Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Clean Eating: Feline Edition [Sponsored by Influenster]

I was given the Temptations items in this post for free from Influenster for review purposes, but did not receive any additional monetary compensation. Blog posting and other sharing on social media with brand hashtags was encouraged, but not required in exchange for receiving the products. All opinions are my own. See Influenster detailed disclose post here.

I have a fair number of goals that could be aided by changing the way I eat: losing weight, helping the environment, supporting animal welfare. Beyond simply being vegetarian though, I don't put any real restrictions on what I actually eat. I just don't think that's a healthy - in a holistic sense - thing to do so (see some discussion here). Abe has some similar, sometimes more extreme beliefs and goals, which to an extent I allow him to impose on me and our household, since I don't disagree with the concept/result - for example, he goes further than I would to avoid artificial colors. But any thing even remotely resembling a "clean eating" strict diet? Absolutely not!

But when it comes to the cats, I kind of do impose some healthy eating habits to meet my ideals. (They can't complain! Or, if they are complaining, it sounds the same to me as when they complain about how evil we are for not allowing them to drink out of our water glasses or freely chase squirrels down the street.)

The staple of their diet is Halo dry cat food (the indoor cat formulations, because that's what I've found at a store), with plenty of water always available. Looking at the ingredient list, you can see that, although it's fortified with various nutrients, the top ingredients are clearly real food, akin to what the cats would eat in nature, with salmon listed first thing.

My only minor quibbles with this product are the plastic bag it comes in (thick and sturdy - which is nice, except that comes at a price of more plastic wasted), and that it's dry food. Cats don't have a very strong thirst drive, since in nature they would get much of their water by eating whole animals (which would contain water). Dry food obviously doesn't give them sufficient water, and they won't always drink enough water separately to make up for it, which eventually leads to kidney disease.

To compensate for that, it's important for cats to also get some kind of wet food. What we've chosen is Rad Cat raw cat food as a daily treat. Less than a dozen individual items, and several of them are actually parts of the same things (e.g., turkey thigh/leg, heart, and liver; egg yolk and shell). It's not fortified with individual isolated nutrients, but with additional whole items like gelatin or kelp to provide the nutrients that cats need.

At times, when I just had Imogene, I fed her raw food as the primary food, with dry food as a treat, but the cost would be super high for both cats (especially Hera, who, especially when we first adopted her, eats ridiculously amounts), plus with the waste of the plastic containers, that's not really feasible right now. I'm glad they get a bit of it every day, but I'm also comfortable with the quality of the dry food it supplements.

With that context in mind, you can probably imagine that when I received a Temptations Snacky Mouse toy with Temptations treats to try out, I was mostly concerned about what was in the treats. The latter half of the list looks similar to the Halo dry food - lots of isolated nutrients, important albeit not from a whole foods kind of source. But the beginning of the list looks a little different: First ingredient is "chicken by-product meal", followed by corn, and shortly thereafter "dried meat by-products" and natural flavor. 

Corn isn't really good, at least so high on the ingredient list. Cats are obligate carnivores - they benefit from some roughage, which they would get in nature from the stomach contents of the small animals they'd eat - so grains in cat foods aren't providing quality nutrients but are just filler. More grains equals less animal protein.

Natural flavor also isn't great, but mainly just because it means the actual ingredient(s) isn't being disclosed. If it's "natural" versus artificial, then it's at least derived from real stuff, but it can be still be hugely processed before it gets to the flavor stage. Just like in human food, natural flavor is better than artificial flavor, but fully disclosed ingredients are even better.

And what about those by-products? By-products are basically what they sound like: the product that's leftover after other portions have been processed for human consumption. It doesn't necessarily mean it has no nutritional value, but it's definitely not the same as whole muscle meat. It's random leftover pieces - includes organs and bone that are good for cats anyway (remember, they'd be eating small animals basically in whole, if they were catching their own prey), but it can also be feet or meat deemed unsuitable for humans (such as dead on arrival animals) that at best have no nutrition, and at worst could be harmful.

On the one hand, I like the idea of all parts of an animal, once it's doomed to consumption anyway, being used for something. But my cats are my babies! The fact that I brought them into my home means I made myself responsible for their well being. I doubt the potential health risk is significant (their stomachs are made to digest raw meat, after all), but it's simply not high-quality food. It's bits and scraps, processed to meet certain numbers - but it is processed, it's not real food that should the staple of anyone's diet.

That said, like I don't constrain myself to not only eat for pure health, the girls are entitled to treats as well! While I don't think the Temptations treats are truly healthy, I also don't think they're inherently harmful, and I have no issue with Imogene and Hera have a few pieces occasionally. 

They haven't quite gotten the hang of the snacky mouse to earn their treats, but they love the eating treats part!

Influenster required disclosure: I received the Temptations products complimentary from Influenster for testing purposes.

1 comment:

  1. What a cute kitty!! I do let mine have temptations treats and they love them.
    Mine aren't too picky, but I have found anything with salmon or "salmon flavor" will make them sick. Two of mine love turkey lunch meat :)


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