What cornless catfood should I buy?
January 3, 2010 5:30 PM   Subscribe

So, apparently corn is bad for cats but it's in all the foods I see in the store. Even at Wholefoods, all the brands have corn in it except for one. I haven't tried Petsmart yet, but I would like some ideas on what you guys use that don't contain corn. I don't mind ordering off the internet either.
posted by MaryDellamorte to Pets & Animals (50 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know of specific brands, but the types of food available through vets is generally much different than that from grocery stores and even large pet stores. They also tend to have foods that are geared towards specific dietary restrictions. It's a few dollars more expensive generally, but if you're worried about the presence of corn it's worth a call to your vet to see if they have or know of any brands without.
posted by cCranium at 5:34 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed all three of my cats Orijen Cat & Kitten (Ingredients are listed in the link). It is 75% protein, with no grains -- just fruits and veggies for the remainder. The cats love it, it's not too too expensive (but still more costly than the grocery store brands, obviously), and their coats are really smooth and glossy. The vet also nodded in approval when they asked what my babies were fed.
posted by cgg at 5:39 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

My cats eat Wellness which is available at Petco, specialty stores, and online. Petco also carries several other brands that are grain-free (no corn, wheat, soy). PetSmart carries Blue Buffalo which is also a grain-free food.
posted by weebil at 5:40 PM on January 3, 2010

We feed our cat Harmony Farms dry food. It doesn't have any corn or corn byproducts, and the ol' kitty (19 years) seems a lot healthier after we made the switch. We get it at Harris Teeter, at a pretty reasonable price (about 9 dollars a bag when it isn't on sale).
posted by farishta at 5:43 PM on January 3, 2010

Innova and Wellness.
posted by dilettante at 5:48 PM on January 3, 2010

It's not that corn is necessarily bad for cats (or dogs) for that matter, but it's a super-cheap filler food and so lots of companies stuff their foods full of the stuff. Problem is, your animals can't properly digest it and even if they could, it holds virtually no nutritional value for them.

I feed my 4 cats and dog Evo, it's expensive but grain-free. Hell, if I ran out of food I'd eat it. Smells good.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:50 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

We recently switched to Wellness. Before that I did some research on making your own pet food which I decided I was too lazy for and wasn't sure if the cat would even like it, but it's not that hard; search the web for tips and recipes.
posted by girlhacker at 5:53 PM on January 3, 2010

I recommend Wellness Brand stuff. There's no corn in the formula and the stuff is available at Whole Foods and Petco.

I started feeding this to my cats after the old one had kidney issues. The old one was supposed to get prescription food but, instead, I found Wellness and the vet ok'd it as a replacement. Since then, the kidney issues have resolved themselves.
posted by LOLAttorney2009 at 5:53 PM on January 3, 2010

Oh, and here's a link where you can look to see where to buy Evo around you. That and they have their ingredient lists on the website. I highly recommend the food.
posted by InsanePenguin at 5:55 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Does anyone have experience with a fat cat that lost weight after switching to this kind of food? I currently gives my cats Iams and they are fed a specific amount, twice a day. But I have one cat who is overweight even though I strictly control her food intake.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:01 PM on January 3, 2010

don't fall for that vet stuff. Science diet is one of the worst foods for forming struvite crystals in male cats, and our vet plugs it. wellness is good. Just do a little reading of lables, and pay a couple extra bucks for god food. Fixing a problem is about $1200 to $5000 for a urinary blockage and it can be fatal within 48 hours. I never want to hear my cat scream like that again
posted by Redhush at 6:03 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed either Natural Balance or VF Cat Food.

I like VF better, I spoke to one of the reps and they not only buy all of their ingredients from American suppliers, but they make the stuff in a plant on site rather than shipping it off to be processed. But I can't always make it to the feed store during their crazy hours. That's when I pick up Natural Balance from either Petco or Petsmart.
posted by ErikaB at 6:04 PM on January 3, 2010

We use Taste of the Wild food. It has the same percentage of protein as Orijen linked above (42%) and is also grain-free, but is less expensive. I would be very interested in a comparison between the two actually.
posted by spaghettification at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2010

Response by poster: I should have mentioned that price isn't really an issue here unless we're talking $100 per pound.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 6:05 PM on January 3, 2010

Cats lose weight best on a low carb/high protein diet like Evo or Orijen or Before Grains (which are all excellent foods). Cats are obligate carnivores, so grain free is definitely the way to go, especially for weight loss, but really for all cats.
posted by biscotti at 6:13 PM on January 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

We've been feeding our cats Diamond Maintenance for the last 20 years, after the vet recommended a low-ash formula for the herd, and they've all done well on it. (We have a revolving cast of 2 or 3 cats in a range of ages in the house.) Even the cats we adopted when they were 6 did just fine on it, despite the fact that their previous owners told us that P was allergic to corn fillers. That was 8 years ago, and P is healthier now than she was when we got her.

