Choosing a Premium Brand
My intention here is not to choose a premium brand of cat food for you, but to discuss the thought processes that went into my selection of a brand for my cats.
Since every cat is an individual, your cat may do better with another good quality brand. Additionally, it is likely that you have different options, as your local pet store may well carry brands that are not available to me locally, or vice versa.
Hopefully, you've decided to feed your cat a premium cat food. That leaves out Meow Mix, 9 Lives, Whiskas, and most of the other bargain brands that are available in your local grocery store, and that are advertised on television every day. Yes, I know that these have been staples in the diets of cats everywhere for years, but the cats that eat these foods are not generally the ones who will be with you, healthy and happy, for many years to come.
Whatever brand you decide to use, choose a good one, as your cat's healthy depends on it. I didn't always feed the right foods to my cats either, so it's never too late to start. Baby Girl lived to be twenty-three, but I would have loved to have had her with me far longer than that, and perhaps if she had eaten better food earlier in her life, she would have been able to fight off the cancer that took her down.
I have three other cats who are nearing seventeen, and I hope they live to be thirty, or longer. If feeding them a better food can help bring that about, it's the least I can do. More immediate benefits are that it's clear to me that my cats are healthier, livelier, and happier than they were when they weren't eating as well, their food lasts longer, and their litter boxes don't have to be emptied as often.
Not all premium brands are alike, however; and your cat, like a child, may not necessarily know what's best for her, mostly because pet food manufacturers are able to manipulate taste in such a way that it does not necessarily represent nutrition.
Let's look at a few of them. Whenever available, any comparisons that I make will be to the brand's dry chicken cat food, in order to keep things simple.
At some point in the future, I might revisit this page, making some more complete comparisons, but for now I'll be looking only at the first few ingredients listed in some of the more common premium cat foods available in my area of Maine, and a few others that I'm familiar with.
The dry cat food that Bil-Jac heralds as a premium cat food doesn't overly impress me, although it appears to be better than the highly touted Hills Science Diet equivalent.
The first ingredients are chicken by-products (organs only), chicken, corn, dried beet pulp, and chicken by-product meal. It's encouraging that it does include some real chicken, albeit not as the primary ingredient.
I haven't priced this product, so I don't know where it falls economically; but there are healthier choices for your cat, and others that are less healthy.
Although advertised as a premium cat food, "Black Gold Premium Cat Food" wouldn't be high on my list. The primary ingredients listed are corn meal, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, ground wheat, soybean meal, and animal digest (containing chicken by-product, turkey, salmon and ocean fish).
It looks like most of its 31% protein is made up of poorly digestible filler consisting of corn, wheat, and soy, certainly not the best combination for my cats.
Blue Spa Select
The Blue Buffalo Company's "Spa Select" line of cat food is a good choice, I think. At least, I know that it's the one that I've made for my cats, and they seem to concur.
The primary ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, whole ground brown rice, whole ground barley, oatmeal, and salmon meal; while the additional ingredients are mostly identifiable as foods or helpful supplements to a cat's diet.
The Blue Spa Select line is one of the only ones that I've come across that claims, in writing, that it uses human grade ingredients, rather than the parts of an animal that people wouldn't eat. According to its documentation, Blue uses fresh meat and fish, whole grains, fresh vegetables and fruit, and chelated minerals, all of which are said to be the highest quality human grade ingredients.
Plus, the company uses no by-products, as they are less digestible than fresh meat, and are not human grade quality; and they use no corn, wheat, soy, or artificial preservatives.
Having recently lost my Baby Girl to cancer, a cat who had been with me since she was born twenty-three years ago, a strong selling point, for me, was what they refer to as a LifeSource Bit, which contains essential antioxidants, vitamins, and nutrients, cold formed in order to preserve their potency. The LifeSource Bits are formulated to help strengthen the immune system, support life-stage needs, and to bolster the cat's ability to fight off toxins in its environment.
While there are certainly other good choices out there, Blue Buffalo's Spa Select brand should be considered one of them, and it's reasonably priced for a good quality premium cat food.
Castor & Pollux
Castor & Pollux "ORGANIX Feline Formula" is available to me, locally. It isn't the cat food of choice for my cats, perhaps only because Blue Spa Select seems to give them the same advantages, and more, for less of a cost. But if you're into the whole organic thing, you might want to give this one a try.
Still, ORGANIX wouldn't be a bad choice for the health of your cat. The first ingredients are organic chicken, herring meal, organic peas, organic soybean meal, organic barley, and organic brown rice.
The first ingredient is chicken, and the ingredient list includes a host of other things that are good for your cat, although it does have some soy, a filler that some cats are allergic to.
Triumph Pet Foods' "Evolve" brand of premium cat food includes the "Evolve Natural Cat Food" product, and others, which appear to be good choices for the health of your pet.
With 35% protein, the first ingredients listed are chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, brewers rice, and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols, citric acid, and rosemary extract), as well as many other healthy products for your cat.
I don't know what the cost of this brand is, since it's not available to me locally, but it looks like a good quality premium food for your cat.
