An alternative way rather than cat confinement to reduce domestic cat hunting

This is an interesting study which I’ve relied on before in a discussion whether hungry cats hunt better. Common sense dictates that a cat that is not fed by their caregiver will, given the opportunity, hunt to sustain their life. But they will hunt just what they need and no more. And a cat that is sated after being well fed is, it is believed, less likely to hunt but it will not prevent hunting.

Feeding a domestic cat a grain-free food reduces their predisposition to hunt.

Feeding a domestic cat a grain-free food reduces their predisposition to hunt.

The current trend, growing in popularity, is to keep your cat inside the home full-time both for their safety and to protect wildlife; a good idea except people are not enriching the indoor environment from a feline perspective.

That’s another topic. This article is about reducing a cat’s hunting through the food that they eat and the amount of playtime they are given.

Bells ineffective?

The researchers in this study concluded that there is resistance to confining a cat to the home and anti-hunt devices such as a brightly coloured collar are not hugely successful. Incidentally, they say that bells on cat collars “had no discernible effect” in terms of preventing the killing of prey animals. That, in my view, is a moot point. There are studies which indicate that bells on collars can help protect wildlife from domestic cat hunting and I would recommend it.

Grain-free foods and play to reduce hunting

Anyway, to get to the meat of the topic (excuse the pun) the researchers found that “non-invasive interventions… alongside existing devices” to impede hunting can be reasonably effective.

By “non-invasive interventions” they mean providing your cat with “a high meat protein, grain-free food” and playing with your cat for 10 minutes daily.

Feeding a high-quality wet food with no grain “recorded decreases of 36%” on hunting. Playing with your cat for 10 minutes recorded a 25% decrease in hunting. They measured hunting by the number of animals captured and brought home by cats.

Puzzle feeders

Interestingly, they say that the “introduction of puzzle feeders increased numbers by 33%”. That seems to be saying that if you feed your cat with a puzzle feeders, which presents a challenge to the cat to get at the food, it increased the number of animals captured and brought home in hunting expeditions.

That might not be enormously relevant because the need to provide a puzzle feeder to a domestic cat comes about when they are confined to the home full-time in which case there is no opportunity to prey upon animals outside.

I said before that the brightly coloured collar, Birds Be Safe, reduces the number of birds captured and brought home by 42% but it has “no discernible effect on mammals”.

Hopeless hunters?

I have to add into this discussion the fact that individual cats have different desires to hunt in any case. As Sarah Hartwell says on her website, “Many cats are hopeless hunters, hungry or not”.

She provides a little tip. Where possible, you should choose a kitten to adopt “where the mother cat doesn’t hunt – the kitten will probably inherit her non-hunting tendencies.”

Dry more palatable than wet

To return to the study, it indicates as the scientists said that “some cats may hunt more because they are stimulated to address some deficiency in their provisioned food.” And also, on the topic of cat food, the scientists added that although there were no differences between wet and dry food in this test, “50% of survey respondents from the food group reported that their cats found the experimental wet, but not the dry, food unpalatable.”

This last point is important. Cats tend to favour dry cat food over wet. If they will reject food, they will reject wet food rather than dry. I take that to be because the manufacturers put a very addictive fatty flavoured coating on dry food pellets to make it more palatable. The same doesn’t apply to wet food.

RELATED: Domestic cat predatory behaviour linked to hunger, prey size and personality

Study referred to: Provision of High Meat Content Food and Object Play Reduce Predation of Wild Animals by Domestic Cats Felis catus. Published Feb 11, 2021. Link:

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Can humans eat cat food and will it be cheaper?

In general terms, the answer to the two questions in the title are (a) yes and (b) yes but it depends upon the food quality. Eating cat food to save money is not a long-term solution and it is not ideal. And people tend to store cat food less well than they do human food which may result in contamination issues. Also, cat food comes in dry and wet forms. I am referring to the wet form in the answer below.

Tuna open sandwich made with wet cat food
Tuna open sandwich made with wet cat food. Not very appetizing is it. It was made by a millionaire who’s obsessed with saving momey. Image: TLC.

Real example

A millionaire lady in America likes to save money by feeding her husband and herself on cat food. She’s described as an extreme cheapskate as she has a net worth of more than $5.3 million. She will make a tuna sandwich with tuna cat food. She says that she buys cat food to eat herself because cat food fish costs $0.30 less than human fish. She means fish for human consumption. She fed her ex-husband tuna cat food and declared to the world that she’d just saved $0.30. Her story tells us that you can eat cat food without it harming you.

