Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Food on the Brain

I have always tried to be aware of what I feed the beasts in terms of nutrition. It’s not easy finding the best food, and with Tucker now a diabetic, it seems to have become even more difficult. There are theories and beliefs everywhere. For instance, some people will advocate giving no soft-food to cats, while others assert that it is perfectly acceptable. Often, the conflicting reports - and on the other extreme, those that are not informative enough - reflect the inconsistencies that one finds in discussions of human food. Every week, a new report is published about how this substance is bad for a person, when the previous week, it was good. God forbid if you go on-line to research the topic, because everything on there has some source to support its theory.

When I brought Tucker home from the veterinary hospital subsequent to his diagnosis, I brought with us some tinned and bagged diabetic food. The tinned I would not have bought if I had known it comprised chunks in a sauce. My cats have never eaten that sort of product. They lick off the gravy and leave the dried bits of meat that no one else will eat. It also contained gluten. For me, gluten is not necessarily bad. But I like to use what I pretend is my common sense: cats are carnivores. They are not much removed physiologically from wild cats. They eat mice, fish, birds. They rarely raid bakeries and patisseries for bread, rolls, turn-overs and doughnuts. My guess is that if grain-products are not on their natural menu, there is no need for them to be in what I feed them.

As well, from what I understand, some items, such as corn, are indigestible to cats, and are used by cat-food producers as filler. One article I’ve tried, named Spot’s Stew, may be very good but it has peas, carrots and, I think, green beans. I fed that to one of mine, Renn, I think, in the past. He ate some of it, but deftly cut out the vegetables and left them to the side. To make things clear to me, he squished the pea flat. I could almost have heard him telling me, “I’m not some tree-hugging, nature-communing hippie who sits back, looks at the stars and listens to old Valdy records while eating tofu and granola - I want meat.” I informed him that I happened to like Valdy.

But due to Tucker's current condition, I have been a bit more diligent in looking at ingredients and their composition. A fellow member of the PAW Society here in Lethbridge, aside from giving me information based on her own experiences, sent me a link to a site in which a veterinary gives a formula for calculating weight of carbohydrates in cat-food, and the percentages of calories obtained from sources  ( Aside from keeping down the amount of gluten and indigestible items in their bowls, I understand that a goal should be reducing carbohydrates so that, ideally, less than ten per cent of their calories comes from that source.

I decided to put that test to some of the varieties of food I’ve been giving the beasts. Let me write first and foremost that a diet comprising only soft-food is not practical in my household. The beasts simply will not eat enough of it. I’ve attempted it before. And I want to find a hard-food that all the cats will like and eat.

Let’s start with what I brought home from the veterinary hospital: Royal Canin Diabetic hard food. All the cats enjoy eating it, and I have mixed it with their regular hard-food to create something that looks like a chocolate and peanut butter dessert.

This is the breakdown of the sources of calories.
44%    protein
24%    fat
31%    carbohydrate

The first item in the list of ingredients is chicken meal. One site ( may be biased as it is a product's own website, but the description of chicken versus chicken meal is verifiable, and suggests that chicken meal is good. The ingredients that follow, however, left me uneasy: corn meal gluten, barley, wheat gluten, tapioca, powdered cellulose… Unless Tucker has developed a taste for beer, I can’t see that barley would do him good. The contents and the percentage of calories derived from carbohydrates made me think I should try a different food.

Wellness Core soft-food comes in a limited variety of flavours, at least here in my town, and Tucker is luke-warm about eating it. But its percentages are good.
44%    protein
54%    fat
2%     carbohydrate

Its more solid older brother, Wellness Core hard-food, produces twice the recommended amount of carbohydrate-created calories - but then hard-food will always be higher in that regard than soft:
40%    protein
39%    fat
20%    carbohydrate

I have been feeding the beasts Orijen hard-food for a couple of years now. The first non-meat-related ingredient in its list comes in fourteenth place - and that is lentil, which I believe is high in both calories and protein. As well, the food is produced here in Alberta. The percentage of carbohydrate-created calories is the lowest I’ve found in a hard-food.
38%    protein
46%    fat
16%    carbohydrate

What startled me was the source of calories in Merrick tinned food. I have been buying this product thinking that it was one of the best, and indeed it may be, but I don’t know that I will continue to purchase it as often after my calculations. This breakdown is for the flavour called surf + turf.
23%    protein
16.5% fat
61%    carbohydrate

And finally, our old friend, Fancy Feast. These percentages are for Cammie’s favourite flavour, ocean whitefish. At least in terms of numbers, it is better than Merrick, and though there are many other factors to consider, it certainly gave me pause to think.
41%    protein
16%    fat
43.5% carbohydrate

It may be that my calculations are in error. I went over them several times, especially with the Merrick. But I think they are relatively representative, if not absolutely. In the end, it comes down to one thing, and one thing only: what the cats will eat. I can buy the best food in the world, whether cheap or expensive, soft or hard, tinned, bagged or sealed in ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, and it matters not a whit if the animal won’t eat it. Cammie may not know best, but she and her kind have the last word. If they eat it, they’ll eat it; if they don’t, buy the best that they will.

