High-quality, grain-free, healthy and tasty cat food?
January 26, 2011 5:04 PM   Subscribe

Now that Wellness has gone the way of Iams and ScienceDiet, what should we feed our cats?

We've fed our cats Wellness for the last 2-3 years (upon the recommendation of MeFi). But their corporate buyout from a few years ago has finally caught up to them, and the product quality has gone way down in the last few months.

We want to feed them a high-quality, grain-free, tasty and healthy cat food (dry and wet). Few-to-no by-products too.

So, what brand should we move to now that all the previously good brands are crap?

(Pictures of our new kitten and our adorable but currently mad at us cat).
posted by misanthropicsarah to Pets & Animals (37 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Blue! I feed my cat Blue Buffalo Wilderness. Grain free, no weird stuff, and he loves it. But god damn does it smell horrible, and make his poo smell even worse.
posted by dayintoday at 5:15 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

I use EVO. High protein low grain.
posted by travis08 at 5:33 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

I feed mine Taste of the Wild. Even though the disapproving one frowns on almost everything, he likes it.
posted by MsMolly at 5:36 PM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

Our spoiled cats get Natural Balance canned and dry. It's limited ingredient cat food and both cats have done really well with it.
posted by schnee at 5:38 PM on January 26, 2011

I swear by Orijen as well. I'll cheat and buy my three crap supermarket wet food, but I won't compromise on the Orijen. It's expensive, but good stuff, with a ridiculously high level of protein and no grains (just veggies for the filler).
posted by cgg at 5:40 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Bernie eats Castor and Pollux and likes it pretty well and it seems decent.
posted by youcancallmeal at 5:48 PM on January 26, 2011

I've had a hard time finding a healthy dry food that my cats will eat, but they eat a bit of the Evo Turkey & Chicken formula (purple/lavender bag). My cousin's cats eat it up, but mine aren't crazy about it.

But they really love the canned Thanksgiving Day Dinner by Merrick. You'll see the healthy ingredients, plus it's low-phosphorus, which is supposed to be good for cats with kidney disease (one of my cats has kidney disease, and FWIW, after he was diagnosed and I switched his food to the healthy and low-phosphorus stuff, he rebounded for a year and a half, though it's no longer getting the job done, but next I'm switching to a lower phosphorus dry food).
posted by iguanapolitico at 5:51 PM on January 26, 2011

EVO is now owned by Proctor & Gamble, and will go the way of Wellness with no warning. Merrick is still family-owned and making high quality foods; I currently feed mostly Cowboy Cookout from them ("a perfect mouse").

Obigatory link to canned food ratings on catinfo.org, pretty important reading for cat health.
posted by vers at 5:55 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Orijen is awesome food, and Natural Balance makes several grain-free formulas and is also very good.
posted by biscotti at 5:58 PM on January 26, 2011

Currently feeding Before Grain from Merrick to our cat. She likes the tuna one best.

Another grain-free dry food is Acana (from Champion Petfoods, the same company that makes Orijen) which is slightly cheaper than Orijen.
posted by bCat at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2011

We also do natural balance canned- venison and green pea. Started because Cat #3 had a skin condition that may have been an allergy, stuck with it because it seems to make all the kitties run smoothly, and they all like it. Which is not too surprising, it pretty much smells like ground up deer.
posted by acanthous at 6:12 PM on January 26, 2011

Natural Balance here. FWIW we get it delivered via Petflow.com nowadays, and they probably still have a free shipping promo going.
posted by Medieval Maven at 6:15 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

looking to try this. just heard about it on a cat food rating website that slops my mind this second. looks like the best for the money
posted by Redhush at 6:34 PM on January 26, 2011

ah, this website
posted by Redhush at 6:36 PM on January 26, 2011

When you say product quality has gone down in the last few months, what kinds of things are you noticing?

We are feeding ours the Wellness Chicken wet food, and haven't noticed a problem - but may not be looking for the right things, so I'm interested to hear what aspects of the food you're looking at.
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:59 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend switched the cat over to Before Grain as well. She loves the tuna and chicken.
posted by cmgonzalez at 7:20 PM on January 26, 2011

I feed my cats Felidae chicken and rice and Holistic Select chicken and lamb.

Note - my older cat has a ton a food allergies (wheat, corn, barley, salmon) so we ended up trying a TON of foods. He *loved* Orijen original Cat&Kitten but we had to stop using that. And I mean *LOVE*. I found him and the kitten trying to knock the bag off the shelf one day, so they could enjoy it's awesome deliciousness.
posted by fiercekitten at 7:30 PM on January 26, 2011

i still use wellness wet food, but have switched to Evo for the dry food. My cat got samples of both Wellness CORE and Evo and he went immediately for the Evo.
posted by itsacover at 7:46 PM on January 26, 2011

One of my cats started having an allergic reaction to Wellness in the past few months (which seems to be due to changes ikn the food as mentioned). I've switched them to Halo for now.
posted by wildcrdj at 7:59 PM on January 26, 2011

Our 1-year-old is on Before Grain, Wellness CORE, and Evo – theoretically all wet but damn his adorable eyes he really wants dry.
posted by nicwolff at 8:01 PM on January 26, 2011

Nth-ing Orijen. All three of our pets (2 cats, 1 giant beast dog) love it and are shiny, soft, and smell pretty. I used to have trouble finding it, but it has been much easier to find in recent months.

