Decent Pet Food
October 20, 2008 2:43 PM   Subscribe

How does one go about picking out a nutritionally good pet food?

I currently have two pets right now -- a six-month old kitten and a 12-year old dog -- and am having a hard time choosing decent dry food for them. Once you get out of the basic Purina Chows (which may be, for all I know, perfectly nutritional) there seems to be a LOT of hype built into the system. I don't think they need dry food containing wild salmon, nor do they need hollistically designed kibble. On the other hand, I do want them to eat a well-balanced, nutritional diet. Any suggestions?
posted by rtimmel to Pets & Animals (41 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Ask your vet for recommendations.
posted by Green Eyed Monster at 2:47 PM on October 20, 2008

I've relied on DogFoodAnalysis for my dog's food. Can't help with the cat food, though--although sticking with one of the top brands for dog food is probably a safe bet.

Be careful with vet recommendations, there are dog food reps that function just like drug reps to convince vets that their food is best. Except that dog food reps are less regulated.
posted by jtfowl0 at 2:51 PM on October 20, 2008

I have to disagree about with asking a vet for recommendations. I've heard that at vet school, pet food manufacturers (i.e Hills Science Diet is the one I heard the most) sponsor things, and that vet offices are given big discounts on the products, which is why every vet office I've been to carries only Science Diet. Working with people in several dog related businesses, the brands that people seemed to like for dry food included Innova, Nutro and Wellness.
posted by disaster77 at 2:53 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Do talk to your vet, but be aware they may have an arrangement with specific brand of prescription food, and depending on the vet they may try to push that brand on you. So you may want to look more for general suggestions than specific brands. I know nothing about feeding dogs, but for example, for cats one really important thing is to keep protein high and carbs low. Foods with no grains at all are probably the ideal, but if that's not feasible (they do tend to be more expensive), you at least want the first couple ingredients to be meat, preferably e.g. "chicken" rather than "chicken meal", rather than grains. That's definitely true for adult cats - I assume it holds for kittens as well but don't know for sure, so that's something to talk to a vet about.
posted by Stacey at 2:54 PM on October 20, 2008

I just adopted a two-year-old smooth-haired fox terrier from our local shelter, and they recommended Taste of the Wild. He loves it, and so far seems to be a happy, healthy pup. The vet agreed that it was a good choice.

I can't help with kitty food recommendations, unfortunately.
posted by trip and a half at 2:55 PM on October 20, 2008

I can't help with a dog, but for a cat you're looking for a whole meat as the first ingredient on the list and absolutely no corn or cornmeal in it whatsoever.

I recommend Innova EVO for kittehs, available at most vet clinics. My cats have never been as active or fit since they started it!
posted by Willie0248 at 2:56 PM on October 20, 2008

jtfowl0: Can you comment on how you used the DogFoodAnalysis site and what specific food(s) you ended up picking/liking based on it? I took a look a while back and found it confusing, annoying to navigate, and generally useless for actually picking a dog food.
posted by madmethods at 3:00 PM on October 20, 2008

Our dogs were on Pedigree kibble for a long time. We switched to the Costco house brand kibble, which contains no corn, and immediately saw a difference in the amount and consistency of their poop, not to mention energy and general demeanor.

Can't help for cat food, sorry.
posted by infinitewindow at 3:05 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

For the kitty, I can definitely recommend Nutro Natural Choice. Nutro's pet foods (including the less expensive Max Cat) are widely considered to be excellent. You will find many anecdotes about cats who throw up other food on a regular basis but easily digest Nutro's foods.

I have a cat who had grown fat and lethargic a few years ago. I switched her to NNC Indoor Senior formula. She's still fat, but she's 16 now and often demands that I play with her.

If their dog food is as good as their cat food, I would recommend it without reservation.
posted by kindall at 3:11 PM on October 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

Look for a food with low amounts of grains, and especially no corn. High amount of protein is good, but avoid 'by-products.'

