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Cat Food

The Natural Cat Food Throwdown: Are Natural Balance and Solid Gold Scaredy Cats?

About 3 weeks ago, I contacted six natural cat food manufacturers to ask them about the greenness of their company and their foods.  I emailed them a number of tough questions such as where their ingredients were sourced, where the food was manufactured and whether Menu Foods made any of their products.

I’ve heard back from four of them.  I’ve posted the responses from Petropics and Nature’s Instinct.  Wellness sent me an email asking me to call them, which I’ll be doing later this week. Also, I found a response from Natura Pet Products which accidentally got filtered to spam, so I’ll be posting it shortly.

However, not a peep from the following cat food manufacturers:

  • Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods
  • Solid Gold, makers of Indigo Moon

Both had prominent “Contact Us” links on their websites and Natural Balance even had a fill-in form to submit your questions.  Why bother pretending to have customer service if you’re going to completely ignore your customers?

I made a point to write a very balanced email and not to come across as a rabid environmentalist.  I mentioned that I was thinking of switching cat food brands, and that I wanted to know more about their ingredients and their sleeping aids company.  Is that unreasonable?

In my opinion, if a company couldn’t be bothered to answer an email from a potential customer especially during a recession when people are cutting back on spending on premium products, how are they going to respond if there’s a safety recall or another pet food crisis similar to the Menu Foods scare in 2007?

I just assume that they really don’t have answers to whether their company has a green policy and that they really would prefer to not disclose where their ingredients come from or how they’re manufactured. Do I really want to be feeding my cat food from a company like that?

I was debating whether to call their customer service number or to simply declare them out of the Natural Cat Throwdown by default.  However, given the accidental spam incident with Natura Pet Products, I’ll give each of these other companies a second chance and see what they tell me over the phone. Stay tuned…

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The Natural Cat Food ThrowdownOn the Stage: Nature’s Variety

Instinct by Nature’s Variety is the next contender in the Natural Cat Food Throwdown.  I emailed a shortlist of natural pet food manufacturers to find out how eco-friendly they are. The most thoughtful and eco-friendly company will be selected as Furball’s new food of choice to help control his struvite crystals.

I sent the emails on Friday, May 1st and a customer service rep from Nature’s Variety wrote back on Monday morning.  Here’s the email I received:

Dear Holly,

Thanks for emailing!

All the animals used in NV diets are raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling. The meat and organs in our raw do not contain any added antibiotics or growth hormones. The meat and organs are from animals inspected and deemed fit for human consumption. Moreover, the fruits and vegetables are the same fruits and vegetables sold in local grocery stores.

All poultry (organic chicken, regular chicken, organic turkey, and regular turkey) are raised in large, long barns with open access. They are free to roam about while still being protected from the elements. They are not in cages. The pigs are also raised in large houses with freedom to move about. They are not in cages. Beef, lamb, and deer (venison) are raised outside on large pastures. They are not confined to small corrals. The rabbits are housed in hutches because rabbits will fight and injure one another unless separated from one another.

All animals are raised on vegetarian diets. The organic chickens and turkeys are fed an organic vegetarian feed.

Our organic chicken diet is certified organic by a third party. It uses 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} organic ingredients.

Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this. We can tell you that all of our diets are manufactured here in the U.S. Our kibble in Texas, our canned in Kansas and our raw diet in Nebraska.


Customer Service


My first impression was that this was a mixed response of positives and negatives.  The organic ingredients were great, but I’m still a little unsure of the manufacturing process, which as an environmentalist, I believe is just as important as the ingredients.  As well, the issue of a green policy seemed to be skirted over and the response was more geared towards addressing animal cruelty.  Overall, this response left me with more questions.  I was rating responses in terms of pluses and minuses, but I need to make a new category for this response: Mixed Bag.

Mixed Bag

  • Meat used in Raw Diets product does not contain added antibiotics or growth hormones, but no mention of whether this holds true for Instinct canned food.  Looking at their website, Instinct does not tout “natural ingredients” like Raw Diets does.
  • Pigs and chickens are not confined to cages.  Cows and deer are raised outside in pastures.  Animals are “raised and slaughtered according to government regulations of humane care and handling”.  Well, I’ve seen Fast Food Nation and read John Robbins’ The Food Revolution.  Simply meeting government regulations doesn’t make me sleep soundly at night.
  • Manufacturing facilities are located in the U.S., but did not answer whether or not Menu Foods makes their products


  • Human-grade ingredients
  • All animals are raised on vegetarian diets


  • No mention of comapny’s green or environmental policies
  • “Our manufacturers are considered proprietary information, we do not release specific information like this.”  This makes me wonder if Menu Foods is one of their vendors.  My reasoning is that if a company had nothing to do with Menu Foods, they would say so.