Not toxic

There is nothing that I know of in cat food which harms humans or which is toxic to humans but the answer isn’t quite as black-and-white as that. For example, dog foods include vitamin K which can be toxic to humans at high quantities. But the edibility of cat food is logical as at a fundamental level cat’s anatomy and physiology is similar to ours.

The advice is that long-term pet food consumption is not good for humans because there will is a risk of nutritional deficiency.

The website now has an artificial intelligence computer answering questions. It is called Sage. In response to the question, “is it safe for a human to eat dog or cat food?” Sage provides the following answer:

“It is not safe for a human to eat dog or cat food. These foods are formulated for the specific nutritional needs of dogs and cats, and may not provide the necessary nutrients for a human. Additionally, some ingredients in these foods may be harmful to humans. It is important to only consume foods that are safe and appropriate for human consumption.”

That is the answer that I would expect it to provide but it plays safe; too safe in my view. Artificial intelligence computers search deeply throughout the Internet to find an answer which it then summarises in several lines. So, this answer is a summary of all the answers on the Internet.

Other than above, my answer comes from a good source, Live Science.

Years ago, I remember reading about pet food manufacturers using people to check the taste of human grade cat food. They were eating it as if they were cats. So, no problem there. A further confirmation that high quality cat food can substitute human food in the short term. To be honest, I would expect that even in the long term it wouldn’t cause harm provided it was the best quality.

The cost of cat food

There is an article in The Guardian newspaper today about the cost of cat food being very high nowadays and manufacturers shrinking the quantity of cat food that you buy while maintaining the same price. The result is the same thing: higher prices. This is due to inflation in the UK at March 2023.

There is no doubt in my mind that if you buy expensive, high quality cat food and if you eat cheap human food, the price of cat food will be higher than the price of human food. But in general terms cat food is cheaper than human food although it is hard to compare. If you do compare, you’ll have to compare on a price per kilogram or pound basis. My research on that indicated that cat food in general terms is cheaper the human food.

Pet food manufacturers price gouging?

And if the profit margins of the cat food manufacturers interest you, Susan Thixton, an American pet food safety advocate, has done some nice research on the topic and also in general terms states that pet food manufacturers make more profit from cheap foods than they do from expensive foods. That’s my interpretation because she states that “the price to manufacture and ship to retail a feed grade dried ingredient pet food is at least 4,600% less than the price to manufacture and ship to retail a human grade pet food”.

4,600% equates to over 40 times cheaper. So, the overheads in producing cheap cat food are much, much less than the more expensive varieties which allows for greater profit margins. She makes the point, a point that we know, that the price of pet food varies tremendously from, in America, $0.40 a pound to more than $10 a pound.

That’s why it is very hard to compare the price of human food and cat food as I mention above. She more or less defends the pet food manufacturing industry on the allegation that they are involved in “price gouging”. And she is very critical of pet food manufacturers.


If needs must you can eat decent quality cat food of the wet variety but to be honest, in the West and referring particularly to the UK and America, I would doubt that you would be so skint that you are forced to eat cat food. And don’t forget this is really about taste rather than nutrients. In general humans in the West are quite pampered. Humans have become soft, too soft to consider eating cat food.

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Cat foods that help gain weight? This begs questions.

Sometimes people search the Internet for cat foods which might help their cat gain weight. This is entirely understandable but it is fraught with dangers because in conducting this research it’s clear that their cats are underweight. If a domestic cat is underweight, there are numerous reasons. Being underweight is a very common sign of illness. Cats lose their appetite because they feel ill. If they don’t eat, they lose weight.

Another question is whether a cat is genuinely underweight. Some owners have weight misconceptions and have normalised overweight cats. This box needs to be ticked at the outset. And some cats are naturally skinny. Some breeds are such as the contemporary Siamese and Oriental SH.

Skinny cat
Skinny cat. Underweight or just slender? Image in public domain.

Ideal weight cat
Ideal weight cat. Photo: MikeB

The obvious conclusion, therefore, is that if a cat genuinely needs to put on weight the first thing that the owner should search for is reasons why they have lost weight. Perhaps the major reason will be loss of appetite. There will be other reasons such as diseases including intestinal parasites (endoparasites) which take away the nutrition that the cat is ingesting. So, if a domestic cat has a good appetite but is losing weight, they may have a very bad infestation of endoparasites.

