Welcome to The Cat Site
your cat community
Interact with our community

Getting cats to eat higher quality food

Discussion in 'Cat Nutrition with Dr. Rachel Boltz, DVM' started by mrsty, Oct 17, 2016.

  1. mrsty

    mrsty Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    105
    27
    Jun 13, 2016
    When my cats were younger and fussy I made the mistake of feeding them Fancy Feast. Now they are all senior cats and I have been trying for years to get them to eat better quality foods. I've used every trick I could, adding a little to current food on the side so they get used to the smell, mixing a little bit in to current food, being very patient about it....the only thing that came close with one cat is putting toppers on like freeze dried chicken or Bonita flakes, she'll pretty much eat anything then, but that doesn't work for the others. Do you have any unique suggestions or can you explain why it is so difficult to get them off Fancy Feast so others won't make the same mistake?
     

  2. Kat0121

    Kat0121 Advisor Staff Member Advisor

    10,945
    8,579
    Feb 23, 2014
    Sunny Florida
    Fancy Feast is not the food villain that many people would like to make it out to be. Especially if you are feeding the classics (pates). These are lower in carbs than the kinds that are swimming in gravies. Your cats have told you what they want. How is their overall health? What does the vet say? 

    You cannot force a cat to eat what he/she does not want to eat. I have 3 very picky eaters and I have learned this lesson the hard way. I have put more cans of high end food down the garbage disposal than I care to admit. This was all in an effort to find a rotation of foods that they will all eat. The highest quality, most expensive food is worthless if it ends up in the trash or down the disposal. 

    There are some things you can do. My cats are on an almost exclusively wet diet. They do get a bit of high quality dry as an occasional snack or topper to wet food. Toppers are how I keep them interested in different foods. I use the dry as one and I also use crushed Pure Bites freeze dried chicken breast treats. We are NEVER without these in the house. All 3 love them. I also keep them interested in different foods by mixing and matching. I will give them pate and use a shredded, minced, sliced or cubed textured food as a topper or I mix them together. This gives the meal more texture and adds more flavor. I do feed some Fancy Feast classics but they prefer the Friskies pates (which are also fine). I stick to the poultry varieties. 
     

  3. dr rachel

    dr rachel TCS Member Guest Expert

    29
    7
    Oct 10, 2016
    The pet food industry has done an excellent job of marketing the so called, "better quality foods."  They even use terms like "human grade" and "organic"...which means what, now?  Not clear.

    Many of my clients ask me what is the best way to feed their cat.  I answer their question first with another question:  what will they eat?  In all honesty, I evaluate the current health of the cat, and base my answer first on their reply.  For a cat in good body condition and a state of health, I usually advise to keep the regimen they are using.  Why rock the  boat?  

    I personally do not lay up at night worrying about the food choice of the average healthy cat.  I prefer brands that carry an AFCO certification (either proof of nutrient profile or feeding trial proven) --and most widely marketed foods are.  I think about things like ingredient sourcing and quality control.  I appreciate companies that employ nutritionists to formulate their diets.  And to that extend, I think Fancy Feast is pretty good.

    Cats must like Fancy Feast because it tastes good.  It comes in a zillion flavors and preparations...they appear to be good at producing a food that many cats like. If you older cats are doing well, perhaps you should just let them continue on the track they have lived all their lives.  If not, then changing diet can be very hard as cats age.  It is literally a matter of buying many cans of food you feel good about feeding and presenting it to them a tablespoon at a time.Prepare for a lot of wastage.  But eventually, you will find some they will accept. Maybe not as vigorously as their former diet, but acceptably. Be cautious...do not wait a cat out to eat the new food. If they do not eat it in 24 hrs, feed them something they will eat.  NO exceptions to that rule. After a few days, you can try another new diet.
     

  4. Kat0121

    Kat0121 Advisor Staff Member Advisor

    10,945
    8,579
    Feb 23, 2014
    Sunny Florida
    I know when my picky eaters aren't going to eat something immediately. They approach the food, sniff it, give it a look of disgust, glare at me and then leave the room in a huff. Lilith does this with the most drama possible. She really wants me to know how offended she is. The refused food gets dumped, the dishes washed and then refilled with something acceptable. This is life with 3 divas. [​IMG]
     

  5. mrsty

    mrsty Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    105
    27
    Jun 13, 2016
    When I got my first 2 kittens and walked into Petsmart and asked them what will they eat, the reply was "They like Fancy Feast because it has a strong smell." My cats "appeared" to be healthy on this diet for many years. However, when my 11 year old was diagnosed with hyperthyroid my vet mentioned it's believed there is a link to seafood flavor cat food. Guess what, that is the only flavor that cat would eat, seafood flavors of Fancy Feast. After putting her through $2,000 radio-iodine therapy, 18 months later she ends up with IBD and mega colon. Described to me by my vet as an inflammatory reaction by her digestive system from, guess what? What she eats.