If you insist on corn free, Diamond Naturals is what you want. (The smallest cat we've ever had was 11+ lbs, and he's a rangy tomcat, so we don't buy the expensive stuff like Evo and Wellness and the stuff at the vet.)

Diamond is usually found at feed stores, not at pet stores. (Tractor Supply usually has it.)
posted by jlkr at 6:16 PM on January 3, 2010

Another recommendation for Wellness. I had an overweight diabetic cat who, six months after starting on Wellness, had begun losing weight and no longer needed insulin injections. When I got a new batch of kittens a couple years ago, I started them all off on Wellness and they're all very healthy and slender adult cats now. You really see the difference in their fur -- it's noticeably softer, thicker, and shinier that the fur of cats who eat cheap supermarket food. Of course, the REAL difference is inside their bodies. Anyway... Wellness. Good for them.
posted by rhartong at 6:37 PM on January 3, 2010

I use Taste of the Wild too.
posted by MsMolly at 6:49 PM on January 3, 2010

I have dogs who were absolutely transformed after I switched from crappy food to Canidae. They make a grain-free cat food that comes in regular and salmon, dry and canned formulas. I buy it at the local pet store; you can use the store locator on their site to find a retailer near you.
posted by donnagirl at 6:51 PM on January 3, 2010

Nthing the Wellness grain-free varieties. I used to have a 15 pound cat and an 8 pound cat; eight months after we started the Wellness, I had a 10.5 pound cat and a 9.5 pound cat, and MANY fewer aggressive peeing problems.
posted by KathrynT at 7:01 PM on January 3, 2010

Another vote for Wellness and a tip: some varieties have grains. The varieties without have a small yellow banner that indicates such near the logo.

Our cats do very well on it, super glossy coats and it seems to have kept bladder issues at bay in the cat who is susceptible to them.
posted by quarterframer at 7:05 PM on January 3, 2010

My two cats have eaten Wellness for a couple of years. The fat girl is still quite fat, on what should be a diet portion. They do have very nice coats, though, and they really like almost all the flavors.
posted by magicbus at 7:15 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed my cats Natural Balance Green Pea and Duck. I used to get it at Petco when I lived near one. It doesn't have any corn or other grains, and it has the highest percentage of protein of any foods available at Petco.
posted by apricot at 7:22 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed my healthy fifteen year old cat raw chicken wings supplemented with a little dry food.
posted by ginky at 7:29 PM on January 3, 2010

The previously mentioned Innova has a low-fat version. Our chubby cat has lost a couple of pounds since we switched him from Evo to the low-fat Innova. He seems to really like it and doesn't even miss the full-fat food, as far as I can tell.
posted by rebel_rebel at 7:36 PM on January 3, 2010

Natural Balance (in the pink bag, for fat cats). (She's actually gained a pound. But the vet was like, well, what are you going to do? Some cats are fat, and I tend to agree) and we supplement the skinny one with canned EVO. Ours can't/won't eat Wellness for some reason.
posted by Medieval Maven at 7:39 PM on January 3, 2010

I've been feeding my 2 cats a grain-free, raw meat diet (Feline Future) for the last 1.5 years. I observed a dramatic transformation in their physical appearance and behavior once I switched from what I thought was a high-quality brand (Natural Balance). One of my cats had IBS, which prompted the switch.

I buy boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale and use my own meat grinder to produce batches of cat food, which I freeze in single-serving sizes. The process is pretty simple: add water to the powdered Feline Future mix (which contains ground bone powder, dehydrated liver, amino acids, etc.) and stir in ground raw meat. Each serving is frozen in a ziploc bag and thawed on the countertop. I feed my cats twice daily, in the morning and at night.

My cats destroy this food. They beg vocally for it, as they never did before when they had dry food available all the time. But they were 30% fatter and far, far stinkier on Natural Balance.

Aside from the health benefits, the very BEST part of feeding your cat raw chicken is the litter box. It smells like practically nothing next to a grain-fed litter box. My cats produce tiny, dry scat that is practically odorless. They do tend to pee more, but they no longer drop stink bombs.