I really had too many questions after receiving this email, so I decided to do a bit more digging.  I find the magic Google phrase to search for is the pet food manufacturer’s name PLUS the phrase “recall”.  This usually brings up any dirt, although you do need to take it with a grain of salt as not all information on the Internet is accurate or backed with facts.

I found some interesting comments to this 2007 post on the Gothamist where people claimed that Nature’s Variety was associated with Menu Foods, but that their products were not affected by the recall.  Nature’s Variety did tell me that their canned food was manufactured in Kansas.  Hmm, looking at the Menu Foods site, I found that they have a manufacturing facility in Emporia, Kansas.  I also know that they make a lot of the canned foods for many pet food brands, even the organic ones.

Another trick in the bag that I use to get to the bottom of things, is to trace the corporate lineage.  There are a lot of large companies portraying themselves as “ma pop” local businesses.  The smaller lines may have started out that way and then be bought out by a conglomerate.  One sign is that the website looks too slick.  Often, they’ll list the parent company in the small text at the bottom of the site.  In this case, I couldn’t find a parent company until I looked at where the email came from, which was

There wasn’t much information on their website other than, “M.I. Industries offers a wide variety of protein based pet treats for the rapidly expanding natural market. We market our products under several of our own brands. M.I. Industries was established more than 25 years ago on a foundation of customer-driven quality, innovation, integrity and superior service. Today, these elements continue to define how we serve our customers.” Well, I know that natural pet food was definitely not considered an “industry” 25 years ago. Even natural people food was very grassroots back then.


For me, there were too many questions that went unanswered.  Instinct by Nature’s Variety is out of contention!

For more info on Nature’s Variety:

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The Natural Cat Food ThrowdownFirst Contender: Tiki Cat by Petropics

Here’s the first contender in the Natural Cat Food Throwdown, where I sent emails to pet food manufacturers asking how eco-friendly they are.  The winner will be selected as Furball’s new food of choice (provided of course, he likes it) to help control his struvite crystals.

Out of the six companies I contacted, the first to reply was Petropics.  I received a very thoughtful email from the President of Petropics within five hours of my original email.  Here’s what she had to say:

Hi Holly,

Happy to hear from you. We have a “No Compromise Food Philosophy” defined as follows:

We are manufacturing our foods overseas in Bangkok, Thailand. All foods are caught wild in the Pacific Oceans where the waters are cleanest or are locally farmed. None of our food ingredients are outsourced. Because our original and core business is wild caught seafood, this is the most eco-friendly logistics scenario possible because we are canning at the source. Sadly, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium standards, fish caught off our Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are unsafe for human consumption and there is not enough supply/support for fishing off our immediate pacific coast to support our food. We have a symbiotic relationship with the human market in food supply, sharing the tuna, sardines, mackerel, etc… intended for human consumption. Because we already produce a considerable amount of wild caught seafood varieties, we share the load with our human USDA chicken formulas farmed locally and share the ocean containers.

We use a factory that provides much higher, stricter standards for manufacturing than any other pet food manufacturer in the U.S. including European Food Quality Control Standards. We wanted a human only cannery that does not handle any pet grade ingredients to produce our formula’s which sadly cannot be achieved in the US. We supply all the food safety standards that we currently meet in detail on our website at

We were one of many natural food manufacturer’s that were not impacted by the food recalls, especially Menu Foods. Our business grew considerably during this recall period. We only use whole food ingredients, no fillers or manipulated ingredients apart from oil, which automatically removes us from the contamination risks that so many companies expose themselves to when they compromise with their ingredients. You could share a Tiki meal with your pet!

We have some of the most life altering testimonials from our foods. We use only human grade ingredients, we don’t use any fillers, they are all low glycemic index, low magnesium, and low phosphate and have been approved not only for healthy adult maintenance, but also serious wellness diets for animals with CRF, Diabetes, Kidney and Liver Diseases, etc… We haven’t come across one special diet we can’t feed and vets across the country are beginning to get into holistic foods and treatment because of their experience with Tiki Cat.

We are waiting for one viable US partner to expand her manufacturing capability and update her equipment to handle our quality control and volume requirements which will allow us to improve our US operation, allow us to maintain strict standards, and reduce the carbon footprint associated with poultry. We have been working on this since the start of our company in 2005.

