Can kitteh eat that?
October 21, 2015 2:49 PM   Subscribe

I has new kitteh! Yay! She's a rescue, about 2 years old, a small spayed female tuxedo beauty in good health, with a shy temperament. I have not had a cat in years. I am sure I am asking a question to which there are many answers and about which MeFites have strong opinions, but here goes: What is the current "state of the art" answer on the best quality and healthiest commercially prepared food for an adult, indoor, younger cat?

She's been eating wet Science Diet and Fancy Feast at the shelter, because that's what Petco donates to them (yay Petco). But the shelter folks deprecated both brands for long term diets. They also deprecated any sort of dry food,.

So . . . what do you feed your happy, healthy, young adult indoor cat? Brands, types of food, tradeoffs, and especially stories about how a dietary improvement led to a happier cat. Willing to pay top dollar for good food, but not for woo. I'm not going to cook her meals myself (apparently this is a thing people do now!) but figure she'll get some meat scraps once in a while.
posted by spitbull to Pets & Animals (26 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
When I moved my kittens to grown-up cat food, I read around a whole bunch. I didn't find a lot of specific brand recommendations, but one advice I did see repeated was to not just settle on one food and feed them that their whole lives. That way if one food has some nutritional deficiency, no big deal, they'll just get that from something else. Plus they'll be more flexible if when foods get discontinued or changed.
posted by aubilenon at 2:54 PM on October 21, 2015

Canned food of any kind is better than dry food of any kind. That said, the higher the protein and lower the carbs the better, so Evo is about the highest protein/lowest carb available.
posted by biscotti at 2:55 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

I feed my happy healthy kitties Wellness wet food. They love it, and it doesn't smell bad, which is a nice benefit for me.

I also deprecate Fancy Feast, which caused vomiting in a former kitteh. He loved it, but he lost a ton of weight while he ate it.
posted by janey47 at 3:03 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Fancy Feast "Classic" flavors are high protein and low filler and are perfectly adequate cat food. They are a great option for folks on a budget or who do not have access to a fancy pet store. Most of the other Fancy Feast flavors are pretty terrible nutritionally.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:06 PM on October 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Canned food is better, and higher protein with lower carbs and lower fat is better. Amazon is really useful for comparing brands. I find that either Evo or Wellness are often the best within my price range. I also mix up different brands/flavors.

To be safe you should avoid food based on predatory fish, due to mercury concerns.

One of my friends feeds her cat a raw diet, which is essentially ground chicken mixed with added nutrients (she buys a mix) because ground chicken isn't whole mice. It's actually not much work. At least according to Wikipedia, the benefits of a raw diet over commercial foods are murky, but he's one healthy looking cat.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 3:08 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I give my cats high-quality grain-free dry food (currently Fromm, historically Orijen, Acana, other stuff), occasional wet food (all-wet doesn't work for me), and more treats than are, strictly speaking, good for them. They're all very healthy.

All-wet is ideal, but if you can't do it, grain-free is better.
posted by jeather at 3:09 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Congratulations on your new friend! My small tuxedo girl sends her love to yours.

My two young indoor adult cats eat a grain-free canned food, 100g (about 3.5 ounces) twice a day. Various meats but no fish, because I find that fish-based foods make the litter-box deposits smell even worse. Their weight is fine and their health is good.

I give them Thrive treats, which are little bits of freeze-dried chicken or beef.

(I'm in the UK and the food I'm giving them is Grau, which is German, so I don't know how practicable that would be in the US, but thought I would tell you anyway)
posted by Pallas Athena at 3:13 PM on October 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Big concerns are high carb diets and dental care.

Don't feed your cats grains. Cats on high grain diets tend to be fatter and develop diabetes. Cats love pumpkins and squash---that's a much better filler for them.

Fancy Feast is perfectly good food, if, as mentioned above, you read the labels of the cans carefully.

Dry food needs to be high protein too. We've had good luck with Wellness.

