is premium cat food really premium?

I’ve beren a buyer of ultra premuim catfoods. Those types costing up o 2 to 3 times what the cheap stuff goes for. Science diet, iams, and eukanuba are three brands I can think of off hand of the several i’ve used over the years for example. I’ve been buying it at the grocery store lately and ive noticed not only are the big (much cheaper) bags never in stock but now only a very small section is even kept for them. It was very late at night and i was able to query a bored stockboy who told me that they never have more than a couple of the large bags and they are kept in stock at all only to leave an open space on the shelf to keep peole hoping they could buy them there while being forced to buy the small ones. That I’m not going to buy cat food from there anymore can be assuimed, but it also made me wonder if ultra premium catfood actually even has any real advantage over the more normal cat food at all. Behavior of this type tends to set off my malarky alarm

I would hardly call Science Diet, Iams, or Eukaneuba “ultra-premium.” They are pretty crap if you ask me. For a real good food, try Felidae. No, I have no connection to the company. I feed their dog food to my Dane.

When the store is out of the large bags (40 lbs.), I ask the manager to sell me two 20 lb bags at the same price. They have never said no. Of course, they see me there with the Great Dane, and they know how much I spend there anyway. You don’t let go of a $100 per month client.

I would hardly call Science Diet, Iams, or Eukaneuba “ultra-premium.” They are pretty crap if you ask me. For a real good food, try Felidae. No, I have no connection to the company. I feed their dog food to my Dane.

When the store is out of the large bags (40 lbs.), I ask the manager to sell me two 20 lb bags at the same price. They have never said no. Of course, they see me there with the Great Dane, and they know how much I spend there anyway. You don’t let go of a $100 per month client.

I switched from Purina Cat Chow to Iams and definitely noticed that they were eating less and that their poo was neater and less stinky. So yes, there was a noticeable difference for me.

I sold pet food for 7 years, and I totally agree with IvarScience diet is garbage. Iams usd to be okay, until Procter and Gamble bought it. I wouldn’t use Eukanuba either, it’s too expensive for what you are getting. All of them are better that cat chow, or whiskas, or meow mix say, but they aren’t worth what you pay for them.

Nutros is good. Solid Gold is good. Royal Canin is great. Techni-Cal is not bad. My folks use Acana for their cats, which is awesome. They eat a lot less of it than they would say cat chow, I think it actually works out cheaper in that regard. The cats are much healthier, and litter box clean-up is much easier.

When choosing cat food look for some type of meat as the first ingredient. And look for specific meat, not just “meat meal” which varies from bag to bag.

I agree totally with Magayuk: my favorites, when selling the stuff and buying it, were Nature’s Recipe and Solid Gold.

But bomb, you’re looking at the whole thing all wrong: the good foods mentioned in this thread aren’t premium foods: they’re decent food, the minimum requirements for a healthy cat. The grocery store foods are not the standard; these foods are. Instead of thinking of these foods as more expensive than “normal,” you must think of the grocery store brands as unrealistically cheap. They are substandard and are not good for your cat, and you should not use them to gauge what is or isn’t standard in pet food. Don’t think of them as, say, Chevrolet and the good foods as Cadillac; think of them as used Yugos and the good foods as Ford Trucks; you get what you pay for.

I’m curious by what standard you (and others in this thread) are using to judge “not good for”, and how you assign different pet food brands to these categories.

Are there studies that show increased longevity with different brands? Magayuk mentioned variability of types of meats, but has that been demonstrated to be worse for pets than more consistent meats?

If you look on any bulletin boards devoted to cats, you’ll see endless discussion of differences between foods. Generally, it’s agreed that grocery store food is crap that you shouldn’t even feed the 'possums, that Iams and Eukanaba are barely acceptable, and that Felidae, Chicken Soup, Royal Canin, and several others are the “real” premium foods. (I feed Natural Balance, which I rarely see mentioned, but it has similar ingredients to many of the premium brands).

