What precisely is in cat food? We have a right to know.

Cat with head in food bowl
Should pet food manufacturers be more transparent about their products? Today, the plethora of cat food brands and the variety of flavors marketed for sale makes it much easier for kitty guardians to help our fur-family members from getting bored with their everyday hum-drum dinners. But in order for cats to remain healthy they must eat regularly. Being able to serve up several choices of diffferent foods to our kitties can whet both their appetites and mealtime enjoyment.

Although variety is the spice of life, how do we really know precisely what kinds of ingredients are contained in our cat’s food? How can we be absolutely certain that the food we are giving our kitties is not only nutritionally complete, but that it’s safe?

But before you say, “The label lists it’s ingredients”, read on McDuff!

I am an avid cat food label reader. But I must admit that when I ran across an article on the Truth about Pet Food website, I was completely stunned while I devoured all the information it contained. I was so aghast by what I was reading, that my chin literally dropped to my chest.

While I am not at all savy about the regulations concerning cat food products manufactured and sold outside the United States, I am relatively sure that some of the things I learned about how these products are made and what goes into them most likely applies to countries outside the United States.

For example: here in the USA, for any preservatives added to ingredients in the food that are made by the ingredient supplier – not by the manufacturer – there is no law that requires the name of that preservative to be listed on the product label.

What makes this even more worrisome is that ethoxyquin, a fat preservative that is added to many popular brands of dog food is considered by canine experts to be “dangerous”. Ethoxyquin is used to harden rubber and it is also a pesticide. This chemical is not legal for use in human food products, however the Food and Drug Administration considers it safe in “small quantities”. What are “small quantities”?

You can bet your bottom dollar that if it ain’t safe for humans, how can it be safe as a preservative in dog food? Will pet food manufactures add this ingredient to cat food too?

Don’t we, as pet food purchasers, have the right to know that there is no requirement to list processing aids such as this one, which is potentially dangerous? This being the case, is it fair that we are not informed that this preservative is contained in the product?

There are some food dyes used in the manufacture of pet foods to make the product more appealing to the eye. But these dyes have no nutritional value to our pets and some may also be risky; some causing tumors and cancers.

Those beautiful mouth-watering vegetable photos on some cans and bags of cat food may look extremely nutritious and inviting. Since regulations pertaining to pets here in the United States do not require any standards for these ingredients, what you see may certainly not be what you get.

Furthermore, according to The Truth About Pet Food, while Federal law prohibits the use of dead, diseased, dying or disabled livestock, (4 D animals) for human consumption, the FDA allows 4 D meats to be used as a meat source in pet food. Without providing a warning on the label on the product’s meat source, pet food manufactures can outright claim that their food is “made with real beef, real chicken or pork”. It may be real alright – but did these sources come from healthy animals?

Additionally, due to the absence of crucial regulations requiring manufacturers to list precisely what type and kind of meat is contained in their products, the word “chicken” on the label might actually end up containing a very small percentage of muscle and organ meat. In reality the majority of the “meat” may be from only the animal’s skin and bones.

When it comes to manufacturing pet food, stricter regulations must be put in place in all countries around the world to help ensure that we are feeding our companion animals only the best quality food and not feeding them products that may even shorten their lives. What do you think? Share your opinion in a comment.


Photo credit: Flickr User Annie Mole

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What precisely is in cat food? We have a right to know. — 33 Comments

  1. i agree we have the right to know, as we want to make sure our pets are getting the right proper diet nutrition. That wrong food materials arent being put in.

  2. The FDA is disgusting. In America people are sold GM foods and the companies don’t have to lable to source ingredients as being GM – no doubt there is a hell of a lot of cancer in the US. It’s disgusting that your own government doesn’t even have your health in mind. It’s a scandal.

    Meanwhile I can’t imagine if they give humans GM foods what they think animals are ok to eat. I hate to think what they allow. They are awful awful bought and owned people who work for the gov. THANK god GM foods are illegal over here.

    Jo – sorry to tangent but have you heard from Vincent and his friend the tortoiseshell cat? I am worried they will or have been euthanized.

