What's the skinny on grain free/raw food for cats?
August 23, 2014 5:12 PM   Subscribe

Bunny is a generally healthy, happy 1 year old with smelly poo the consistency of frosting. I'm thinking of switching her food out. What's the skinny on grain free/raw kitty food diets these days?

Right now I feed her Blue Buffalo Indoor Health dry food, which is what she came with when I adopted her in the spring, and both her poo and her farts (sigh) smell of it strongly.

Friends have suggested I switch her to Blue Buffalo's grain-free variant, which is more expensive for me, or try something like SmallBatch raw cat food which looks very interesting and has apparently reduced smelly poo considerably for the kitties who use it. Bunny Cat does not have a vet yet as the ones in my area either aren't taking new patients or are partners with Friskies, so I called the center I got her from and they just encouraged me to stick with the Blue Buffalo product line in general as they feel it is the best for all the cats they take care of (and their kitties are always super healthy).

Are grain-free and/or raw food diets for kitties fads I should avoid? How can I sift the hype from the real data when I'm Googling for answers?
posted by Hermione Granger to Pets & Animals (31 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they rely on a diet of meat in the wild. So really, feeding them grain is the "fad," not feeding them meat.

I switched my old cat with kidney trouble to homemade raw food at age 16 (ground chicken necks + backs + eggs + B vitamins + fish oil + water). I can't speak to the quality of his poo, but the improvement in his energy and coat was immediate and striking. I truly feel that diet gave him a couple of years of life we wouldn't have had on a grain-based diet.

My cats now won't eat the raw food, so I give them a grain-free kibble. I started with Wellness and switched to a cheaper kibble that includes some legume protein. They eat it without protest and are shiny happy cats.

After learning about cat diet and the feline digestive system, I will never feed a cat of mine grain again.
posted by ottereroticist at 5:35 PM on August 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Best answer: My understanding (mostly based on the catinfo website) is that the two most important things to do when feeding cats are 1) wet food only (especially important for male cats' urinary health) and 2) low carb (since cats are obligate carnivores). We use Wellness canned food, which has the advantage of coming in 12.5oz cans, so cheaper per oz. We occasionally feed Friskies original pates (which can be bought at the corner store), which also has cat-appropriate macros but is lower quality meat as I understand it.

Sadly, our cats still have somewhat stinky poops, but they are happy and healthy with soft, shiny fur. They are both a healthy weights - when we were feeding dry food, the boy cat was at a good weight but the girl cat kept gaining & gaining. Now that she's on the Wellness, she gets to eat as much as she wants and stays lean.

I think the evidence is very clear that all wet food is best and that more meat based / less carb diets are best. I think that there is mixed information on whether all-raw is best; some cats thrive on it, but it does carry risks and I'm personally not convinced that it's necessary.

Also, Bunny is super cute!
posted by insectosaurus at 5:35 PM on August 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Evo FTW. (Also, totally endorsing Chewy.com, where I linked to the Evo- set up a recurring shipment for free shipping).

We have fed our high-risk, special-needs formerly feral FIV+ cats Evo from the time that we rescued them.

Note: Mr. Arnicae starts muttering about raw food diets every year or so, but generally we decide that we're feeding them the best food possible without a lot of farting around in the kitchen and a lot more $$$. We also give our beasts half a can of Tiki Cat wet kitty food daily as well, which is a very good choice because it doesn't have some sort of terrible thing that Mr. Arnicae could tell you all about. Chewy also sells Tiki Cat.
posted by arnicae at 5:36 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, and both of our cats are male, and periodically get struvite crystals (aka bladder infections). This is kinda par for the course with middle-aged male cats, and ours get them on average every 18 months or so, usually correlated with some stressor in their lives which decreases the amount of water they're drinking (ergo the Tiki Cat, which helps introduce extra liquids). We consider ourselves pros with the struvite crystals and insist that our vet give us oral antibiotics ASAP, which clears up the issue within hours in general. Before we figured this out an assortment of vets would do terrible things to our cats like try to draw out urine samples by sticking a needle into their bellies (repeatedly failing), catheterize and keep them overnight, etc. with no results. Oral antibiotics with struvite crystals = 100% success.
posted by arnicae at 5:41 PM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Final note - agreed with earlier posters, I'd NEVER feed a cat grains. Walk the aisles of Petsmart, and 90% of what they sell for cats is quite literally garbage. It is filler, waste, extra product, not meat. Cats need meat.
posted by arnicae at 5:42 PM on August 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, so over the years, we've shifted from regular cat food - a combination of dry plus some wet, to grain free dry plus grain free wet, to all grain free wet food.