    Two of my other cats had severe itching around the face and head, one so bad she nearly scratched her neck raw, the vet said "food allergy" likely chicken or fish flavor, hmmm....all she was being fed was Fancy Feast. I got her onto some other type protein like duck and lamb (Fancy Feast does not make those flavors) and the itching completely stopped. So did much of the occasional vomiting from both cats that was not, by the way, just hairballs. I know what a hairball looks like.

    So, when I was a kid I only liked chocolate, cookies and potato chips but wisely my mother didn't let me eat just that. I think we owe the same consideration to our pets. So I am willing to keep trying the higher end foods as I have found a couple they are willing to eat once in a while. Yes, it costs some money to figure it out, but ....my third cat, 15 years old, just went through $2,000 worth of diagnosis and dental work with an issue of "reabsorption" of her teeth....not stomatitis ....but described to me as an auto-immune issue of "unknown cause". Sorry, but I blame the food she has eaten all her life, Fancy Feast! And it probably could have been any of the other cheap foods sold in grocery stores and large chain pet food stores. I believe it matters what any animal has eaten for most of it's life is going to effect it's health and longevity, just like humans, and I believe big pet food companies are in it for the money, not the quality of our pets lives.

    What does organic and human grade mean? There are strict definitions and pet food companies that use them have to prove it. I've looked up the definitions of meat by-products and "meal" that are on the ingredient label of every cheap grocery store brand cat food. Can't help but wonder what exactly my cats are having allergic reactions to when reading the definitions of what that is!

    My vet has tried to sell me Hill's Science Diet that they get kickbacks from, but I won't buy it because I do not believe feeding my cats a corn based product is the right thing to do, no matter what they roll the stuff in so animals are willing eat it. I'm trying to cure my cat of IBD not give it to her! I called the company and complained about that. It was the first or second ingredient....really, corn to a cat?

    I would never starve them into eating something, I have enough outside cats that will usually use up somebody else's leftovers or if everyone refuses a food I bring the rest to the shelter where they tell me "not to worry, somebody will eat it here."

    I strictly adhere to a wet food diet (unfortunately only Fancy Feast for the one cat). I use freeze dried 100% chicken or Bonita flakes, or Natures Instinct freeze dried raw, as toppers for their food and usually that gets most eaten by the outdoor cats. Who by the way are 12 and 13 years old with beautiful looking coats and teeth and are very healthy. I'm not afraid to keep throwing some expensive food out. There are some really good quality foods out there, and some that are just charging high prices for low quality - read the ingredients and understand what meat by-products and meal are....do some research, think about what a cat would eat in nature...yes, I've tried the raw foods and they were accepted somewhat by the outdoor cats (no surprise). But I wondered about my own ability to keep them safe from contamination so I went back to canned.

    Obviously the responses to my question have hit a nerve with me and I'm sorry I asked it. There is a food revolution going on in the U.S. with human food and pet food is no different. Know what you are eating, know what you are buying and feeding to your pets. The industries are in it for the money, show them what we are willing to spend it on by being knowledgeable about what we and are pets are ingesting.
     
    m3rma1d, msserena and white shadow purraised this.

  6. dr rachel

    dr rachel TCS Member Guest Expert

    29
    7
    Oct 10, 2016
    So there are a lot of thoughts going on in your reply.  It appears you have linked fancy feast to a multitude of maladies your cats have developed over the years.  That conclusion may or may not be correct.  Domestic cats in general seem to be prone to immune mediated diseases and such processes probably play a role in the development of a great many diseases.  For example, the reabsorption you mentioned in one of your cat's teeth (known as FORLS) is a common problem in domestic cats. However, their is no evidence that such lesions develop in cats fed better quality verses lesser quality foods, or that dry verses wet foods really makes a difference.  Some have blamed a viral etiology as the cause. This is actually one area in vet medicine were a fair amount of research has been done, yet we still do not know the cause.  

