Friday, June 12, 2009 12:32 PM

So Many Brands, Which to Choose?

Now that you're ready to pick out a premium brand of cat or dog food, where do you find them and which should you choose? Most large chain supermarkets may carry a couple of these brands, but that's about it. There are some that have a better variety and these tend to be "natural foods" types of stores or food coops. I'll start with the big players.

Two brands of premium canned foods that are commonly available at large chains are Iams and Newman's Own, which I have previously mentioned. I know that Iams was involved in the melamine contamination problem in 2007, although it was the "slices and gravy" style of canned food and not the ground meat style that I always (until then!) fed my cats. Apparently, since the product in question had even less solid content than the other style, the manufacturers tried to bump up the protein quota by using this toxic substance (hey, do you think it might be really cheap?) in order to comply with AAFCO standards. I suggest you always avoid the "gravy" style anyway, just on principle--there's really hardly any meat in it. It's really mostly liquid, and, not very high quality at that. However, my cats did quite well on the Iams solid pack for many years, so I mention it here.

Next are the specialty markets, such as Whole Foods Markets and Trader Joe's. Whole Foods has a line of holistic private-label brands that are worth looking into. Trader Joe's markets its own brand, which is fairly inexpensive but does usually feature much better ingredients than many other store brands. Their varieties are limited and I suggest that you stay away from tuna style canned cat foods no matter who makes them (TJ's always seems to have a large supply of this flavor). One reason is the rancidity problem mentioned in a previous post. Of course, that problem has been rectified by the industry, but still...Also, the parts of the tuna used for cat food is the darkest and fattiest, which means it also has the highest toxin content, especially mercury. Lastly, the fastest way to create a finicky cat is to fed it tuna. Its strong smell and taste will quickly addict your cat, and in time she will want nothing else, since nothing else can measure up. This can be particularly problematic if your cat goes off her food, since you will have nothing tempting to offer her to get her eating again.

Stores that sell pet food and supplies exclusively will provide you with many more choices. Besides the ones already mentioned, you will find several more. One is Wellness, made by Old Mother Hubbard. I have a special fondness for this brand since it was the one that got my old cat Sweet Pea eating again during her first attack of kidney failure. With the aid of this food and supplementation, I was able to put her into remission, thus buying an extra 9 months of quality life for her. My kittens (at the time) didn't like it for some reason, hence the change to Iams. Another good brand to try is Nature's Variety, whose Prairie line of canned cat food has a fine list of ingredients.

Next time, we'll take a look at supplementation and (gasp!) premium dry foods.

Book Pick: Testimony, by Anita Shreve. This novel examines an incident that took place at a New England prep school, which is recalled by several people in their own voice- sort of like a modern-day Rashomon. I like almost anything written by this author, but I thought this book was outstanding.
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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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