Some cats naturally have bad teeth, some get lucky and never have a problem. Dental health is pretty important as a cat ages. Bad teeth and gums can be the cause of many other problems. You want to check that regularly. You can brush a cat's teeth, and you can use dental ball kibble to help. We treat them as a kibble supplement.

Dry food (including the dental balls) does off after a month or two. Keep it sealed to last longer, but cats often refuse stale kibble.
posted by bonehead at 3:17 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I feed Orijen or Acana, since Wellness was one of the pet foods involved in the melamine issue - I don't trust their food anymore.

When I feed wet food, I feed Petcurian's go!
posted by Nyx at 3:34 PM on October 21, 2015

Oh, and for treats, freeze-dried chicken. They go NUTS for it.
posted by Nyx at 3:36 PM on October 21, 2015

If you want to geek out over cat food, you can read Lisa Pierson is a vet who goes into extreme detail about cat food.

She distills her advice in several ways, but the important ones for me were: the worst wet food is better than the best dry food. And preferably no fish.

We originally fed our new cats a mix of Fancy Feast Classic (convenient because it's EVERYWHERE), and Trader Joe's wet food. It's surprisingly inexpensive and supposed to be fairly high quality. IMO, the TJs just stinks too bad though. I think all varieties have fish and it will stink up your house.

We've settled into buying 12 oz Wellness cans on We feed roughly 3 oz per cat, 2x per day. So they get fresh in the AM and from the fridge in the PM. The 12oz cans are so much cheaper per oz, and i just have 2-3 cases autoshipped right to my house each month.
posted by peep at 3:48 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

For a while we were prepping our own raw cat food using ground rabbit and cornish hen with supplements but we just don't have the time anymore.

Because of this we're about to switch to ordering from Hare Today. We haven't yet started this so I can't speak directly to the quality of their product but I've read and heard good things about them

Helps if you have a freezer or room in your fridge's freezer compartment so you can stock up for a while.

For cats basically order the meat or meat+bones ground mixes as desired and also order the nutrient mixes they sell (make sure to get the right one for bone/boneless mixes)*. Mix and serve. If you wanna go hardcore and aren't grossed out by it they also sell ground-up whole mice. I believe you wouldn't have to add any nutrients to those.

* cats are rather specialized predators so all cat food that's not actually a mouse or a small bird needs to be enriched with nutrients to simulate a mouse or bird. You can't just feed them some ground up meat from bigger animals or fish without adding nutrients. A mouse is basically the perfect nutrient package for them and even contains most of the water they require.

posted by Hairy Lobster at 3:52 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

since Wellness was one of the pet foods involved in the melamine issue

Nyx, do you have a link with more info? I didn't think that Wellness was one of the brands affected by the melamine recall.
posted by peep at 3:58 PM on October 21, 2015

My cat is very picky and was very underweight when we adopted him. We switched right away to Wellness, both their grain free wet food and their Core dry food which has an indoor formula that he will eat, unlike every other dry food out there. He only nibbles at wet food and doesn't care about treats so we needed to have food available for him throughout the day so he would actually gain weight without worries about food safety. Wellness works the best for us in terms of availability, the fact that our cat will actually eat some of its flavors, and price, but the important thing to me is that it is grain free. For a while with a previous cat, we did Royal Canin which worked well for her.

Over the year we have had him, Korben has gained exactly the right amount of weight and is very healthy, calm, and playful, and his coat went from medium and kinda scraggly to a glorious giant floof. He is quite vain about it and absolutely loves to be combed and brushed. He now asks to be fed every day and will finish off his dry food by the next day, but will sometimes leave a lot of wet food in his bowl. We sometimes supplement with Salmon flavor Greenies, which is the only treat he will eat, but he doesn't beg for them.
posted by Mizu at 4:07 PM on October 21, 2015

