Originally, vet recommended cat foods was going to be a list of products with descriptions and commentary. Instead, I decided to look at what some popular vets are recommending. The results may surprise you.
Knowing that there are products for specific feline health challenges, including obesity, diabetes, urinary problems, and so on, I was going to focus on those. As I got deeper into my research, however, I realized that it might be a good idea to take a different approach for a few reasons.
First, some rather popular and visible vets recommend something other than what we would think of as the typical recommendation. They don't recommend what could be termed "veterinarian diets" (i.e. commercial veterinarian or prescription cat food formulas).
Instead, they have their own, perhaps sometimes less conventional ideas.
I wasn't totally unaware of this, of course, it's just that when I sat down to actually write about it, my writing naturally went where the research took me.
Second, it occurred to me that perhaps these topics (prescription and veterinary only cat foods) need to be covered in more detail than a single page would allow.
Third, it seemed like a good idea to show you what some of the vets out there are recommending, in contrast to the "in office" discussions that you may have had with your vet.
Let's face it, our little house cats have it much better than lions in the wild. They get to lie around all day in a safe home, and don't have to kill for their breakfast, or fight off a hyena once they've caught it.
This, however, puts great responsibility on you, the cat's care giver, to make the right decisions on what to feed your kitty. When you're hunting for the best cat food, where do you turn for recommendations?
Who is your trusted source of information?
We've all heard that it's been reported that sometimes, the expensive cat food is not much better than the cheap stuff. This includes the vet recommended cat foods (such as Hill's Science Diet) that you see in your veterinarians' office.
On the other hand, buying the cheap stuff all but guarantees lower quality.
It could be argued that diet is the most important health issue (and therefore the most important issue period) facing cat owners.
Your cat, after all, is what she eats.
Are there situations, however, where a cat's diet is even more important? Perhaps there are.
What about cats that need a special diet? What about the effect of diet on diabetes in cats? What about cats with allergies?
What about overweight cats? What about urinary tract health? What about prescription cat food?
Cat health experts are telling us that buying the "good stuff," i.e. more expensive, premium cat food, actually saves us money in the long run.
Why? Because, they argue, cheap commercial cat food is making our cats sick. Others say to avoid commercial food altogether, even the premium brands, and make cat food yourself.
In all of these cases, turning to your veterinarian for advice is the obvious move. But, my research indicates that many people are reluctant to trust their vets when it comes to cat food recommendations.
This is also the feeling I get from both having and observing discussions with other cat lovers, and from running this website.
Below, we'll look at some of the more visible and sometimes unconventional vet recommended cat foods.
Obviously, prescription products fall under the vet recommended cat food category. There are prescription cat food products for diabetic cats, urinary tract health, overweight cats, and other conditions.
Certain cat food lines, such as the Royal Canin Veterinary Diet products for example, are sold only through veterinarians. As Royal Canin state on their website:
"Innovative diets can’t do it alone. You need the expert advice of your veterinarian before making any food changes or diagnosis. That’s why all ROYAL CANIN Veterinary Diets are sold only by veterinarians."
This is not always the case, however, with the Internet being what it is. In fact, you can buy some of these so called prescription or veterinary only diets through Amazon.com.
Some people wonder whether or not this exclusivity of being sold through vets only is strictly a marketing strategy. Are they really any better? Some experts say no, and question the quality of these formulations.
Not only is the question of what to feed your cat an important question to answer, it's a difficult one I think for most cat owners. It's even more difficult without some guidance.
There are so many brands of cat food out there on the shelves, advertised in magazines, on TV, and the Internet. There are also many opinions.
So, again, where do you turn?
From my experience, I would bet that very few cat owners ask their own vets what I think is a very good question. "What do you feed your own cat?" (Or what would you feed your cat if you had one?)
I thought it would be interesting to see what some well-known or fairly well-known vets had to say about food recommendations. Below are some vet recommended cat foods, based on my research.
Note: Keep in mind that celebrity endorsements, including "celebrity veterinarians" can, at times, seem disappointing. Susan Thixton points this out in her commentary on Dr. Marty Becker's pet food endorsement.
That story related to dog food, but the rules apply to vet recommended cat food selections as well. Some companies will use "veterinarian recommended" in their advertising, but that may simply mean that they've secured an endorsement deal with one vet.
Lisa Pierson, DVM
Dr. Lisa Pierson is a strong proponent of proper feline nutrition as a basis for good cat health. Specifically, she talks about the negative effects of feeding dry cat food, the problems with a high carbohydrate diet for cats, and the importance of animal protein sources.
Her website has a ton of information on two extremely important topics, one of which being litter box problems (which a large portion of this website is devoted to), and the other being feline nutrition.