The thing is, while it's much more expensive with up front costs, because it is pricy stuff, it saves us with the longer term costs by avoiding vet visits. The cats are ridiculously healthy on a combination of Wellness and Tiki Cat, and the final shove that took Orijen off the cat menu (which is a really good grain free dry food, if you have to have some dry food in the mix) is that the eldest of the 3 simply cannot have *any* dry food in the loop without getting into a vomiting cycle.

I wish there had been these kind of grain free options on the market for my last cat -- I think we could have avoided some of the problems he had over the years, like the crystals mentioned above.
posted by instead of three wishes at 5:55 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

We do wet (meat) food only as well. Two healthy, normal weight cats with regular poo.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:11 PM on August 23, 2014

Response by poster: Oh dang, good thing I'm out of her regular food right now. I think I am going to switch to the grain free variant of Blue Buffalo tomorrow since its ingredients are pretty close to EVO and some of the other mentioned above, and when I can afford to I will look into switching her at least partially to the grain free wet version of the same food or Wellness/SmallBatch. Thanks for the good info, all.
posted by Hermione Granger at 6:18 PM on August 23, 2014

One of my 3 cats has a poultry allergy so we decided to put all of them on a fancy limited ingredient diet that also happens to be grain-free and low-carb (Natural Balance venison and green pea wet food). They love it and we noticed a HUGE difference in their energy and coats as soon as we switched them. Also, despite eating ridiculous quantities of food every day they are all still a reasonable size. Catkins FTW!
posted by joan_holloway at 6:54 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Grain-free foods are definitely not a fad and are here to stay. I used to work for Blue Buffalo several years ago when grain-free dog/cat foods were just starting to hit shelves at places like Petsmart and Petco. There were very few options and they were simply too expensive for most people. It makes me rather happy to see them on the rise -- 'cheap' brands are starting to follow the trend and offer grain-free products too. They're even using their advertising dollars (via commercials) to educate customers about grain free diets - something the small grain-free food manufacturers didn't have the budget for. Though in the end they're all after a profit, the point is that it's really refreshing to see the increasing consumer education about the benefits of feeding grain-free -- which is, in my opinion/experience, a superior diet for most** dogs and cats.

This comes from the knowledge that, being obligate carnivores, cats not only lack the necessary type of teeth (no grinding molars) and jaw structure (single hinge-type; scissor-like bite) to crush grains into digestible materials, but they fail to produce amylase in their saliva. Amylase helps to break down carbohydrates -- useful for digesting grains, and present in the saliva of humans and many other animals for who carbs (and usually grains) are a large component of the diet. Cats also have large single-chamber stomachs, much stronger stomach acid and shorter small/long intestines -- everything designed to process large volumes of meat. For those reasons, I feel grain-free diets are legit.

Raw food diets are also legit, but in my opinion much harder for the casual dog or cat owner to pull off safely/adequately. If you're buying prepackaged raw foods, that's one (expensive) thing. But trying to tackle the task yourself can be both time consuming, and difficult to ensure you're feeding the right foods in the right ratios for your dog/cat to get all of the necessary vitamins/minerals/fats/etc. A lot of education is needed (and those resources/data are in their infancy still) to do a raw diet right -- it's not for everyone (myself included).

DogFoodProject is a great resource and the information is valid for pet foods in general. CatFoodInsider is less user-friendly, but cat-specific. They also list ingredients and call out the ones you don't want (and why).

As for food recommendations? I like Taste of the Wild. It's grain-free and more affordable than Blue but I admit I'm not a cat owner and there may be superior grain-free cat foods now available.

** I acknowledge that some dogs and cats simply cannot tolerate grain-free foods despite repeated attempts to transition them.

More about herbivore/carnivore digestion and the anatomy of their eating/diets: http://www.ecologos.org/anatomy.htm
posted by stubbehtail at 6:58 PM on August 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

My wife made raw food with the vitamins added for awhile because we had a cat with IMHA. For three cats she was making it in 30lbs batches and freezing it then thawing portions as nessisary.
It was tons of work. Meet grinders that can deal with that load are expensive. It requires lots of chicken. There is stirring and mixing waiting packaging and the freezer space. But our cats did wonderful on it. But as soon as our cat with IMHA passed the other two went back to regular wet food because it was just too labor intensive. And we just didn't have the money for grain free food everyday.

