When I first got Sully I didn’t really give much thought to his food. His breeder weaned him on Whiskas Kitten pouches and Royal Canin dry food, so I stuck with those without really questioning it. It didn’t occur to me that you can get lots of variation in cat food; I just assumed it was all made using similar ingredients and that the big brands must be the best choice, seeing as they’re so popular.
I noticed something wasn’t quite right within a few weeks of having him. His tummy was bloated and he was making a real mess every time we went to the toilet, so I turned to Google to find out what might be causing the problem. At first, I was worried that something really serious might be causing his diarrhoea- like some sort of gastric parasite- but the more I looked into it, the more I noticed a theme that kept cropping up; his diet.
I took a closer look online at some mainstream pet food brands and what I found was pretty shocking. It’s a well-known fact that cats are carnivores, so the main ingredient in their kitten food is surely just meat, right?
Wrong. Lots of our trusted brands bulk up their recipes with weird stuff that isn’t part of a cat’s natural diet, and the ingredient lists available online are vague. One website just says “Meat and Animal Derivatives (including 4% Poultry), Oils and Fats, Cereals, Minerals, Various Sugars” which didn’t really tell me anything. I dug a little deeper though and found that “Meat and Animal Derivatives” actually means the cheapest (and nastiest) parts of an animal. According to the Pet Food Manufacturers Association, this can include anything from bits of lung to muscle meat. Gross.
It’s clear that some well-established pet food brands throw any old rubbish into their recipes to keep costs low and demand high. I don’t agree with that ethos and as a newly-turned-vegetarian, I don’t feel comfortable buying into it. I decided to ditch the mystery meat and find a healthier alternative.
My first thought was to put Sully on a raw diet, but I got over that idea pretty quickly. I can hardly prepare a decent meal for myself- let alone my cat! Good quality fresh meat is also expensive. I wanted something that wouldn’t break the bank or compromise on quality. To help narrow my search I came up with a plan; look for brands that offer food with high meat content, low grain content and minimal additives.
The first new brand I tried (on my Nan’s recommendation) was Trophy Pet Foods. They’re a great service that delivers their products straight to your door, free of charge. My local Trophy Nutritional Advisor- a lovely lady called Karen- came to my house for a consultation and gave me some free samples of their Premium Hairball Control Dry Food and the Ultra-Premium Natural Wet Food.
The wet food was amazing. Every pot is made from around 70% human-grade British meat and Sully loved it. His fur was shiny and his toilet troubles improved, but at almost £14 for 21 pots (he’d need 56 pots per month!) it wasn’t cheap enough for me. The dry food, however, was a winner and I still buy it today. It’s only £5 for a 5kg bag; made using over 45% meat and fish, together with vegetables and natural herbs/oils. Karen delivers a couple of bags to me every month so I don’t even need to worry about going to the shops to stock up.
Next, I came across a UK-based brand called Nature’s Menu who claim to be Europe’s leading experts on raw and natural pet foods. Their Chicken Meal for Kittens contains 70% chicken, zero meat derivatives (hooray!) and no grain or sugar. Even though it was still a bit pricey at £31.95 for 48 pouches, I thought it was still definitely worth a try.
I switched Sully over to Nature’s Menu over two weeks ago and I’m already seeing improvements. His litter tray no longer looks like a crime scene, and the high-quality ingredients seem to be keeping him fuller for longer. He used to wolf his old food down and be licking his bowl clean within minutes; now he eats much more slowly and doesn’t always finish his meal in one go.
The only downside to Nature’s Menu is that their kitten range is very limited. Maine Coons develop more slowly than other cats and my breeder recommended that I keep Sully on kitten food until he’s around 2 years old. The pouches only come in chicken flavour, whereas Trophy Premium Natural Wet Food would have given Sully a bit more variation with chicken, salmon and game.
For the moment though, these are the brands I’ll be sticking with and my advice to anybody is: do your research, don’t be afraid to try independent brands and really take notice of what’s in your pet’s food. A household name doesn’t always mean good quality.
Until next time,