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.
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.
- 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.