    • Marc,

      Be assured that Vincent and Torti are living happily at the Sanctuary, in fact with two more kitties in a special section. They are not caged. I spoke with the Sanctuary owner a couple of weeks ago to learn about their progress.

      They are happy and playing together, according to the owner. She was very busy with other rescue work when I called, but she assured me they are doing fine and have a permanent home with them.

      I will call again in another few weeks for an update. But all seems fine.

      • Thanks for letting me know Jo. If something happened to them I’d hate myself for not insisting and coming and getting them myself.

        I hope they are happy and having a nice time I really do. I’m relieved they aren’t in cages too. It’s so sad that Vincent had this life the way it turned out. I wish I could make him happy.

        • We had real difficulty getting information. I emailed the organisation who run the sanctuary and no response. It is not good, really. In fact, is downright poor considering we were committed to donating considerable funds. The usual niceties of life like responding to correspondence have disappeared.

          • Ye I was wondering about that Michael. I am still good for the money and want to give it for Vincent – I’d really love to pay for some nice catnip toys and maybe some extra special cardboard scratcher or something that could be just for him if he likes it.

            • Hey Marc,

              They actually “refused” the donation- asking us to donate it to another charity instead. I have no idea why they didn’t want to take it- It would seem to me that the Sanctuary that is still under construction could certainly need it…….

              Michael is correct- they don’t respond really well. Perhaps it’s because they are busy- but heck, how much time does it take to drop a reply? I guess they don’t realize how much we really worry about these kitties.

    • It’s all about money and the people who make regulations (agencies of politicians) working with big business when they should be independent and working for the health and welfare of animals and people.

  3. Oh I agree! Discovering truth about cat food is jaw dropping. No fun when your kitty is sick and not many good alternatives available. I think to regulate pet food industry more will be the same task as banning selling sigarettes – huge money involved. I’d love vets selling quality pet food (which I get elsewhere). The way to go could be to make so it’s beneficial for them to sell that food. Or to have more shops selling it. It’s easier to find such shops in US than in other countries. In Oz I found only one brand that’s of the most quality selling here. Not much choice here. It’s a huge industry, big money. But anything is possible.

  4. You know me by now. I dislike big business. Pet food manufacturers are big business. The longer you live and the more you think, the more you realise that what you see is not what is.

    The people who run these companies don’t genuinely care about cat health. Their first priority is profit for the company which will lead to a share bonus for the directors. Directors of companies are there to serve their self-interest primarily. That is not always inline with the company’s interests.

    Whatever it takes to make a profit will do and that means getting cats to like the food. To like the food is the first objective.

    Whether it is good for the cat or not is the second objective.

  5. Big businesses don’t care about the people buying the food or about their cats, they only care about the amount of money they can make selling their products.

  6. When I was at college I studied animal nutrition – specifically on cats (I love those Damn felines) and when we actually broke the constituent ingredients down I was horrified thst some brands have almost 0 nutrition in them. I always remember one of our final tests was to collate Information from pet food boxes and was shocked that 3 (which r probably the most sold 3) had less than 10% OF adequate nutrition xxx

  7. It’s a conglomerate of corps.
    The trash in most cat food is shameful.
    And, the dyes… Do my cats care what color it is? NO!
    They are marketing to human senses and ignoring the cat welfare.

  8. Dee.. for a moment I thought I read in your last comment “It’s a conglomorate of CRAP”. LOL. Well that is the truth about 99% of commercial cat food.

    What makes all of this even more chilling is that Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/marcbabej/2013/05/29/dog-food-made-from-feathers-a-win-win-for-royal-canin/?utm_source=alertscalledoutcomment&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=20130531

    Has announced that for dogfood- Royal (PIA) Canin is adding feathers- yes ground feathers- as a protein source- feather meal.

    Going back to the Truth about Pet Food site- read this really revealing article about this “miraculous” product.

    • Jo, the reason why your comment was held for moderation is because it contains links and the software that scans comments decided that it might be spam. I thought I had better tell you that or remind you of that in case you thought that I was holding it for moderation.

