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.
Foods that fail the ingredients test
Just about anything you can find in a regular grocery store. This includes:
- Purina (either Cat Chow or ONE)
- 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
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.
3. In October 2009, their Premium Edge cat food was recalled due to thiamine deficiency.
- 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.
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.
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
- 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.
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.
- Newman’s Own Organics
- Wellness (grain-free canned food only)
- California Naturals
- Eagle Pack
- Nature’s Variety
- Sensible Choice
- Advanced Pet Diets
- Active Life
- Natural Life
- Wysong – I only recommend their all-meat canned foods (which require calcium and taurine supplementation) and the canned Anergen formula because their regular diets contain large quantities of soy. Even their canned food often contains either corn, rice and barley or all three—way too many starchy grains for a canned food. However, they do get props for being honest about the limitations of all commercial foods, even their own, and reading their website was what introduced me to the idea of home-made diets.
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.
- Steve’s Real Food
- Nature’s Variety
- Bravo (note: they recalled a batch of chicken blend in September 2007 due to Listeria and Salmonella contamination)
- Aunt Jeni’s
- Wysong Archetype
- 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)