Filed under: J500 Week 13, Society + Media | Tags: animal by-products, Animal Hospital of Lawrence, cat health, organic pet food, Purina, veterinary care, Wysong
Organic product sales are rising. Out of the people I know who buy organic, only a few are willing to spend extra for organic pet food. Why is that, I ask them? Some say they never thought of it. Some people say jokingly that their pets don’t mind the taste. Almost all agree that it’s because they think the costs outweigh the benefits.
My cat Bootsy was out of food so I decided to get some organic cat food. I tried Wysong‘s Vitality Feline Diet. It costs more per pound than Bootsy’s old Purina but the pieces seemed heartier. I looked at the ingredients and it contained less animal by-product and corn substance. It also contained more chicken and looked grainier. Bootsy was in love with it, but I wasn’t convinced yet.
I called Wysong’s customer service line to ask if their product was better. Betty, the representative, said that she thought it was better because it had more nutrients and less chemicals than conventional pet food. She said that just as I felt peppier after eating organic food, so do pets notice small changes. A shinier coat and more energy are things she specifically noted.
Since Wysong’s feed doesn’t have preservatives it means that less foreign chemicals enter the animal’s body. This is important because chemical preservatives can hurt pets–especially when combined with pesticide residue. Betty also mentioned less “filler.” Filler is the term for non-protein matter in pet food, mostly corn-based. She closed with saying that organic food was worth trying to see how a pet responds.
In fairness, I called Purina‘s customer representative. Bootsy has eaten their kitten chow for most of his life so I was interested to hear their opinion. The service representative assured me that the food had “complete 100% nutrition” because of its balance of protein and carbohydrates. The second-most ingredient is corn meal, which seemed unnatural to me. The representative said that cats needed this for carbohydrate energy.
I asked about animal by-products. Were they safe? Why don’t humans eat them? The representative said animal by-products were a natural choice for pets because they are hunters. When they catch something, he said, they eat the whole thing–livers and intestines included. So even though eating chemical-treated gizzards regularly is harmful for humans, our pets should be okay.
To round out the representatives’ biases I talked to a local veterinarian. Dr. Matt Coles at the Animal Hospital of Lawrence said that dietary needs vary from pet to pet.
He said that better quality food does make animals feel better. But he also said that pets have very adjustable stomachs. If a pet is sensitive and has an “inflammatory condition” a certain diet may agitate cancer. If the pet is not sensitive, the quality of food is not as important.
According to Dr. Coles, dental disease and obesity are the worst health conditions for cats. Dental disease comes from too much sugar in a diet (whether from wet food or…too much corn!). Obesity stems mostly from overfeeding pets, not the actual pet food.
Dr. Coles said that once cats are a year old they should be fed a certain amount each day. When they’re allowed to eat freely is when Dr. Coles sees “cats that are 20 pounds and have diabetes.”
So, if you want your cat to feel rejuvenated spend extra money on organic feed. You don’t have to do it every time but everybody likes a treat. Just don’t treat them too much or you’ll be spending extra for Diabetic Cat Chow in a few years.
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