Updated May 28, 2021
Around half of the wet cat foods being sold in my local supermarket are unbalanced. There’s usually no warning on the label to say so. (see list below).
Did you know this? I didn’t until recently, and it’s my job to know, so I’m guessing you didn’t either.
If a pet owner feeds too much of one of these, their cat will miss out on essential nutrients. It’s a wonder that we don’t see more problems. These foods will probably supply the energy, fat and protein requirements of an animal, but little else.
Pet owners are always being told that the foods they buy deliver all their cat’s needs. They’re not being told about all the almost identical ones that don’t.
Why Balance Matters
Nutrients in food are needed for a whole host of essential functions:
- Vitamins are required in chemical reactions across the whole body
- Minerals maintain bone strength and muscle function
- Trace elements are needed for many enzymes to work properly
Deficiencies may not have an obvious effect, but they’re sure to damage health and wellbeing. In severe cases, especially with calcium or thiamine deficiency, death can ensue.
More commonly, we might see pets with reduced immune system performance, poor skin or coat health, lethargy or gut problems.
Unbalanced Cat Foods
These foods aren’t any more dangerous to pets than a big steak is to us. As long as you know they’re really just treats. This list is not exhaustive, so afterwards I’ll show you what to look for on the packets and tins.
- All ‘pet meats’
- Applaws tins & pouches
- Black & Gold Cat Food tins
- Dine Creamy Soup
- Dine Desire (tins)
- Dine Fine Flakes
- Dine Melting Soup
- Fancy Feast Royale
- Gourmet Delight
- Purina Feast Royale
- Purr small tins (most, not all)
- Smitten small tins
- Snappy Tom Naturals tins
- Ultimates Indulge
- Your Majesty small tins
To avoid being sued, I need to say that it’s possible some of these foods are balanced and just aren’t saying so or disclosing their full ingredient lists.
It’s also worth noting how many fish varieties are made in Thailand, where the use of forced labour in their fishing fleet has been an ongoing concern.
How To Identify Unbalanced Pet Foods
- Look for very short ingredient lists like in the pictures
- There will not be any use of the phrases “complete and balanced” or “nutritionally complete”
- They won’t mention following AAFCO guidelines
- If you’re lucky, it’ll say in tiny print “intended for occasional or supplemental use”
- Sometimes they seem deliberately misleading, like saying “to be fed with a complete & balanced cat food” immediately followed by a recommended feeding guide showing the amount per day using nothing else!
Very few tell you, in my experience. Are you wondering why so many unbalanced foods exist? The answer is in the difference between supermarket and premium pet food.
And now, a bonus question:
How To Tell If Pet Food Is Irradiated
Irradiated foods are fatally toxic to cats and should never be fed. So why in heavens would any sane person give such a food to a closely related species, the dog? Answer: because they don’t tell us.
I’m working to get irradiation of pet food disclosed in labelling. In the meantime, look for the mysterious words “do not feed to cats” and in your head, translate this to mean “put me right back on the shelf”. I can’t promise that every food that says this is irradiated, but let’s play it safe until they’re forced to tell us.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These articles are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story!