We used to have our cat eating Science Diet canned food supplemented with dry, but after a while he seemed uninterested in it and was getting a bit skinny, so we switched to canned food only, grain free. We use Halo brand Spot's Stew, and he seems pretty happy about it. His coat looks better and he picked up some needed weight. It's available at Petco. Unless your new girl has specific dietary needs or allergies, you should be fine with most commercially available foods. Just have to find one she likes!
posted by Bunny Boneyology at 4:22 PM on October 21, 2015

My understanding is what's been said above:
-wet better than dry
-as few grains/veggies as possible, cats are made to eat meat only and the other stuff is pure filler
-aim for mainly poultry or small mammal (rabbit)

Our cats eat Wellness chicken or turkey, and do fine on it. The one cat predictably gets sick on any beef, so we avoid that. Most flavors of any food have various kinds of meat mixed in, for example some pork is a common ingredient in flavors that are labeled chicken, so if you ever end up with allergies etc, it requires careful label reading to find ones that don't.

We feed something like 3/4 the amount the cat food company recommends for the cats' weight, and that seems to work well for keeping a constant weight. And it gives some leeway for the occasional treats. (There are treats that are just freeze-dried pieces of chicken, which is what we use, and the cats like them. We figure less chance of mysterious ingredients this way.)

There just isn't good information about cat foods, because there aren't adequate labeling laws, and there isn't good long-term testing/veterinary knowledge of how these diets do for most cats. So I've had to accept that a lot of this is educated guesswork and observation, rather than being able to do my homework and establish with certainty what's the best. (Though you can get more certainty about the ingredients by making your own raw food at home, if you're willing to grind meats. If you want to do this, it's essential to follow a recipe; there's good info on the Lisa Pierson catinfo site.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:23 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm on the same plan as everybody else here, more or less. I have a rotation of six brands to nine cans at any one time, usually two or three Wellness, two or three Natural Balance. I feed three times a day, with a dry mid day snack (since I'm home, and this keeps them calmer than they'd otherwise be). The smallest cat (still larger than yours) gets 32g meals, the large fellow and the young one get 37g meals, and the giant cat gets what's left in the can and a couple spoonfuls of dry food (because the 65g or so he needs is more than he can digest). Aside from the giant cat (who is too thin) they're a bit chubby but generally very active and engaged.
posted by wotsac at 4:33 PM on October 21, 2015

Our vet recommends Fancy Feast, but only the "pate" types, as the other styles have added corn starch. Her biggest rules are wet over dry, name brands over store brands, and eschew all corn ingredients but don't worry too much about rice.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:20 PM on October 21, 2015

Our kitty eats Taste of the Wild (dry and grain free; we leave out a big bowl) and BFF (wet and grain free) in various flavors. We also occasionally will leave the bowl empty for half a day or a day, figuring that being hungry is not the worst thing. (Also he's long-haired and still growing and I really can't tell if he's chubby or just right. Definitely not skinny though.)

Probably not the greatest practice, but he also gets milk and raw meat treats (bloody chicken runoff water from thawed chickens, bits of liver, etc.). I also let him take licks of my yogurt (only when I'm done, gosh, otherwise would be gross which yeah I totally mean) because he randomly is really into yogurt.
posted by mchorn at 5:36 PM on October 21, 2015

bibliokitty is a two-year-old indoor-only siamese powerhouse - perfect weight for her frame, lots of energy, perfect silky coat, no body odour, and poop that more or less does not stink (we share a 250 square foot apartment; these things matter). She eats minimally-processed prepared frozen ground raw cat food (usually turkey and chicken, but with other meats occasionally) as well as chicken necks (for dental health & calcium). This takes exactly as much time and preparation as any other cat food (open package; serve) and costs about the same as a high-quality canned diet. The brands of cat food bibliokitty eats are local; we really like 3P Naturals and Red Dog Blue Cat. I suspect that your local brands will offer similar products of similar quality. She always receives lots of praise from her vet for her good health.

