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Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

Cat Food for “Real” Cats

October 14, 2015 / (8) comments

I’ve been noticing a trend in the cat food aisle over the last few years. The diets on display are described in terms that you might find on the menu of the hot, new restaurant that just opened up down the block. Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about:

  • Elegant Medleys Florentine, Primavera, and Tuscany
  • Delectable Delights
  • Gourmet Classics
  • Tasty Treasures
  • Prime Filets
  • Grilled Feast
  • Indigo Moon (huh?)
  • Mixed Grill
  • Purrfect Bistro
  • Signature Selects
  • Wild Delights
  • Marinated Morsels
  • Seafood Sensations
  • Stew
  • Healthy Indulgence
  • Divine Duos
  • Rise and Shine
  • Gourmet Pate
  • … and my personal favorite, Feline Health Nutrition Intense Beauty


Ingredient lists are not immune to this trend, either. This is an unedited ingredient list that I recently ran across. I’ve highlighted a few of the entries that made me do a double take.


Peas, Chicken, Ocean Fish Meal, Dried Eggs, Natural Flavors, Pea Protein, Choline Chloride, Potassium Chloride, Taurine, DL-Methionine, Salmon Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), L-Carnitine, Dried Chicory Root, Carrots, Pumpkin, Apples, Cranberries, Blueberries, Broccoli, Parsley, Spearmint, Almond Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Sesame Oil (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Yucca Schidigera Extract, Dried Kelp, Thyme, Lentils, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin E Supplement, Zinc Sulfate, Niacin, Ferrous Sulfate, L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (Source of Vitamin C), Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Copper Sulfate, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Manganese Sulfate, Zinc Proteinate, Folic Acid, Calcium Iodate, Manganese Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Sodium Selenite, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Rosemary Extract, Dried Lactobacillus Acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus Faecium Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus Casei Fermentation Product


I am fully aware that pet food marketing is aimed at owners and not pets, but I worry that we are starting to so anthropomorphize our companion animals that we now want them to eat like us.


Of course, including some apples and blueberries into a nutritionally complete cat food and naming it Fruit Stand Fritters or something equally goofy isn’t going to do any harm, but taken too far, this trend of feeding cats like people can be very dangerous. Remember a few years back when an Australian kitten nearly died after being fed a vegan diet consisting of potatoes, rice milk, and pasta?


I’m thinking about opening my own cat food company and going in the opposite direction. African wildcats, the most likely ancestor of today’s house cats, eat primarily mice, rats, and rabbits, with the occasional bird or reptile thrown in for good measure. Left to their own devices, feral cats tend to eat a similar diet. I think I’ll call my products Cat Food for “Real” Cats, and my ingredient lists will include things like:

  • Whole Mouse
  • Lizard Meal
  • Rabbit Liver
  • Wild Caught Songbird


My labels won’t include a picture of a perfectly groomed Persian nibbling on her Prime Filets served on a silver tray. I think I’ll use an image of a run-of-the mill Tabby standing over a partially eviscerated mouse instead.

What do you think? Do I have a best seller on my hands? 


Dr. Jennifer Coates


Comments  8

Leave Comment
  • Love it!
    10/17/2015 12:41am

    I've long been painfully aware that pet food companies make pet food attractive to humans while not necessarily taking the pet into consideration. I confess that there's one Fancy Feast seafood something-or-other that looks like it has eyeballs in it. And, of course, it smells horrible.

    The cats loved it, but I'm guilty of no longer buying it because I found it so offensive.

    I would, however, pick up a can or two of your proposed pet food. An eviscerated mouse.. I'm sure my herd would love it!

    Actually, I met a cat once that only ate real mice. When it was boarding, the human had to bring frozen dead mice so it would eat. (I think I'd have a problem with that, but the cat looked quite happy and healthy.

  • Yeah!!
    10/30/2015 12:15pm

    I have long been asking companies "when will there be mouse in a can?" - that's what cat's eat (and bird and bug). Mice breed easily in huge numbers so, there would be no shortage of healthy mice. They want mouse. If we can breed animals for our consumption, we can breed mice for their's.

  • I like it
    10/30/2015 03:43pm

    However, why not go all the way and prepare a cat food of whole prey animals served raw. My dogs and cats eat a raw diet of whole carcasses ground up. One of my cats still enjoys an entire mouse (bred for that purpose). My vet says they are doing great. The only supplement I use is Krill Oil.

  • I feed my cats raw
    10/30/2015 04:01pm

    My 2 cats are fed Instinct Raw Boost which is a grain-free kibble with freeze-dried chicken pieces. and yes it has blueberries in the ingredient list! LOL They also get Fancy Feast meat with defrosted Instinct Raw Chicken pieces. Their treats are Instinct Freeze Dried Minis.. Rabbit, Duck and Turkey. (Sorry they don't sell mouse! ;) ) The cats love it all and are in great shape!

