Not Sure About the “Quality” Foods

As per this post, I’m keen to make sure Pete eats reasonably quality, high protein food. Lots of people swear by the Royal Canin/Hill’s Science Plan type foods, so I thought I’d give them a go. They are eye-wateringly expensive compared to Tesco/Whiskas/Kitekat/Felix, and the nutritional information on the packs and on the websites is astonishingly poor.

I got him Royal Canin Feline Health Nutrition wet food, the Hairball Care and the Ultra Light in jelly (which states it has a 19% calorie reduction). The nutritional information for the Ultra Light says

COMPOSITION: meat and animal derivatives, vegetable protein extracts, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, cereals,various sugars.

ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Vitamin D3: 55 IU, E1 (Iron): 0.4 mg, E2 (Iodine): 0.1 mg, E4 (Copper): 0.9 mg, E5 (Manganese): 0.11 mg, E6 (Zinc): 1.1 mg, L-carnitine: 35 mg.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 11% – Fat content: 2% – Crude ash: 1.4% – Crude fibres: 1.2% – Moisture: 82.5%.

It doesn’t specify what the meat is, or what the vegetables and cereals are, and the protein content is very low, so I assume the carb content is high. They tag it as having a high protein content, but it’s only 11%. They say it has a 19% calorie reduction, but compared to what?

The Hairball Care variety gives the nutritional info as

COMPOSITION: meat and animal derivatives, cereals, vegetable protein extracts, derivatives of vegetable origin, minerals, oils and fats, various sugars, yeasts.

ADDITIVES (per kg): Nutritional additives: Vitamin D3: 82 IU, E1 (Iron): 3 mg, E2 (Iodine): 0.12 mg, E4 (Copper): 1 mg, E5 (Manganese): 1 mg, E6 (Zinc): 10 mg – Technological additives: Clinoptilolite of sedimentary origin: 0.4 g.

ANALYTICAL CONSTITUENTS: Protein: 7% – Fat content: 2.7% – Crude ash: 1.3% – Crude fiber: 1% – Moisture: 82%.

so it’s even lower in protein (cats are obligate carnivores, remember) and presumably even higher in carbs. Again, no calorie content.

I have emailed Royal Canin to ask for more info, so we will see what they say.

The Hill’s Science Plan I got is the urinary health & hairball control type, and again, there is very little nutritional info on the packaging. I can’t even find it on the website to look for more details, but looking at some of the other foods, they do have good nutritional information on the site.

It seems very strange to me that brands which a) cost a lot of money and b) promote themselves as being very high quality, aren’t prepared to back that up by being open about what goes into them. I’m looking at you, Royal Canin.

What to Feed Cats

I’ve just read Your Cat by Elizabeth Hodgkins who is an American vet who specialised in treating cats before she retired, particularly seriously overweight and/or diabetic cats. She’s not advocating raw food, although she says it’s good for cats, but she is advocating wet food.

Her reasoning is that the majority of dry food is made predominantly of carbohydrate, plant sources coated in fat and flavour to make it palatable to cats. But cats’ natural diet is protein and fat from killed animals, with very little plant material or other carbs, and dry food doesn’t replicate it at all. She says that wet food is much more suitable for cats and replicates their natural diet better.

She gives multiple case studies throughout the book of overweight and/or diabetic cats who were fed predominantly on dry food, including “diet” or “light” food. She reports that switching the cats to wet food facilitated much better weight loss and in most cases, got their diabetes under control so well the cats no longer needed insulin, and when they did still need it, their blood sugars were more stable and they needed lower doses.

I’ve lent the book to a friend so I can’t give more detail, but it’s worth a read if you’re interested in cat diets. It’s convinced me to switch Pete from dry breakfasts and wet dinners to two wet meals with a small amount of high protein dry food in his activity feeder.

It’s also worth looking at the calorie and nutritional content of dry food compared to wet. I emailed Iams, Purina, Pets at Home and Go Cat about the calorie content of their food (which isn’t on the packaging) and even the diet stuff is over 300 kcal per 100g, with protein content of under 30% for most of them. On the other hand, Thrive 90% chicken dry food is 186 kcal per 100g and has a protein content of over 80%. The wet foods I’ve investigated – Felix, Kitekat, Iams, Whiskas and Tesco – are all between 70-95 kcal per 100g pouch, with well over 80% protein.

As far as raw food goes, she says that many people worry about food poisoning for cats who eat raw diets, but she points out that cats who would otherwise be killing live prey and eating it, perhaps caching a large kill and eating it over several days, are unlikely to get food poisoning from meat.

The book made sense to me, and I’m comfortable that a wet food diet with a small amount of dry, and raw meat with the bone in once or twice a week is the right thing for Pete. I’ve also scrapped the Dreamies after I saw him gagging on the dryness of one but still desperately trying to eat it, and his treats now are Thrive freeze-dried meat and fish pieces.

Feeding Pete (a never-ending story)

I’m really struggling to work out how much to feed Pete. The shelter said they gave him a wet pouch and biscuits twice a day. The day after I got him, I took him to the vet for jags and check-up. The vet weighed him and said 5.8kg was fine. I’ve been giving him a pouch when I get up and 20-25g biscuits when I leave for work, a pouch at teatime, and 20-25g biscuits when I go to bed. And if he’s been a really good boy, he gets a couple of Dreamies, and now and again I defrost a couple of prawns as a treat for him. He gobbles the pouches down in seconds and asks for more, and when I put the biscuits down, he gobbles about 3/4 of them and eats the rest little by little. But he seems to be hungry so much of the time, he spends a lot of time meowing for food, winds round my feet hopefully as soon as I go near the kitchen and tries to eat anything left out on the worktop that looks likely. And when he doesn’t get anything he lies down next to his bowl and looks sad. I don’t want to over feed him, especially just now when he’s not getting much exercise, but I don’t want to starve him. I gave him 30g biscuits this morning after his wet food and he ate most of them and has been snoozing contentedly ever since.

He’s a big strong cat, but he’s not fat, and you can feel but not see his ribs along his sides. How do I tell if he’s genuinely hungry and needs food, or if he’s just being greedy? We’re going back to the vet next week for his next jags so I’ll ask them to weigh him again and have a chat about the lower and upper limits of what to feed him.