Which Brands to Avoid and Which to Look For When Cat Food Shopping
Foods that fail the ingredients test
Just about anything you can find in a regular grocery store. This includes:
- Meow Mix
- Generic chain-store brands
- Fancy Feast
- 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
All the brands involved in the massive 2007 pet food recall are part of the “Ugly” category.
Two brands in particular strike me as worthy of avoiding whenever possible: Diamond and Nutro.
Diamond Pet Foods
Diamond has had some of the most high-profile recalls of any pet food brand, for a mind-boggling variety of reasons:
- In December 2005, nineteen different lines from three different brands they manufactured (Diamond, Country Value and Professional) were recalled due to aflatoxin contamination.
- 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).
- In October 2009, their Premium Edge cat food was recalled due to thiamine deficiency.
- Multiple massive recalls in 2012 because of salmonella contamination: April 6, April 30, May 5, and May 21.
- In 2013, they recalled several batches of kitten food due to insufficient thiamine.
Here’s the non-exclusive list of the brands manufactured by Diamond Pet Foods (as listed on The Truth About Pet Food):
- 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
- Premium Edge
- Country Value
- Bright Bites
- 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
- Note: Natural Balance is also packed by other companies, and a batch of food manufactured by Castleberry’s Food Company was recalled in July 2007 due to botulinum toxin contamination.
- The 2007 recall was due to food manufactured by American Nutrition, Inc.
The reasons why Nutro made the list:
- They market themselves as a “holistic” brand, 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.
- They were also involved in the 2007 food recall.
- 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.
- And again in 2009 for plastic contamination.
- And again in 2015 for mold issues.
These brands market themselves as “premium” and typically charge a lot more than the companies listed above, but aren’t much better, with many of the names on this list 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
- Royal Canin
These companies all use by-products, poor-quality ingredients, are far too high in carbohydrate, etc. They offer a stunningly bad value for your money.
These brands claim that to use “human-grade” ingredients 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 supplements that either don’t do anything, or are actually toxic to cats in large quantities, like alfalfa and rosemary.
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.
- Newman’s Own Organics
- Wellness (grain-free canned food only)
- Nature’s Variety
- First Mate
- Hound & Gatos
- Taste of the Wild
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, Hare Today, Nature’s Variety and Primal.
- Steve’s Real Food
- Nature’s Variety
- Rad Cat
- Columbia River Natural Pet Foods (available only in the Pacific NW, provides only ground meat and bone and raw meaty bones)
- Hare Today (Located in Pennsylvania, provides only ground whole prey and RMBs)
- Wholefoods4pets (Located in Washington state, provides only rabbits, either whole or ground)