Dec 162012

As I watch my favorite programs on TV, I shake my head at the amount of money spent to advertize pet food. Most ads are geared to convince you that their food is the “best” for your loved one and that you could do nothing better than to feed their food to your pet. These foods, while maybe not the best nutrition for your pet, they are probably ok as basic animal nutrition. However, what really makes me cringe are the vague claims the manufacturers make. For instance, there is a major, and I mean MAJOR, cat food brand that is sold mostly in grocery stores airing commercials with the following claim:

“…. With the highest amount of protein!”

Current knowledge of feline nutrition emphasizes the importance of high levels of protein with low amounts of carbohydrates. Cats are strict carnivores and, unlike dogs, have metabolisms that require mostly protein and the amino acids that come with it. So the commercial of the pet food manufacturer that claims it has the highest amount of protein is appealing to your interest in following this advice.

However, ask yourself what “the highest amount of protein” means. The highest amount compared to what? Here is the information on the package label:

Guaranteed Analysis: Protein: Min. 35.0%, Crude Fat: Min. 13.0%, Crude Fiber: Max. 4.0%, Moisture: Max. 12.0%, Linoleic Acid: Min. 1.4%, Calcium: Min. 1.0%, Phosphorus: Min. 0.8%, Zinc: Min. 150 mg/kg, Vitamin A: Min. 11,000 IU/kg, Vitamin E: Min. 150 IU/kg, Taurine: Min. 0.1%, Glucosamine*: Min. 400 mg/kg, Chondroitin Sulfate*: Min. 300 mg/kg


35% protein in a dry cat food is not particularly high. Pretty average, really. What is more telling is the ingredient list. By law, the ingredient list is listed in order of highest percent of total first. In this food the first four ingredients are chicken by-product meal, ground corn, corn gluten meal and animal fat (no telling what animal’s fat). So, the major protein source is chicken? Well, not necessarily. It is from chicken by-products made into meal (not necessarily bad, by the way) and probably corn gluten. They don’t tell you how the 35% breaks down. But the pet food company’s commercial implies they have the “highest” protein, implying that it is the major ingredient when it is not. There is a heck of a lot of corn, wheat and rice. So, the commercial is terribly misleading. I will hazard a guess that if we asked the pet food company to explain “highest” they will say “higher than our previous products” which were not very high to begin with.

Let’s compare this cat food to a food that I consider a very high quality, high protein, low carb (no grain) dry cat food. Here is what is on their package label:

Guaranteed Analysis: 
Crude Protein (min): 50.0%
Crude Fat (min): 22.0%
Crude Fiber (max): 2.8%
Moisture (max): 10.0% Calcium (min): 2.99%
Phosphorus (min): 1.654%
Vitamin E (min): 212.1 IU/kg
*Vitamin C* (min): 50 mg/kg
*Omega 6 Fatty Acids (min): 3.69%
*Omega 3 Fatty Acids (min): 0.684%, Carotene: 11.29 mg/kg, Vitamin A: 21753 IU/kg , Vitamin D: 1591 IU/kg…etc

: Chicken Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid), Tapioca, Salmon Meal, Natural Chicken Flavor, Pumpkinseeds, ….etc.
Visit the Ingredient Glossary to learn about each ingredient.

Protein is a whopping 50%. The first four ingredients are chicken meal, chicken fat, tapioca, and salmon meal. Tapioca is a source of starch (carbohydrate) which is described in their glossary of ingredients (provided on their website) as “… an all natural ingredient that is extracted from the root of the cassava plant via a series of washing, peeling, grating, and drying steps, a process that removes any cyanogenic glycosides. Tapioca is a unique, 98% digestible, grain-free, gluten-free starch…” Further down the ingredient list are freeze dried chicken, turkey, turkey liver, turkey heart. Also included are cottage cheese and chicken, duck, pheasant and quail eggs. These smaller ingredients are high quality sources of protein. Besides the tapioca, the other source of carbs is a variety of vegetables and fruits such as spinach, broccoli, persimmons and butternut squash.

Clearly, quality proteins make up the 50% protein content with no grains. This is not a “no-carb” product but it includes a variety of carbohydrates that contribute important minerals, vitamins and fiber.

I haven’t named these products because my point here is to highlight the misleading information being fed (pun intended) to you in many pet food company’s glossy, high-cost commercials and advertisements. I encourage everyone to pay attention to the information on their pet’s food package labels and try to interpret the quality of the pet food with the information provided. Not all product labels are good sources of information (some pet food companies are much better than others) so you may need to search on pet food company websites or ask your veterinarian for help.

Jan 042011

Litter Box Logistics

As a proud caretaker of twelve fabulous felines, I am constantly battling managing their litter boxes, unused and used cat litter, where to put 12 boxes (one for every cat is recommended) and the all too frequent missing of the target.

I have tried covered boxes, large boxes, wee wee pads, rugs, boxes in closets, boxes in corners, not to mention the strategically placed shop vacs for easy clean-up. I even designed my new house here in Vancouver to make it easier for the cats and me on a day to day basis.

Cat Litter Research

Needless to say, I have a keen interest in kitty litter. One on-going research project, using my own cats as guinea pigs, is trying all the various litter products now on the market.

Thank goodness for demand for better products, because an improved supply is entering the market. At the moment, I have 4 wood-based products, a cellulose litter and a clay litter on trial.

I used to use wood pellets made for pellet stoves and may try this product again; it is cheap and I am keen on finding an effective way to either recycle the litter or use it as alternative fuel to heat the clinic or my home. As a former resident of British Columbia’s Cariboo region, I am very familiar with pellet stoves and am eager to design a trial to test the idea.

This type of research will be ongoing and is part of the mission of Animal Nutrition & Wellness Centre.

Good Husbandry: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Hopefully, I will be able to advise and provide services to my clients who have cats, and want to find a better litter and a better way to get rid of it rather than throwing it in the garbage (I know that many of you are just as mistrusting of your plumbing and the claims of litter being “flushable”).

I also hope to provide architectural advice on home design and provide custom products that will make it easier to manage cat litter.

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