There poop was consistently dryer and smelled less like kitten poop (which is the worst).
posted by AlexiaSky at 7:09 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

This chart, although not totally up to date, can give you an idea of the different wet foods out there. When I transitioned my cat to wet food, I was surprised to find that she didn't take to it at all. It took about a month of feeding it to her (I discovered the little ho liked fancy Feta crumbled on top, or nice Parmesan). I bought tons of little cans of different brands to see which ones she would eat. One of the problems I encountered is some of the cans didn't actually have enough calories in them (this is often the case, for instance, with fish). She liked Wellness pretty well, and when she got used to the consistency, I eventually settled on EVO and Triumph (depending on price/availability). The switch was amazing - my cat used to throw up at least 3-4 times a week and only rarely does now.

When my partner and I first started researching this, I was shocked at how many specialists insisted that dry food was terrible, whereas I had never heard a word about this from various vets. Is the only reason vets don't actually tell us to feed them wet food because they get kickbacks from the pet food industry? (The prescription Purina dry food they wanted me to get for my cat's crystals was INSANELY expensive). I just don't get it.

You do have to find ways to clean your cat's teeth, though. That is the one advantage of dry food. (Vet dentistry is *very* expensive).
posted by microcarpetus at 7:34 PM on August 23, 2014

Blue Buffalo gave our cat diarrhea, so we switched it out really quickly. Our vets recommended food we weren't comfortable with, and then our local pet store recommended NutriSource. It fixed her poop problems almost immediately. She tolerates it fine and has fur like a rabbit.

It has rice, but we weren't convinced by the actual results to buy grain free food. NutriSource is made in the US, which was a bigger deal to us, and it isn't contracted out to one of the pet food manufacturers that has had multiple salmonella recalls. It's probably not available at the big box pet stores.
posted by cnc at 8:05 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Grain-free is a good development in dry cat food, but they're not all the same. If the grain-free food substitutes a bunch of starch (potato or tapioca-derived starches are the most common in grain-free food) much of the benefit is lost. As far as I know, Wysong makes dry food that most closely match the starch-free criteria. But dry food is inherently inferior to a) raw food (better) or b) whole prey (best, but you have to feed your cat dead animals).

Manufacturers pushing non-grain-free sometimes will say that grains are important, because grains will be in the stomach of whatever prey the cats would be eating. This argument ignores the fact that cats, when killing and eating prey, generally leave the digestive system behind, if they can manage to do so.

The most important elements of a feline diet are meat, moisture and taurine. Cats can't make their own taurine (the way horses and dogs do) because they developed to eat prey that made its own taurine - meat.

Since they developed to trust that they're getting moisture from their prey/food, they also don't naturally drink water as much as is necessary to stay fully hydrated when living on a dry food diet. The Sand Cat (felis margarita) actually does not need to drink any water at all, because it gets all of the water it needs from what it kills (gerbils, snakes, etc.). Indoor cats who subsist exclusively on a dry food diet, grain-free or otherwise, actually are taking in up to 50% less water than what they would be ingesting on a wet food diet. Less moisture = more concentrated urine = more alkaline urine = good environment for the formation of phosphate crystals that bind together to form stones. Incidentally, acidic urine has the opposite problem, promoting the formation of oxalic acid salts that also bind into stones.

In both cases, crystals irritate and tear up the lining of the bladder and possibly urethra, which will lead to infection of both. Urinary tract infections are more common in female than male cats because, as with in humans, the female urethra is short and wide whereas the male is more narrow and long. The infection is what requires antibiotics, but the abx won't treat the underlying cause, which is not enough moisture in the diet. Frequently, switching away from dry food to wet food (even temporarily) is all that is needed to alleviate acute crystals, and the abx aren't necessary.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that even if you go grain-free (which really is the minimum that you should do) it doesn't obviate the need for moisture in the cat's diet. So if feeding a dry food diet, it must be augmented with wet food of some kind. Even then, your cat may develop crystals. Every cat is different, and some are more prone to developing certain health issues than others, so the food that works for my cat may not work for yours. One brand may be too harsh, another may be too rich. There really isn't a way to forecast it.

As an aside, check out the presevatives and other non-food ingredients in your pet's food. Carrageenan, for example, has been all but phased out of human food, because it's been linked to cancerous tumor formation in animals. Oddly, it's still legal to put in animal food. So avoid it. Ash, another popular filler, apparently doesn't hurt your pet, and may even be beneficial under certain circumstances, but I'm still suspicious. Certain kinds of clay are ok - montmorillonite apparently has been used by certain cultures' human diets for centuries - but frequently are just fillers.