She includes information on diabetes in cats and how diet plays a huge role, as well the obesity issue.
As for what this vet feeds her own cats, I've seen her mention Wellness. Mostly, however, she states that she's feeding her own homemade cat food recipes:
"My cats are now eating a species-appropriate diet consisting of raw meats (chicken and rabbit), finely ground bones, and organs using a properly balanced recipe.
Some people feed part homemade and part commercial canned for variety and convenience. I usually feed commercial canned food only a few times/year – preferring to stick with the food that I make for them."
Shawn Messonnier, DVM
Dr. Shawn Messonnier of the Paws & Claws Animal Hospital in Plano, Texas is a holistic vet and award winning author of several books, including the Natural Health Bible for Dogs & Cats
He also has a Ragdoll cat, and he has a host of information on the care and feeding of your furry friends on his website and in his books. In an article at Ivillage on dental disease and canned pet food, he recommends wet canned food for cats:
New recommendations on feeding cats encourage wet food to increase water consumption and decrease the chance of diseases such as diabetes, as canned food most closely mimics the natural diet of cats.
Dr. Andrew Weil, MD
While not a vet, Dr. Andrew Weil is a health professional who has been recommending Pet Promise cat food. On October 1, 2009, however, Dr. Weil announced on his website that the Pet Promise brand is being discontinued. Dr. Weil's post included this message to Pet Promise customers:
As for what to feed your companion animal now, I continue to recommend pet foods that contain quality protein sources such as real chicken, beef or fish. Animal byproducts or meat meals should not be part of a pet's food. When I see "beef or poultry byproducts" on the label, this tells me it may include anything from chicken heads to blood and feet. If "meat meal" or "chicken meal" is listed, these are rendered ingredients. While they provide protein, they can contain a wide variety of "secondary" items including the tissue of low-grade animals that are diseased or have died. Even many "natural" and "scientific" pet foods contain these rendered ingredients, so it is important to examine food labels closely. Remember that quality protein sources come from quality producers. I recommend using brands that source their meat and poultry exclusively from U.S. natural producers, who humanely raise beef, chicken, and turkey on vegetarian diets, and without added growth hormones and antibiotics.
Dr. Will Falconer is a Certified Veterinary Homeopath. Dr. Falconer is rather progressive in his thinking and his methods of treating animals.
He recommends homeopathic remedies, the use of supplements including 4life Transfer Factor, and Flint River Ranch cat food. Like many other vets, he also questions the safety and efficacy of yearly cat vaccinations as they are commonly administered.
If your cat has itchy skin, there's a food for that. Well, supposedly.
The folks at Drs. Foster and Smith have published information that says that food allergies account for 57 percent of the causes of itching and scratching in cats.
There is some debate, however, about the subject of allergies in cats. Do cats develop food allergies to a particular protein source, such as beef? Or, are they allergic to the chemicals in the processed foods we feed them?
Which items are cats most allergic to? Sources seem to disagree.
Dr. Shawn Messonnier wrote an article on cat allergies that was published in Feline Wellness magazine. In it he recommends using natural supplements, antioxidants, bathing (yes, bathing your cat!), and, you guessed it... diet.
But, he also says:
Most cats do not have true food allergies, but your veterinarian should still keep in mind that food allergies can be a possible cause of itching. The only good way to check is with an elimination trial lasting two to three months.
Then he goes on to say:
Raw frozen diets such as those made by Bravo!, for example, offer high quality nutrition that can help prevent allergies.
From everything I've read, both from cat owners and cat health experts, obesity in cats is yet another one of the most common cat health problems today.
Obesity can lead to certain diseases or exacerbate some cat illness symptoms. They can contribute to problems including arthritis, heart conditions, and feline diabetes.
Mike Richards, DVM
Dr. Mike Richards has been providing information for cat owners, much of it in a question and answer format, for years.
He says "it is easier to prevent obesity than going on a diet." In order to prevent your cat from becoming fat, he recommends exercise, and a "sensible diet" based on a low carbohydrate wet cat food. His feline diet tips also warn that feeding free choice can lead to fat cats.
Urinary tract problems, in both male and female cats, can not only cause inappropriate elimination, but can also be a serious health issue.
Urinary tract infections and crystal formation can lead to litter box problems, leaving you to deal cat urine problems like trying to get the odor out of your carpet. In some cases, FLUTD (feline lower urinary tract disease) can lead to blockage, which is a life threatening condition.
Some feline diets, including prescription cat foods, are designed to help with these problems.
One of them is to feed several small meals. Another is one that is perhaps surprising. It implies that special diets for struvite crystals are not needed:
"For cats with a history of struvite formation, owners should feed diets that promote the formation of urine that is acidic. Most commercial diets meet this criteria."