We are very concerned about minimizing our environmental impact and operating in a responsible way.

  • Our business model reduces the amount of trucks on the road, fuel usage, etc….
  • We work political to push for improved rail systems for commerce which reduce energy/fuel usage considerably which was lost as we farmed steel and other industrial production overseas.
  • We work political to defund the oil market and support alternative fuel cars, trucks, and industry. It only cost $100 more per vehicle for the flex-fuel option which we are pushing to force upon auto makers. India and France have an “Air Car” and Delivery vehicles that literally run on AIR and have a positive, clean air impact on the environment. Of course, every Congressman in DC has investments in the oil industry, many in the auto industry, and many in Wall-Street and Air cars wouldn’t be good for their pocketbooks, however it would be a huge, positive impact on our economy and our security by eliminating our addiction to oil and the costs associated with it.
  • We work with only “Clean Trucks” to reduce smog/pollution.
  • We don’t work with beef products; Cow “emissions” is the world’s top destroyer of the environment and is the greatest threat to our climate, forests, and wildlife. Beef is not a good source of protein for any animal to consume with the least protein absorption out of all the protein sources which is not good for humans or their pets.
  • We strive to recycle all materials in our office/warehouse, purchase materials made from recycled materials, and are in constant evaluation of how to reduce waste, etc…

Please let me know if I missed anything. I appreciate your passion and responsible consumer spending, and careful feeding selection! I wish we had more people like you, because the health of pets and our environment would benefit and we would have a much greater market share!


What’s a throwdown without a judge critiquing the results?  Obviously, Simon’s not here, but I’ll offer my two cents worth.  The ultimate judge, however, will be Furball.


  • Bonus points for getting back to me the same day and for the President to be concerned enough to write back herself
  • Human-grade processing facilities that exceed U.S. standards
  • Human-grade ingredients
  • Politically active in supporting alternative fuel transportation methods
  • Aware that their overseas facilities is contributing to a larger carbon footprint and looking for options to reduce this
  • Appear to integrate green principles into company methodologies and processes
  • Don’t use beef because of its larger carbon footprint
  • Not affected by Menu Foods recall
  • Available from my local pet food store and comes in a variety of fish flavours, which is what Furball likes best


  • Manufactured in Thailand
  • Local pet food store only carries the small cans, resulting in more packaging

On the whole, I thought the email was very thoughtful and that Petropics is mindful of their environmental impact.  It looks like they’re trying to find the best balance when making their business decisions and  looking to see how they can be more green. Plus, the logo is really cute!

If I decide to go with this brand, I could always ask the pet store to stock the larger cans.  Tiki Cat gets a pass and is moving on to the next round!

For more information on Petropics and Tiki Cat:

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The Natural Cat Food Throwdown

Blame it on watching late night TV on the Food Network, but I came up with the title for this series of posts after seeing a couple of episodes of “Throwdown with Bobby Flay”. It’s time to see which natural cat food manufacturer has the green muscle to go the distance.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve been looking for a natural diet to help Furball control his struvite crystals. This came about after I learned that his current vet-recommended food is made by P&G and it uses an assortment of chloride ingredients to lower the pH level.

I took Furball to see a holistic vet and she recommended that Furball switch to a low or no grain diet of wet food with a high protein level. This is a tough choice to make as I have to weigh my cat’s health against the extra packaging used for wet food vs. dry food. I considered a raw meat diet too, but decided against it because we’re expecting a little one and the last thing I want right now is to have raw meat at crawl level on the floor and the chance that the cat may distribute some bacteria from the meat around the home.

Ultimately, I decided to go with a canned wet food and I’m now trying to choose the most eco-friendly option that will be best for Furball’s health as well as the health of my family. Going green isn’t easy and we all have to weigh our choices to see where we may need to compromise and hopefully green it up in other areas of our lives.

Klonopinshop helped me out on the train, when one night there was a parking lot for about 6 hours. I took it and fell asleep without running to the station at 2 AM at night on the passageways in search of a toilet.


I sent out virtually identical emails to six different natural pet food manufacturers that were recommended by the holistic vet. The contents of the email are listed in my post on Tough Green Questions to Ask Manufacturers When Choosing a Natural Cat Food. The emails were all sent about the same time at 2pm PST on a Friday afternoon. Here are the contenders:

  • Natura Pet Products
  • Nature’s Variety
  • Natural Balance Pet Foods
  • Petropics
  • Solid Gold
  • Wellness

Will any of these manufacturers make the score when it comes to being green? Will the cat food help Furball control his struvite crystals? Stay tuned! Results will be reported throughout the week. One of these natural wet cat foods will be declared the champion to go head to head with Furball’s palate.