I heartily recommend Innova EVO for both your cat and dog. It's more expensive but my animals' health is worth it. Keep in mind that like humans, not all dogs are alike, and have varying diets. Some may do just fine on the CostCo brand, but brands like that generally use known carcinogens as preservatives. Ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT are chemicals to look out for, though there are more.
posted by InsanePenguin at 3:15 PM on October 20, 2008

Best answer: I'm not biscotti, but I have the benefit of being married to her. She'll likely reply when she's done with tonight's various Crazy Dog Lady activities, but until then:

Veterinarians are not nutritionists and receive no special training in canine or feline nutrition. You could get very good or very bad advice from them.

The Purinas etc of the world, which can also include previously-respected brands like Eukanuba and Science Diet, are not perfectly nutritional.

For dogs, look at ingredients. You don't want to see corn. ANYWHERE. You want specific meat meals at the top of the list. Not "meat meal" and for damn sure not "meat byproduct meal," but "beef meal" or "chicken meal" or "salmon meal." And what do you have against Canidae? It's okay stuff.

When you look at a bag of Canidae or Wellness or Innova or other Crazy Dog Lady dog foods, you will gasp at the price. ---BUT--- it's really not a whole lot more expensive than regular shit. First, unlike Purina, it's all dog food instead of being 30% dog food and 70% filler. So you feed less of it. So less goes in... and even less than that comes out in poopular form since, what with it being all food instead of mostly filler, it gets digested.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Here are the basic rules for choosing foods. Answers to all these questions can be found by scanning the ingredients of the bags or cans of food. These are guidelines to simply identify a quality food from a bad food. As far as the specific right food your critter I'll get to in a bit.

1) First ingredient should be an identified meat or meat meal. By identified I mean listed by type. "Poultry", "meat", "fish" are not types and indicate lower-quality protein. Look for "lamb", "beef", or "salmon" for example. If the first ingredient is a meal (lamb meal, beef meal, etc.) then you can be assured that it is in fact the primary ingredient in the food. If the first ingredient is chicken or lamb without the meal then it includes water weight and may or may not be the predominant ingredient. But some foods have chicken first and chicken meal second, there you're in good shape (provided criteria 2) and 3) below hold)

2) If you see the word "gluten" anywhere in the ingredient list, put the bag down and move on. Avoid all glutens, they are inferior and cheap and can lead to all sorts of problems. You almost always see the word gluten combined with "rice" or "corn".

3) Which leads to the third point, you want to avoid wheat, corn and soy in ALL their forms as they are crummy, cheap filler ingredients that don't digest well. Rice is a little better as long as it is whole grain (avoid rice gluten, rice bran, rice husks, brewer's rice, etc.) Oatmeal and barley are the best grains to use if you plan on using grains at all.

As for your animals...whenever I have a new customer we always go through a Q and A like a doctor taking a history. Does your animal have any digestive sensitivities? Allergies? Weight issues? Likes or dislikes? Arthritis? Bad skin? Etc. Depending on the answers you might choose foods that have fish as the primary protein (good for skin and coat), extra vegetables as the carb source (antioxidant value, good for older dogs), senior formulas (useful for keeping weight down and often glucosamine added).

For your cat, I always recommend high protein, low-carb grain free foods. Some brands you might look for are EVO, Orijen, GO!, and Solid Gold Indigo Moon (depending on the kind of meat your cat favors - the proteins here range from chicken and turkey to trout to just chicken). Cats are obligate carnivores and have not evolved to process grains. Many cat health problems ranging from fat, skinny, hairballs, urinary tract issues, and even diabetes can be traced to underconsumption of meat.

For your dog you might consider the Eagle Holistic line, EVO, California Natural, or Nature's Variety. (There are hundreds of other good ones, you won't see any of them at your regular grocery store, although Whole Foods might carry some).

