Gourmet Cat Foods: Will They Tempt Finicky Felines?

Gourmet cat food
Gourmet cat food
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Do gourmet cat foods tempt finicky felines? Our two Oriental shorthair cats, Dr. Hush Puppy and Sir Hubble Pinkerton are to say the least extremely fussy about what they will eat. Trying to figure out what will suit their fancy leaves my head spinning.

What makes this situation even more anxiety-producing is the meager selection of commercial grain-free, high protein cat foods that receives their stamp of approval, causing my fear that by serving them the same food over and over will quickly result in two exasperated felines going on strike; turning up their noses and refusing to eat at all.

What’s a loving fur-mom to do, given such a precarious situation? It was time for me to put on my thinking cap and get proactive. So one day while leisurely strolling down the cat food aisle at our local pet supermarket, I started noticing that some of the higher-end cat food brands were marked “Gourmet”.

“Gourmet Cat Food”! What a concept. It certainly got my ears perked forward; eager to check them out. I figured, “what do I have to lose? Since my fussy felines might be willing to try them, especially if I entice them to taste the food by whispering softly the word “gourmet”. It goes without saying that by now y’all can figure out that our two fussy kitties are beyond spoiled.

The attractively designed label that promised meal-time Nirvana sucked me in. I started pulling cans down off the shelves and feverishly read the ingredients to determine what, if anything, distinguished these products from the more “ordinary’ high-end brands.

A can of grainless Weruva Asian Fusion Cat Food immediately caught my eye. Featured on the label is a picture of a delicate sashimi dish¹ replete with a pair of chopsticks. I nearly went bonkers trying to figure out where I could get kitty-size chopsticks and then teach them how to use them! But much to my disappointment; in spite of the label’s mouthwatering appearance, the first ingredient listed was Tuna Red Meat.

Since cats can quickly become addicted to tuna, and the type of red tuna used in cat food often contains very high levels of methyl mercury, red meat tuna can not only lead to mercury poison, it can also cause Steatitis (Yellow Fat Disease), an inflammation of the liver in kittens and cats.

The second ingredient, Shirasu (baby anchovies in Japanese), while this might seem enticing to some folks, I have yet to meet a cat who’s crazy about anchovies.

Carbohydrates are difficult for cats to digest since their systems are ill equipped to utilize plant protein. As obligate carnivores they require meat protein, not carbs. Cats also require fat in their diet. And even though this Weruva product doesn’t contain grain (according to their label), it contains 1.6% crude fat and a minimum of 0.05% taurine. Taurine is an essential part of the feline diet since it promotes intestinal absorption of lipids (fats) as cholesterol. It also helps prevent heart disease and feline retinal atrophy; a condition that generally leads to blindness.

While it’s not touted as a “gourmet” product, Wellness Core Turkey and Duck grainless formula contains 7.5% crude fat and 0.10% taurine. After reading the labels of several other “flashy” gourmet cat foods and comparing them with the high-end grainless varieties in the same price range, it seemed to me that the word “gourmet” is just another marketing strategy targeted at humans.

So my trip to the store wasn’t a total loss I bought a couple of cans of Wellness Core, crossing my fingers that our two furry gourmands would go “quackers” over it and gobble it down.

Are “gourmet” cat products necessary? Are they truly the cat’s meow? Tell us what you think in a comment.


  • Photo credit Flickr user: Klara Kim
  • (1) raw fresh meat or fish

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior

27 thoughts on “Gourmet Cat Foods: Will They Tempt Finicky Felines?”

  1. Who does not really love animals if they are so cool? Specially cats and dogs. I prefer cats as they are cleaner than dogs.

  2. Sharon,

    Thanks so much. It sounds like your kitties are getting great care!Stella sounds like quite the cat.

    Vet just called- Sir Hubble hasn’t vomited since early this morning- he does have acute pancreatitis and is on some very serious medications to help him. He is on pain meds, and other drugs to help sooth his tummy. He is getting IV fluids as well.

    They will try giving him some A-D tonight. He doesn’t like to eat there- but will often eat when the lights are off and nobody is around. If he holds that down it will be fantastic. He loves that food too- he kept trying to steal Puppy’s when it was necessary to give it to him.

    He had xrays-no blockages seen. Tummy is empty. But he is somewhat constipated- so they are dealing with that as well.

    The vet will call again in the morning- but it is unlikely that he will come home until Thursday. She wants to make sure that he has stopped all vomiting and can eat.

    Puppy sends purrs and headbonks to everyone. He is so worried about his little ‘bro.

    1. Your vet seems to be doing a very good and thorough job. Apparently Siamese cats may have a genetic predisposition to pancreatitis. Only 35% of cats with the disease will vomit. There seems to be associated health problems such as IBD, hepatic lipidosis and others. Treatment is complicated. It is quite a complicated and serious illness sadly. The very best of luck. Very difficult and worrying time.