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Tough Green Questions to Ask Manufacturers When Choosing a Natural Cat Food

Furball and family moved into our new home last weekend.  Now that Furball is mostly adjusted, it’s time for me to start researching which cat food to switch him to in order to help control his struvite crystals.  We had previously taken him to a Holistic Vet who recommended a high protein/minimal carb wet food diet.  She listed quite a number of different brands, so now it’s time for me to tackle the list and get more information from the manufacturers.

Here’s an email that I’m going to send to each manufacturer.  I’ve included some tough questions beyond the usual based on my previous research into organic cat foods.  I’m going to shortlist the foods based on the responses I get and I’ll post them up in a future blog entry.

If you’re thinking of switching your cat to a natural cat food, please feel free to use this email yourself and edit as needed.  I’d love to hear about what you learn so feel free to send me an email.  furball [AT]



Recently, [CAT FOOD BRAND HERE] was highly recommended to me.  I have been thinking about switching my cat to a new formula and would appreciate it if you could please answer a few questions about your product.  Not only am I very concerned about the quality of the ingredients, but I also am concerned about where my pet’s food is manufactured as well as how eco-friendly your business practices are.

[INCLUDE THIS PARAGRAPH IF IT’S ORGANIC FOOD] I would appreciate it if you could please tell me which governing anti fungal body certifies your food as organic as well as the general standards they require for organic certification.  What percentage of [SPECIFIC PRODUCT] is organic and if it’s not 100%, which ingredients are not organic and why not?

Could you please tell me where your product is is manufactured in terms of the ingredients and the processing?  Given the ongoing safety issues of overseas ingredients, I would prefer that the food I feed my pet is sourced and manufactured in [YOUR COUNTRY HERE]. This would greatly allay my concerns about safety as well as reduce the environmental impact of transporting pet food such a great distance. If your food is locally made, that’s amazing. If not, what is your company doing to move in this direction?  Are any of your products outsourced to other companies?  Are any made by Menu Foods?

Finally, I have been changing my purchasing habits to support businesses that implement sustainable practices and take a proactive approach to reducing their environmental impact. I was wondering what [PET FOOD MANUFACTURER] is doing to adopt greener business practices and support the local community.

As you know, switching a cat’s diet is not something to be taken lightly.  I am currently evaluating several different brands and will make a decision based on the answers I receive to my questions.  I look forward to your response.




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A Natural Diet for Struvite Crystals and Furball’s Visit to the Holistic Vet

Furball was vomiting on and off for the past week so we took him to see Dr. Sara Skiwski, a holistic medicine veterinarian. As a Holistic Veterinarian, Dr. Skiwski (aka Dr. Sara), is not only a licensed veterinarian, she also studied veterinary acupuncture and herbs. I had been wanting to take Furball to see a holistic vet to discuss what would be the best diet for him given that he has struvite crystals and also had a bout of pancreatitis about two years ago.

I was becoming increasingly dissatisfied with his current diet of 1/2 Pinnacle dry cat food and 1/2 IAMS prescription diet for struvite crystals. Let me clarify that I love the Pinnacle brand of cat food, but my concerns are about the IAMs food. I discovered on Day 21 of my new year’s resolution of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge that IAMs was owned by Proctor and Gamble, a company I had boycotted for over a decade because of ethical concerns about how they run their business. Plus, I had noticed that Furball’s coat went dull when he was fed a 100{456796300b989ac2391159a2df073ed1ad38074dfcdb28494d5d1df8ab5972d8} diet of the prescription diet for struvite crystals.

However, when I researched natural methods for dealing with struvite crystals as well as organic foods, I was overwhelmed by how complicated it was to find a natural diet for struvite crystals. I decided the best thing to do was to consult with a holistic vet. Furball was probably sending me a hint to go sooner rather than later as he started hacking up hairballs and gooey spit-up about two weeks ago. His appetite also decreased, which is highly unusual for the cat who loves to eat anything and everything and he was a bit cranky too. I was going to take him to see his regular vet, but the cat’s vomiting seemed to stabilize and then taper off.

The appointment with the holistic vet was a week away. I booked the appointment, then cancelled it when Furball got better. Then, Furball promptly vomited up some more gooey spit, so I rebooked the appointment. At that point, I decided regardless of whether he was better or worse, I’d take Furball in for a check-up. I’m glad we kept the appointment.