Hills Science Diet
Hills Science Diet probably has the best brand loyalty of any premium brand, and it's true that veterinarians do indeed recommend it. Let's look at the ingredient list on a bag of "Science Diet Adult Original" cat food, and see for ourselves.
The first six ingredients are chicken by-product meal, ground whole grain corn, brewers rice, animal fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols and citric acid), corn gluten meal, and chicken liver flavor.
That doesn't look all that good to me, keeping in mind that only a percentage of the chicken by-product meal consists of actual chicken by-product, and the entire ingredient list doesn't even hint of any actual chicken in the product, remembeing that chicken liver flavor probably doesn't include any chicken liver at all.
There's a lot of corn, which two of my cats - Lydia and Bird - are allergic to. Nearly bald in any part of her body that she could reach, Lydia grew her coat back within weeks of my taking her off of Hills Science Diet.
Why do veterinarians recommend it?
Well, it's better than a store brand. Unless your cat is among the roughly twenty-percent of cats who are allergic to corn, she probably won't show any ill effects from it. I don't know if Hills changed the ingredients in their cat food, but Lydia did well with Science Diet for several years before either the manufacturer began adding more corn into their product or she developed an allergy to it.
Veterinarians recommend Science Diet because they are comfortable with it and, I think, even more significantly, because it profits them. Hill's has spent a generation cultivating a professional following among veterinarians.
The company invests hundreds of thousands of dollars each year funding university research and nutrition courses at every veterinary college in the United States. Once in practice, veterinarians who sell Science Diet directly from their offices can pocket profits of as much as 4O%.
Hills Science Diet cat food is not likely to kill your cat but, putting your veterinarian's well-intended advice aside, you can do better for the price.
Stocked by most grocery stores, Iams is often marketed as a premium cat food. If you're feeding your cat Iams, you haven't made a bad choice. It's better than any of the bargain brands, and probably better than Hills Science Diet, but it's not the best you can get. The more expensive Iams Eukanuba brand is a healthier choice for your cat but, at the price, you can do better.
I don't know for certain that this is an accurate statement, but I think that Iams earned its good reputation by manufacturing a quality premium cat food under that brand at one time, then lowered the quality of its Iams brand in favor of its more expensive Eukanuba line. I know that my cats used to do very well on Iams, but this has changed in recent years.
The first four ingredients in "Iams Original with Chicken" is chicken, chicken by-product meal, corn grits, and corn meal. While it's encouraging that the first ingredient is actual chicken, if you remember the "with rule" discussed earlier, the product may include as little as 3% chicken, and still fall within the AAFCO rule. I don't know what the percentage of chicken in this product is, but I doubt that it's more than 25% or they'd have labeled it differently.
The second listed ingredient is a chicken by-product meal, and I'd rather not feed meat by-products to my cats. Keep in mind that the chicken by-product meal counts toward the 3% rule that this food falls under.
The next two ingredients are corn, which is not the best source of protein for a cat, since it's not easily digested, and many cats are allergic to corn, wheat, and soy, including two of my four cats. Keep in mind that, like people, cats sometimes develop allergic later in life.
Iams Eukanuba is a little better, although far more expensive. It's first five ingredients are chicken, chicken liver, chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, and chicken by-products.
The first two ingredients in Iams Eukanuba's "Adult Chicken & Rice Formula" are real chicken. As a "formula", at least 25% of the total weight of the food must consist of chicken, some of which would include the chicken by-product ingredients.
You may not share my aversion to feeding meat by-products to a cat, as certainly cats eat far grosser things in the wild, but my concern lies more in the uncertainty of just what part of the chicken is being referred to, as not all parts of a chicken are equal, nutritionally.
Their Eukanuba product include corn grits as the seventh ingredient, but it's otherwise free of corn, wheat, or soy. Probably, your cat will do well with Iams Eukanuba, but there are far better choices for the money.
Innova EVO Cat & Kitten food is more than 5O% protein, more than any other cat food that I've come across; and from the ingredient list, I'd guess that it has a high digestibility factor.
Innova EVO cat food is based on ground chicken and turkey meat, bones, fat, cartilage and connective tissue. It includes whole, raw fruits and vegetables which contain health promoting phytochemicals and micronutrients. EVO has high-protein, low carbs, and no grains.
The first ingredients are turkey, chicken meal, chicken, herring meal, chicken fat, and potatoes. According to its web site, the turkey and chicken used in its cat food is human-grade, and free of hormones, preservatives, antibiotics, and pesticides.
Innova EVO also includes many other ingredients that are found in the better premium cat foods, such as cranberries, carrots, alfalfa, and other vegetables and fruits.
I wouldn't hesitate to feed my cats Innova EVO, but I haven’t come across it locally yet, and don’t know what the price might be.
Nutro has good name recognition, having been in business for more than eighty years. A couple of its brands sell well, including Nutro's "Natural Choice" cat food and its "Max Cat" brand.
Nutro Max Cat
The "MAX Cat Gourmet Classics Adult Roasted Chicken Flavor" cat food doesn't impress me at all, although I know that it sells well.