UPDATE: the calculations I made in regard to Merrick and Fancy Feast were in error! Please see a more recent post related to this topic for the corrections. I apologise to anyone who read this article, and I apologise to Merrick and Fancy Feast. This is what happens when mathematics and I collide...


  1. I've seen her page, because I love that site and reference it quite a bit. However, I haven't done the calculations, I don't want to. I'm so sick and tired of worrying about every ingredient...Unless you make your own for them, there's just not going to be a perfect food. I shudder at Derry's preferred wet (Whiskas chicken paté), and I force him to eat to eat Fancy Feast Classic (chicken and also liver and chicken), as well as ProPlan's chicken and liver (also Purina, probably the same thing as FF). Meaning, he'll eat those when he's hungry enough and realizes the 1/4 tin Whiskas is all he's getting.

    Nicki's easier, because he'll eat the cr*p, and he also loves his Weruva shredded chicken with pumpkin and the occasional Weruva chicken/duck/tuna (those are pouches). He'll also eat the Performatrin chicken and lamb, though isn't quite as partial to that.

    Bottom line: You're right. You have to feed what they'll eat and I don't think it hurts to feed a variety of brands, if possible. Balance the junk with the good stuff.

    In the end, the reality is that they, like us, will die no matter what they eat, no matter what we do. We can do our best for them, given their preferences and their genetics, etc., and that's all we *can* do.

    1. You're correct, of course, in that we do what we can. My Tungsten was being treated for hyperthyroidism and kidney failure. We were holding both at bay, and undoubtedly what killed her was neither. It was probably cancer, unseen and rapid. We try our best.

  2. guys...yur dad cracks uz up...him iz hill larry uz !!! ...

    " sealed in ancient Egyptian sarcophagi"

    plus yur dadz onto yur...... baker ree raidin .... N beer drinkin wayz now ~~~~ ♥♥♥

  3. I laughed reading Renn leaving the peas and carrots behind in the Spot's Stew! Jessica did the same thing. Finding the best food is such a challenge with cats. With Jeesica i buy a variety of blends on each trip to the pet store. No point in buying a case of one brand - she will love one brand one day and then look at me when served it again the following day as though I served her the worst dish imaginable. Then I have to find a different brand and open that one.
    I do hope Tucker's health improves with the new insulin dosage.

    From Eileen and Jessica

    1. I will probably end up trying the best foods on them but having a stock of what they actually like and will eat at hand. A large stock.

  4. we laughed at Renn smooshing the peas too. :)

    we have to agree that the seeing the math was interesting. but bottom line, like others have said, ultimately the cats have to eat it.... (though the Merrick numbers were startling)

  5. I know for a fact that the fancy feast classic foods have very little carbs in them. If you look at the ingredient list you will see no plants in there. Maybe you are forgetting about the water percentages? Janet and Binky's charts are very similar to Dr. Pierson's at Catinfo. Janet's charts came first. and are not updated regularly but the formula for FF hasn't changed. and that white fish can has 3% carbs

    I have had great success with the FF Classic turkey and giblets for multiple diabetic cats. My own all those years ago and a half dozen or so foster cats. I found feeding one type of food will help regulate a cat a little faster and help you understand things a little quicker... but that isn't always workable with multiple cats.

    I'm sorry wet only isn't an option for you. I respect that you know your cats, but I do want to share with you that when I finally took my cats off all dry food (I was feeding a handful of it a couple of times a week among my 7/8 cats - I lost one to cancer right before I stopped giving it out) that my largest cat dropped a significant amount of weight.. to the point I was freaking out that she might have a health issue and was about to make a vet appointment for her when I remembered I cut out the dry. Her weight stabilized and she has maintained her lower weight despite getting probably more than her fair share of the raw food I feed. Is it possible that what you thought wasn't eating enough was simply their body adjusting to a better diet and settling into their new appropriate weight?? again, not suggesting you are wrong or don't know what is going on with your cats, I just wanted to offer the suggestion.. cause.. I'm weird like that.

    1. Thank you for your response. I went over my calculations again and I was quite wrong about the Merrick and the Fancy Feast, as you probably thought. My gratitude for doubting me! I will be updating the original post (but not changing what I had originally printed; my errors must stand) tomorrow, and posting the corrections as a new article. Merrick still doesn't look great, but it and Fancy Feast improve tremendously.

  6. I have found that the better the food the less likely Flynn is to eat it. The wet food he eats is okay, not the worst and certainly not the best. His usual preferred brand brought out a "Menus" selection a few years back that also included peas and carrots and which were always left on the edge of his plate.

  7. We agree with Flynns mum as Pops is much the same. In the end I think you have to go with buying food the cats will eat. I wish Miss Pops would be happy eating just plain meat, but she will nibble and then leave it. She has some biscuits in her bowl for breakfast and when I get home she gets soft food, usually fancy feast which she will eat 2/3 off.