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Species-Appropriate Cat Food Promoted as a "Preventive" Diet

Species-Appropriate Cat Food Promoted as a "Preventive" Diet

Story at-a-glance -

  • Pet food companies are marketing new formulas of cat food as “preventive” diets available “over the counter.” Many are grain free and canned – which means they have higher moisture content than kibble (this is a good thing). Several include novel proteins (not a good thing).
  • These diets are advertising they “prevent” many of the diseases that afflict cats who’ve been fed a lifetime of inexpensive, low quality, grain filled diets – many produced by the same companies now offering the new health care diets.
  • Curiously, pet food marketers are comparing their new cat foods to veterinary prescription formulas, thus the over-the-counter spin. What’s odd is some of the new cat foods are actually more species-appropriate than prescription diets, so it’s curious why they are being advertised as an alternative, when in fact they’re better nutrition.
  • It’s buyer beware when it comes to pet food marketing claims. Savvy pet owners are educating themselves about proper nutrition for their cat or dog and aren’t being misled by clever promotional campaigns.
  • The worst thing pet owners can do is count on pet food brand marketers to inform them about the nutritional quality of the food they sell. The best way to insure good nutrition for your cat is to feed a balanced, species-appropriate diet, either homemade or a high quality commercial formula.

By Dr. Becker

The commercial pet product industry is apparently celebrating the increase in "preventive" cat food formulas available "over-the-counter."

In a article oddly titled "Cat Marketplace: Stop Health Issues Before They Start", the writer states:

"In years past, the only cat foods designed to prevent health care issues were prescription only.

Whether the issue is allergies, obesity, urinary difficulty, diabetes or hairballs, pet food companies are creating diets that help owners feed cats that have a propensity toward these ailments.

Retailers can now offer their customers a wide range of over-the-counter preventive brands, from grain-free to high-water content to novel protein-sourced formulas."

The marketing spin in this statement is making me dizzy.

Since when has any prescription pet food been designed to prevent health care issues?

Generally speaking, the low grade prescription foods sold by veterinarians are hyped as being able to alleviate symptoms of existing disease, which is very different from preventing disease in the first place.

Secondly, the poor quality of those prescription foods, not to mention their species inappropriateness, does nothing to prevent illness or cure it, and in fact creates disease over the long haul.

At best, veterinary formulas can provide short-term relief of certain symptoms.

They don't address the underlying disease causing the symptoms, and they do contribute to disease when fed long term.

Comparing Apples and Oranges

If I understand the article correctly, certain types of commercial cat food more species-appropriate than others are being promoted as "preventive."

And not only preventive, but available "over-the-counter" as well – to differentiate them from veterinary formulas.

It seems pet food companies are promoting their newer, more species-appropriate formulas as having the same qualities as prescription diets, but without the need for a prescription.

What's truly confusing is the comparison of apples to oranges.

On its face, a can of grain-free cat food will always be better nutrition than a can of carbohydrate-filled food or a bag of dry kibble – standard ingredients in the vast majority of prescription diets.

Pet food manufacturers are using pet owners' lack of knowledge of the poor quality of veterinary formulas to promote their products.

Products which in many cases are probably better nutrition than prescription pet food.

This would be funny if it wasn't so convoluted and disturbing.

What Exactly are These New "Preventive" Cat Foods Preventing?

The food that actually prevents disease in cats is food nature intended them to eat. Neither your kitty's ancestors nor felines living in the wild today eat food from a can or a bag. Truly health-promoting foods are found in nature, whole and unprocessed.

The very ailments these new, special cat foods are supposed to treat or prevent were caused in large part by years of eating biologically inappropriate commercial diets – many of them produced by the same folks who are now introducing these new formulas.

The article states grain-free diets are for cats with GI issues like gas, bloating, vomiting or diarrhea, as well as pets with food allergies and grain sensitivities. In fact, an obligate carnivore – which includes the family cat – will eventually develop GI issues, food sensitivities and worse when fed a steady diet of grains and other species-inappropriate ingredients.

These new commercial foods are being marketed as though they answer the problem of naturally occurring digestive issues and food allergies in cats, when in fact, the vast majority of housecats wouldn't have such issues were it not for the poor quality nutrition they've received from highly processed, grain filled, moisture depleted cat food.

As I discuss here at Mercola Healthy Pets almost every week, dogs and cats are carnivores. Their bodies are designed to process primarily animal protein and fat, and this is especially true for kitties. They were never intended to eat the kinds of ingredients found in most commercially available pet food.

The article also states, "The prevalence of cat urinary issues has long meant a need for special diets."

Again, the high incidence of feline lower urinary tract disease (FLUTD) in today's cats can be attributed in large part to the lack of moisture in dry pet food. No "special diets" would be needed if cats were fed species-appropriate nutrition in the first place.

Exotic Proteins in Commercial Pet Food are Getting a Bit Out of Hand

The article goes on to address the development of feline allergies as a result of proteins commonly fed in commercial pet foods – chicken, beef, and lamb. To answer this health concern, many pet food manufacturers are coming out with formulas containing what used to be considered 'novel' proteins from animals like venison, kangaroo and rabbit.

However, if pets were actually fed a variety of proteins like chicken, beef and lamb – from high quality sources – it's unlikely most would develop the level of food sensitivities we see in cats and dogs today. But because many family pets are fed the same low quality food day in and day out, the combination of a single protein source and other low quality ingredients does indeed create food intolerances and allergies.

The answer, however, is not to offer a dozen other types of exotic protein sources in one formula. Because at some point – and we're approaching it quickly – it will be impossible to find a novel protein to offer pets who need an elimination or 'hypoallergenic' diet to resolve a serious allergic condition. The novel protein of choice used to be lamb, but the inclusion of lamb in so many commercial pet foods today has rendered it useless as a remedy for pets with allergies.

What pet food companies are doing by including exotic proteins in mass-produced pet food formulas is a recipe for disaster. Again, they are counting on pet owners not understanding the implications of exposing dogs and cats to every protein source imaginable – and exposing them through foods containing low quality ingredients, to boot.

The Best Way to Insure Proper Nutrition for Your Cat

Needless to say, pet product companies and pet food stores will be promoting the heck out of all these new "preventive" and "over-the-counter" formulas for the foreseeable future.

As always, I encourage you to do your own thinking and research to avoid falling prey to marketing claims for inferior cat food.

And my point is certainly not that all these new products are bad news -- only that you should be very cautious when considering advertising claims for "over-the-counter preventive brands" of pet food. Learn to understand pet food labels so you'll know what you're buying the next time you shop for pet food.

When it comes to nutrition, the way to achieve optimal health for your kitty is to feed her a balanced, species-appropriate diet for a lifetime. There are a number of ways to do this, including making homemade meals for your pet, or gradually upgrading the food you purchase until you're buying the highest quality commercial diet you can afford.

Any healthy feline diet will have high moisture content and a variety of good quality, normal protein sources. You can rotate proteins (usually people choose between two to four proteins) periodically, but look for cat food that contains only one type of meat in a can to give your pet an immunologic break from those ingredients when you choose a different can .

+ Sources and References