Find a store that specializes in good food and they will have samples available. Also the bags should be 100% guaranteed by the manufacturer. It make take a few tries to find the right one for your dog but don't be discouraged if the first choices aren't perfect. It's a journey and with these tips you'll know that while searching for the ideal you are feeding good nutrition.
posted by vito90 at 3:19 PM on October 20, 2008 [131 favorites]

My cats eat EVO - it took them a while to get used to it, but now they love it. My big boy has even (finally) lost a couple of pounds. I think it's worth it to go with a higher protein kibble for the cats, especially after noticing the difference in energy level and coat health that I've noticed over the past 6 months.
posted by ailouros08 at 3:23 PM on October 20, 2008

The two cats I care for go apeshit for Greenies. The treats seem to be quite healthsome, and are excellent for dental care.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:28 PM on October 20, 2008

I know I'm not the OP but that's some great advice, thanks vito90.
posted by turgid dahlia at 3:30 PM on October 20, 2008

I spent more time looking into this subject than I feel like admitting and then spent yet more time trying to identify whether my dog's allergy (which made her itch everywhere and lick her paws until red) was food related. My conclusions:

It depends.

Basically, you're playing the odds of allergies, harmful reactions or long term impacts to certain foods, and the taste your dog prefers - these are all hard to know without experimentation because your dog, well, he doesn't eff-ing talk.

Are you better off with better food? Generally yes. You get what you pay for with the cheap stuff - you're dog will get fed, kinda like going to McDonald's everyday, it works, but it sucks and may give your dog some funky shits and mediocre nutrition.

Is the really expensive stuff worth it? Probably not unless you can't have kids and choose to personify your pet beyond the also-not-exactly-or-always-rational level of adoration we all give our pets. If you've got money that's weighing you down, sure, give it to the pet food store, there are worse places it could end up.

So you're left with something in the middle, surprise.

Quick recommendations:
*Kirkland signature - Costco - very affordable, medium-high quality food. Get the variety that matches you pet's needs (more protein or less basically).
*Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul - creepy name, great stuff. My dog didn't like the taste but she's rarely excited about food as she's more concerned that the pack is breaking up and she'll be left for dead everytime we leave the house. YMMV.
*Science Diet - is there better food? Yes. Are vets influenced by the promotional BS? Probably. But is it also a fairly good food? Yeah, sure. The balance of fats, protein, and non-shitty ingredients is not bad by any measure.
*Canidae - good, expensive
*Taste of the Wild - what my dog is currently getting, though not helping with the allergies as much as hoped (again, don't worry about this - very much specific issue with my pet)
*Wellness - highly recommended, expensive.
*Innova EVO - fairly good stuff, a little cheaper than others on this list, but still expensive.

Interesting discussion here

Even if they're not nearby/local, Petfood Express staff are fairly knowledgeable and carry most of the higher end foods people have been discussion here (and that I've listed) - give them a call, ask for the dog food specialist in their store, ask anything you want!

Note: you dog may really have a set of tastes that you won't find unless you experiment - unfortunately, this call also be hell on a pet's stomach. Take things slowly and in small amounts - my dog never had pet food with fish until one day we got some and she went crazy for it. You dog might really like chicken but you always get him lamb. Try for small amounts of different foods and you may be surprised.
posted by unclezeb at 3:35 PM on October 20, 2008

2nding Canidae for your dog. It's one of the most well-regarded brands on the market.
posted by gnutron at 3:36 PM on October 20, 2008

vito90's got some good comprehensive checkpoints in there.

Here are a few things I've had to take into account:

Keep track of recalls - be aware, especially, of which foods seem to be "healthy" or "natural" or "organic" and end up on these lists due to factory contamination of ingredients. Note particularly which manufacturers are on repeatedly.

Science Diet and IAMS aren't nearly as good for your pets as their extensive advertising and veterinary sponsorship deals will have you believe.

Cats don't need starchy carbohydrates and do need a mix of wet and dry in order to keep good internal and dental health (respectively), and changing one at a time (gradually) is your best bet to get them shifted.

Weight loss formulas can often achieve the opposite - it's better to feed more compact proteins and give the pet more exercise.

