Don't confuse Holistic with Organic. There is a distinction. Holistic means management of foods in an ecological manner above and beyond going back to simpler, more natural methodology. Organically managed food basically means the land and resources are used in a more natural manner (grain fed, no additives or pesticides etc). One might say Holistic is a way of life, while organic is just a better diet. Either is much better than the typical grocery store brands (like Iams which also makes Eukaneuba, or Friskies and Whiskas).
When you put the word Organic on human food, you can pretty much guarantee double the price. Of course things will vary for different countries. The same can apply to holistic pet foods. Some are quite expensive, but when you read further you may see why I personally feel that anything holistic rather than a grocery store brand is better. You do get what you pay for after all.
Sure, some kitties will not eat anything BUT those low grade grocery store foods full of fillers. I have heard the argument that "My mom's cat ate BrandX cat food for years and never had problems" many, many times. Usually about animals that have long since passed on. Think on it though, 10-20 years ago we did not have nearly as much toxin in our food, water and even the very air we breathe. Today, however, our bodies are being bombarded with so innumerable things that break down and try to destroy our natural immune systems. It becomes increasingly important that we ensure that the food that sustains us is as good as it can be. AND be free of pesticides, additives and preservatives and all the other toxic man-made things that we really don't even need. The same applies to our pets. That pet food so and so's mom's cat ate 10-20 years ago was fed to a cat that was intrinsically healthier because it lived in a healthier atmosphere to begin with.
Our pets can't speak for themselves. And certainly, as you may know, the pet food industry sure hasn't been speaking for our pets either. The pet food industry has been feeding (no pun intended) crap to our pets, to the media and therefor to us, the consumers, for decades! Pet food is not nearly as regulated as human food. Until last year, specifically with the pet food scare we had in 2007. The media put a huge spotlight on the pet food industry because of the pet food recalls last year.
It's about time the pet food manufacturers were held accountable for the quality of their food and how it is produced! But did YOU know what is really in pet food?
Let me introduce you to some of the holistic cat foods my cats have tried. Merrick's, Chicken Soup for the Cat Lover's Soul, Natural Balance and Nutro. We now feed Wellness Core exclusively because of its quality at a reasonable price and, quite frankly, its availability at our local pet store.
You surely recognize some of these brands. Next time you are at the pet store, compare any of the holistic pet foods to Whiskas or Iams, or even Royal Canin and Science Diet. What you are looking for is an absence of by-products and any type of wheat, corn or corn meal. Cats are obligate (true) carnivores, yet many commercial pet foods are composed primarily of low-cost grains. These grains are fillers and are not necessary to the diet of your cat at all. If you see corn or wheat or corn meal in the first 5 ingredients, find another cat food. It's no different than feeding your cat cereal.
*Note that even some of the prescription grade Science Diet has by-product in it!
Meat and poultry by-products are the unrendered parts of the animal left over after slaughter; everything deemed unfit for human consumption. In cattle and sheep, this includes the brain, liver, kidneys, spleen, lungs, blood, bones, fatty tissue, stomachs and intestines. The items on this list that would normally be consumed by humans, such as the liver, would have to be diseased or contaminated before they could be designated for pet food. Poultry by-products include heads, feet, intestines, undeveloped eggs, chicken feathers and egg shells.
Why then, one may wonder, will pets even eat such food? After that slurry pot of "meat" is processed, it is bound with wheat or grains. Then it is basted in fat. The pet smells this glorious kibble basted in fat. No wonder he/she will eat it.
The number one reason why I will always feed holistic is because the cats absorb MORE of the good stuff that is in the food. They have improved skin and coat, increased vitality and increased energy, and they pass less stool - much less stinky stool at that!
An even more interesting and 'pure' holistic food the cats have tried and liked is Wysong. Wsyong's processing methods are what really interested me though.
Since about 1979. Dr. Wysong began with clinical and surgical inventions, and branched into the various facets you see today as his research demonstrated the problems in conventional medicine and the importance of prevention. One of his company's beliefs is that usual pet food processing (intense heat to cook and preserve) destroys way too much of the essential nutrition required for balanced, healthy diets. Wysong's processing and storage methods alone make them a leader in excellent quality holistic pet food products. Definitely worth reading their numerous articles and documentation on their pet food products.
Now I'm not saying that Science Diet or Royal Canin are not good products. They are simply NOT holistic brands. They are mid-grade quality cat foods while Whiskas and Friskies would be considered low grade quality.
One product I always recommend for people wanting to feed their pets better, but who may not be able to afford the high end holistic grade pet food, is by Nutro. Nutro has two levels of very decent cat food. One is more grocery store priced (but not grocery store level), and the other is a bit better, but again not overly expensive. Try Nutro's Maxx Cat or their higher end brand, Natural Choice. While not considered Holistic, these brands have NO by-product and very little grain. Nutro has some excellent dog food as well as a holistic brand.
There is one Canadian made holistic pet food that I am aware of. Orijen is made in Alberta with Canadian grown meat and fish, grains and produce. If Orijen was sold at my local Pet Valu, I'd be buying it!
Learning to read cat food labels can be difficult. But with a little effort, you can learn to feed your beloved cats the healthiest choices available. Your cats will thank you! And so will your pocketbook.
Shannon Hutcheson is a pedigreed cat breeder who believes that true to nature diet for all pets, including pedigreed cats is the best choice. View a comprehensive list of cat breeders at our cat breeder directory