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by Doug Hines

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What's in Your Cat's Food Dish? ®

- Rejects 3 thru 8 -

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Reject #3 - Any Grains

Next, I reject any product containing grains, especially genetically modified grains, (wheat, oats, barley, quinoa, rice, flax (linseed), corn (corn starch, corn gluten meal). Less costly than meat, grains are often used to boost the crude protein numbers in place of adding more meat to the product.


See Ms. Thixton's article 'What you should know about Grains in your pet's food.'


To repeat, cats are obligate carnivores and get their protein from animal sources, not plants. Grains, fruits and starchy vegetables are ‘fillers’, none of which have any nutritional value for cats, and all of which have questionable effects on a cat's digestive system.

Reject #4 - "By-Products"

And how about by-products?  - Reject them. Obviously cats in the wild eat nearly anything and everything from their prey. (Cats in the wild do reject various parts of their prey and leave the parts strewn about the kill site.) Examples are below. No... I reject by-products because it's a category ripe for manipulation by unscrupulous manufacturers. 


According to AAFCO, meat by-products are "non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. Includes, but not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brains, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs."


( I wonder… how do pet food manufacturers separate the fecal matter contaminants from the ‘by-products?’ How much chicken or cow poop is in ‘by-products'?) 


Here’s an article title that makes me laugh out loud (who are they trying to con), again by Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.com -  "Purina Says By-Products are “Nutrient Rich.”

Reject #5 - "Meal" - as in Chicken Meal

I put the can back on the store shelf if the description contains the words 'meal' or 'bone meal', like in Chicken Meal. 'Meal' is the rendered product from animal tissues, excluding the things noted above under 'By-Products.'  Rendering is a process wherein meat is first over-cooked to remove the water. It is then baked until it becomes a residue. It becomes a highly concentrated powder - or meat meal. Low quality meat meals can come from slaughterhouse waste, spoiled meat, and/or dead/dying or diseased animals.


"This is one of those rendered products that could contain anything from euthanized pets to zoo animals to roadkill to expired meat and the styrofoam wrapper it comes in." - Emily Parker - Catological.com.


"There is a very suspicious reason as to why the pet food ingredient 'chicken' is not required to be sourced from a slaughtered animal. That reason is the common practice of culling baby male chickens and spent layer hens by a macerator. The birds are ground alive (they are not slaughtered). As explained to me, the end product is sold to pet food as 'chicken' and/or 'chicken meal'." - Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.com - Inexcusable Pet Food Ingredient Definitions

Reject #6 - Artificial Colorants & Flavorings

Throw out artificial colorants and flavorings too. Coloring is added to cat food to make it more appealing to the human eye. It is a potential allergen and completely unnecessary for a cat.


Why would a cat food manufacturer be so obsessed with food color? Adding color is a 100% marketing gimmick. It's a subtle example of hype. Here's a list of the color additives just one company uses to influence your visual, aesthetic sensibility: Titanium Dioxide, Beta Carotene, Sodium Nitrite, Canthazantin, Caramel Color, Iron Oxide, Red 3. Read about these color additives below.


‘Natural flavor’ (as contrasted with unnatural flavor?)  I'm very suspicious of something called 'natural flavor.' That term could mean anything at all. Old car tires could be used to flavor something. Ground up roofing shingles could be used to flavor something else. The term is just too broad to not be a catch-all, blanket phrase for anything manufacturers want to put into the food. Worst of all, 'natural flavor' usually occurs high up on the ingredients list. I simply do not trust the term - or the ingredient -at all.


  • caramel* (produced from caramelized sugar, caramel is a brown colorant in pet food that is designed to 'produce appeal' by making the color 'richer.' One might ask - "Who's appeal?" "My cats?" I suspect that my cat doesn't give a hoot about his food's color. lol 
  • sodium nitrite (promotes color retention and can be carcinogenic)
  • red 3 (artificial colorant)
  • beta carotene (color enhancer)
  • canthaxanthin (color enhancer)
  • carmine (red colorant)
  • annatto extract (color enhancer)
  • iron oxide (unnecessary coloring additive which is derived from rust! - 100% marketing gimmick, and usually the sign of a cheap cat food.))
  • titanium dioxide (potentially carcinogenic artificial colorant which may cause DNA damage, inflammation, cancer, and genetic disorders. Used to provide whitening to offset the natural, normal gray appearance in canned poultry and fish cat food to make the product more visually appealing to the consumer (and I don't mean the cats). It is indigestible.)
  • sometimes the label just says "added color"
  • sodium acid pyrophosphates (SAPP) (used as a palatability additive, a flavor enhancer)