In between batches of raw food, or when boarding my cats, I feed the grain-free Wellness.
posted by Seppaku at 7:45 PM on January 3, 2010 [2 favorites]

Before Grain.

We feed it to our dogs, but I suspect it works equally well for cats. I'm still surprised by how much nicer their coats got once we switched.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:59 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed my cat this. No corn, no complaints.

Not a fat cat, so no data regarding weight loss. The "x" shape apparently contributes to cleaner teeth.

Not that I would know.....
posted by halcyon_daze at 8:28 PM on January 3, 2010

Before Grain cat food is awesome. I have 4 cats who absolutely love it and have been very healthy on it. In combination with Wellness wet food, even my porkchop Maine Coon has slimmed down to frisky weight.
posted by rhiannon at 9:04 PM on January 3, 2010

My parents had a cat who was fairly obese - she got a lot slimmer once they switched her from a dry food metered diet to a wet food metered diet.

My cats were transformed when they went from a corn-filler product to Max Cat (roasted chicken). I get it from a feed store and they have all sorts of non-crappy cat foods there.
posted by bookdragoness at 11:36 PM on January 3, 2010

I feed my kitties Orijen and Acana, which are both grain-free and use real meat (not meat derivatives/meal/etc.). My little Kanoko has been fed on it since a kitten, and Grey is a 5-year-old rescue who'd been on the streets for a month or so. Kanoko has a gorgeous coat, hardly sheds at all (yet you can see he's got a bunch of fur!!), and has lovely eyes. Grey started out very gaunt, with wan eyes and a coat in terrible shape from the streets. He also shed like crazy, the poor dear. Nine months later, he's healthy, his eyes have a beautiful shine to them, he no longer sheds and his coat is nearly as soft as Kanoko's.

I've had to feed them Science Diet when the Orijen or Acana I had ordered took longer than expected to arrive... both Kanoko and Grey got diarrhea within a few hours of eating it. That continued until the good stuff finally arrived, ugh. I was really surprised at their reaction to a food that's supposedly "good" (Science Diet), so now make the effort to order their food well ahead of time; I don't ever want to give them anything with corn or wheat again.
posted by fraula at 1:24 AM on January 4, 2010

I've used Merrick's, Natural Balance, and Natural Life, which, weirdly enough, you can find at some Walmarts. Petco tends to be much better than Petsmart for carrying grain-free brands.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:26 AM on January 4, 2010

Does anyone have experience with a fat cat that lost weight after switching to this kind of food?

I have two fat cats who have lost some weight on Wellness dry food (fat kitty formula in the purple bag). In 6 months, Jack went from 19 pounds to 17.5, and Lydia went from 20 pounds to 18.5. (Jack on top, Lydia below)

Yeah, they're still huge, but my vet said that cats who lose weight too fast have trouble with their kidneys.
posted by shiny blue object at 5:44 AM on January 4, 2010

Seconding the recommendation for Innova Evo. Since switching her from Iams, our active but pudgy 3-year-old female cat has lost weight, has more energy, a glossier coat, etc. In seemingly every way she's a happier, healthier cat. Plus, there's something intellectually appealing about feeding venison-based food to a cat that's never left Manhattan in her life.
posted by saladin at 5:48 AM on January 4, 2010

So...are there any more affordable pet foods that anyone could recommend?
posted by Thorzdad at 6:25 AM on January 4, 2010

Thorzdad, the Natural Life that I mentioned in my last comment is the cheapest of the corn/wheat free brands that I've found at around $1.20 a can. Something else to consider that might help with both price and weight control: I free feed my cat about a half cup of dry food a day, and otherwise give him a third of a can twice a day. The vet tells me that this is a good feeding schedule (depending on activity level--he gets lots of exercise), and this makes the cans last a little longer, too. I can't imagine what I'd be paying if I followed the manufacturer's recommendation for his weight of two cans a day.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:39 AM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

I feed my cat Orijen as well. Same results as are listed elsewhere with the shiny coat, healthiness, happiness, etc.