Cat food consumer reviews.
posted by batmonkey at 3:57 PM on October 20, 2008

My only concern would be Chinese melamine, but right now that doesn't seem to be much of a problem.

I think that in general pretty much any commercial pet food with a big name is going to be fine.
posted by Class Goat at 4:05 PM on October 20, 2008

I think that in general pretty much any commercial pet food with a big name is going to be fine.

Sorry Class Goat, I can't let this go by. Compare the well-known "big name" ingredients below with more obscure smaller companies. The differences are substantial. The last three companies are dog food companies. The first three are marketing companies, and dog food happens to be their product.:

IAMS Lamb formula: Lamb Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Corn Grits, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Beet Pulp

Eukanuba Lamb formula: Lamb, Brewers Rice, Corn Meal, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Fish Meal (source of fish oil), Chicken Meal, Ground Whole Grain Barley, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols, a source of Vitamin E), Dried Egg Product, Dried Beet Pulp

Purina Lamb formula: Lamb (natural source of glucosamine), brewers rice, corn gluten meal, whole grain corn, poultry by-product meal (natural source of glucosamine), oat meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), lamb meal, animal digest

Solid Gold Lamb (Hund n' Flocken): Lamb, Lamb Meal, Ocean Fish Meal, Brown Rice, Millet, Cracked Pearled Barley, Canola Oil, Tomato Pomace, Rice Bran, Flaxseed, Natural Flavor, Salmon Oil

Eagle Holistic Lamb: Lamb Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Ground White Rice, Chicken Fat (Preserved With Natural Mixed Tocopherols), Oatmeal, Dried Beet Pulp, Flaxseed, Dried Egg Product, Carrots, Sun-Cured Alfalfa, Peas

Nature's Variety Lamb: Lamb Meal, Oatmeal, Brown Rice, Barley, Canola Oil (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Menhaden Fish Meal, D-calcium Phosphate, Ground Flaxseeds, Montmorillonite Clay, Natural Lamb Flavor, Alfalfa Meal
posted by vito90 at 4:28 PM on October 20, 2008

ROU_Xenophobe and vito90 pretty much covered it (especially as regards the importance of identified meat meals as the first ingredient, since they are listed by weight, in a dry food an identified meal is preferable).

Canidae is no longer all that, they changed the formula recently and it's just not as good as it was, I no longer recommend it, nor do most of the people who used to like it but who've used it since the change.

I love Orijen, Wellness CORE, Merrick, Innova, EVO, etc., and I no longer feed anything that contains grain. I do not think dogs and cats should eat grain, and cats especially should not eat grain. If you must feed grain-containing food, look for oatmeal or rice, not corn or wheat. I would feed a cat mostly canned food (no grain, more meat, no preservatives if it's a decent brand), with some t/d kibble from the vet for dental health (my dogs get t/d for treats, as a diet it's atrocious, but it does help with the dental health).
posted by biscotti at 4:29 PM on October 20, 2008 [3 favorites]

Data point: the vet techs at my vet's office (which is the clinic inside Petsmart) told me earlier this year to switch my cats off pellets and on to canned food to gets some of the chub off. They said the canned foods have less filler. After the diet change, all three of my cats have lost several pounds and they're more active.

My cats eat Science Diet and they do just fine healthwise. The oldest of the three turns 13 this fall.
posted by immlass at 4:37 PM on October 20, 2008

Can you comment on how you used the DogFoodAnalysis site and what specific food(s) you ended up picking/liking based on it?

I just started with the highest rated foods and went down the list until I found one that was carried in the pet store by my house and was within my price range. I ended up with Innova large breed. I think as long as you stick to the 6- or 5-star foods, you can't go too wrong--at that point, its a matter of your pet's taste and availability.