* for more about caramel read this article, again by Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.com: Coke, Pepsi and Pet Food

Reject #7 - Gums & Carbohydrates

I reject products that contain: 

  • gums - xanthan, locust bean (carob bean), ghatti, polysaccharide, cassia or guar gum (These fructooligosaccharides (FOS), used as a gelling agent, stabilizer and food thickener, are highly processed and have no nutritional value. They are actually too high in fermentability, and can cause gas, diarrhea and nutrient loss. Some research has shown that gum had a significant negative effect on apparent protein digestibility and tended to depress apparent fat and energy digestibilities. Interestingly, the FDA has banned guar gum as a human weight loss pill ingredient due to reports of the substance swelling and obstructing the intestines and esophagus.
  • starchy vegetables - carbohydrate/starches such as pumpkin, carrots, potatoes, tapioca, sweet potatoes, squash, quinoa, beet pulp, turnip, aubergine/eggplant, zucchini etc. (All starches are used as filler ingredients, and are not biologically appropriate for cats. The fact is, cats have zero carbohydrate/starch requirements, and both can be bad for a cat's blood sugar/insulin balance. In general, plant protein sources are processed inefficiently by the cat's body, increasing the burden on the liver and kidneys.) Besides all of that, potato's consistency is little more than gooey wallpaper paste which can, in fact, inhibit nutrient absorption.
  • legumes - such as peas, chickpeas, soybeans, fava beans, garbanzo beans, alfalfa or clover (Peas or pea protein or pea starch or pea fiber). Peas and pea fiber are inexpensive fillers and highly insoluble. Peas contain lectin proteins which carnivores like cats cannot digest well. Peas are mostly used in place of grains, and are linked to gastrointestinal issues (can block nutrient absorption). Soy (soy, soy protein, or soybean meal contains phytoestrogens and negatively affects the thyroid gland) etc.)
  • fruit - like cranberries, blueberries, apples, papaya, pomegranate, mangoes, raspberries, avocado, coconut, tomatoes and tomato pomace (cranberries and tomatoes are both very acidic). (avocados have been found to be toxic to cats.) (the benzoic acid in cranberries has been proven toxic to cats.)

As has been repeated many times before, cats are obligate carnivores and get their protein from animal sources, not plants (grains, legumes and vegetables). Cats have zero carbohydrate requirements. To paraphrase Dr. Andrew Jones, Online Veterinarian, "Cats lack certain enzymes such as salivary amylase. These are enzymes that are there [in humans, for example] to help break down carbohydrates. Cats don't have those. Cats are uniquely designed for short, more frequent meals that are protein based." 


"Because cats are carnivores, the short length of their long intestines limits their ability to ferment fibers that are found in many carbohydrates."  - Your Cat's Nutritional Needs, published by the National Research Council of the National Academies, pg4


*This quote is from an article on the HappyCatsHaven.org website: "... cats have a relatively short digestive tract with a smaller stomach... Cat's livers are also lighter and much more simple...Because they lack essential enzymes and amino acids, [cats] simply don't have the capacity to digest other food sources, like vegetable matter or fruit."


And another thing... "... in pet food any vegetable or fruit listed on a label could be sourced from spoiled, damaged, or even contaminated (such as with pesticides) vegetables and fruits that cannot be sold as human food." - Susan Thixton, TruthAboutPetFood.com - Learn the Truth about Pet Food Ingredients Part 4

(By the way... Think cats need vegetables, legumes or fruit? Let me know the next time you see a cat digging up someone's garden to eat their potatoes. Let me know the next time you see a cat shucking peas or shimmying up a tree to eat mangoes. lol)

Reject #8 - Metal Cans with BPA

I also reject any product where the metal can contains BPA - a commonly used chemical in the plastic lining of canned foods. BPA is an “endocrine disruptor chemical”, and as such may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverts developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects.” - from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.

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Information on this website is provided for general purposes only. It should not be considered as a substitute for professional veterinary advice, care and treatment. Nothing herein is intended to treat, heal, or otherwise be considered as medical advice or treatment. Contact your veterinarian with any questions regarding your cat's diet or health. See additional details here.

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