Do be warned though, when you're switching from a carbohydrate-containing food to one that is grain-free that the cat(s) may have diarrhea in the beginning because their food has changed to drastically, so it is sometimes best to gradually introduce the new food to their old stuff so their systems can get used to it; even my cat, who has been eating the grain-free food for years now, has been having some trouble with the food after eating a grain-containing one for awhile (she had a feline URI and I fed her anything I could to get her to eat something).
posted by urbanlenny at 6:44 AM on January 4, 2010

My kitties get the Felidae grain-free dry food. Stores in my area don't carry it so I order it on petfooddirect. That site often has coupons for 15% or so off, which makes it pretty affordable relative to Wellness and Innova. They also get a can a day of the Trader Joe's wet food, which has grains but no corn. One of mine is fattish, and has remained so, but his coat has become super silky since switching from the regular Felidae chicken & rice formula.
posted by vilthuril at 7:23 AM on January 4, 2010

That's one can of the TJ's per two cats. And the Felidae Chicken & Rice is also corn-free, and several bucks cheaper than the grain-free version. My cats did well on it.
posted by vilthuril at 7:28 AM on January 4, 2010

My fat cat has gotten skinny with portion controlled Wellness. We had to restrict his dry food (so he eats mostly wet) but it worked.
posted by machine at 8:29 AM on January 4, 2010

Taste of the Wild is, according to the pet food store I shop at, the best food you are going to find at that price range. It has good ingredients, but isn't as pricey as some of the other brands. Our cats like it. Recently we have had them on Prairie (from Nature's Variety) and they have been pretty happy with that. It isn't as expensive as some of the other brands, but costs more than the Taste of the Wild does - but our pet food supplier has a rewards program that will give us one bag free for every X bags we purchase, which makes it about the same in the end.

Our cats are still butterballs though, even on scheduled feedings, but they have maintained at around 18 pounds each for the last 6-7 years so we aren't too concerned. Most of the extra blubber has come in the last year, when my (then pregnant) wife got fed up with their demands for food and started feeding them larger proportions. I have since tried to get them back down to their old amount (I split 1/4 cup between them, three times a day) but they are still eating a little more than they should.

Pretty good cat rule of thumb: If they leave food in the dish after eating, they are getting too much at once.
posted by caution live frogs at 9:47 AM on January 4, 2010

One of my cats is quite large. I managed to reduce her weight over about a year with portion control and a switch from high-corn content dry food to low-carb wet food. She was over 20 lbs, and is now down to about 17, still chunky, but in great health. He coat went from dry with horrible dandruff to silky smooth. I attribute a lot of this to switching away from a corn-rich dry diet to fat-rich wet diet. Previously, I'd failed to reduce her weight with several very expensive dry alternatives. She even managed to gain weight on r/d, the incredibly expensive prescription-only dry "diet" food. Even with strict portion control, she gained by sleeping more.

There's a lot of resources for choosing good cat food put together for people with diabetic cats. The one I've found most useful are "Binky's charts". Look on the wet canned food table for more information than your require. In fact, all you need to look for on those tables are the %energy from carbs (should be below 7% or so) and in the calories per can columns. Both low is good.

I feed both my cats Wellness now, and they both seem to like it a lot. However, Meg lost most of her weight on a diet of only wet Fancy Feast chosen from the no-gluten types. She ate the "Gourmet chicken feast" type almost exclusively for two years (with a couple of t/d kibbles a day for tartar control). That's a very affordable alternative, but be careful---many of the Fancy Feast types are high gluten/carb and will not do what you want. I've switched to Wellness because the quality of the food is better and they seem to be ok with the Wellness fish mixes, which greatly helps their coats. Less throwing up with the Wellness too.

Finally, the vet may tell you that tartar build-up is a problem with a wet-food only diet. This has not been my experience. I've noticed no difference between dry, wet and mixed wet-dry feeding. The t/d does seem to help a little, but regular dry food doesn't seem to make any difference to tartar build-up at all.
posted by bonehead at 10:05 AM on January 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

thorzdad: The Diamond cat food I feed my cats is cheaper than a lot I see at the grocery store. The grain-free Diamond Naturals is a little more expensive, but not much (the local feed store wants $18 for 20 pounds of Maintenance, and $25 for Naturals, iirc). My vet says there's no reason to feed them anything more expensive -- the cats are healthy, at a healthy weight, with clean teeth and shiny coats. P is grumpy, but that's because it's winter and she wants to go outside until I open the door and it's too cold for her to take her 15yo self outside.
posted by jlkr at 10:18 AM on January 4, 2010

We feed our dog Nature's Recipe food, which is supposed to protect against food in tolerances (no beef, wheat, corn) - I imagine the cat version is similar.
posted by radioamy at 11:21 AM on January 4, 2010

There some good reading here for anyone who has a cat to feed:


My vet has strongly recommended against dry cat food. We currently feed canned EVO.
posted by vers at 11:28 AM on January 4, 2010

Finally, the vet may tell you that tartar build-up is a problem with a wet-food only diet. This has not been my experience. I've noticed no difference between dry, wet and mixed wet-dry feeding. The t/d does seem to help a little, but regular dry food doesn't seem to make any difference to tartar build-up at all.

