Not long after I began my quest for proper nutrition, I began to ponder the food I was feeding to the other member of my family… my cat, Sweetie.
Like my husband, Sweetie has had to endure more than one dietary change as part of this nutritional journey. Up until now, she’s been a sport about it. But this most recent change has apparently struck a nerve.
But, back to the beginning. Sweetie has a delicate digestive system. She barfs. We’re not talking the traditional hairball barf. Sweetie’s barfs are full-on food barfs. When I first inherited her from my daughter (a situation necessitated by severe sibling cat rivalry between her and her step-sister), Sweetie was eating run-of-the-mill cat food—the kind found most cheaply at the local grocery store, though I can’t now recall the brand. Even after using a heavy-duty spot remover on the carpet, it was impossible to completely remove the stain left over from the barf. My daughter suggested I look for a “hairball” formula, and so the hunt began – and I started reading labels… on the cat food. My obsession with food was complete.
It was about then I asked the question: why is there food color in cat food? The cat doesn’t care what color it is! And then I began to wonder what ELSE is in cat food. Just about every mass-marketed cat food, I discovered, is pretty much the same stuff. Purina, for example, uses “the finest ingredients.” From their website, here is a list of ingredients for their “Indoor Formula.”
Corn meal, poultry by-product meal, corn gluten meal, soy flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), powdered cellulose, animal liver flavor, soybean hulls, malt extract, calcium carbonate, phosphoric acid, salt, choline chloride, potassium chloride, taurine, zinc sulfate, Vitamin E supplement, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, parsley flakes, niacin, added color (Red 40, Yellow 5, Blue 2), copper sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite. I-4500
Corn meal is the first ingredient. Really? Does anyone think that cats in their natural environment are going to eat corn meal? Even if they're starving? The second ingredient is poultry by-product meal, “an excellent protein source created after poultry is processed for human consumption.” (Umm, I don’t even want to THINK about it.) After that, there’s more corn and soybean products, and some flavors (“animal liver” flavor… just wondering what other kind of liver there might be) and vitamins, and (yep) food color. Who in their right mind thought this concoction would be a good idea for cats? In their natural habitat, cats eat meat (mice mostly, but don’t expect to see canned mouse anytime soon). It’s no wonder Sweetie is barfing up her food!
I love my cat. I know she’s not a person, but I still love her. So I’m going to try to find her some food that’s healthy. That’s what we do when we’re in charge of feeding those we love, right?
The next stop in my healthy cat food quest was the pet store. They have a much better selection than the grocery store, and even though the price is a bit higher, love demands the sacrifice. "Veterinarian-recommended" Science Diet was almost a carbon copy of the Purina brand, only without the food color. It seemed that every brand in the store – even the “natural” brands – had more filler than meat, and every one I looked at had grain in it. Eventually, I chose something, though I can't remember that one any more either...but at the time it seemed better than Purina. And then one day about six months ago, while I was shopping at my local natural foods store, lo and behold... I discovered they carried pet food. Yes! Natural cat food! Well, sort of. After quickly browsing the two brands on the shelf, I decided on Organix. Even this one had more grain fillers than I thought were necessary (Organic Chicken, Chicken Meal, Organic Peas, Organic Brown Rice, Organic Barley, Potato Protein) but at least it was mostly meat, and organic, and Sweetie actually LIKES it.
Unfortunately, even the better quality food still hadn’t improved her barfing problem (though it no longer leaves a stain), so during my last trip to the market, I discovered a bag of cat food that was labeled “protein focused nutrition.” Finally, a cat food that makes sense. The brand is Wellness Core, a grain-free cat food that focuses on the reality that cats are meat-eaters... and at a price about on par with the Science Diet ilk. Like a good mom, I snatched it up and took it home to make the transition. The problem is, Sweetie has informed me in no uncertain terms that she is NOT happy with my well-intended food swap. "Meoww. I like grains!" We’ve been working on the transition for a week now, and she has become very skilled at picking out the old star-shaped food and leaving the new little round balls. "Rawrrr! Where's the tasty stuff?!"
Will the new food solve the barfing problem? Too soon to tell... got to get her to actually EAT it first. But if it helps, I’ll be sure to post a follow-up. In the meantime, at least I know she will be getting a diet closer to what she was created to eat. And I’m hoping hunger will eventually win out over preference. (I’m not giving in until I see ribs!)
In closing, I was encouraged to discover during my research for this post that there are actually a few brands out there that boast a no-grain formula. So if this one doesn't work out, I have options.