    • Well, it’s a conglomerate of crap as well!
      What can we expect?
      I read several articles a while back that divulged just how much rat hair and rat feces the FDA allows in our canned tuna.
      The articles you listed took me to a sickening place.

    • Don’t you think that the consumer is allowing this sort of thing to happen? I believe the consumer, us, is too passive and apathetic about the quality of cat food. That does not apply to us or genuine cat lovers, of course. However, the majority of cat owners are possibly not concerned enough and the pet food manufacturers know this and they know that they can get away with it. Also, the regulatory authorities probably work too closely with the pet food manufacturers. They cosy up to each other which is very typical of the relationship between business and politicians.

  9. Michael,

    Just like declawing- a brutal procedure which I still blame mainly on the veterinarians- after all- “doc knows best”.

    I think much the same is going on in the pet food industry.The TV ads are ever so inviting, promising pet “owners” radiant health for their fur-kids. Brands like Purina, Fancy Feast- Nine Lives- Friskies- tout the best of ingredients (ugh) and since they are such popular brands folks that don’t understand anything about feline nutrition just buy it. It is also convenient since most super markets sell these products.

    But I must say that when I am monitoring the health and nutrition message boards at Pet360 I am beginning to see many cat guardians switching to better foods- grainless- etc, and some are going raw.

    The members who are feeding the best commerical cat foods are truly educating cat people about the inherent dangers in much of the commonly known products.

    So, slowly but surely the word is getting out- which is really great- and more people are reading the Truth about Pet Food site, and Dr. Karen Becker’s excellent articles on nutrition, health and her stand against declawing.

    So the public gets “snookered” and shies away from the more expensive relatively good commerical food- I say relatively since there are still ingredients in them that ain’t so wonderful. The problem is that so many of the ingredients are NOT listed on labels. This part is really up to the public to insist that every little tiny ingredient is listed on the cans and bags.

    People are also beginning to understand that while the better foods are costlier(which doesn’t necessarily mean they are the BEST) in the long run money is saved down the line in fewer vet bills.

    And the vets don’t help either- peddling some of the worst rx foods- filled with grain and other ingredients that are highly suspect.

    • Jo, Thanks for this are very informative comment. I agree that pet owners are becoming more critical of the quality of cat food as they educate themselves. I believe it is the Internet as you say which is the cause of this. People can research the subject of cat food very quickly on the Internet. In due course, I hope that the customers to the big pet food manufacturers will start to make demands to improve their standards but as Reno says in another comment we don’t want to see prices rise as a consequence.

      As you say, the veterinarians have a role to play to but some of them are in the pockets of the big manufacturers.

  10. While I agree that there “should” be much stricter standards for obtaining sources for and manufacturing pet food, I wonder at what cost? The cost of pet food is already astronomical. My husband and I are spending approximately $200 per month on “quality” pet food. We buy super premium foods and some of our pets are on rx diets. If there are stricter regulations, then the manufacuters will jack up the already exhorbitant prices in the name of profit margins. Unfortunately, I think it’s a loose, loose situation and our pets are the biggest losers. 🙁

    • Reno. You make a good point. But does your point mean that a lot of people do not have the means to pay for proper high-quality cat food? If that is the conclusion then perhaps there are a lot of people who should not look after a cat. Perhaps the cat gets a raw deal sometimes because he or she is being cared for by a family who does not have the means to look after a cat properly. I’m sure that this is the case because many people abandon cats from made up reasons. And when people relinquish a cat for economic reasons (for example, because a person has lost his job) they always end up keeping an expensive computer and an expensive television and car. And they drink beer and smoke cigarettes.

      • I agree about priorities and keeping expensive “toys” and smoking, etc. over caring for a pet. I think that’s totally wrong. That said, however, I also feel that $50 or $60 for a 15Lb bag of cat food is just outragous. (That is what some of the super premium foods cost here in my area.) Dog food is just as bad. The cost for one of my dog’s food is over $90 for only 26Lbs. That only lasts about a month. The other dog’s food is at $83 for 25Lbs. My question is, why on earth does it need to be that high?

