A Step Back for Feline Nutrition Awareness


A short article in Sunday’s USA Today magazine makes it even harder for pet parents to get the real message about what to feed an obligate carnivore.

“Garden-variety cat foods are joined on store shelves by a large selection of purportedly healthier sustenance such as by-product-free, grain free, human-grade, natural and organic brands, “ writes Marc Selinger. He wonders if the new foods are really necessary.

He quotes Lisa Freeman of Tufts who says “by-products are a quality source of protein for cats and can provide more nutrients than more expensive ‘muscle meat’ in many premium foods.”

While named by-products, such lungs, spleen and intestines, are part of what the cat would eat in the wild and must come from freshly slaughtered animals, Jean Hofve, DVM, says there is some question about how fresh they are by the time they reach the pet food manufacturer.

Freeman says that grains are rich in vitamins and minerals, fiber and essential fatty acids. To many of us, they’re better known as carbohydrates and cheap filler. More and more they’re responsible for obesity, diabetes, and urinary problems in cats.

In Selinger’s article, Tony Buffington of Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine cites the “complete and balanced” mantra of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). But we know that a food can be “complete and balanced” if it’s made with less than ideal ingredients. Dr. Hofve who said a critic designed a pet food with just that shoe leather, sawdust and motor oil that met AAFCO nutrient requirements. Dr. Karen Becker’s outstanding article offers insight into the pet food industry. She and Dr. Hofve are only two of the many well-credentialed voices that have been critical of commercial pet food for many years now.

However, articles such as Selinger’s obscure the message that petsumers really need to hear: The cat is an obligate carnivore that needs a properly formulated meat-based diet.

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About ExclusivelyCats
Sally Bahner is an expert in all aspects of cat care: Writer, consultant, speaker, instructor.

4 Responses to A Step Back for Feline Nutrition Awareness

  1. As a cat behaviorist for over 26 years’, I have to point out to my clients: cats need meat-based diets, yes. Heavily-protein ones, yes. BUT: cats eat rodents, birds, lizards, insects— which eat primarily grains and plants. Check a good study (UC Davis’, one which was funded by competitors in the petfood game, looked at what feral cats ate…) Cats do metabolize carbs–some–well, as they should. Despite the latest PR by the latest catfood companies: cats do not need fruit. (Pomegranate? Cranberries?) Plugging into what a cat needs to thrive upon is one thing, but playing on consumer guilt and practicing consumer manipulation, instead is quite another.

  2. Jane Ehrlich says:

    Was my comment removed?

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