Anyway, feed your cat food made out of actual food, and it should be mostly meat. And even though she's been dealing with loose stools lately, ensure that she's eating/drinking a lot of moisture. Crystals can happen.
posted by stewiethegreat at 8:57 PM on August 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Watch out for unhappy wet poops when changing dry foods?

I've an older cat who was eating wellness grain-free canned food and vet-sold dental kibble. When I introduced a premium dry food what had legumes rather than grains she started having wet poops in the basement. (Gack! Ick! Sob. Sob.) I might have had more luck introducing the new dry food to her slooowly.

When my partner and I first started researching this, I was shocked at how many specialists insisted that dry food was terrible, whereas I had never heard a word about this from various vets. Is the only reason vets don't actually tell us to feed them wet food because they get kickbacks from the pet food industry? (The prescription Purina dry food they wanted me to get for my cat's crystals was INSANELY expensive). I just don't get it.

Vets sell wet food and dry food from their offices, so I don't think it is that. I think vets' tend to do one semester course on nutrition, and I would guess that most vets think wet food is better.
posted by sebastienbailard at 9:13 PM on August 23, 2014

I switched my cats to raw a few months ago, and I mostly use Smallbatch (I sometimes buy Primal, as I can get that at Whole Foods, which stays open later than the local pet store that sells Smallbatch).

I had previously been feeding the cats wet food twice a day plus letting them graze on grain-free kibble. Switching them to raw food pretty much doubled their energy levels (and they were very energetic before). Their coats are shinier, and they seem to be closer to a healthy weight (the vet wanted each of them to lose .5-1 pound).

And yeah, their poop doesn't smell at all. It's a little freaky.

Once I got a routine going, I've actually been finding that it's easier to feed raw than to feed canned, and there is so much less waste. I had been feeling guilty about the number of empty cans going in the recycling. Now every time I feed the cats, I just put out the thawed food and put frozen food in clean bowls in the fridge to thaw. I do try to keep some canned food on hand in case I space out and forget to thaw a meal.

All cats are different, and all households are different, so you should certainly do what makes sense for you in terms of time and energy and finances. But I would strongly endorse at least trying raw food for at least some meals.
posted by jaguar at 9:38 PM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

The pre-made frozen raw food tends to be much less smelly than canned wet food, which is also nice.
posted by jaguar at 9:44 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Moving my cats to the Natural Balance Limited Ingredient (Duck and green pea) dry food seems to have calmed some smelly poo issues in our house. They LOVED their other dry (which had grain) but since switching it rarely happens.
posted by oneear at 10:26 PM on August 23, 2014

We fostered then adopted kittens with poop much like what you've been enduring, we called it "pudding-poo" and it smelled DISGUSTING. You seem to have survived longer than we did before researching solutions.

I'm not sure our 3 tuxedo kitties can tolerate any carb; we took away dry food to see what would happen and the poop got a lot better. I read that pumpkin could firm up poop but it gave them horrible diarrhea (pumpkin is a carb). My vet recommended the "quiet diet" to fix that--cooked ground chicken with rice. (which he said is OK for a week or two before you have to worry about missing "supplements"--necessary ingredients) That made for pretty darn good poop, and taking the rice away made for great poop. That's when I started looking into foods with no carbs and their costs, vs. the cost of making our own. Totally carb-free food is rare and expensive so we make our own raw stuff. If you want more details on that let me know. It does take a lot of research and then a leap of faith regarding ones research and calculations being correct.

We started with the catinfo site, written by a veterinarian who has used a no-carb diet for ages, and also got a lot of info by reading on thecatsite.org . Some folks are married to the idea of raw-only, we're not--but raw works quite well for us and is simpler & cheaper than cooked. Their poop only smells if it's fresh and you get reallllly too close to it. Any amount of carb and it gets some stink, though--for our cats at least. Poops are tiny, too!