    • The cost of “premium” food is, Reno- quite outrageous. I totally agree.

      There are also huge differences in the cost of these foods. One internet store I had been using to purchase AD was $51.00 for a case of 24 cans.. I found another that charges $45.00 for the exact same product. And since I normally purchase an order that totals $49 or more- the shipping is free. Even a savings of $4-$5 is a help.

      And the cost of World’s Best Cat Litter from one site was extremely high. The site I use has very fair prices and with the free shipping it is great. Additionally, they charge just $4.95 for all shipping (no matter what the weight) if the order is less than $49. This is extremely helpful as well.

  11. Some ingredients may be harmful to pets, so I do think it is important to know exactly what you are feeding any pet. For safety sake, all ingredients need to be listed on the labels.

    • Vicki,

      I just finished reading another article on this topic, by the author of the article that inspired this blog.

      She recommends that we call the manufacturers of the cat food we are giving our kitties and ask them if the food is safe for human consumption.

      I will bet my bottom dollar that they will change the subject very quickly- and not respond authentically.

      It is up to us to let the manufacturers know that all the ingredients (no matter how little) should be listed on the label. It doesn’t cost the manufacturers any additional money really, to add a few words on the label. But if they are using HEALTHY ingredients why would they resist doing this? Hmmmmmmm!!!!!

  12. Well….having read this I kind of wonder if anyone thinks about what wild cats eat. I do know. When a feral moved in to the area she took out all the rabbits, mice, rats, and squirrels that she could catch. In the process she only left the bile sac, the occasional tail and some fur. She ate everything else. That is normal food for cats. It was mentioned that thee was skin, bones and other parts of animals that, to us, are disgusting. Much of what wild cats eat when they devour prey is essential for health and contains lots of important nutrients.
    I am not condoning the additives and preservatives in cat foods I am just mentioning that the disgusting stuff to us is not disgusting to cats.
    A few years ago there were major recalls of pet foods thanks to imported garbage from China. We were lucky here that the food we were feeding was never part of the recalls. Cooking for your cats is great but thee are key nutrients that they will not get in that food. They do get it from the canned foods though. I read the labels and check out the cat food producers. I question their foods when I am concerned. Being proactive and keeping the manufacturers on their toes is important. There is usually a phone number on the foods that you can call.

    • Nice comment. I sometimes wonder how life would be far better for our cat if we could feed him or her with the mice and rats that you refer to. Perhaps we should be able to buy the carcasses of mice and rats on supermarket shelves where once we bought boxes of manufactured pet food. I really think if whole rat and mice was available in a supermarket, perhaps vacuum packed, and if my cat was not so in tune with eating processed rather poor quality, manufactured cat food, then I would certainly buy a vacuumed packed rat! There is no doubt in my mind that it would be far more healthy for my cat and I also believe that very many cats would be healthier. One of the great obstacles is getting people to accept it. The pet food manufacturers manufacture their product to make it look appetising to us, the consumer. Thanks for the comment.

      • Our Jozef brought a rabbit home yesterday! Only the second one he’s ever caught in 12 years, it was dead when he brought it in, but still soft and warm, poor thing. He had a wonderful game kicking it around then tossed it to Walter and he had a turn, they thoroughly enjoyed themselves but neither made an attempt to eat it.
        We had to bury it in our garden and then lol Walter ‘watered’ its grave!

    • Iniki,

      Your points are very valid. But do we know the health condition of the animal whose bones and skin is part of the ingredients in the food? Do we know whether these animals that are included in the food have been treated with antibiotics and other drugs? In fact, do the manufactures of human food include this information on the package labels? Heck no!

      Those antibiotics actually create a huge problem in creating bacteria antibiotic resistance, so ultmately diseases in both species are not as effective in treating these conditions. It is dangerous.

      That is why folks who cook their own food, or serve raw highly suggest free-range raised meat- and animals free of antibiotics.

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