The only thing that would help tartar build-up on your cats teeth is to give them raw bones to gnaw upon like dogs.

When cats eat dry food, they crunch it between their SINGLE molar two or three times. That's it.

In addition to a single pair of molars, cats have 3 premolars on top, and 2 premolars on the bottom.
The premolars are configured to slice like scissors, not crush and grind like a herbivore's teeth.

Even strangely shaped foods (the 'X') are briskly crushed by your cat's single pair of molars and tossed back, giving little time for scouring tartar off of teeth.

Rather than invest in a gimmicky dry food, it's better to invest in a raw or all-meat diet and a periodic teeth-cleaning by your veterinarian.
posted by Seppaku at 5:04 PM on January 4, 2010

Also, I thought I might add that the entirely raw Feline Future diet that I feed my cats is comparable in price to the canned Wellness line.

While a high-quality cat food might seem expensive, it will serve as a preventative health measure against many common feline diseases. Your cats will live longer, healthier lives.

As an additional benefit, I am able to supplement my cats' food by including, for example, bulk lysine powder to combat their feline herpes. This works out to be far cheaper than purchasing lysine preparations to dose my cats, and I ensure that they always get their daily dose.
posted by Seppaku at 5:08 PM on January 4, 2010

Does anyone have experience with a fat cat that lost weight after switching to this kind of food?

Lucy is 8 years old, and for 7 years of her life she was freely fed a variety of "premium" dry food, and since she had been getting fat, she was fed a "weight-control" variety of that dry food. Lucy topped at 18 lbs a year ago, and the vets all said "...it's normal for cats to be fat..." and "...for now she's healthy, but if she gains more weight she'd be obese and we need to do something then. Feed her a 'weight-control' dry food and see how that goes." It was sad-she used to run around, play a lot, and be a normal cat for the first couple years of her life, but after she gained some weight she was permanently lethargic and had a weird thing growing out of her butt. The vets all said this was normal.

Upon learning more about human nutrition, I began learning more about cat and dog nutrition. I promptly began feeding wet food-any wet food-after I learned that the dry food is likely to have caused Lucy's significant weight gain. What I learned was that dry food must contains a higher amount of carbohydrates than wet food because of the way it's processed, and cats naturally need a high protein/low carbohydrates diet because their bodies evolved that way. After I switched her, she is now down to 14lbs! Her newer vet said that she would be healthy at 12 lbs. She is now getting mostly Evo wet food 95% meat, no grain. Jack, her 1.5 year old buddy who was originally a stray and a pretty avid hunter, gets mostly raw chicken food that I prepare and sometimes the Evo cans that Lucy gets. This recent batch of raw chicken was upsetting her stomach, so I am just feeding her the canned food for now. If I need to be gone for a long period of time, I have someone stop by and feed them the highest protein dry food that I could find.

From what I understand, "weight control" diets have a lower amount of fat, lower amount of protein anyway, and the lower percentages of those nutrients are replaced by carbs. In cats, the carbs are converted and stored as fat. So, instead of a cat losing weight on that diet, he or she starts to gain weight because those carbs are turned into fat! Canned food is better because it has a higher level of water which cats need, and it has a higher protein level.

What I've taken from what I've learned is that variety is good, and to not take the claims that pet food labels say too seriously and that the majority of the human population isn't always right, given that Iams and Science Diet and Purina are the highest selling pet foods (I think). People usually by food based on what they think is good for them, must be good for the cat.

Long story short: Lucy lost 5 lbs and is continuing to lose by switching to a non-dry food diet!

Some websites that I think are particularly useful:
posted by selavy at 8:39 AM on January 15, 2010 [2 favorites]

I forgot to add the other benefits I've noticed:

Lucy no longer has a weird thing growing out of her butt.
Lucy and Jack no longer have as much dander.
Lucy and Jack BOTH have a ton more energy.
They BOTH have silkier, prettier coats.
Lucy recently had a blood test, and her Creatinine levels were high, but her BUN levels were normal. They did go down with some overnight hydration. The vet thinks that those numbers may have been higher in the past, and since switching to a better diet and losing weight she has actually been recovering. Only time will tell though, and I'll know more in another 6 months when we do a blood test again.
posted by selavy at 8:45 AM on January 15, 2010

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