Hyperthyroidism commonly affects elderly cats. It’s the most common endocrine disease in the domestic cat population and a symptom is weight loss and increased appetite combined with an unkempt appearance. Another very common feline disease is poor oral health which makes it painful for a cat to eat. And speaking of pain, any sort of chronic pain is going to drive down a domestic cat’s appetite.

RELATED: Refusal to Eat and Weight Loss

Lung disease and cancer are another couple of diseases which can cause weight loss. The advice must be that if your cat is losing weight you need to check whether they are eating normally. If they’ve lost their appetite, it is likely that they are feeling ill and/or in pain, which means an immediate trip to a veterinarian to get to the bottom of the reason for feeling ill.

If they are eating well and still losing weight then you would have to go for endoparasites or hyperthyroidism. The early symptoms of feline diabetes also include weight loss despite a good appetite. Later on, in the development of this disease, appetite decreases. Other symptoms of Type II diabetes are increased urination and water consumption plus lethargy and vomiting.

RELATED: Is your cat losing weight? 40 reasons why and how to tell

If after a veterinary check a cat is found to be well and if their appetite is a little bit low because they are that way inclined, the course of action would be to provide food which is as tasty and as attractive as possible and which is highly calorific and nutritious. This should encourage eating and the extra calories might help drive up weight.

RELATED: Is your cat genetically predisposed to putting on weight?

One such food is Hill’s Prescription Diet Urgent Care a/d. This is a cat food designed for cats recovering from a serious illness, injury or surgery. Cats under these circumstances need extra energy and nutrients in an appetising form. That’s the objective of this food. There are other commercially available foods designed for this purpose. One example would be Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Recovery RS canned cat food.

And what about treats? It is unusual for a healthy cat to lose weight. My cat is unusual in that he can be on the slender side despite having a decent appetite. Sometimes I can feel his spine which is okay but you don’t want the spine to be feel pronounced. It’s because he is very active. I guess, you might think about reducing your domestic cat’s activity levels if you feel that putting on weight is more important than exercising. What about keeping your cat indoors for a while? I think that you will find that there is agreement on the fact that full-time indoor cats are more likely to be overweight than indoor/outdoor cat because of the greater difficulty in exercising. The problem here is that indoor/outdoor cats hate to be confined and it’ll probably almost impossible to achieve with a lot of complaining.


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Reduce domestic cat hunting by feeding them grain-free food and playing with them

A study has found that when domestic cats who like to hunt are fed grain-free food (premium wet food) the number of prey amimals brought home is reduced by 36 per cent. And playing with your cat for 5-10 minutes per day results in a 25 per cent reduction.

This is important as predation by domestic cats on wildlife is concerning for many if not all of us, cat lover and hater alike. There is a gradual trend to keeping cats indoors but it is often not accompanied by play as a substitute natural hunting behavior outside to the detriment of cats’ welfare.

Graphic provided by the scientists
Graphic provided by the scientists. Published here under their license.

However, there is a constant struggle over how to maintain domestic cat welfare and minimise predation on wildlife, particularly birds as ornithologists are the vocal voice of our feathered friends.

The underlying issue though is that we have been consistently told that a cat’s desire to hunt is disconnected from their appetite. However it appears that the two are not entirely disconnected.

The scientists conducting the study are unsure as to why feeding cats premium wet cat food in which all the proteins came from meat reduced their killing instincts. But it did.

They also found that bells on collars designed to warn off prey animals made no difference to the number of animals killed because the cats adapted to them. However, another anti-hunting product – brightly coloured collars – reduced bird kills by 42% but had no effect on mammal kills.

Devices designed to deliver dry food pellets, provided the cat managed to get them out of the device, to simulate hunting were found to increase hunting by a third (33%). This may be because the cats concerned could not defeat the device enough times and became hungry.

Professor Robbie McDonald of the University of Exeter in the UK said: “Our study shows that with entirely non-invasive, non-restrictive methods, owners can change what the cats themselves want to do.”

Confine your cat to stop him bringing mice into the home
Confine your cat to stop him bringing mice into the home. Photo: PoC.

In trying to explain why high quality grain-free cat food achieved results, Martina Cecchetti, a PhD student also of Exeter University who conducted the trial said: “Some cat foods contain protein from plant sources and it is possible these foods leave some cats deficient in one or more micronutrients, prompting them to hunt”. This despite the fact that the foods are described as a ‘complete diet’.

One downside is the struggle against climate change. Meat products have a negative impact on climate change. An alternative would be to add specific micronutrients to cat foods to reduce the desire to hunt.

