Pet Food Trial Verdict

Back in November, I posted about the dry pet foods I’d been trying for my Ragdolls.  I continued to try different ones, per suggestions from friends and kitten buyers.  Over the years and up to the present I probably tried about all of them – Science Diet, Nutro, Pet Lovers Soul, Fromm Family, Earthborn, Evo, California Natural, Wellness, Royal Canin, Blue Buffalo.

With most of them, a couple of my cats would like the new food at first, but then nobody wanted them anymore and the dogs got them.  Since I would always transition them onto the new food from the old, the old would still be there.  At first that was Purina One and then recently it was Royal Canin.  Blue Buffalo was the only one that could compete with Royal Canin, and it was quickly obvious that only the Wilderness was really accepted. (Of course it was, it is the more expensive of the Blue selections.)  But the Blue Wilderness is high in protein, at 40%, and I didn’t really like all of my cats having that, especially the older ones.  A few years ago, when I tried Evo, the group had liked that, but it also was high in protein.  At that time I had a cat with compromised kidneys, so I took them off if it.

The other issue with the Wilderness was Rusty’s reaction to it.  He has traditionally had trouble with throwing up whenever I made the slightest change to his food.  He also has had digestive trouble on the other end.  Diarrhea in his stud pants are not fun, and on the Wilderness, he had that issue day after day when he was out for his exercise.  His litter box was a horror show as well.  My only conclusion was that it was too rich for him.  The lower protein Blue variety didn’t fix it either.  Could it possibly mean that he needed the ‘cheaper’ ingredients?  I went back to Royal Canin’s site to see the ingredients of the Indoor Adult 27, which hadn’t seemed to bother him.  Chicken meal was the first ingredient and further down there was corn gluten and wheat gluten as other sources of protein.  I’ve gone back to it and his problems have gone away.  I’ve also given it to the other cats, along with the Blue Wilderness, and they choose the Royal Canin first, but still like the Blue when the Royal Canin is gone.

I have a litter of kittens now, and at four weeks old, when they start to eat solid food, I put out some of the Royal Canin Babycat that I had left from last spring.  They immediately started eating it.  It ran out quickly, as their mother loved it too, and I put out the Wilderness kitten kibble.  Though Susie Q still ate it, the kittens barely touched it.  So I bought the new Royal Canin Mother and Babycat and they love that too.  I do still put out the Wilderness Kitten, but only the mother eats that.  The kittens still like their Blue Wilderness canned kitten food, but also steal the older cats’ Fancy Feast when they get a chance.

Kittens eating their Blue Wilderness canned food.

Kittens eating their Blue Wilderness canned food.

As a result of all this, I have had to rethink my issues with Royal Canin.  I went back to the internet to see if I could determine why the top foods were rated the way they were.  And what I discovered is that there doesn’t seem to be a lot of scientific reasons for why various sites rate certain ones high, but instead they are rated on ‘good ingredients’.  They are also, invariably, the most expensive brands.  What are the best ingredients?  It seems they are the ingredients that people like.  Chicken, turkey, fish, carrots, peas, rice.  Because more people now think they are sensitive to gluten, and we know people with Celiac Disease really are, maybe dogs and cats are too, so gluten became a bad ingredient.

I thought about what felines and canines in the wild eat.  You see big cats bringing down an antelope on TV and what do they eat first?  They dive into the viscera of the animal.  They don’t go for the rump roast, they go for the intestines, heart, liver, i.e. ‘by-products’.  When my cats that I had as a young women caught a bird or a mouse, they ate the whole thing.  That meant fur, feet, eyeballs, some feathers, bones and other yukky things – more ‘by-products’.  Included in the antelope was a stomach (or maybe a rumen) full of grains and partially digested grasses.  The birds and mice had plant material in their stomachs too.  Mmmm, could that be the reason why my cats like the food with by-products and grains?

Royal Canin makes a very large number of different varieties of foods: by breed, by size, by taste, smell, or textural preference.  The ones, like the Ragdoll variety, that don’t sell in huge quantities, have higher prices.  Are their ingredients really cheap?  Maybe, or maybe not.  The important thing is that all my cats like the Indoor Adult 27 and really like a new one I tried, Selective 40 – Protein Preference.  Because I know that my cats like variety, I will still offer them the Blue Wilderness.  They also get a variety of canned food like the trusty favorites from Fancy Feast, as well as Earthborn Chicken Cacciatore, Wilderness chicken and turkey varieties, and Wellness chicken and turkey varieties.