    Many people believe that most acquired disease arises from the interaction of genetic predisposition and environmental factors. In other words, non-infectious and non-congenital diseases arise in individuals that are both prone to develop it and are exposed to risk factors for disease development.  I agree with you that nutrition plays a key role in many instances and can certainly be a risk factor.  I just do not agree with you that fancy feast is a can of future disease and that feeding any one brand over another will negate the development of future disease.

    Your statement: "What does organic and human grade mean? There are strict definitions and pet food companies that use them have to prove it" is NOT factually correct for pet foods.  The definitions for ORGANIC  as defined for human consumption are strictly overseen by the USDA.  These guidelines have been adopted by the AAFCO (who creates definitions for animal food labeling), but they have no authority to enforce it. The FDA has stated it has no rules when it comes to use of the term "organic" in pet foods, and refers to guidelines set out by the USDA to describe what additives and processes can be included to achieve the "organic" certification.  Some companies comply closer then others, but no governing agency has the right to audit the pet food manufactures for proof.

    It was my mistake to use the term "human grade," as AAFCO does not allow that phrase to be used in pet food. My apologies. 

    IMO, all companies are in it for the money (auto makers, food manufactures, medical companies, etc).  This should not be an argument against large pet food companies.  I personally believe in the importance of research and quality control of any company that produces pet food.  I know the general trend is that smaller is better, organic is better, local is better, whole food is better (all part of the so called "food revolution" you mentioned).  Quality control, proper ration balance, sourcing quality, consistent and reliable ingredients...these are also central issues to food and shouldn't be dismissed because the term "organic" does not show up on a label.  

    ​I stand by my assertion that it is better that a cat eats what it wants to eat, then it does not eat what you want it to. 
     

  7. Anne

    Anne Site Owner Staff Member Admin

    36,156
    3,680
    Oct 23, 2000
    On TCS
    Organic is extremely problematic. I researched that one quite thoroughly and it does not mean not using pesticide. It means using other kinds of pesticide, approved by their association. These kinds are so-called natural but are often just as toxic if not more so, compared to regular pesticides. Here are a few resources - 

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/07/29/why-organic-agriculture-is-a-colossal-hoax/

    https://blogs.scientificamerican.co...101-organic-farming-conventional-agriculture/ (especially the #1 item there).
     

  8. mrsty

    mrsty Thread Starter TCS Member Adult Cat

    105
    27
    Jun 13, 2016
    The food revolution is not just about eating organic, whole food, local - the food revolution is about what the FDA and USDA allows companies to put in our foods as cheap fillers and taste enhancers and if you want to get away from the junk they are trying to feed us, organic, whole food, and local are the options. There is a pet food company called The Honest Kitchen that has gone to court to prove they use human grade ingredients, which may not really mean a lot other than some companies do seem to try. Thankfully, the food recall list for human food isn't as long as the food recall lists for pets. I guess you could say the AAFCO is to thank for that, if they are the ones actually doing the policing. If anyone is interested there is a book called "Salt, Sugar, Fat" and another one called "Food Pets Die For", amount many others. They both have great references in the back of the books.
     

  9. msserena

    msserena TCS Member Alpha Cat

    665
    140
    Jun 20, 2014
    san diego
    I never understood why companies put non appropriate ingredients into cat food. I understand why they do it to human food, it's cheaper. There are a handful of good companies out there that care about pet health, don't use lab made ingredients & don't put things in the food that shouldn't be there. It's just sad that it isn't the norm. If I was a pet food company I would do the best job I could, not try to pull the wool over people's eyes just so they would purchase my product & make me a millionaire. I guess we as cat parents need to be diligent & do our homework, read labels & if you have a question, call the company.
     

  10. Anne

    Anne Site Owner Staff Member Admin

    36,156
    3,680
    Oct 23, 2000
    On TCS
    I guess it comes down to the definition of what's "non-appropriate". IMO, there's nothing wrong with ingredients that are synthesized in a lab, for example, and obviously others think differently. I agree that owners need to read labels and see what foods fit their own opinions and beliefs. I think that it's great that there are options for those who have certain preferences and don't mind paying for them. Others prefer to pay less and provide cats with food that is just as good and appropriate, even if it doesn't meet some current trendy criteria. 
     

Share This Page

  1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.