The study is published in the journal Current Biology. Three hundred and fifty-five cats in 219 households participated. It appears that play alone reduced the number of mammals killed but not birds. This has been put down to play occuring in the evening when cats tend to hunt rodents. Bird hunting is more likely to take place in the morning. Meaty foods reduced bird and mammal predation.

Cat hunting birds
Cat hunting birds. This is my cat with a pigeon. Pic: PoC.

One third of the cat owners participating indicated that they would not continue to play with their cats as per the study but continue with premium foods. This indicates the obstacles in getting cat owners to play with their cats.

Note: this article reports on the study but I had added my thoughts as well.

The report comes from The Guardian newspaper. Click here to read the study.

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3 diabetic cats cured with an exclusive wet cat food diet

I am not a veterinarian so rather than discussing in detail the causes and cures of type II diabetes in domestic cats, I have decided to tell 3 stories about 3 cats. The stories come from Elizabeth Hodgkins’ book, Your Cat, which is essentially about dry cat food and how it can gradually cause illnesses including type II diabetes if the cat is predisposed. What is surprising about these stories is that all 3 of these cats had type II diabetes although in two cases it appears that the owner did not know it. The third cat was on insulin and therefore was a known diabetic.

Diabetic cat
Diabetic cat. Photo: Dr. Erica Queen on the Today’s Veterinary Practive website.


Dr Hodgkins tells us that Maggie was 10 years of age when she saw her. She had been fed high quality dry cat food for a long time with the occasional treat of wet. She had been healthy for 10 years and suddenly had lost her health. She wasn’t overweight. She started to lose weight and began to eat poorly and was drinking a lot. A blood test showed that her blood sugar level was 410 mg/dL. The normal level should be between 50 and 120 milligrams per decilitre. She was hospitalised and fed canned food only and by the 3rd day her blood sugar level was 100 milligrams per decilitre. She didn’t require insulin and her average blood sugar level remained at 90 milligrams per decilitre. She gained weight and is doing okay.


Goldstein was an 8 year old neutered male domestic shorthaired tabby. He was well loved. He had been fed commercial dry food exclusively his entire life. Very suddenly he began drinking a lot and going to the litter box more often. He was overweight at 14 pounds but otherwise in good condition. Dr. Hodgkins took a blood sample and the blood sugar level read 490 milligrams per decilitre. He was hospitalised and fed canned food only. His blood sugar level dropped significantly but not enough to avoid treating him with insulin and by the 3rd day is blood sugar was between 100 milligrams per decilitre and 150 milligrams per dL. A week later it had dropped to 60 mg/dL. He was taken off insulin. For the next year he did not require insulin injections. As far as I know he never did.


Rascal was a 6 year old neutered male shorthaired cat. He weigh 20 pounds and was overweight. He had been diagnosed diabetic. He was getting insulin twice a day. He was eating a high carbohydrate dry food diet formulated for diabetic cats. His insulin levels were being adjusted by his veterinarian. Sometimes his blood sugar level was very high at 520 mg/dL. On these occasions his insulin dose was increased. Sometimes his blood sugar level dropped to dangerously low levels. It was a seesaw between high and low blood sugar levels. When Dr Hodgkins saw Rascal he had flaky dandruff on his skin and his coat was dull and dry. He drank lots of water and urinated 10 times per day. He was always hungry and would steal human food. He was receiving 6 units of insulin every 12 hours.

He was hospitalised and his blood sugar ranged between 300 and 450 mg/dL despite being given insulin. His insulin was stopped in his diet changed to a low-carbohydrate canned food diet. Initially he didn’t like the wet food because he was used to a high carbohydrate dry diet. He was carbohydrate addicted according to the doctor. His blood sugar level gradually declined. He was given insulin still and his blood sugar level continued to decline but ranged between 125 and 200 milligrams per decilitre. He lost his excessive thirst and urination and started to enjoy his canned food. His caretaker was taught to use a device to read his blood sugar levels. The blood sugar levels declined but varied between 60 and 150 mg/dL. The doctor stopped the insulin treatment for one day and his blood sugar level climbed to over 200 at the highest. Gradually the insulin treatment was reduced and after 3 months he was off insulin altogether. 8 months later he had lost 3 pounds and his coat looked better. He went to the toilet 3 to 4 times daily and drank much less water because the food he ate contained water. His dandruff disappeared and he no longer begged for food all the time. His blood sugar levels continued to be tested when the story ended. In short there was a massive improvement because of a change of diet to wet cat food.