  3. Jo… I hope Sir Hubble is in the pink and home very soon! Right now my girls are on grain free dry and canned food… the canned food is very difficult to figure out since they seem very, very picky about flavors you would think they would like…. such as duck and venison. They used to eat fancy feast- until I became better educated as to what was IN it (that and the Chinese “gluten” craziness…… Ah but they REMEMBER the “not so good” canned food…..once in awhile I give them some Hills hairball control canned food (they only get 1/4 of a small can each anyway) and they practically inhale it. In addition to baby food I also keep some Fancy Feast in case someone is ill and doesn’t want to eat because they may eat THAT. I learned years ago about “cat food tuna” and none of my cats have ever had more than a tiny taste of it. I do give them a tiny bit of human grade tuna when I open a can of tuna (since Stella in particular is VERY insistent!) I have NO idea what her previous people fed her, but she has settled into this feeding schedule pretty well…. finally. But if Miss Stella does NOT like a particular item…well then doggone it…. NO ONE WILL EAT IT…. because she TIPS over the DISHES! LOL I have seen Shadow look at her as if to say… “hey… what the heck did you just DO to my bowl???” But Stella has gotten much better with that now. Again, keeping Hubble in my thoughts. The girls send healing purrs and gentle head bonks….

  4. Hi Elizabeth,

    Got a suggestion for you! You will get some really good answers to your question regarding hypothyroid cats and the best nutrition for cats with this condition by visiting https://www.facebook.com/groups/CatCentric/

    There are a lot of very nutrition-savy folks on that facebook page. I bet they will come up with some excellent suggestions for you.

    Boy do I know that catfood dance!! Soon I will be learning more about feeding cats with pancreatitis. So many vets don’t have a clue about nutrition for them, because they think that cats are little dogs. What’s good for dogs is not good for cats and very low fat diets are just not appropriate for kitties.

  5. Elizabeth Ann Scarborough

    Pancho has thyroid problems and recently a friend sent me an article about hyperthyroid in cats that said that not only is fish-flavored food bad for cats with hyperthyroid, but it also contains a chemical that can actually cause the thyroid to malfunction. I had bought four flats of 24 cans each of salmon for Pancho because he likes it and will eat it, but I noticed he didn’t seem to be getting better in spite of his change in medication. And it truly was “kitty crack” since he no sooner finished a can than he cried for more. I tried the guys on Wellness (Cisco can’t eat chicken but otherwise he’s like, “Okay, well, you need it more than I do, Pancho, so whatever…”) but Pancho started leaving that behind and the cans are larger than other brands. It’s too expensive for them to waste. What I tried most recently that went over well with both boys was something called Instinct. Pancho eats it fine and it comes in a variety of flavors including rabbit (I remember what you said about your cats liking rabbit, Jo) duck, venison, chicken, beef and turkey, I think. But it too is very expensive and the variety packs only have 12 cans. I’m thinking about alternating it with the non-seafood flavors of Fancy Feast to see if I can’t stretch the budget a little further. Pancho has been eating every 4 hours without gaining enough to matter, which means it’s taken about 6 cans of food daily to keep him comfortable. The more expensive food seems to hold him over better though. Okay, off to the store for more cat food.

  6. I got some meat off my neighbour as he hunts sometimes. I never knew how to cook Rabbit. It even had the fur still on it lol. First time i did it, It looked alot like chicken, Was abit sad the other cats didnt have a taste for it as was almost a whole big plate full. Did try them on premeim Raw cut meat but oh no that wasnt acceptable lol. I know if tammy was alive still she would eat it. They just become too domesticated i feel. So its either dry whiskas or wet whiskas pouches

  7. My thoughts are thus: “Gourmet” cat food is for the humans looking at the label while buying the product. As to the finicky felines….well, I work for a vet and most cats will not eat in a hospital setting, especially if they are ill. We have found that the most tempting food for these cats are the cheap “junk” type foods. A can of Friskies Ocean Whitefish seems to tempt even the sickest of cats. My belief is because those food are quite “stinky” and cats are more apt to eat something that has a hefty scent to it. JMO, of course.

  8. I honestly believe that those Gourmet foods are there to tempt us and not our cats. When our cat, Lazarus, was ailing and wouldn’t eat our vet told us to buy Fancy Feast or Sheba. It is filled with many of the things Jo mentioned and has a sauce besides. It did get Lazarus to eat though and at that point I didn’t care as long as he was eating and maintaining weight. Our cats are on a grain free dry and they eat a middle grade cat food. Along with that they also get fresh chicken and turkey boiled in water. They also love cook liver. Minus the onions of course.
    Marketing is everything to these companies and they try to lure you in with fancy words and delectable pictures. Thanks Jo for a great article. Loved it.

    1. Cooked liver does seem to be the one thing everyone will eat. Except Bigfoot of course. I might try the cooking juice on him next time. So much wisdom to be found here.