I don’t know about studies, but you can definitely observe that when you switch your cat from a cheap food to a premium food, his coat will become significantly softer and his poop is less stinky. Zealots will also tell you that his general health will be better, and you hear stories of UTI’s going away and irritable bowel problems clearing up. I can certainly say that our cats vomit no more than once every three or four months, probably less. I didn’t think that was unusual until I heard about people who are cleaning it up every week or worse.

You also do have to take the amount eaten into account when comparing foods. I have two cats - they each eat about 1/2 cup a day of Natural Balance. This is a lot less than the Iams that our friends’ cats ate when we were cat-sitting for them.

I buy food at PetCo, but I’ve heard very good things about Pet Food Direct, where you can get a lot of different premium foods.


Chains put my friends out of business after the pet store had been in the same family for 75 years.

I would have to agree that Iams and Science Diet are crap. I just go by the ingredients. AFAIK, the first 5 or 10 ingredients should be meat, period. Not meat by-products, or processed entrails thank you very much. Cats do need bones. There can be some bone meal in there, but it shouldn’t be high on the list. I feed my cats primarily wet, canned food - so you can always use the smell test. If it smells good to you, then it’s probably fine for your cat. If you don’t want to be in the room once its opened, imagine how a sensitive feline nose reacts. I feed my cats ‘Lick Your Chops’ food if I have to buy canned. The rest of the time, they are fed prepackaged frozen (then thawed) raw meat. It might sound extravagent, but check out what they sell at your local health food store. The Whole Foods and Wild Oats in my market all carry various healthy brands of cat/dog food. If anyone happens to be in the Chicago-area, you can also check out The Fish Bowl in Evanston (and no I’m not affiliated).

I also watch out for ‘water sufficient for processing’. To me, that sounds like ‘barely good enough to use’. Also, keep in mind that it is AGAINST THE LAW to use human grade meat for animals. When I look at some of the crap that people eat, I can only wonder what they give to our animals. Honestly, the best food to feed your animals you can make yourself. Check out Dr. Pitcarin’s Natural Health For Dogs And Cats book (I think that’s the title). It contains recipies you can make yourself, that are better than anything you could possibly buy.

Sorry, akrako, I have to largely disagree.
[ul][]The BEST canned cat food is simply dry food with water added; why pay extra to carry water home? And of course it’s messy besides. Also not good for their teeth.[]Feeding primarly pure meat is not a good idea. Cats are whole-body predators; they don’t just eat the meat in the wild. They tend to get vegetable matter by eating their herbivore prey’s intestines, etc. A good food takes that balance into account.Making your food yourself is asking for trouble: without a huge amount of research and very careful kitchen chemistry, you’re not likely to be able to provide consistent, and consistently sufficient, nutrition to your cat.[/ul]

Ah, the anti-Science diet threads arrive at the SDMB (hop over to and Google over the various SD train wrecks)! I feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

Anyway, as to whether ‘premium’ brands are better - I think the answer is likely to be ‘yes’, although your cat will not keel over stone dead after eating a mouthful of yer local superstore’s Abattoir Scrapings ™. There’s lots to consider in feline nutrition, and I think we hope that the ‘premium’ manufacturers have done the homework that is beyond the scope of most owners.

FWIW, I feed Hill’s t/d (at c.40% of daily Kcal intake) for the gnashers, and 60% canned, currently a mix of Pinnacle, PetGuard and Active Life. I expect to add in SD as the cats hit adulthood, and may well end up finalising on a mix of SD and Active Life. I have had poor success with Felidae and Wellness (stomach issues), but YCMMV.

I also second that buying from an independent pet store is a Good Thing.

Not so: the best dry food contains a massive proportion of carbohydrate as compared with even crappy wet food. Dry food also contains more preservatives, and for many cheaper varieties, palatability is only ensured by spraying a coating of fat or such onto the kibble.

Worse still, dry diets are associated with a higher risk of urinary obstructions, an especially important concern for male cats. This increased risk is mostly because cats fed dry food do not tend to drink enough; their urine is thus more concentrated.

Moreover, dry foods generally contain lower quality animal protein - necessary by virtue of the way dry foods are processed.

We’re hardly talking vast quantities of custard pies being hurled around the room! Cleaning a cat’s bowl takes all of a handful of seconds.