Furball’s fine. However, I gained some valuable insights into how struvite crystals, pancreatitis and vomiting/gastrointestinal issues are related to diet. Dr. Sara also gave us a recommended list of natural cat foods that would be beneficial for our cat. The list is like gold to me because I didn’t know where to start. I’m going to research each product over the next few weeks and post my findings.

In the meantime, here’s a summary of what I learned. PLEASE DO NOT TRY TO SELF-MEDICATE YOUR CAT BASED ON THIS INFORMATION OR CHANGE YOUR CAT’S DIET WITHOUT CONSULTING WITH YOUR VET FIRST. I may have misheard what Dr. Sara said or misunderstood it or remembered it incorrectly. I’m also paraphrasing and adding my own opinion. The information is provided only as a starting point for your own research into natural diets for struvite crystals and pancreatits. You should always SEE A LICENSED VETERINARIAN FIRST!

  1. What’s good for humans is NOT GOOD for cats. People benefit from seeds and plant oils such as flaxseed oil. However, these types of fats are not beneficial to cats because cats are carnivores. Cats are completely carnivorous and would do just fine on a diet of only animal protein. In fact, flaxseed oil could actually trigger pancreatitis because the cat’s pancreas is not designed to process this type of fat.
  2. Cats should not be eating carbohydrates. This includes wheat, rice, corn, etc. As mentioned above, cats are carnivores. Carbohydrates have a higher pH level (lower acidity) which actually contributes to the formation of struvite crystals. Dry foods are full of carbs.
  3. A higher acid diet (lower pH) helps to prevent the formation of struvite crystals. What this means from a natural perspective, is that a higher protein diet will naturally result in a diet with a higher level of acidity. Unfortunately, many commercial cat foods for managing struvite crystals raise the acidity level of their formulas by adding ammonium chloride to their products. I don’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that ammonium chloride is not the same as animal protein.
  4. In general, canned food naturally has more moisture and animal protein than dry cat food. While the label may say x amount of protein, this figure is determined by measuring what’s left over after the food is burned down to its basic composition. There’s no distinction between animal protein and plant protein, or melamine for that matter.
  5. The moisture level and high animal protein in a quality canned food should be sufficient to help reduce struvite crystals. Even though we add large amounts of water to Furball’s dry food, it’s not the same as him getting his fluid from wet food. The water needs to soak into the dry food. This is better than him drinking the water because cats naturally metabolize their water better through their intestines. By drinking the water, the cat’s kidneys are forced to do most of the work. This can lead to kidney issues later on in life.
  6. High heat rapid cooking alters the structure of the oils in food, making them not that healthy for your pet. Slow-cooking at lower temperatures is better. This is much like how olive oil is good for you unless you heat it at a high temperature.

Based on this information, we’re ready to start transitioning Furball very slowly to a diet of wet food only. One other thing to note, the holistic vet said it was ok to give Furball the small amounts of grapeseed extract found in his PetzLife natural dental care product. In fact, she was selling the product in her office.

Here’s the list of brands/foods that the holistic vet recommended:

There were a few other brands, but I couldn’t find them online (possibly renamed?). The brands on this list are the ones that the holistic vet has experience with. They’re all high animal protein with low or no grain content. I’ll be researching them over the next few weeks to decide which to try. Although, Furball’s finicky feline palate may be the determining factor ;).

Check Out Furball’s Cat Toy Book!
Furball loves to play and was so hyperactive as a kitten that I invented dozens of toys and games for him and even wrote a book about them. The book features instructions for over 50 cat toys that are not only eco-friendly, but also can be made in minutes, if not seconds, from stuff you have around the home.

If you’ve ever bought a fancy cat toy and found your cat preferred the bag it came in, please check out Make Your Own Cat Toys.

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However, the hardest thing is if you ever have to stop without switching to another benzo.

Raw Meat Diets for Cats – Answers from the Field

I’ve heard a lot about raw meat diets for cats, but admittedly am a bit squeamish on the idea.  Intellectually, it makes sense that raw meat is closer to a feline’s natural diet than processed pellets.  However, the idea of feeding raw meat to my cat triggers a lot of doubts and fears.  I decided to consult with a friend who has been feeding her two cats, Cocoa and Stanley, raw meat for several years.  After all, most fear is based out of ignorance, so if I could understand what feeding a raw meat diet to cats was really like, I could better decide if a raw meat diet was something I wanted to pursue for Furball.

