Good/Bad Brands

Which Brands to Avoid and Which to Look For When Cat Food Shopping

But contrary to the title, I’m going to list the brands in reverse order.

Note: This page is about to undergo a radical remodel in coming days. In the meanwhile, here are all the brands involved in the massive 2007 pet food recall, all of which I would consider part of the “Ugly” category.

The Ugly:

Foods that fail the ingredients test
Just about anything you can find in a regular grocery store. This includes:

  • 9Lives
  • Friskies
  • Purina (either Cat Chow or ONE)
  • Meow Mix
  • Generic chain-store brands
  • Fancy Feast
  • Whiskas
  • Tender Vittles

Generally speaking, all these brands contain far too much carbohydrate, over-use colorings and flavorings (next time you see a can of 9Lives, check the ingredient listing and see how high caramel color and titanium dioxide are on the list), and use poor-quality ingredients.

Foods that fail the quality control test
I’m adding these brands to the Ugly list because they’ve had too many quality control issues. The two primary culprits are Diamond and Nutro.

Diamond Pet Foods
Diamond has had three high-profile recalls in less than four years:

1. In December 2005, nineteen different lines from three different brands they manufactured (Diamond, Country Value and Professional) were recalled due to aflatoxin contamination.

2. In 2007, three of their brands were involved in the 2007 pet food recall, i.e., Diamond, Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul, and Nutra).

3. In October 2009, their Premium Edge cat food was recalled due to thiamine deficiency.

So far, these are the brands manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods (as listed on Wikipedia and cross-checked on the Pet Food List’s Manufacturer’s List):

  • Diamond
  • Diamond Naturals
  • Artemis (Fresh Mix, Osopure and AgaRx lines only)
  • Wellness (dry only)
  • Taste of the Wild
  • Chicken Soup for the Pet Lover’s Soul
  • Professional
  • Premium Edge
  • Country Value
  • Bright Bites
  • Canidae
  • Kirkland Signature (the Costco house brand)
    • Note: The 2007 recall for Kirkland Signature food was due to the batch manufactured by American Nutrition, Inc.
  • Solid Gold (dry food only)
  • Natural Balance

Three reasons why Nutro made the list:

1. They try to market themselves as being more “holistic,” but some of the meat meal they used for dog food tested positive for pentobarbital—which, if you believe the FDA, doesn’t mean it’s bad for your pet, but I, for one, am deeply, deeply skeptical.

2. They were also involved in the 2007 food recall.

3. In May 2009, they recalled six different formulations across two different lines of their cat food (Natural Choice and Max Cat) for zinc and potassium deficiencies.

The Bad:

These brands are marketed as “premium” and typically charge quite a bit more than the companies listed above, but they aren’t much better. What’s more, many of the names on this list were part of the big pet food recall in 2007. The sad truth is, most of these companies use exactly the same manufacturer and exactly the same ingredients from exactly the same sources.

  • Science Diet
  • Iams
  • Eukanuba
  • ProPlan (a Ralston-Purina subsidiary)

These companies all flunk the test when it comes to issues like use of by-products, ingredient quality, use of preservatives like ethoxyquin, BHA and BHT, unusually high carbohydrate content, etc.

The Good

These brands usually claim that to use “human-grade” ingredients, eschew artificial preservatives, and seem to get the fact that cats are carnivores. This doesn’t mean these companies are perfect; they’re some of the worst culprits when it comes to throwing in trendy “holistic” supplements in cat food that are actually toxic to cats, like alfalfa and rosemary. Yes, the quantities used are minute, but if I’m wigging out about 150 ppm ethoxyquin, you bet I’m viewing this sort of practice with a jaundiced eye. Look through the ingredient list carefully, and make sure to rotate between brands that do and don’t contain these iffy ingredients.

But by and large, the companies listed below are reputable and provide decent-quality food. If you mix and match a good variety of flavors and brands from the list below, you’ll probably be feeding your cats a better diet than 90% of all the cats out there.

Bonus Round: Companies That Supply Raw Food

There are a few companies right now making raw food (either “complete and balanced” diets, whole ground prey or meat with bone you’ll need to add supplements to, or both) if you’re interested in giving that a shot instead of making your own. I’ve used and can recommend Wholefoods4pets, Nature’s Variety and Primal.

6 Replies to “Good/Bad Brands”

  1. Hi, I’m wondering how about BLUE (the brand)? How are they when it comes to cat food? They seem to be really good but I’m unsure.


    Candy Reply:

    I’ve known some friends who’ve fed it, and they liked it OK, though they eventually switched to Wellness. I will say that Blue Buffalo has seen an awful lot of recalls, and their suppliers included the ones who provided the melamine-contaminated feed back in 2007. I would proceed with caution and feed only as part of a rotating diet.


  2. What r your thoughts on Acana Kentucky (US) made cat foods. I am seeing a lot of negative about the US part of the Ojiren/Acana brandSwitched recently from Blue Buffalo because they downgraded there ingredients from 4/5 meat first to 2/5 meat ingredients….


    Candy Reply:

    I personally wouldn’t feed Acana because it’s not quite high fat/high protein enough for my liking, especially for dry food. I haven’t heard any scuttlebutt about Orijen/Acana’s production facilities in the US, and wasn’t able to find anything with a cursory Google. Do you have any links?


  3. What are your thoughts on the newly marketed Crave cat food by Mars? Specifically the wet. I can’t seem to find much bad about them and the food seems to fit my cat’s medical needs for a high protein and low carb diet. He also happens to love it.
    However, I’m a bit worried about the fact that this food is sold in my grocery store right next to the Friskies and other lower end brands.
    Is this truly a healthy brand or are they hiding something?


    Candy Reply:

    So the one big red flag about Mars is ingredient quality, which is impossible to tell just from looking at the ingredient lists and nutrient analyses. The Crave canned formulations are high-protein and reasonably high fat, which are both good, but they’re the same pet company who make Sheba, Iams, and a whole bunch of other low-quality foods. The salmon food lists beta carotene as a colorant, which immediately raises the flag that they’re using farmed salmon, which is typically grey-fleshed because commercial fish feed lacks the fresh shrimp which provide the vivid orange-pink coloration so characteristic of wild salmon. I’d approach it with some caution. These are the companies that tend to be careless with quality control and be implicated in horrible incidents like the melamine disaster in 2007. Big-name holistic/natural cat food brands are definitely not exempt—I avoid Blue Buffalo, Nutro, Pinnacle, and California Naturals, among several others, just because I don’t trust them.

    It’s ultimately a judgment call, because you need to work with the budget you have and what your cat’s willing to eat. I’d feed it as part of a rotating diet and not a sole ration. Good luck with your kitty and his medical needs!


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