But I’m no longer averse to corn or wheat, providing meat is the first ingredient.  I never really did have a problem with by-products, since they are the kidneys, lungs, liver, heart and other yukky stuff that dogs and cats just love.

I keep remembering the cats of my youth, who lived healthy lives to advanced age on Meow Mix and 9 Lives…

Pet Food Trials

I have always had one basic rule for the pet food I buy for my cats and dogs.  I want meat to be the first ingredient.  For a long time, I fed Purina One, as it always had meat as the first ingredient.  The cats got Fancy Feast as their canned food and the dogs got Purina One.  It was never recalled while I used it and most of the pets liked it.  But…

Last year, I got concerned over MoonShadow, my older retired queen, upchucking regularly and wondered if a new dry food would help her, as well as help Rusty and Max, who had very soft stools.  My kittens also usually had soft stools too.  So I switched the Ragdolls to a premium brand, Royal Canin, which was recommended by another breeder and the guy at our farm store.  At the time I went to it, the first ingredient in the various varieties was ‘chicken meal’ or ‘poultry meal’, which is the meat with the moisture removed.  Almost everyone liked it.  Moonie seemed to upcheck less, Rusty got more healthy stools, though Max stayed the same.  The kittens however, had solid stools, so I was happy with it.  But this Fall I noticed that more of my cats disliked it.  Royal Canin started making a Ragdoll Formula, so I added that and another variety to the Indoor mix, in hopes that they would like it better.  Moonie started to upchuck more, and Rusty got bad stools again.  A number of the cats seemed to have lost quality in their coats, as well.

MoonShadow in a basket

MoonShadow in a basket

Where do you go when you need more information on the contents of pet food?  The internet, of course.  It told me that Royal Canin had changed its formulas, which I hadn’t realized.  The first ingredient was now ‘chicken by-product meal’, and in the kitten kibble, the first ingredient was rice!  Now I don’t have any real problem with ‘by-products’.  Some of them are good for pets.  But they are cheap sources of protein, as are ‘corn gluten’ and ‘wheat gluten’.  Royal Canin is NOT cheap, and the Ragdoll variety is more expensive than their other varieties.  Most pet food sold in grocery stores have these inexpensive contents, and folks who can’t afford high-priced pet food can feed them to their pets and know they are a complete diet.  When I was young, my three cats ate Meow Mix and Nine Lives and they lived to great old ages of 17 and 18 on these foods.  But I don’t like paying top dollar for cheap ingredients.

I found out on the internet that by-products include the viscera of animals, including fetuses and feces.  Yukky as they sound, when a cat eats a mouse, or a wolf eats a deer, they get all those yukky insides and gobble them up.  And yes, Teddy Bear eats duck poop and alpaca poop on a regular basis.  But we yell at him when he does, and I certainly don’t really want to pay for them.  I know that in pet food, the amount of feces is very small, and probably bacteria-free from cooking, but still…

Since I’m willing to pay more for good pet food, I searched out other premium brands and found a number that did not contain ‘by-products’.  None of my pets appear to have allergies to wheat or corn, but since their gluten is cheap, I opted to pay for better carbohydrates.  I am now in the process of switching both cats and dogs to Blue Buffalo dry food.  I loved the convenience of buying food at the grocery store, or having Chewy.com send me the Royal Canin, but my local pet store, Four Your Paws Only, had the varieties of Blue that I wanted and at the same price as Chewy.  Everyone seems to like it, which wasn’t true of the Fromm that I first went to.

Rusty even likes the Blue

Rusty even likes the Blue

I still feed some Fancy Feast canned food to my cats, as that is their favorite.  I see no point in paying top price for canned food they won’t eat.  They do get Wellness and Blue Wilderness cans, but some refuse to eat them.  I can only deduce that they like the by-products in those Fancy Feast cans!  Time will tell if their coats get better and the poops get firmer from eating the Blue Buffalo dry food.  Though a lot of the cats like the Royal Canin kitten kibble, I will be transitioning them to the Blue kitten kibble, though there are three varieties to choose from, so that will be interesting.  Even the Purina One kitten kibble had meat as the first ingredient!!  We’ll see if they do well on the Blue.  I’d hate to have to go through transitioning them to yet another brand. Sigh,  it is all such a trial…

Maxie, the big boy, lounging on the cat tree.

Maxie, the big boy, lounging on the cat tree.