You have to make your own conclusions. My conclusion is that type II diabetes can creep up on a domestic cat and cause health issues without the owner being aware of the underlying medical issues including diabetes if the cat is predisposed. Long-term dry cat food can create this situation. The cat’s body is unable to cope with the heavy carbohydrate load and the pancreas malfunctions (the pancreas makes insulin). Obesity can also cause problems with insulin resistance. The liver’s action is linked to the pancreas but you can discuss that with a veterinarian.

The point that I am making in this post is that if you see a similarity with respect to the symptoms described I would suggest that you discuss it with your veterinarian and ask him to do a blood test for sugar levels and go from there but start with the possibility of curing the problem with an exclusive wet food diet.

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My cat always wants to eat my food

I am not referring to my cat but a statement made by people using the Google search engine when looking for reasons why it happens. There are two ways of looking at this, one is positive and the other is negative.

Cat grabs human food
Cat grabs human food. Photo in public domain.


If your cat always wants to eat your food one reason must be because the food that you give them is less palpable to them than the food that you eat. Also cats will naturally be attracted to the smells of many human foods. Cat guardians should be tolerant of this. Thirdly ask if you are underfeeding your cat (read how much should I feed my cat?).

The first solution must be to make their cat food as palatable as possible. That means (a) buying the highest quality wet cat food you can buy and (b) varying your cat’s menu day-to-day. Cats like variation. They can get bored with the same food every day. I would not write off dry cat food either. It is useful for nighttime grazing and best quality dry cat food is notoriously palatable (addictive). Try Hills Oral or Royal Canin Oral. They are larger pellets which makes cats chew rather than swallow them whole. This is better for their teeth and digestion.

If does not have to be the best wet cat food either. You can make your own but you have to be skilled and knowledgeable. Never take risks with a raw homemade feline diet. But a raw diet, well made, might prevent your cat begging for your food but the outcome is dependent upon the individual cat. Or provide some carefully selected human food treats from time to time. The amount given should be very limited. Your cat will know when to expect the treats which should limit them to asking for human treats at preset times rather than all the time.

Cat grabbing human food
Cat grabbing human food. Picture in public domain.


You punish or verbally criticise your cat for begging for your food and make no attempt to alter their diet as described above. This is bad cat guardianship. It is completely normal for a domestic cat to seek out what they think is the best food that they can find. You’d do the same thing under the same circumstances 🙂 . Often times they’ll discover that human food is not what they want but they are driven by their noses. Their sense of smell is vital in their attraction to foods.

Be empathetic to your cat’s emotions and desires and find a positive solution.


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Feral feeding tip: I add enough water until their wet food is like a soup

Posted October 17, 2018 by Robert Smith

I live in the high desert and have been caring for 10 feral cats for seven years now. I want to share that despite making sure they always have plenty of fresh water, I was concerned if they were getting enough water.

3 months ago (photo courtesy Robert Smith)

So I replaced their all dry food diet with half wet and half dry. I was still worried, and so I started to add water to their wet food. I add enough water until their food is like a soup.

The cats love it and after about three months of doing this, I am very surprised by the results. They have gone from looking like ratty feral cats to looking like house cats.

One cat allows me to touch her. She was my main concern since every summer her fur feels and looks dry, thin, and brittle. Now her fur is thick and soft. She is no longer so cheetah skinny looking either, but actually plump. Her breath has improved. Her eyes are clearer, there’s less vomiting, cleaner butt, etc.

1 month ago (photo courtesy Robert Smith)

Wild cats receive much of their water from eating their prey. They go right for the stomach and lap up the contents and blood. On a dry food diet, they don’t get water from their food. You’d think they would drink extra water to compensate, but they don’t. They instinctively only drink so much water per day, unless they are sick maybe.

I just had to share this since it has made such an improvement in the health of my cats. And yes, they still drink the same amount of water from their bowls.

Top pic is of three months ago and the bottom pic is of a month ago.

Robert Smith

Note from Elisa: This is another story in the Readers Forum series. When I came across it on Facebook I knew I had to get permission from Robert to post his method of caring for a feral family. With winter coming soon, this is an excellent way to add weight to a colony cat(s).

P.S. Adding water is a great way to help deal with urinary tract issues (e.g. cystitis) as it makes cats drink more. Cats are poor drinkers. See also: Cat drinking water. In an ideal world the water should be rain water – more natural and no added chemicals.

Elisa Notice

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Gourmet Cat Foods: Will They Tempt Finicky Felines?

Gourmet cat food
Gourmet cat food

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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