Cat Owners Unwittingly Support the Manufacture of Poor Quality Cat Food

Jo Singer’s article of today once again made me think about why pet food manufacturers, anywhere, have for decades turned out cat food which is not entirely suitable for the domestic cat. Many cat health problems stem from commercial cat food, it is said (IBD, Urinary Infections and Diabetes come to mind). Although there is a lack of precision in building up hard evidence. The key, however, is that commercial cat food is suitable to the cat owner.  It is cheap and it is convenient. I am writing primarily about dry cat food but wet cat food can be improved too.

cat eating and licking lips

Photo Nick Keen

If it was a lot better and entirely suitable meaning that it was an accurate replication of what a wild cats eats in the wild, it would be more expensive and the manufacturer would lose business because their target market is the mid-to-low income bracket, I suspect, as it is these people who are more likely to care for cats.

As a result, I have to conclude that it is cat owners who are unwittingly supporting the manufacture of poor quality cat food through their consistent acceptance of it.

There is another dimension to this.  Taking America as an example (but no more than that), the FDA monitor and regulate the quality of pet food.  I set out below what I wrote on a subdomain site about the attitude of the FDA towards animal food.


US Food and Drug Administration allow a much lower standard of food to be sold for pets than for humans. It is called “diverting food” from human consumption to pet consumption because for a host of reasons it is at least unpalatable and at worst poisonous to humans.

FDA has authorized the salvage of human or animal food considered to be adulterated for its intended use by diverting that food to an acceptable animal feed use

Commercial enterprises which intend to use adulterated “food” which I presume can be almost anything including euthanised pets (I don’t have firm evidence to support that), have to apply to the FDA:

requests for diversion should be submitted in writing to the appropriate FDA District Office

This page provides details. This shouldn’t in anyway surprise cat owners……


The truth of the matter is that the majority of cat owners cannot afford to buy super high quality cat food that replicates a raw diet or they do not want to spend that sort of money on it.

There is an easy way to force the pet food manufacturers to change their ways which is for cat owners to start making their own high-quality raw cat food diet and to shun all manufactured cat food.  If not all, at least dry food. The manufacturers would very quickly get the message and find a way to produce at a reasonable cost cat food that contains far less carbohydrates and which is entirely suitable for an obligate carnivore.

The only reason why manufacturers produce cat food containing some poor ingredients is because the ingredients are cheaper to buy and they still provide energy for the cat but in a way that is unsuitable to the cat’s metabolism.  I’m talking about carbohydrates, which is the exact point that Joe Singer made in her previous article. Cats should get most of their energy from fats and protein.

The ideal cat diet contains 3% carbohydrates not 30% (dry cat food).

“Due to their natural diet and certain enzyme deficiences, cats are uniquely adapted to metabolize protein and fat as energy, in preference to carbohydrates”1

The manufacturers ignore this simple fact.
Notes:

  • Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook 3rd ed. page 491.
  • I include myself in the cat caretakers who relunctantly accept commercial cat food. I don’t feed my cat dry cat food except for occasional nighttime feeding.
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Cat Owners Unwittingly Support the Manufacture of Poor Quality Cat Food — 5 Comments

  1. Michael,

    You are absolutely correct that if cat guardians made their own raw diets and stopped buying poor quality commerical brands our cats would be a lot healthier.

    But people shop for THEIR convenience. That’s why they feed dry food. It is a hell of a lot easier to open a bag and pour it into a bowl then walk away. Too many people free feed their cats (again for their convenience) which causes obesity in many cases.

    Making a nutritionally SOUND and correct raw food diet is a LOT of work. If folks are using commercial food for convenience, most cat owners won’t take the time to make the proper raw meat diet- which can end up to be more dangerous than a high quality commercial food.

    Fortunately there are several excellent pre-prepared raw food diets on the market that are made with human grade meats and the right combination of vitamins, minerals and other necessary ingredients. They aren’t cheap. But in the long run- they help to prevent expensive vet bills down the road.

    • Jo, I am one of those cat caretakers who should make their own cat food because all the information is available but I don’t. I do though buy high quality wet cat food and give Charlie a bit of dry for night grazing but I feel guilty. I support the manufacturers which I criticise.

  2. Michael,

    Making raw diets can be mind-blowing and complicated. But if you want to try to do it, I can hook you up with a really fine expert who can simplify the process. And there are some good commercial raw food diets on the market-(at least here in the USA. I think it is just us who may be concerned that the cats won’t like it- so – as far as my story goes, I procrastinate.

  3. A repeat from Jo’s article:

    There’s no way for me to get around not buying commercially available food. It’s a matter of selecting some of the best, or at least the middle ground, from what’s on the shelves. I try to add real meat to the wet that I buy when I can(boiling chicken parts), and that’s the best I can do for the time being. Time and money are the obstacles. I can’t cook 5 pounds of chicken every day for the amount of cats that I feed.
    It’s a shame that we can’t trust the people who claim to care most about our cats’ health, second to us.
    And, I have absolutely no faith in manufactuer claims that their certain foods have special benefits such as “urinary healthy”, “hairball formula”, “weight control”.

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