Relatively few dry foods have been clinically shown to actually do anything for dental health. I know that Hill’s t/d, Iams dental diets and one of the Purina offerings do have some research to back up the dental health claim. However, most dry diets have no such scientific backing.

Quite. However, a dry diet can consist of approaching 50% carbs! Unless the cat force-fed his mice corn for a few weeks before eating 'em, I somehow doubt that any dry diet has an ecologically plausible ratio of carbs to other nutrient sources. Unless your cat naturally hunts bread rolls.

This I do agree with. However, it is unequivocally the case that wet food is better for your cat than dry. The advantage of dry food is for the cat owner; dry foods are dirt cheap, easy to handle, and allow the owner to pile up a bowl with a month’s Carbo Crunchies ™. In this way, the owner can spend valuable time that would be otherwise used up filling the cat bowl on more useful things, such as masturbating or eating doughnuts.


This statement merely means sufficient QUANTITY of water needed for processing and says nothing what-so-ever about the actual water quality. (which is very probably tap water as that’s a plentiful cheap source)

Cite please? I cannot believe there’s any law against feeding your cat anything you please as long as yer willing to pay for it.

I will add that the premium foods are better for male cats due to the foods low ash (magnesium) content. urethral obstruction I, unfortunately, discovered this first hand when I was much younger.

Does anyone have any links to actual websites (not sponsered by cat food makes) that say whether wet or dry food is better? All I’m seein’ here is an awful lot of IMO…

This is more what I was hoping to find btw, The knowledge that the grocery store viewed me as an idiot who would buy anything out of pet parent guilt made me wonder if there was really all that much difference between the premium and non premium foods, so far I haven’t seen any data to say so, except from some comments on poo stinkyness. How do we even know poo stinkyness isn’t good for cats instead of bad? (bad for us goes without saying, but also implies they may just throw some stool stiffeners in it) Anyone got any research?

I work in the animal nutrition business in the manufacturing side. I know quite a lot about it. I don’t know the answer to this question, though.

The reason I don’t know is that my company split before I started working for it. The company was broken into two pieces. One was the feed division, supplying farmers and the like, and the other cat/dog food, which was sold to a major food (human) company. The cat/dog foods are a well known grocery store brand. The animal feeds are also sold under the same brand name.

The reason the company was split was the big difference between how the products were researched and sold.

My company employs a lot of people who research the effects of different ingredients and formulations in animals, and even more who concentrate on making these formulations cost effectively. The farmers and corporations who buy feed have very little brand loyalty. If another company created a feed that is more beneficial (according to measurable criteria – though different criterira than you’d use for your cat, unless you’re bulking Fluffy up for slaughter) or equally beneficial at a slightly lower price, customers will switch.

Cat and dog food (and horse food) are different. The customers are more brand-loyal, more emotional in their decisions, less scientific in their approach to purchases, yet more picky, as contrary as that sounds. To sell cat and dog food, especially “premium”, requires merely the perception that the food is better than other stuff.

Considering Joe CatOwner’s likelyness of reading a scientific study on the effects of different kinds of entrails on longevity, this is obviously more a marketing function than a scientific one. Therefore, the cat and dog foods were pulled away from the more scientifically oriented company and sold to a marketing organization.

They have since come out with a “premium” (or semi-premimum?) line.

The companies that sell premium foods do it as part of marketing. They know it, everyone in the industry knows it. Just look at this thread. It’s full of rankings of cat foods with no criteria or data to back it up, with a couple of anecdoes tossed in. Yet people KNOW that cat food X is junk and Y is great.

On the other hand, premium food is more expensive because it has more expensive ingredients. (Actually, it’s more expensive because marketing departments decided that it gives people the impression that it must be better, which also helps profits at these companies. The more expensive ingredients play a part, but if the price rose with the cost, it wouldn’t be much more expensive than the dreaded grocery store food.)

The question is, do these more expensive ingredients mean a healthier cat? If the anecdoes are correct, the cats will have less stinky poo. But will they live longer? Are they more immune to disease? Maybe. Since companies that produce premium food tend to stick to the content of the food instead of the results in their marketing, I suspect it’s because real measurable benefits (like longer life) have not been demonstrated.


