Confused about grain-free cat food

I am confused about grain-free cat food. I think it’s becoming almost impossible to understand cat food ingredients and what is good or bad for our cats. Cat food manufacturers have to face competing objectives. They need to provide food which is affordable and which is suitable for a cat. It is the affordability element which results in ingredients which don’t look suitable for a cat.

Grains were introduced but then we had this marketing phenomenon about “grain-free” cat food. It has been described as a marketing technique to increase sales. It tapped into cat owners’ desire for a more natural product perhaps partly because dry cat food is seen as so unnatural because of the high carbohydrate content. Grain-free cat foods were one of the fastest growing sectors of the pet food market in 2016.

The question is: are grain-free cat foods superior? A small-animal nutritionist at Tufts University’s Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Cailin Heinze said:

“Grain-free is marketing. It’s only marketing… A lot of foods market themselves by what they are not including..”

Cailin is supported by Jennifer Larson, a clinical nutritionist at the University Of California Veterinary School in Davis who said the same thing:

“Grain-free is definitely a marketing technique that has been very successful. They’re buying an idea…not necessarily a superior product.”

It seems that the big problem with grain-free cat food is that the manufacturers substituted grains for other ingredients such as potatoes which have more carbohydrate than grains. Manufacturers want to provide energy sources cheaply and carbohydrates are a cheap source of energy.

As for the possibility of an allergic reaction to grains which is one reason why there are unpopular, it is said by scientist that is more likely cats will have an allergic reaction from eating beef, dairy and/or fish than from grains. You can see why I’m confused.

Another point that experts make is that cats, surprisingly for me, are quite good at breaking down and digesting carbohydrates. In fact, a cat can break down the carbohydrates found in high concentrations in cereal grains such as rice, wheat and corn. The cooked or extruded forms of these carbohydrate are easily and rapidly digested so says the site:

It seems that the manufacturers are trying to meet the cat’s protein requirement with meat and the cat’s energy and fibre requirements with carbohydrates instead of protein which would be the case in the wild. It’s about money at the end of the day. It’s about providing a cheap form of energy to the domestic cat while trying to meet the requirements of an obligate carnivore.

But I am confused about cat food ingredients. It seems to me that the grain-free mantra of the past few years has been misleading.

7 thoughts on “Confused about grain-free cat food”

  1. While my furbabies get a good quality pet food, they also get cooked chicken, fish, and beef, as well as cooked and raw fruits and veggies. Yes, whatever I eat, they get a little also-if they want it. They are not overweight nor underweight. They get dry and wet at every meal, but don’t get “people” food at every meal. And their treats are regulated. Over the years, I have become extremely disgusted with pet food manufacturers and don’t trust them further than I can throw a dinosauer.

  2. Please bear with my fumbling of URLS. I am without my usual access or bookmarks. Type in or search petsumer report (Susan Thixton) for info of what I speak: what’s really in which pet food, where it comes from, updates on that and the industry… everything including analysis of each brand. Out of 14 prior cats I’ve had there’s one who’s still with us at 17, I think due in no small part to my effort to feed decent food to him for most of his life, but especially at this time of his life. I have three younger ones who I’m sure will fair better than all who died way before their time, I’m sure due to toxic cat foods. Please hear me…

  3. Understand that it is the pet food industry that draws my ire, and for ample reason. There is more to be upset about than grain in pet food or how marketting drives us nuts.

  4. All of that is ONE way to look at it. I’ll keep my mouth shut and simply offer a source for information that is attained purely by science alone – and yes out of the goodness of some scientists hearts. See


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