When she first arrived, bibliokitty's food, which was a good quality canned food, gave her terrible indigestion. I tried everything but kibble in an effort to get her tiny stomach to settle. I had originally purchased chicken necks as a treat for her, but realized quickly that that was the only thing that didn't seem to cause her diarrhoea. She tried mainstream raw brands like Carnivora and Nature's Variety (fine for her stomach) but really seemed to prefer the very minimally processed, locally produced blends-- so that's what she eats! That the food *does not smell like cat food* is a bonus.
posted by bibliotropic at 5:57 PM on October 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Our cats love high protein dry food. We feed them James Wellbeloved. Sometimes we switch up which one we order, but they like all of them. I'm not sure if you can get it in America, but we get ours from either Amazon or a UK pet site.
posted by toerinishuman at 8:39 PM on October 21, 2015

There just isn't good information about cat foods, because there aren't adequate labeling laws, and there isn't good long-term testing/veterinary knowledge of how these diets do for most cats.

Well, none of that is true. This information exists, and oftentimes is ignored because consumers listen more closely to advertising than they do their veterinarian. Perhaps because many of these pet foods spend more money on promotion than they do auditing their supply chain or testing their product.

From a veterinary perspective, there are many great suggestions above regarding feeding your cat. Wet food is good, encourage water drinking, cats are obligate carnivores with no dietary carbohydrate requirements, do not overfeed. But if your veterinarian prescribes a food for a medical condition, please treat it as a prescribed medication. Nutrition is a cornerstone of treatment in veterinary medicine.

Raw food is not worth the time, expense, effort, or contamination. Ever had 3 cats with Salmonellosis? It's very expensive and unpleasant, even if you go to work every day at a veterinary hospital. Cats fed raw diets look good because they are being fed meat, not because that meat is raw. Cooking a raw diet does not decrease its digestibility, but it does significantly reduce the risk of food-borne pathogens. If you want to feed a homemade diet, follow a recipe formulated by a veterinarian. Just giving muscle meat or organ meat is insufficient.

Cats often exhibit dietary intolerance of fish. Sometimes this manifests as frequent regurgitation of hairballs. If your cat produces a lot of hairballs, it may be indicative of an inflamed gastrointestinal tract. Switching protein sources frequently is suboptimal because it limits your choices if your pet does develop an allergy or dietary intolerance to a specific protein.

Generations of cats have thrived on Fancy Feast and Science Diet. What matters most is how well yours maintains its health on a particular food, and how that food fits into your lifestyle and budget.
posted by Seppaku at 10:49 PM on October 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

I give my 3 year old kitty Applaws grain free dry food twice a day (in a timed auto-feeder because she is very food motivated), supplemented by half a packet of Whiskas in the evening. She's bright eyed, chipper, poops like clockwork, and everyone says her coat is gorgeous.
posted by like_neon at 1:17 AM on October 22, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everyone! We will try several of the brands recommended here until we figure out what she likes. Right now she is hiding in the bathroom because new house is SCARY.

Really appreciate all the advice!
posted by spitbull at 6:24 AM on October 22, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hey all, just an update. It's been 10 months and while still shy, Miss Kitty has really come out of her shell and has become a goofy, sweet, lovable member of the family.

However she is uninterested in any wet food or any "healthy" dry food. She loves and will only eat dry Fancy Feast. I keep trying samples of healthier options (wet and dry) but she will go a day without eating if she doesn't have her Filet Mignon flavored FF dry. Which she eats with gusto. We've been focused on making her feel safe and loved so I haven't pushed it by letting her go hungry long enough to eat whatever is on offer. And it's worked.

She gained some weight (too many treats) but it's mostly come off as she has become more active recently. (She spent her first five months hiding under the couch.) Her coat is beautiful and she seems sharp although her nature appears to be rather lazy. A true lovable furball.

Anyway I keep coming back to this thread for ideas! So thank you.
posted by spitbull at 8:52 AM on August 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: We've had a lot of luck recently with the Iams grain-free dry. This is the one we usually buy, but there are a few different flavours.

Vets were happy with dental health last time we were in and we're not seeing huge weight issues.
posted by bonehead at 9:17 AM on August 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

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