It's through this research that I've learned what was stated above about a cat's lack of thirst drive and how especially terrible it is for a cat to eat only dry food. (It looks like your kitty only gets dry?) Our older cat refused canned food and at 2 years old had coarse fur, was overweight, always hungry and still gaining weight despite her diet dry food being measured out (diet dry food has MORE CARBS, carbs do not satiate!). Our homemade food is different from canned food, it doesn't have that nasty fishy smell, so we were able to switch her to it and eventually get her completely off the "potato chips." Her coat is now so shiny it seems like it's oiled, she's lost weight, and is more active. Dry food is convenient to humans but even the best stuff is a health risk for cats because of the dehydration factor.
posted by Anwan at 11:01 PM on August 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

CatInfo.org is written by a cat nutritionist veterinarian. It includes a page on making your own cat food, if you REALLY want to know what your cat is eating.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:38 AM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I feed my cat raw food from https://www.auntjeni.com . One of the cats had food allergies, switching to the raw has cleared it up completely. Both cats are in excellent health, poops doesn't smell too bad. They eat some of the dogs' kibble as it falls, but still have some minor teeth issues.

Only issue is handling the raw food - it is raw chicken after all. Never really had an issue with that however.
posted by Farce_First at 7:05 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Another vote for meat for the kitties. My furballs have always eaten grain-free, mostly Orijen at first and lately Acana, which seems to agree with them better.

While it is more expensive per kilo, it does work out to be less expensive over the long term – not only due to lower vet bills, but because the cats eat less of it. It takes my two carnivores two months to go through a 7-kilo bag. I do supplement it with wet food "treats" every evening though, to ensure they're getting enough liquids.

Pumpkin is good for diarrhea – you can find good-quality wet food that has added pumpkin. I gave it to my black cat when I accidentally gave wet food with grains in it (always read labels, sigh) and she promptly pooped around the house because she couldn't keep it in... (she's VERY clean otherwise and was visibly distressed at her incontinence). Her stomach was back in working order a couple days of chicken+pumpkin wet food later.

Also, the difference in stink is amazing. I can also tell when my cats eat grains because eeeeewwwww. Smell is much better on grain-free. It's really win-win-win.
posted by fraula at 8:09 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Make sure you read the labels on serving sizes when you switch to grain-free food. You may need to feed less food. This mitigates the cost differential and also lowers the volume of poop.
posted by crazycanuck at 8:35 AM on August 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I recently started feeding my kitties (male age 5 and female age 1) Primal (beef and salmon blend) and I'm actually finding it pretty cost effective and logistically manageable. It comes in bags of nuggets, and I put the next day's nuggets in a plastic container to thaw in the fridge overnight so they're ready for am and pm feeding the next day. I usually add a spoonful or two of canned food to balance out the overall cost.

The cats' poops and urine are unquestionably less smelly! And less copious! And though the younger cat didn't need an energy boost, the older one definitely is more energetic and playful since I've been feeding the raw diet.
posted by gubenuj at 9:38 AM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

I also wanted to chime in here that YES, vets and their staff - at least in several nationally known vet clinics (especially those near large pet national pet retailers) and many independent local clinics - do receive perks and 'nutritional training' from pet food companies. Pet food representatives do provide 'nutritional training' to pet store employees as well (this was part of my job). This can be fine if you're getting this training from a company with high quality, meat-based food - not so great when the education is coming from pet food companies whose idea of proper nutrition is feeding carnivores mostly grains and plants. Also, the perks aren't as clear-cut as free food (as many vets I knew didn't actually feed these foods to their own animals) - rather, it comes in the form of catered/paid-for 'training lunches', free tickets (to movies, restaurants, etc.), coupons (for stuff from their business partners or other vendor relationships) and of course, the PROFIT the vet makes from the markup of prescription/vet-only foods. That profit can either be direct (in that the vet office is selling the food) or indirect (in that whoever wants to buy those foods must have a vet write a prescription - which means making an appointment at a vet, getting diagnostic tests, ect.).

Take a look at the ingredients in some of the 'vet recommended' prescription foods sometime. Many (but not all) of them are incredibly inferior foods that have been heavily processed (and/or hydrolyzed) and put in a pretty package with buzzwords/health claims all over it. With the lack of true regulation (the AAFCO is a joke), there's nothing to really stop pet food manufacturers from claiming whatever they want about their foods until it becomes a big problem (much in the same way as vitamin/supplement manufacturers).