  • Closer to real food
    10/30/2015 03:58pm

    I primarily feed my cats a raw meat diet made from recipes formulated by veterinarians who I trust after checking credentials. It isn't entirely species appropriate unless we go way back to my cats' ancestors who might have actually taken down a deer or a cow or caught a salmon. I'm part of a local raw feeding group and we purchase in huge bulk, like 8,000 lbs. of different human-grade meats, direct from the processing plants, as well as a local processor who works with local small farmers who pasture raise their cattle, sheep and goats. I add organs and bones and then other supplements as necessary. I still feed a variety of canned foods for a meal or two in between mixes so they'll eat that as well--it's like "pizza night", and occasionally I'll cook them a meal, especially in winter when it seems comforting to all of us. I was a long-time cook before during and after college and am certified in food preservation, which includes meat, as part of my Master Gardener's certification.

    I can occasionally get frozen small chicks or nascent bunnies from local farmers, but the cost and effort is more than I can afford, though they like it when I do. But I do let them chase and kill and even eat the voles and field mice of questionable judgement who actually come into our basement though there are five permanent and up to eight fosters at any given time. I know they are at probably higher risk from the wild-caught creatures, but there is nothing more exciting and species appropriate for a household of cats!

  • Right on
    10/30/2015 04:42pm

    You are so right . Pet foods are not helping the health of our pets.

  • We feed raw to 14 cats
    12/04/2015 03:38pm

    I believe I have written here before (not sure) so apologies if I am repeating myself! . We have been feeding, for two yours now, 14 cats (2 live outside, are semi-feral) a 100% raw, never cooked diet and we have 7 cats who have zero teeth (we are rescuers - we had a horrific epidemic of calicivirus and major dental surgeries due to stomatitis and severe gingivitis) and so we must feed, for the most part, our own homemade raw ground food which is made from a recipe based on sites such as feline-nutrition.org (all raw) and Lisa Pierson DVM catinfo.org, although I actually was tutored on a fabulous Facebook group site called "Raw Feeding for IBD Cats" and this group uses a diet that is completely based on the known science of cat nutrition. This diet we use is for ALL cats, sick, young, old, doesn't matter. (We freeze our poultry and meat for 24 to 48 hours before feeding so as to eliminate toxoplasmosis gondii, for example, and other parasites. We feed our cat who has chronic renal failure this same diet and it has our home ground, organic, free range egg shell powder used for calcium, not bone, so the phosphates are quite low for this renal guy. He is also FIV+. Our cats are not fat, have grown muscle to replace fat, have gorgeous coats and our IBD cat is basically cured. He was vomiting and having diarrhea for years and was put on a steroid (Budesonide) and within days of being on the raw diet stopped all of that and his steroids were weaned off in 2 weeks and for the past 2 years he rarely vomited or had diarrhea (and that from eating too fast, probably!) His face is all relaxed for the first time in his almost 11 years. We transitioned all cats within less than a week to raw so if we did it ANYONE can do it. You have to believe in it first! You have to say: This is the best thing I could ever do for my cats! Then you will be motivated to learn how to feed a cat correctly and get rid of the dry and canned. Only if you believe in what you are doing! We cut out dry food about 2 years before that (had been feeding it up to 40% of the diet) and now I know that dry food is very damaging to cats and ought to be avoided at all costs. We use species appropriate poultry (chicken and turkey, plus their giblets and liver and heart) but we do also use boneless pork (unenhanced - we go to a Chinese supermarket for that) and pork spleen for the excreting organ. I am thinking of buying the frozen mice and chicks for the cats who have teeth and at present the cats who have teeth are also given bone-in portions of turkey drumstick and thigh which they love. We use whole raw eggs, too, and supplements such as B-12 (the renal cat gets a large dose of that since he excretes it in his urine) and Dry E, taurine (although I think that there is enough in the dark meat and chicken hearts), manganese and potassium chloride (found in Morton's Lite Salt) as well as wild Norwegian salmon oil. Even our 12 year old cat has wonderful blood work and our vets are very impressed with the health and behavior (calm) of our cats. I cannot imagine ever going back to canned food and never dry. The cost is LESS than feeding a high grade canned food and we live in NYC - it is a fraction of canned food to make homemade raw if you live in many parts of the USA. Dr. Coates, my wish is that every single veterinarian would make it a mission to teach their caretakers how to make and feed a nutritionally balanced raw diet. Instead of showing TV shows in the waiting room, show videos how to feed raw to dogs and cats! Leave out literature with instructions! Eliminate, or cat way back, on the so-called prescription diet! Educate, educate your pet parents and be relentless. Anyone, working or not, can learn how to feed a raw diet. There are even excellent raw diets such as Rad Cat (frozen) available. We have seen people from all walks of life and economic levels learn how to successfully feed raw. It is just something that the veterinary profession needs to promote and teach. I am extremely disappointed to know that many veterinary schools such as Cornell and Tufts still hold it that raw is "unsafe". This is ridiculous needed to be understood as such. Our cats never get sick on raw and we buy from mainstream supermarkets. I feel that the veterinary profession is treating diseases such as urinary tract disease, diabetes, renal disease and allergies that would be mostly eliminated if they taught the humans how to prepare and feed a raw diet. It is the duty of the veterinary profession to take the lead and instead the mainstream schools are teaching how to feed the wrong foods. Thank you.