Word of caution: the premiums are way more calorie dense than the Nutro food that we had been feeding. Our dog gained 6 pounds before we figured that out! So be careful with portions as there is wide variation in density across brands. Added bonus: calorie dense + no fillers + small portion = less poo. That was really a big selling point for us.
posted by jtfowl0 at 5:00 PM on October 20, 2008

Blue Buffalo makes some good stuff. Nowhere near as pricey as some of the 'superpremiums,' but quite close if not there in quality.
posted by kmennie at 5:52 PM on October 20, 2008

I've seen how to rate your dog's food pasted all over the net and seems like a good way to evaluate the food (without a laboratory).
posted by hazel at 7:18 PM on October 20, 2008

In their formative years, my cats were on Nutro foods (this was at least a dozen years ago). They suffered from chronic urinary tract infections until after I switched their food. I've heard that Nutro has changed their formulas, but I will never go back.

They primarily eat wet food, since we live in a dry climate and they're not big water drinkers. They won't eat healthy wet food, but I am still experimenting with the least icky wet food they will still eat. So far, they are against venison, rabbit and anything that touched peas.

I free-feed dry food as well. Right now, I'm feeding a corn and soy free food, Premium Edge. They like it, they throw up less (they're old cats; they vomit) and they don't yell at me with the "cat of the living dead" voice when I give it to them. Everybody wins!
posted by answergrape at 7:28 PM on October 20, 2008

One thing to watch out for, although this is less of a concern with felines: a lot of these newfangled foods today are really high in protein. High like I know cops who had to take their dogs off a food because of health issues. Your 12-year old dog does not work as hard as a beat-walking K9.

vito90 has a lot of the facts you need. I would add that for me, if I don't like the way a food smells, my creatures don't eat it.

It's hard to keep up with who makes what and sometimes they throw a curve ball. For years, I would have married Pet Works and then they came out with Natural Ultramix which has cute colored shapes (boo, but not enough to put on the no-buy list) and also caused frequent stinky poo in both dogs and cats (which is a enough for the kibosh).

You have to get over the cute shapes and the names. "Chicken Soup for the Dog Lover's Soul" is not a bad food, and it's pretty cheap, considering.

This Brit's view may put it all in perspective.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 7:40 PM on October 20, 2008

I went through this a while back and the conclusion I came to was that I just couldn't afford to get the good stuff. Then I found Flint River Ranch. They are up there with the high end stuff nutritionally but it's much cheaper in most cases. They even have free shipping, which sealed the deal for me.
posted by jluce50 at 9:26 AM on October 21, 2008

Wow; thanks so much for this question, rtimmel. I read the responses, took a look at the ingredient list on my kitty's half-eaten bag of IAMS, and the first three ingredients are chicken by-product meal, corn meal, and corn grits! I did a bit of my own research as well, and sure enough -- that'sa-no-good.

I found a store a few blocks from me that sells Wellness brand food. (Thanks for that link, batmonkey.) Good grief; who knew?! I now feel guilty enough to spend $20 per bag; she's tiny and doesn't eat much - she's only 6 lbs, the eternal kitten - so it's not much of a burden. Strangely, the little cans of food are $1.19, same as I was paying at the grocery for the *tainted stuff.

*Yeah, yeah, whatever. It feels tainted now. And little Pea deserves better than crappy by-product meal.
posted by heyho at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The whole pet food thing is one big clusterfuck as far as I'm concerned. There's just not a lot of good information out there, and as mentioned, veterinarians often have a vested interest in their recommendations. You try to make informed decisions, but really who can you trust? Should I put any weight on what biscotti or Vito90 say? As far as I know they're just cranks on the internet. (No offense to you two at all. You might be world experts on pet food, but how am I supposed to know?)I've not been able to find any actual research on pet food, and glaringly, there's been none linked to in this thread. Just the usual opinions.

Here's my own experience. When Silver the superdog was a puppy, he was on Science diet puppy food for awhile (on recommendation of his breeder) until my local feed store said they wouldn't be carrying it anymore because of big price increases, and it wasn't all that great. Since then Silver, and now Saffron, have been on Avoderm. It's even less expensive than Science diet. No corn, so it passes the Vito90 test, but it has rice, so not the biscotti test. The pooches like it, and seem to be healthy, though Silver has a few extra pounds. For the cat Pesto, he's been on various foods over the years until I finally settled on the Wellness Indoor cat. Again, no corn, so it passes the vito90 test, but there are grains, again failing the biscotti test. He just seems to do well on it.