The first ingredients listed are chicken meal, corn gluten meal, wheat flour, and ground rice. Except for what small amount of poultry that might be in the chicken meal, there doesn't appear to be any real meat in this one at all.
Nutro Natural Choice
Looking at the "Nutro Natural Choice Complete Care Indoor Adult" cat food, I see that it claims 33% protein, but its ingredient list is less than impressive, for a premium brand.
The primary ingredients are chicken meal, ground rice, corn gluten meal, and rice flour; with soy listed as a component in a couple of other ingredients. I see a lot of filler, and very little chicken, although the food does include a variety of other helpful supplements that may contribute toward the health of your pet.
Although not available locally, Premium Edge "Finicky Adult Cat Chicken, Salmon & Vegetables Formula" lists 34% protein, and includes the Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and taurine, that a cat needs.
The first four ingredients are chicken, chicken meal, egg product, cracked pearled barley, and ground rice; and further ingredients include a lot of other things that are good for cats, and no corn, wheat, or soy products.
Having never fed this brand to my cats, my evaluation of the product label is positive. While I don't see that it offers any advantages over Blue Spa Select, it appears to be an equal.
Purina has been around for about seventy-five years or more, as one of the standard manufacturers of store brand pet food. Most of us have fed our dogs or cats Purina products, and they probably didn't complain.
Purina Pro Plan
Purina Pro Plan, their premium cat food product, has been around since 1986, one of the world's first premium cat foods, and it's not a bad one.
Its premise is similar to that of other quality products, in that the first ingredient in its chicken product is real chicken, as well as its use of real meat products, brown rice, oatmeal, and other products that cats can actually digest. The first ingredients in Purina Pro Plan are chicken, brown rice, corn gluten meal, chicken meal, wheat gluten, oat meal, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), dried egg product, fish meal, and ground wheat.
Purina Pro Plan is 4O% protein, more than most of the other dry cat foods that I've come across, but with its use of corn and wheat, I wouldn't count on all of it being digestible, or made available to the cat's cells, since their bodies don't digest corn, wheat, or soy efficiently.
Still, I'd rate Purina's premium Pro Plan product as one of the better ones, and wouldn't be afraid to feed it to my cats, except that a couple of them are allergic to corn. it turns out that a lot of cats are allergic to corn, wheat, and soy.
Purina One, also marketed as a premium cat food, is a step down from Purina's Pro Plan line, but it's the equivalent of many other premium brands.
The first ingredients in the Purina One Adult Chicken & Rice Formula are chicken, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, poultry by-product meal, wheat flour, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), wheat gluten, whole grain corn, non-fat yogurt, fish meal, brewers dried yeast, potassium chloride, phosphoric acid, and animal digest.
As you can see, there are some good products in there, including the fact that its first ingredient is real chicken, but then we get to the ones that aren't so good, including what looks to be a lot of corn and wheat, chicken by-product meal, and animal digest.
Animal digest could, by law, consist of any part of an animal, including fetal tissue and and glandular wastes; and since the ingredient list doesn't specify the type of animal, it could be anything, including animals that you would never knowingly feed your pet.
Despite all the television and radio advertising, I wouldn't put Purina One on the top of my list, but Pro Plan is worth of consideration.
Royal Canin's "Adult Fit-32 Formula" has some real chicken in it, but as its fifth ingredient; the first five ingredients being chicken meal, brown rice, corn, corn gluten meal, and chicken.
I don't see anything that really attracts me here.
Old Mother Hubbard's Wellness cat food makes it pretty close to the top of the list, and would be there if this list weren't alphabetical. According to the guaranteed analysis on the label, the protein level is 34%, which is on the high end of comparable with other premium blends; plus the ingredient list suggests that the protein is more highly digestible than some.
Topping the list of ingredients are deboned chicken, chicken meal, rice, ground barley, and ground rice. There's nothing wrong with any of those, or with any of the ingredients that follow, so far as I can see. I don't see, from its web site, that the chicken is human-grade, but that's the only fault I can find with it.
I've never bought any, and my cats haven't tried it, but a cat could do much worse than Wellness.
Wysong plays by different rules than the other cat food manufacturers, but they make some very good arguments for them. Under any rules, some of its premium cat food formulas are at the top of the list, and perhaps the very top.
In Wysong’s Archetype formula, the top four ingredients are all meat and poultry, and organic at that: beef, chicken, beef liver, and chicken liver.
Wysong is an excellent choice, and may, in fact, prove to be the best choice you could make. Better yet, and as I read their educational materials, I don’t think Wysong would argue with the suggestion that perhaps a better choice would be to rotate Wysong’s cat food formulas with Blue Spa Select, Castor & Pollux, and supplementing fresh, raw meat.
See the page that I have here on Wysong for additional information.
As I can find time, I'll be adding to this page as I come across new information, or can make reasonable comparisons of additional premium brands, and may include a separate page on Blue Buffalo's Spa Select brand, as I am very much impressed with that one.