One of the challenges with raw food is that if you don’t live near a store that sells it, you might be wondering where you can get it. Ordering cat food online is something to consider, especially when there are dehydrated versions of raw food available.

Aileen feeds her two cats, Pets 4 Life’s “Home Made Pet Cuisine”.  It’s a Canadian brand (she’s in Canada) made from premium human grade ingredients such as chicken, beef, turkey, duck, rabbit and wild salmon mixed with vegetables, seeds and grapefruit seed extract.  The food is purchased frozen and is defrosted as needed.   I asked Aileen some general questions and here’s what she had to say.

1. Were your cats on dry or canned food before the raw meat diet?   If so, did you have to transition them to raw food or did they take to it right away?  Any digestive issues while they were transitioning?

Both cats previously ate dry and wet food.  Stanley was a kitten and he took to it right away. Cocoa didn’t at first. I didn’t push. After a week, I tried again and she just ate it. She’s been eating it since. I think she was curious what Stanley was eating.

2. How do you feel the raw food is contributing to your cats’ health?

Stanley’s health improved from the time he was a kitten.  He was little and sickly, constantly with diarrhea and sinus problems. The raw food is easier to digest and it’s what cats naturally eat. Within a year on this diet, together with homeopathics, Stanley became a different cat. He became a stronger little guy. Cocoa relaxed and turned into a completely different cat after arriving at our home. Both of their stools are well formed and barely smell.

3. How do you feed it to them if it comes in a frozen package?

I defrost the entire package. The package looks like a mini ice-cream container. It feeds one cat two meals per day. My cats eat twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening.

4. Do the cats eat it all at once or do they graze throughout the day like they do with dry food? If they graze, are you concerned about raw meat sitting around in your house for several hours?

If my cats don’t eat it within 20 minutes, the food gets taken away. If they’re hungry, they have to wait until dinner.

It’s raw meat, it shouldn’t be left out for longer than 20 minutes. I treat the meat the same as I would for the meat I prepare for human consumption. I trained my cats to eat at certain times. I quickly got them out of the grazing habit.

5. Do you wash their bowls right away in case of bacteria?

Rinse them and soak them. I do what I’d do for human hygiene.

6. Do you feed them anything else?
Freeze dried meats – chicken, chicken liver, duck liver, turkey, livers, etc. Sometimes they eat the dog’s raw food…

Thanks Aileen, Cocoa and Stanley!

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Day 23: Vegan Cat Diets?The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

This post will probably be one of the most controversial ones that I write and also the one where I share the most personal details about myself. I will state upfront that in my opinion, it is completely unsuitable to feed your cat a vegan diet. Cats are carnivores and eat meat. Vegan diets for cats are lacking in essential nutrients.

However, this is an issue that is bound to strike a chord with readers. Every environmentalist knows that the typical North American diet high is excessively high in animal protein and that the environmental impact of eating meat is much greater than eating a vegetarian diet. Add to this, the way most animals are raised and slaughtered, and it becomes not only an issue of earth-friendliness, but also one of animal cruelty. Concerns over these issues inspire people to become vegan or vegetarian themselves and then consider how they can also introduce this lifestyle to their cat.

So, following traditional journalistic ideals of looking at both sides of the argument, I’ve decided to learn more about vegan cat diets.

In this post, it’s relevant to mention my own background. From my late teens to mid-30s, I ate very little meat, perhaps about one serving every two to three weeks. During my late 20s, my diet was mostly vegan. I felt great and I thought I was really healthy because I didn’t eat an overly-processed diet. Everything I heard and read indicated that North Americans got way too much protein in their diet, so I assumed I was getting enough.

I was really active, I did endurance sports and could ride 70 miles on a bike at the drop of a hat. I never got sick and I would heal almost instantly if I injured myself. I thought my body was getting all of the nutrients it needed. When I hit a wall of exhaustion and dropped 5 pounds in the fall of each year, I assumed that this was just the “wall” that athletes normally hit in their training season and that I had simply peaked in the summer.

It wasn’t until I was 32 when my body seemed to give out on me. I was faced with a year of unbelievable stress in my professional and personal life and my good health fell apart like a house of cards. I blamed it on the stress, but in retrospect I realize that the stress was the catalyst. The underlying factor was that my body was not robust and lacked a reserve of vitality. Can I quantify that in western medical terms? No. So how do I know this? After the stress was removed, my health improved, but I never felt like I ever bounced back to how I used to feel. Some people might just chalk it up to aging, but I just knew that there was something else going on.