P.S. Cute cats!
posted by vakker at 8:25 PM on January 26, 2011

We feed Royal Canine Indoor Light, which they prefer less then Indoor Adult, but keeps them in shape.


our kitties:

we use this food because this is what the society uses. they have had 1 hairball in 5 years, and overall (touch wood) are healthy, active, happy cats.
posted by olya at 8:44 PM on January 26, 2011

nicwolff, what an adorable cat!
posted by olya at 8:44 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Another vote for Orijen on the dry food side. On the canned, we feed our kitty Weruva and Tiki Cat.
posted by sharding at 8:58 PM on January 26, 2011

B.F.F. and Tiki cat. I found these on the shelf next to many other nice looking grain free options simply by going to my local natural pet food store and chatting with the owners.
posted by Jason and Laszlo at 9:38 PM on January 26, 2011

My cat used to be on Innova Evo wet, but recently decided she didn't like it anymore. Its a good quality, grain-free food. She now eats Nature's Variety Instinct, which is also good quality grain-free, but has veggies in a fruit in it, which is pointless for cats. But I don't think they are harmful, just silly.

The website that vers linked to above is excellent, and well worth reading. Part-way down the linked page is a good summary of the various brands that offer what you are looking for.
posted by Joh at 9:52 PM on January 26, 2011

Just another data point: What Consumer Reports found when they asked a panel of vets about pet food. In particular:

"There's no scientific evidence that any food is better than the next," says Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine....

Among them, our experts have 11 dogs and at least six cats. Most told us they use a variety of common brands sold at pet stores or supermarkets. They use both wet and dry and often combine the types.

posted by dhartung at 10:35 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: lobstermitten: the wet food hasn't really decreased in quality so much. the dry food is no longer grain-free, contains salmon meal (we always have gotten the red salmon bag, which never used to have meal), the food reeks to high heaven now (the last 2-3 bags have, but never had before. we thought a bag might have spoiled, but certianly not 2-3 bags purchased at different times from different stores!).

we have tried orijen in the past, but it got a little out of our price range. i'll have to look around for deals!
posted by misanthropicsarah at 11:07 PM on January 26, 2011

You may be interested in the wet-dry food discussion here.
posted by paduasoy at 1:07 AM on January 27, 2011

Vets are not necessarily the best sources of nutritional information, unless it happens to be a specific interest of theirs, they have a lot to learn in vet school, much of their nutritional education is aimed at therapeutic diets rather than maintenance nutrition, and much of their education in this area is funded by Hill's. It's true that there is little research into diets beyond that done by Hill's or Purina into their prescription diets, but since diet is one of the only variables we can control when it comes to health, I prefer to control it and feed food with specific, high-quality ingredients and not ingredient fragments (like gluten meals) or by-products (because the less specific an ingredient name is, the looser the controls are about what it can contain and how it must be handled).

Chicken Soup is made by Diamond, who have a pretty sketchy history when it comes to safety. They also manufacture a variety of generic pet foods, which often means they are sourcing the cheapest possible generic ingredients. And their food made my dog barf, so there's that!

PetFlow carries many of the better brands at really good prices (including Orijen), and has $4.99 flat rate shipping.
posted by biscotti at 6:33 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Orijen dry food - I prefer the smell of the chicken (orange bag) over the salmon/fish (blue). It's made our cats' coats shinier/softer, given them more energy while eating less volume, and made their poo way less stinky.

I see you've tried it in the past, but definitely look around for deals. The 15.4 lb bag is more cost-effective, plus there is now a buy-12-get-1-free program on!
posted by bookdragoness at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2011

For dry food, my picky cat will only eat Pinnacle, by Breeder's Choice. A bit expensive, but seems to agree with him and his touchy stomach.
posted by statolith at 10:51 AM on January 27, 2011

Nefer and Sora eat Blue Buffalo's Indoor food. When I first got Nefer, she threw up a lot, and I experimented with different foods before settling on Blue Buffalo, which seems to limit her puking the most.
posted by telophase at 12:38 PM on January 27, 2011

My husband did a bunch of research and found that the Costco brand (Kirkland) of dog food is actually one of the best for nutrition. It seems likely that their cat food would be of similar quality?
posted by Jacqueline at 1:08 AM on January 28, 2011

Response by poster: great comments in the thread, and i appreciate the links to other discussions. i wish i could just feed them friskies or meow mix or even iams (what we fed my cats in the 80s and 90s). it makes me sad that the quality of cat food has gone down SO SO MUCH over the last couple of decades (like everything else i suppose). but, our cats are our family, and we want to feed them the best food possible (even if that takes us into crazy cat lady territory).
posted by misanthropicsarah at 4:38 PM on January 29, 2011

"There's no scientific evidence that any food is better than the next," says Joseph Wakshlag, D.V.M., Ph.D., an assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine....

We did feed our cats food we bought at the grocery store. It was cheap and convenient and we had no issues. Our older cat developed a problem where he threw up at least once a day (often twice). We switched foods Natural Balance (duck and pea, specifically) and whatever it was that ailed him went away - his fur came back to normal, he quit being a smelly cat, and it was like he was a younger cat again with how much playing he did. When he does eat food that isn't of the limited ingredient line, he does get all barfy again (we can also tell when he gets into people food when we're not looking). Sometimes specialty foods really are a necessity, just like for humans who have allergies.

Our younger cat has no problems with cheap-o food from the store, except for his tubbiness, but it's kind of hard to feed two cats two different types of food when they're both jealous of what the other gets.
posted by schnee at 10:29 AM on January 31, 2011

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