lost my cats as if it just happened. It was the only time I bought Hills a/d. It was on the recommendation of my veterinarian. She’s excellent.

  7. Frozen prepared meals for people cost about the same as cat food in the UK.

    But the human food is tailored for humans while the cat food is a poor substitute for cats.

    Therefore I don’t understand why cat food manufacturers can’t make cat food that is better tailored for cats e.g. frozen raw meat meal of some sort.

    The answer must be that they make big profits from the way they make cat food and don’t want to change.

  8. “…The first few ingredients listed in a popular brand of “Siamese-specific” kibble is chicken by-product meal, wheat gluten, corn, corn gluten meal, chicken fat, brewers rice and brown rice…” ‘Nuff said on that! Obviously, different builds/temperaments have different requirements and those can be addressed by researching thoroughly and feeding top-quality food (in differing amounts, not differing ingredients because, bottom line, all cats are CATS first and foremost! Yes? Yes!) Sir Hubble amply illustrates this — who wouldn’t say that he is a cat at the top of his form, thanks to your love and caring and excellent feeding? >^^<

  9. I actually think that the concept of breed specific foods is a good idea. Many breeds have breed specific health problems and I have always maintained that nutrition is a much better way to manage health issues than by medicating. I believe this for people as well. Now, whether or not the food manufacturers really have the animal’s best interest in mind or not is a different story. But I do like the concept.

  10. As a person who has little rely lived their entire life with Siamese cats, I can say that the Royal Canin “breed specific” food mentioned in this article is not something I would feed my Siamese. The way they describe the breed is not accurate in my experience. As I type this one of my Blue Points is dozing peacefully on my lap and his brother is curled up on the bed. However, because one of them has a food allergy, I do feed my cats one of the “hypoallergenic” veterinary diets made by Royal Canin and I am very pleased with it. The cats like both the wet and dry versions and it is made with good, quality ingredients. Also, to my knowledge, except for the huge melamine related pet food recall that affected scores of manufactures in 2007, Royal Canin has never been the subject of any other food recall for any reason.

    Unlike dogs, cats weren’t bred for specific jobs. They don’t come in the same variety of shapes, sizes and metabolic profiles. Essentially all domestic cats are the same biologically and have the same nutritional requirements. Also unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores and need a specific percentage of meat protein in their diets. Cats fed low protein diets – as is often the case in cats with chronic renal failure – suffer from muscle wasting that leads to other issues. So, short of that, I would not feed any of my Siamese Royal Canin’s “breed specific” diet. On the other hand, if we were talking about dogs, I wouldn’t hesitate.

    • Thanks for commenting Robin. The idea of breed specific food is really playing on people’s ignorance of the concept of a cat breed. No criticism intended to these people but a lot are not clear about what a cat breed is or how it differs from a species of cat. Of course we know that all cats have the same requirements, wild of domestic. It is surprising to see that captive wild cats receive much more genuine cat food than the domestic cat. I find this strange.

  11. Upon seeing so many foods on the market I started looking at labeling and went to food company web sites. I talked with several vets also. After much research I kind of wonder if there is some wool being pulled over the eyes of the purchaser. I finally settled on two specific foods for our cats plus home cooked foods as well. Since our decision, the cats are healthy and happy. I do not believe that designer foods will keep teeth tarter free. Watching my cats chow down tells me that they don’t chew much at all unless I give them big pieces of actual meat that they have to gnaw to get smaller to swallow. Otherwise they pick up food and gulp it whole. As far as breed specific food….I have not one purebred cat at this time. When I had my Maine Coon I made sure he had a good nutritious food and lots of fresh water. His coat was silky and his eyes bright and inquisitive. I will not mention the foods we feed here. I can tell you that the dry is higher end and the canned is moderately priced. My thoughts are that in the wild a cat will devour it’s prey and only leave the bile sac from the liver and an occasional tail or skull. Everything is consumed to provide nutrients. I have tried to give my cats food that will mimic their wild families diet.

  12. Thank you! You just answered a big question on our toothless Sealy. I didn’t know cats swallow dry kibble whole!

    His diet is based on what he can digest without throwing up since he has stomacitis. So he eats according to health issues rather than breed.

    • I think it is bad that cats swallow kibble whole. It is not meant to be swallowed. How does the stomach deal with it? Dry hard food should be masticated. That is the general idea. It seems strange that the pet food manufacturers don’t get to grips with this.

    • Elisa,

      Since our cats were born with Herpes, (which can also affect the gums), even though I brushed their teeth daily, and they had regular veterinary dental care, by the time they were 8 years old their gums were so bad (even using L-Lysine daily also) that most of their teeth had to be extracted.

      Did that stop them from swallowing their kibble “treats” whole. I offer them about 5 or 6 pieces a couple of times a day since I don’t feed dry- but they love their grainless “snacks”.

      • I am surprised to hear that your cats have lost most of their teeth.

        I can tell that you are a very thoughtful cat feeder, Jo.

        Am I wrong but you seem to have quite a lot of health issues with your cats despite your very concerned and excellent caretaking?

        • Michael- these kitties are “special needs” and yes, they do have a lot of health issues. I think I just paid for my vet’s car (LOL)… seriously though-since they were adopted each at 4 months old they have had more than their share of medical problems. It is not only stressful for them- it is for me. I used to think I was an overly concerned pawrent, but my vet assures me that I have always been perfectly right contacting her-because every issue I call her about happens to be something very legitimate.

          We almost lost both last summer from some dread virus – running 104.5 – it was very scary. Thankfully I have two vets who are very accessible.

          • Gosh, I can feel the stress. There is nothing more stressful for me than when my cat is seriously ill. I had no idea your gorgeous cats were special needs. A big responsibility caring from them. I admire you for that. They look healthy.

      • I have false upper teeth and I can still eat everything except nuts without having them in. We’ve had 3 rescues who came to us with no teeth and they have’t had any problems. Sealy was on 5 packs of food a day when he came to us and it took forever to put weight on him. He even had Critical Care and Nutra Cal. It must have taken a lot of calories to heal his head injury as he weighed 5.5 lbs and stayed under 6.5 until he healed 7 months after his accident. Now he’s a little whopper. His fur is now thick and shiny where before it was very thin and dull.

  13. Many years ago, 10 years to be exact one of my cats suffered from a urinary tract infection. It took a couple trips to the vets to figure out which cat it was. At that time I could not afford to take all 8 of them at one time. Sure enough the one who was sick was in the second round of visits. After treating her it was recommended she be placed on a special diet for Urinary infection. After looking around I contacted Purina about their food for this condition. My question was simple, would feeding this to all my cats long term be harmful in any way. The response from the company took a couple days but they said after looking at the facts I gave them they could not see any potential harm. All of my cats have been on this brand for 10 years and not one cat has ever shown any kind of negative reaction. I also have not had a single cat come down with a urinary infection of any kind. As for cat food for special breeds I think is a hoax and just a money making game. Folks do your home work, don’t believe everything you hear or see on any advertisement.

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