Anecdotally, a friend of mine who has a G. Shepherd discovered his newly adopted dog began to lick/chew at himself..and then his fur started to come out. Away to the vet they went, where the dog was diagnosed as having allergies (soy, wheat, beef) and given a prescription for one of Science Diets prescription allergy formulas. At nearly $100/25 lb. bag, my friend was distressed to notice no improvements in his dogs' condition after a couple weeks. I suggested he read the ingredients. The 3rd ingredient in SD z/d Canine Ultra - a food marketed and made -specifically- for dogs with allergies - is soybean oil. I directed my friend to a local pet food retailer to discuss grain-free options and he decided to give grain-free a try. Within just a few days Dex (his dog) had energy! He wasn't lick/chewing or stopping every 2 seconds to scratch himself! He didn't have to wear the cone of shame! He liked his food! His beautiful shepherd coat started coming back in! And my friend? He's paying half of what he was for a food that's vastly better/healthier for his dog.
posted by stubbehtail at 10:19 AM on August 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: While I cannot recommend raw food for safety concerns, I do recommend a grain-free, canned diet for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores with no nutritional requirement for carbohydrates. They do have limited biochemical machinery to metabolize carbohydrates, and can process what is presented to them, but its not optimal.

In the past, dry kibble has been recommended because it is an economical and convenient choice. Many cats do great on it, and some cats are addicts who refuse to eat anything else. There are so many options available to you, which is great because there is no one perfect diet for every cat or dog out there. This kind of advice is what your veterinarian was trained to provide.

In my veterinary program, we take 2 credit hours of nutrition. That is the same number of credit hours as are dedicated specifically to other very important topics, including anesthesiology, cardiology, toxicology, endocrinology, immunology, and virology. Additional courses in advanced nutrition are also offered, and nutrition as part of treatment and prevention of disease is taught in every systems (urinary, cardiology, alimentary, endocrinology, etc.) course.

None of this instruction is given by, or is sponsored by, or has materials contributed by pet food companies. Given how extensive our basic training is, and how it is interwoven into our understanding of physiology and disease processes, (and given how very little food sales contribute to the financial solvency of a veterinary practice) I wonder why anyone would consider taking advice from a pet store employee or pet food representative rather than from a veterinarian.

Prescription veterinary food is formulated to benefit a very specific physiologic condition. Like medicine, it is a prescription. A food formulated to treat your dog's liver shunt or your cat's urinary crystals will be vastly different from a maintenance diet. Dogs with food allergies, for example, may be fed a hydrolyzed diet. While that may sound suspicious to you, it only means that the proteins in the food have been broken down to such an extent that they are less likely to cause the undesired immune response.

Just remember that most commercial pet foods are designed and marketed to appeal to you, the owner. They are betting on your emotional response to fads and packaging. I don't think many people realize that pet foods can be sold without ever having been fed to a single animal. I personally prefer a larger company that invests in research and development, that employs trained, qualified nutritionists, and that has good quality control systems in place. Many smaller companies have invested more money in advertising than in science.

Yeah. See, this is the problem with offering non-professional, anecdotal evidence about a topic as complex as allergies. From a veterinary perspective, there are no blood tests for food allergies. The gold standard for diagnosing a food allergy is by strict adherence to a limited diet for 12 weeks. A couple of weeks is simply not enough time to see an altered immune response. I'm glad that your friend's dog felt better, but from a scientific, evidence-based perspective, I can't say that I agree with your conclusion.
posted by Seppaku at 6:11 PM on August 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seppaku, what food do you suggest for dental health? The person at the pet food place said the MediCal and Royal Canin dry dental foods didn't be any help for her cats, and suggested freeze dried chicken neck.
posted by sebastienbailard at 11:30 PM on August 24, 2014

My cat's diarrhea ended the day I switched to Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Diet Green Pea and Salmon. Before he'd been on the Blue Buffalo grain free and that had helped a little, but his poops were still very soft and stinky (an improvement from the near-liquid he was experiencing before). Bonus: all three of my cats love this food.
posted by Fuego at 10:31 AM on August 25, 2014

Response by poster: So I am super grateful for all the input provided thus far... I ended up being able to get both the grain free dry food AND samples of the raw wet food I mentioned in my OP. Last night and tonight Bunny Cat had a raw patty for dinner, and today for lunch she picked her way through the grain free dry food which was weird because normally she scarfs that stuff down. Breakfast was her old food.

She has yet to have a BM and her intestines are pretty firm right now. Should I be worried? She occasionally has constipation but this is weird timing.
posted by Hermione Granger at 12:01 AM on August 26, 2014

My cats now poop much less frequently on the raw food than they did on wet or dry food. I'm certainly not a vet, so I'm not giving veterinary advice, but your experience matches my experience and my cats are fine.

Also, the feces have become much smaller and lighter in color -- if your cat buries her waste, you might want to do a more thorough "scoop-through" to see if you just missed it.
posted by jaguar at 7:18 AM on August 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Already there's a difference! Never thought I'd be so excited about cat poo.
posted by Hermione Granger at 9:36 AM on August 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

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