Whole Foods' "Whole Paws" cat food--worth of my felines?
December 1, 2017 10:58 AM   Subscribe

Wondering if this slightly less pricey, superficially healthy-sounding brand is fine to feed my lovely beasts.

Years ago I had a cat die of diabetes and was given to understand that part of the problem was that I had assumed Iams, a level up from the cheaper kinds of cat food, was actually good for cats and it's not, I guess mostly because it's got a lot of grain in it.

Now I'm more careful, and have had vets recommend Taste of the Wild (or some ridiculous name like that, with a mountain lion on the bag) in combination with Nulo canned food. We were going with Nulo every other night until they started becoming murderously enthusiastic about it and gave in and switched to every night, but it's expensive.

Whole Foods has a "Whole Paws" brand that is much cheaper and grain free. I'm wondering if it's otherwise good, as I'm not too sure what the other factors are. An internet search took me down a rabbithole of crazy so I thought I'd ask here, where there's a little more of a filter: is it pretty healthy stuff? Maybe comparable to Nulo and Wellness and stuff?
posted by Smearcase to Pets & Animals (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Every single one of my cats going back 20 years has had kidney-related illnesses as they grow older, so I now choose foods based on phosphorus levels. Tanya's lists the protein, fat, carbs, and phosphorus levels of prescription, standard, and premium cat foods. I use the canned food list, and choose one lower in phosphate and higher in protein. But, of course, it's all about what your cat will actually eat. The choosing a food page discusses the nutritional considerations in selecting a cat food, including how to select a higher-quality protein, and why super-premium food is not always the best choice.

Keep in mind that "healthy" cat foods are marketed to people, so marketing considerations often lead pet food companies to add ingredients that appeal to people, rather than choosing ingredients out of a nutritional need for pets. Cats don't need vegetables or fruits, and don't generally eat them. Expensive "human-grade" food doesn't necessarily mean it's great for pets either, and an ingredient like corn gluten meal, which I'd be likely to avoid because it sounds like a grain, is actually pretty bio-available for cats. So...it's complicated.

Right now I feed the Science Diet non-prescription series because it's the best quality protein food I can persuade my cats to eat. My cats don't like the Wellness brands.
posted by answergrape at 11:40 AM on December 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Can you get to Costco? I feed my cat Nature's Domain and it's got above average reviews and he loves it.
posted by Marinara at 11:56 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I believe Costco's Kirkland pet foods are all made by Diamond, the same company that makes Taste of the Wild, and are good, especially for the price. I'm having trouble tracking down who makes Whole Pets; it could easily be Diamond as well.
posted by kindall at 12:09 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Now that Amazon bought Whole Foods, you can actually see Whole Paws wet cat food sold on Amazon. So I looked at the ingredients and color me not impressed: first, broth is the number one ingredient which means you are buying a lot of water; second, it includes potato starch which means yes it's technically grain-free since potatoes are not a grain but it's still carb-heavy which is what you are trying to avoid in the first place.

My advice: look for a local pet deli! I just discovered that such a thing exists a couple months ago and I haven't looked back. They literally sell ground meat with cat-appropriate supplements mixed in (chicken, beef, quail, rabbit, and pork) and it's VERY comparable to quality canned cat food (I've done a ton of research with spreadsheets!). Funny enough, my two cats eat less now, I am guessing because it's actually nutritious and not just empty calories, so I am actually spending less.

If you don't have a pet deli near you, just buy ground meat from the regular store, and mix in cat supplements (look for tutorials, you can query on "raw food for cats" or "homemade cat food"). Also, check the butcher department for chicken livers and chicken hearts, they are super cheap and the cats go crazy for them. Just keep in mind liver is very high in vitamin A so you can't feed a lot of it.
posted by rada at 12:22 PM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Full disclosure - this is my website. However, I literally just this weekend started getting my reviews for Whole Paws cat food up on CatFoodDB.com - you can find it here. Quick summary? It's ok. You can do better, but you can also do much, much worse. All the Whole Paws wet foods I've looked at so far contain both guar gum and carrageenan, which some people try to avoid. However other than that the canned foods have some quality proteins, and aren't full of cheap carby fillers. The canned varieties definitely reviewed better than the kibble, however.
posted by cgg at 2:52 PM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Every vet I've ever asked has said that wet food is better than dry for long-term feline health. You don't mention whether you were feedings Iams kibble or Iams canned, but it makes a real difference, particularly for diabetes prevention and kidney health -- cats often prefer to hydrate through food, rather than drinking water, and cats who only eat kibble may not get enough hydration. (My current cat will have nothing to do with water, even running water or fountains; I've literally only ever seen her drink twice.) Dry food also has more carbs, generally.

Some cats won't eat anything but kibble, no matter what you do, but it sounds like yours are fine with canned, so I'd probably skip the Taste of the Wild kibble and just feed them a well-balanced canned food. I've been feeding Dave's for about five years now; some of their canned varieties do have carrageenan or guar, but most of the varieties have a good balance of protein / phosphorous, they're grain-free, the company is pretty open about ingredient sourcing and manufacturing, and it's pretty affordable. Cats seem to dig it. My friend's vet recommends Weruva, but not all cats will eat it and it's a little pricier than Dave's (though it's a little cheaper than Nuvo, at least at my local pet store).

The concern I have about Whole Pets is that it's difficult to see who does their processing. I can't tell if this is still accurate, but they haven't been terribly forthcoming about their suppliers, which is something that makes me nervous when it comes to pet food. I like to know the recall history of a pet food company; a quality monitoring system and a past track record of swift response is definitely something I look for.
posted by halation at 3:31 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

CatInfo.org is a resource that I've used ever since I found it on a skeptic website quite a while ago. The author is a vet and although I don't go along with all of her recommendations (I do feed dry food along with wet, at least right now), she's done a ton of research and has an extensive chart of most commercially based foods. Based on her 2012 version, I've been feeding Authority for several years, but she just updated the chart earlier this year so I'm going back to review the chart as she no longer recommends it. The chart is really complicated. To sum it up, your cat food should contain >50% protein, <20-40% fat, and <1-2% carbs if possible. I don't think anything she's reviewed so far matches that golden ratio, but I intend to find something in the reasonably-priced range that comes close.
posted by possibilityleft at 11:59 PM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

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