I’d always been interested in alternative healing so after leaving a high tech job, I decided to start doing a Masters in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). What I learned was an eye-opener and it provided a framework for understanding what was going on in my body. In general, TCM supports a balanced diet consisting of a little bit of most everything including animal protein. There are specific imbalance patterns with very clear symptoms that are related to a diet insufficient in protein. I was a dead ringer for “spleen qi vacuity” with other complications as a result. My digestion was a wreck, my hormones were out of balance, and I had insomnia for a year. However, from a western medical perspective, I was very healthy. To most people, I was in relatively good health, yet I knew I had felt better before. In an attempt to improve my health, I gradually reintroduced more meat into my diet, and ate animal protein about twice a week. I tried to eat organic meat only, buy free range and local wherever possible.

I noticed some slight improvements, but I still didn’t quite feel like I was fully recovering. Then, I got pregnant. Everyone told me to eat more protein, so I thought 3 times a week of actively eating protein was good enough. Around the second month, I started reading a book on the protein needs of pregnant women and it recommended 100g per day. Internet searches came up with numbers ranging from 50 to 70g. That seemed like a LOT to me. So, I started adding up the protein I was consuming in a day and realized that on average, I was eating about 15 to 20g on a good day. That made me realize that for the past 15 years, I’ve been getting by on 10 to 15 grams a day which is well below the recommended amount for non-pregnant women.

On top of that, I read an article about how the average consumption of meat had gone up in the Chinese population as the country cancer became more prosperous. The article said people were now eating twice as much, about 100 pounds a year as opposed to 50 pounds. That floored me. In the highly touted Asian diet with modest amounts of meat, people were still eating 50 POUNDS a year. I was probably getting a pound a month.

I didn’t realize to hit the daily protein requirement called for conscious effort with every meal. My staple of rice, even brown rice, had virtually no protein in it whatsoever. In order to meet the recommended daily allowance for non-pregnant women, I had to actively eat protein (animal or plant-based) with EVERY meal and then eat some more. Waffles for breakfast wouldn’t cut it. One egg wasn’t enough, it only had 8 grams of protein.

When I modified my diet to meet the daily requirement, I found it was a lot of work to actually get enough. Even animal protein in the amounts I eat, doesn’t contain that much protein. On vegetarian days, I had to work twice as hard to get enough protein. However, on the first day I hit my goal, I felt amazing. I hadn’t felt such a sense of energy, strength and rebuilding in my body in years. I’ve been actively eating protein now for about two weeks and I truly feel for the first time, that my body is now repairing and recovering from the damage it went through over five years ago. I feel like I am bouncing back and that I’m giving my baby all the nutrients it needs.

This made me realize that even an extremely health-conscious person who is studying health and nutrition from a western and eastern perspective could easily fail in meeting basic nutrition needs. How many vegans simply cut out the animal products? How many can name the essential amino acids and which foods contain which amino acids and how to combine them? How many actively eat protein with every breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack? Why did every vegan I know look really pale? Was this a diet that could only be sustained for a decade or two in one’s youth?

If it’s possible to not even meet our own needs, how can we be sure that we can meet the nutritional needs of our pets?

So, with this as my framework, here’s what I’ve learned about vegan cat diets:

Arguments in support of vegan cat diets:

  • Cats are classified as carnivores, but so is the panda which eats a mostly vegan diet. Therefore, it is extrapolated that cats also can eat mostly vegan diets.
  • Cats need taurine which is supplied naturally only in meat products. However, vegan cat foods now contain synthetic taurine.
  • People who argue that a vegan diet for cats is not natural, can be rebutted by the fact that feeding cats canned food and dry kibble is also not natural. Most cat food does not reflect what a cat might eat in the “wild”. Ever see a cat attack a cow?
  • Homemade vegan meals prepared from natural ingredients are better than most of the commercial crap people feed their pets.

Arguments against vegan cat diets:

  • Pandas are the only species classified as carnivores to eat a mostly vegan diet. The only reason they are classified as carnivores is because of the shape of their teeth, which indicate that pandas evolved from meat-eaters. Therefore just because pandas are healthy eating only bamboo, this doesn’t mean that cats can thrive without animal protein in their diets.
  • Not only do cats need taurine, they also need arachidonic acid, vitamin A, and vitamin B12. All of these nutrients can not be obtained in sufficient amounts from plant-based diets.
  • Getting nutrients from natural sources is likely healthier than consuming synthetically-produced nutrients. Think about it. Are you better off taking vitamin C capsules your whole life, or might some oranges be good for you?

