Another of the “frequently asked questions” I get is *which* canned food to feed. Well, in general the answer is simple – look for one with little-to-no grains, fruits, or vegetables. You want something as close to “mouse in a can” as possible. Poultry and/or rabbit is best – as these are closest to a cat’s natural prey. (Cats don’t naturally hunt, kill, and eat cows, sheep, fish, or swine – they do consume birds and rodents.)
Generally, there are compromises to be made. Canned foods that contain higher-quality ingredients generally also contain higher amounts of vegetables and fruit, and are also generally higher in fat than the canned foods that use more byproducts and “meat” of undefined origin. Personally, I don’t object too strongly to byproducts and lower-grade meat. Cats would consume the entire carcass of their prey – they wouldn’t spit out the kidney, for example. However, I do want SOME muscle meat in their food, and for some cats (particularly some with severe IBD), “meat” of undefined origin isn’t an option. “Meat”, when the source isn’t identified, is most often beef or pork – and some cats don’t tolerate beef or pork.
Some people want a more specific list of brands and flavors. I’m always reluctant to do that, as brands and flavors change in ingredients and availability and I’d rather people learn to look at labels and exercise judgement. However, here’s a list of my current “favorites”. These are the canned foods I almost always have at my house, for my own adopted cats and fosters:
- Evo 95%: chicken/turkey and duck
- Nature’s Variety Instinct: chicken/turkey, duck, and rabbit
- Wellness: chicken or turkey or turkey & salmon
- Fancy Feast Gourmet Feast: turkey & giblets, chicken, chicken & liver
- 9-Lives ground dinners: chicken, turkey, super supper
- Fancy Feast Flaked: fish and shrimp (great for the inappetant cat)
- Trader Joe’s: tuna for cats; chicken, turkey & rice; turkey & giblets (the last two are great for syringe-feeding, the first is good for the inappetant cat)
For more information, visit Feline Outreach. If you find this information helpful, please consider a donation to this worthy organization!
Dr. Hodgkins describes an ideal diet for diabetic (and non-diabetic) cats on her website.
Another great source of information is Dr. Lisa’s site. She has an entire section on commercial canned foods.
I wrote this list of budget-friendly canned foods for Tracie Hotchner of “Cat Chat” (radio show) and “The Cat Bible” (book) a while back:
If you have been listening to Cat Chat and want to toss out your cat’s dry food (hurray!) but are concerned about the cost of feeding cans — or want the convenience of shopping for your cat when you shop for yourself — good news is here. We’ve all worried that cat foods at the supermarket might be sub-standard, but it turns out not to be true. The list that follows was lovingly compiled by Lynette Ackman, who has started a non-profit group called “Feline Outreach” (www.felineoutreach.com) to educate and support cat caregivers.
GOOD SUPERMARKET FOODS
Lynette reads all the cans at the supermarket and here are her list of personal favorites for the person on a budget – and what she often uses for her foster cats. Please note that many of these foods contain beef, fish, “meat” (of unknown origin), or even a small amount of grains. Therefore, they may be inappropriate for cats with food allergies or gastro-intestinal disorders. Fish should be fed sparingly, but can serve as an excellent tool for transitioning cats on to canned food. Likewise, liver can be addictive, and should not be fed in large amounts.
* Whiskas Savory Ground Pate – Chicken Dinner; Mealtime; Bits o’ Beef; Turkey & Giblets (not the Whiskas in gravy – the savory ground pate is grain and vegetable free, and the “chicken & tuna” works well for transitioning cats to canned)
* 9-Lives – Chicken Dinner, Supper Supper, Chicken & Beef Dinner, Chicken & Tuna Dinner, Turkey Dinner, Chicken & Seafood Dinner, Liver & Bacon Dinner, Prime Grill with Beef
* Happy Tails – Chicken Dinner, Chicken & Tuna Dinner, Mixed Grill, Super Combo, Turkey & Giblets Dinner, Salmon Dinner (any of the flavors not in gravy) – This is Jewel’s store brand – Jewel is a large grocery store chain in the Midwest
* Friskies – Supreme Supper; Mixed Grill; Country Style Dinner; Poultry Platter; Turkey & Giblets Dinner
* Trader Joe’s – Chicken, Turkey & Rice; Turkey & Giblets; Oceanfish, Salmon & Rice; Tongol Tuna & Shrimp; Tongol Tuna & Crab; Seafood Medley; Tuna Dinner – All excellent for transitioning cats to canned food. The chicken and turkey flavors are usually appropriate for regular feeding. Although the first three flavors contain grains, it is a small amount and seems tolerated by many of the diabetics and cats with gastro-intestinal disorders I have worked with. The first three flavors have a smooth texture similar to a/d, so they will work for syringe-feeding inappetant cats.
* Pro Plan – Adult chicken & liver entrée; adult turkey & giblets entree
* Fancy Feast Gourmet Feast – Almost all flavors in the gourmet feast line are low in carbohydrates (grain and vegetable free): Gourmet Chicken Feast; Gourmet Turkey & Giblets Feast; Tender Beef Feast; Tender Beef & Liver Feast; Savory Salmon Feast; Tender Chicken & Liver Feast; Beef & Chicken Feast; Chopped Grill Feast
* Fancy Feast Flaked – Fish & Shrimp Feast (this is good for transition)
I dislike the Fancy Feast “elegant medleys” on principle – this is their answer to the popularity of foods like Merrick and Wellness – they responded by adding unnecessary vegetables to their food. Added vegetables should not be why people are buying Merrick or Wellness, they should be *tolerating* vegetables and fruit in order to get higher quality meat, no “meat” of unknown origin, and no “byproducts”.