        1. Thanks Marc. He has some pretty good days, but it is sad to see the decline. There isn’t anything to do but keep him happy and comfortable. I may be losing my gorgeous Yellow too. It is hard to concentrate on normal life with sick kitties.

          1. Ruth aka Kattaddorra

            Dorothy, so sorry you have Yellow and Bigfoot both poorly, yes it’s hard to concentrate on anything else when a cat is unwell, let alone two of them at once.
            Thinking of you x

    2. That’s great Iniki – sounds like you have created an interesting and well balanced diet for your cats. A lot of people could learn plenty from reading your comment! Well done and thanks for sharing 🙂 I want to move to buying meat and preparing it myself for my cats for at least a fair size part of their diet. I don’t want to rely 100% on cat foods which probably give them cancer in the long run cuz of all the bad things in it. Also – the dry foods are mostly not good and only really as extra nice snacks and treats.

      I could give them liver I guess. That’s a good idea. It is very smelly though I would have to open my windows when I cook it. I guess that’s why cats love it so much – it really smells good to them i bet. 🙂

  9. Yes, that does sound like something you might say! Yellow is a little finicky right now. And I want her to eat while she heals. Sliced mouse might just do it for her little self.

    More on Yellow later. If she survives.

  10. Jo, I’m curious if your beautiful cats ate the Wellness Core. I cannot get even the feral cat to eat it. What gives? It lacks the right smell or something. All the ingredients look right, and they charge enough money that you at least ‘think’ you are doing right by your cat! But alas…if they don’t eat it, they don’t eat it.

    Eventually, I’ll find the right cocktail if home made and store bought that will entice even the most finicky. Just don’t anyone hold your breath waiting!

    I remember Dee saying that the vet brand of A/d was like eating sliced mouse to a cat. I haven’t tried that yet. Am I right Dee? Is that what you said?

    And the beat goes on………

    1. LOL DW,

      I think that was me that described A/D that way! It is only for sick kitties that won’t eat. To be honest, while most cats are tempted by this product, I am not a fan of Hills anything. But it is far more important to get a kitty to eat. It also contains a lot of water, so it practically melts in their mouths.

      Additionally it is quite easy, by adding more water, to get it into a syringe if force feeding is necessary.

      The Wellness Core- I feed the duck and turkey formula seems to have tickled their fancy. They also like Wellness kitten food. So if they like it and eat it- I serve it to them.

      I would imagine that feral cats might not be accustomed to such fancy food- and would prefer something that has a very strong odor. Sardines are great- when push comes to shove I have offered them sardines which are met with enthusiasm when we have a kitty emergency. But it lacks some of the very necessary ingredients, including taurine- on a long-term basis.

      Our kitties turned up their noses to many Wellness products, and I try to stay away from beef and chicken since they have some food sensitivities and those proteins can commonly cause problems.

      We are working toward raw-very slowly, and I am researching some recipies that may be more acceptable to them. While they love chopped liver- they are not keen on raw liver- one day I hope they will.

    1. my kitites prob would touch it was had enough when i cooked roast Rabbit they just looked at it. Ozzie had some of it but otherwise was left

      1. kylee,

        For several months our cats LOVED rabbit formula. They thought it was spectacular. But they soon tired of it, and refused to eat it.

        Unfortunately, this is one protein that doesn’t seem to cause sensitivities- but there are no manufacturers now that are producing rabbit formulas that don’t include other meats.

        They did enjoy the rx rabbit formula, but those manufacturers claim that rabbit is very hard to find, so it is frequently unavailable.

      2. i cooked roast Rabbit they just looked at it

        LOL. This reminds me of Charlie, my cat. Give him something that I think is interesting and best quality and….rejection. It is quite hurtful 😉

    2. Marc, thank you for that lovely kudo! I truly appreciated it, especially this morning. Sir Hubble is in the hospital with pancreatitis. Although, according to my vet it is a mild case, it can be a very serious condition- and we have absolutely no idea why this just happened, since his recent senior wellness exam was excellent.

      Naturally I am very concerned about my little buddy, and Dr. Hush Puppy is quite uspet about missing his brother.

      1. Oh no – that’s awful Jo I am sorry – I hope Hubble will be okay. That sounds quite serious. I hope there is a reasonable treatment for him. Poor guy. Fingers crossed everything will be ok.

  11. I would prefer standard high quality wet food or raw homemade but answering the question in the article: gourmet cat food tempts people into buying it but not necessarily a cat into eating it!

    I am a bit cynical but….the word “gourmet” and the way the ingredients are presented indicate that the marketing is directed at human taste. It is almost as if the product is for people and the person is buying for a family member (a child). I think the product is all based on human psychology and humankind’s relationship (for the best and most concerned cat owners) with the domestic cat.

    Thanks for the article Jo.

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