Premium cat foods make a big difference if you have a male cat, I’m not sure about female cats. My aunt who is a vet has confirmed the ash content statement. I don’t live near her so she’s not telling me this to get me to buy food from her clinic. If you search for premium cat food and urinary tract, you’ll find lots of sites corraborating the urethral obstruction issue.

Anecdotal evidence:
In college, I adopted a stray cat. He was a male and I had him neutered. I fed him Meow Mix or Cat Chow becasue that’s we had always fed the cats at home. After a couple of years, he had urination difficulties and the vet “cleared out the blockage”. Not sure how but the urethral opening was made larger. The vets tried to tell me to use Science Diet but I thought they were just trying sell me stuff and I only half-assedly switched. A couple of years after that, he blocked up again and he had to have major surgery (very, very expensive and he was at the vet for a couple of weeks). I think the surgery they described on the article. Anyway, all these problems eventually (about four years later) led to major kidney problems and my poor kitty’s eventual demise. To be honest, the vets did say it was very unusual for a cat to block up again after the surgery so maybe my kitty blocked up more easily than most cats. My current cats (both male and one is around 9 years old) have been fed exclusively Science Diet and have never had problems.

For more anecdotal evidence, like I mentioned, my parents have a cat shelter. With a shelter set up, you are going to get URI going through, they are almost impossible to avoid, even though the cats are vaccinated as soon as they come in. Years past, you would see on average 10 or so cats who could not recover from the infection, and despite all possible vet care, would die or have to be put to sleep. Since switching to the Acana they have not had one cat die from URI, which I think is incredible. The overall health imrovment is very noticable, nicer coats, better stool, and not one instance of urinary crystals or any other urinary infections. And these cats were not on a bad food before hand, they were on a Canadian chain’s store brand, which I would consider close in formula to SD.

I honestly, truly, did not realize some people paid so much attention to their pet’s diet. Very interesting though, and I particularly appreciate glilly’s insights into the manufacturing/marketing of pet foods.

As for myself, I’ve had cats pretty much all my life and have always bought generic food. None have keeled over or showed signs of malnutrition. I don’t know it it’s true that they get a better coat, and I don’t really care if stool improves (the question never entered my mind…), but I would need to see some hard evidence before I switch to premium brands.

I think you are right on the nose with this comment. However, the issue of ‘perception’ of quality as opposed to ‘genuine’ quality occurs for pretty much any product you might care to mention.

This is also spot on - and obvious if you look at the cost of small cans of premium food versus the cost of large cans of premium food. Usually, the price difference is tiny; clearly the production costs are the dominant factor, not the ingredient costs.

It would be exceptionally tricky to determine any long term effects of premium food on longevity. You’d need to do a 10, 15 plus year longitudinal study. It ain’t going to happen! In the meantime, we’re left with - as you say - anecdotes, ‘I fed my cat Cow Arse Crunchies exclusively, and he lived for 32 years’.

Having said that, there are some nutritional factors which are pretty much accepted, e.g., a diet high in phosphorous is a Bad Thing for cats with renal failure.

Clearly there is much research out there, too: Canine & Feline Nutrition weighs in at >600 pages, and Small Animal Clinical Nutrition at >1100. But how many cat owners are going to trawl through these tomes? It’s far easier to anthropomorphize nutrition, that is, assume that what’s good for humans is good for cats.

tremorviolet, ensuring the urinary health of a male cats is predominantly down to avoiding feeding dry food. You could probably swap from dry [anything] to wet [anything] in order to assist a ‘blocked’ male cat. Concerning actual references … well, there’s plenty in Vet Sci journals, though these are not necessarily readily available to the general public. You might look here for a pretty decent overview.

Not true. Once food enters a pet food plant, it is redefined as ‘not fit for human consumption’, regardless of its quality on entering the plant. We’re basically talking about an issue of legalese / semantic nonsense here. Moreover, Active Life food is made from ‘human grade’ ingedients in a factory that cans human food too. Therefore I suspect it remains ‘human grade’ in actual and legal terms