My vet knows what my creatures get, and he hasn't made any negative comments on it. Others I've asked who are supposed to know have been non-committal. As in "as long as your pets are doing well, that's the main thing." How am I supposed to know? They don't get their blood pressure checked or cholesterol profiles. biscotti recommends no grains at all. What is that based on? Is there actual research on this? I have one friend who feeds her dogs a raw diet, and swears by it, and even says their dental health is better because of it.

So, with all the hype and the bullshit, and the opinions, in the end it seems like we're stuck on our own to make the best guess we can. As far as I can tell there's nothing we can measure, or any real information we can go by. We just have the anecdotal observations of some people, and we need to filter that the best we can. I guess in the end we really do need to be in tune with our pets, and hopefully we can judge by what they're feeling, and do as little harm as possible.
posted by Eekacat at 7:41 PM on October 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Should I put any weight on what biscotti or Vito90 say? As far as I know they're just cranks on the internet. (No offense to you two at all. You might be world experts on pet food, but how am I supposed to know?)


By clicking on their usernames. A history can tell you a lot.

If I recall, Biscotti is a veterinarian. Certainly she's earned a lot of respect over the years on MeFi for her counsel, if popular opinion carries any weight for you. Realistically, the history provides far more fodder for independently evaluating the quality of someone's advice than iif you were in conversation with the average local vet/crank/whatever. Browse the history a bit, and you'll figure out whose opinions you value.

posted by nakedcodemonkey at 10:34 PM on October 21, 2008

I make my own cat food, mix it up with chicken ribs and a weekly tin of sardines.
My happy, shiny, lean and healthy cats endorse this message. Or so I'd like to think.
posted by ponystyle at 1:30 AM on October 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

nakedcodemonkey, my point was that there's all kinds of opinions and advice, but no real data. For example Vito90 talks about recommending food with glucosamine for older dogs, but there's research in humans showing the benefit is unlikely. Of course that doesn't negate the potential benefit in dogs, but anything anyone says is purely anecdotal without real research to back it up. I just find that nutrition information in general is so full of unfounded opinion that it's hard to believe anything, because next week the prevailing opinion will be different, or there will be research that negates it like with glucosamine or echinaceae.
posted by Eekacat at 9:59 AM on October 22, 2008

I am not a veterinarian. I am a former vet tech and I currently work in a vet clinic. I show and train dogs as my (all-consuming) hobby. Dogs are what I do for a living, and dogs are what I do for fun, I am a full time crazy dog lady.

You have no reason whatsoever to listen to my opinion. I share what I have learned over decades of being an actively-involved dog person. I do more research into what my dogs eat, why they behave the way they do and how I train them than I do about ANYTHING else. Why do I think dogs should not eat grain? Dogs are mostly carnivorous (they scavenge in the wild and can digest non-meat foods, but they are primarily carnivorous, depending on who you read), but they are definitely not herbivores, and much of the time grain in pet food is there to make it less expensive to produce (i.e. some or most of the required amino acid profile is coming from grain instead of meat). Grains are often also the culprit in skin problems, allergies, ear problems and weight gain. But billyuns of dogs survive just fine eating the cheapest, grain-and-byproduct-filled supermarket crap you can get. Of all the variables that affect health and longevity, diet is one of the only ones you have any control over, so I choose to feed my dogs what my research suggests is the best possible diet for them (no grain, human-grade meat sources, mininal preservatives, etc.). Here is a good source of information. Make up your own mind. I feel that since the dogs have no say in the matter, we owe it to them to make good decisions on their behalf, and I think that includes diet, but YMMV.
posted by biscotti at 12:30 PM on October 22, 2008 [3 favorites]

Here's another data point. On our vet's recommendation we're feeding our cat Royal Canin Calorie Control High Protein cat food. It doesn't seem to contain any grains at all. Stewart (the cat) loves it and lost 4 pounds since we switched him over from dry food. I didn't see Royal Canin mentioned anywhere else is the thread. Is it common?
posted by Drab_Parts at 4:37 AM on October 24, 2008

Heyho, oh my lord, is that kitten cute.