I will agree with the last two points that are pro-vegan. Most commercial cat food does contain crap that your cats would not normally eat. So, it is conceivable to me that a homemade diet made from natural foods with added supplements would be better than giving your cat a 59 cent can of garbage made from ingredients considered unfit for human consumption.

And, I’d agree that beef, chicken, turkey, tuna, etc. would not be animals that a cat would normally hunt in nature. More “authentic” cat foods should probably contain mice, small birds and bugs. However, I found too much overwhelming evidence in support of a non-vegan diet for cats and not enough substance to advocate a vegan cat diet.


  • Take a good look at what you are feeding your cat. Be objective about it and try to leave your own human bias out of deciding what is best for your cat.
  • Take a good look at what you are feeding yourself.
  • Educate yourself, talk to experts, seek dissenting opinions. Don’t just read this post. Do your own research and find out more.

Day 11: Thumbs Up to this Natural Cat Food — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

Breeder's Choice Pinnacle

On Day 1 of the 30-Day Green Cat Challenge, I contacted the manufacturer of Furball’s cat food to ask them where the product was sourced and manufactured and whether it was organic. It took them awhile to get back to me, but I just received the following email today.

Dear Ms. Tse:

The Pinnacle dry cat food is made at our own facility in Irwindale, CA with all ingredients from certified sources in the United States. The ingredients are all natural, but are not organic. There are no plans at this time to produce an all organic food. The canned Pinnacle foods are made at Menu Foods. The ingredients and formulas are to our specifications.

Please note, none of our foods, cat or dog, dry, canned or treats were involved in any recalls. We do not use ingredients from China, we do not use by-products of any type. All ingredients are from the human grade chain.

Breeder’s Choice

I was considering switching to an organic cat food, but given the results of my initial research, it no longer seemed like such a clear choice. Now that I know Pinnacle by Breeder’s Choice is made in the U.S. (bonus that it’s in California, where we live, so it’s even more local) from certified sources in the U.S., I think I’ll stick with this brand. This is good news, especially since Furball had the pancreatitis, he’s been more sensitive to changes in his diet. Now I can feel good about what I’m feeding him.

Note however, that I don’t buy their wet food. If I did, I would still consider switching since Menu Foods makes it. If you check out my overview of organic cat food, you’ll learn that even organic brands are made by Menu Foods. In my comparison of organic cat food, Evanger’s was the only one that I could definitely be sure was not made by Menu Foods.


  • How do you feel about what you’re feeding your cat? Do you know what he or she is eating? If not, find out and let your manufacturer know your concerns. If there’s enough consumer demand, these companies will make changes. Go to Day 1: Contact Your Cat Food Company and copy and paste the letter at the end of the post to send to the manufacturer of your cat’s food. It’s super easy. There are only six phrases you have to fill out yourself (eg., name of pet food).
  • Bookmark this post and when you hear back from the company, post the reply here by clicking the teeny little “Comments: none” link at the bottom. I think I have to look into fixing that :).
  • Talk about these issues with your friends and family who have cats AND dogs too. Pets are precious and shouldn’t have to eat crap. To share this post via email or your social networking site, click the “Share This” link.

Day 9: Three Quick Eco-friendly Cat Food Tips — The 30-Day Green Cat Challenge

Today’s post is short and sweet and EASY :). If it’s not really feasible to change your cat’s food to a more eco-friendly option, here are three quick and simple tips:

  1. If your cat eats canned food, recycle the tins. This small act can help divert millions of empty cans from landfill sites.
  2. Buy the larger sized bag of cat food because it will use slightly less packaging than two smaller bags with the same amount of food. Pour about a week’s worth of food into a reusable container (I use a yoghurt tub for Furball) and scoop your cat’s daily meals from this container. This way, you’ll need to open the bag less often and it will stay fresher longer. Of course, this only makes sense if the food doesn’t expire in the time it takes for your cat to finish the bag. Make sure to check the expiry date.
  3. Make fewer trips to the pet food store. Pick up an extra bag or a few more cans on your next visit. You’ll not only save a trip, you’ll save yourself some time. Just remember to check the expiry dates.


Do an inventory of the cat supplies you have on hand. Do you need canned food, dry food, litter or anything else? Plan ONE trip to buy everything at once (as well as a little extra, to reduce future trips) AND also see if you can combine this trip with another outing (eg., grocery shopping, visiting a friend, on the way home from work, etc.).