Anecdotal - I switched from Iams to Wellness a few months ago, and my 12 year old cat definitely seems healthier and more active.
posted by HopperFan at 9:44 AM on October 24, 2008

HopperFan, thanks. It's good to hear I'm making a more sound decision now. I just sort of blindly followed my vet's advice, something quite out-of-character for me, when she told me IAMS was "just perfect." Oddly, I didn't give it all that much thought!

I'm truly grateful for this thread. So's the Pea. She scarfs the Wellness stuff down, poos a bit less, and, interestingly enough, she's stopped shredding every single piece of paper she sees. I'd just assumed it was her "thing," but maybe that little obsession was dietary in nature. Yikes.
posted by heyho at 2:05 AM on October 25, 2008

For your cat, I always recommend high protein, low-carb grain free foods.

This opinion is extremely popular, and I tried so hard to make my cat's diet conform. But ALL high-protein foods make her barf up a lung. No kidding. I tried everything, Innova, Evo, Wild by Nature, blahblahblah. I must have taken her through thirty foods. I tried her on everything, including some locally made raw food made with free-range chicken. It all made her vomit. I took her to the vet and vet suggested the chicken can frequently aggravate irritable bowel syndrome in cats. I immediately stopped feeding food with chicken and saw an improvement. She doesn't have a problem with grains at all, just chicken, and to a lesser extent, lamb.

So don't mindlessly follow anyone's advice, trust your eyes and your experience, and keep in mind that cats can change with age. For a long time my cat was great on Precise Plus, which has tons of chicken. Venison, lamb, and chicken make her vomit. And NO ONE at any of the pet stores believes it, they just start shrieking about how grains are evil, and push me towards something ultra-high protein that makes my female vomit and my male cat's fur stand up in visibly greasy clumps.

Absolutely DO listen to what people say about quality ingredients, and chose foods without meat byproducts listed or any other cheap, lesser quality ingredients.
posted by tejolote at 7:22 PM on October 25, 2008

Our cat just eats dry food, and is about four years old. She manages her own weight and doesn't bug us for human food much. The day we brought home Blue indoor cat, which fits vito90's 3 steps, she caught one whiff of it and start meowing like she does with catnip. She tried to crawl INTO the bag when we were opening it. When we refill the reservoir on her dish she actually comes over to inspect the process. She loves the stuff. She was on Purina Cat Chow (regular and indoor) before. So we figure either Blue is really good, or they're lying about the ingredients and it's really just cleverly disguised catnip.

Anyway, tejolote's right. Your cat will tell you what it wants. Sometimes quite clearly, such as ours did. Makes me wish there were sampler packs sold. Put out 5 and see which they go for.
posted by jwells at 9:50 AM on October 27, 2008

Dogs can be vegetarian relatively easily, cats with some difficulty. It borders on impossible to find vegetarian pet food (even near-vegetarian such food) in retail stores, though. There tend to be fewer snouts (™ Simpsons, Futurama), melamine, and other adulterants in such pet-food products, and higher-quality ingredients generally.

Needless to say, the only dog I know personally eats off-the-shelf mainstream dog food.

Should we also talk about how much more expensive the good brands are, and how they are somewhat hard to get ahold of, meaning if you run out of pet food on a Saturday night you have quite a problem ahead of youe?
posted by joeclark at 3:21 PM on October 27, 2008

If you live in Seattle, I recommend checking out Darwin's They put together packs of raw food using grocery store or organic quality ingredients. They flash freeze it and deliver it to you monthly.

It's a bit of a hassle to have to worry about thawing and cleaning, but my dog loved it. And dogs digest it so well, they poop a whole lot less.
posted by heathkit at 12:15 PM on November 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

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