Hey you cool cats! Skye Blake here, back help you discover which cat food companies are the best, most reliable ones.
Many people are suspicious of these companies but are they right?
Is “Big Cat Food” uncaring and greedy, only interested in manipulating you and your vet?
Are small boutique companies compassionate and concerned about your pets and the environment?
Let’s discover answers and find out how to evaluate cat food companies… it’s important for both you and your cat.
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
- Are they willing to be transparent, either with you or your vet?
- Does the Company have a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist or PhD in Animal Nutrition On-Staff?
- Does the Vet Nutritionist Formulate the Recipes?
- Does the Diet Meet Nutritional Guidelines?
- What Quality Controls Does the Company Have in Place?
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian or food expert) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.
All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.
What Questions to Ask Cat Food Companies
In order to properly evaluate cat food companies, you need to ask specific questions.
WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association) has a helpful guideline sheet for cat owners trying to choose food.
Each company should be judged on its own merits, history, reputation, and product analysis.
Check their website for contact information and ask…
Are they willing to be transparent, either with you or your vet?
If vets call and say they need something specific for a client’s medical problem and the company says “sorry, that’s proprietary”, the vet can’t determine if the products will meet the needs of their patients.
If they aren’t easy to contact or refuse to answer the questions, they’re probably not reliable and it’s best to avoid their products.
Does the Company have a Board-Certified Veterinary Nutritionist or PhD in Animal Nutrition On-Staff?
You can request the names, qualifications and employment status (employees or independent consultants).
If they use consultants but have no experts on-staff, someone unqualified may be creating the recipes, which means the food might not be complete and balanced.
Which leads us to the next question…
Does the Vet Nutritionist Formulate the Recipes?
Developing recipes is complicated.
Whoever does it must have “knowledge of nutrition, raw materials, and processing not taught in veterinary school programs.”1“GNC_Guidelines” (wsava.org)
Someone who’s trained and has experience formulating pet foods might have a MS/PhD in food science and technology, which is helpful in choosing ingredients and knowing the proper nutrient levels for each product.
Having both a vet nutritionist who knows the medical aspects and a PhD who knows the formulation aspect is ideal.
This is why the best companies have a staff of scientists and nutritionists.
Does the Diet Meet Nutritional Guidelines?
The company’s recipes should meet or exceed the minimum nutritional guidelines of AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials), FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation), or WSAVA (World Small Animal Veterinary Association).
This is important to be sure the diet is complete and balanced, with all necessary nutrients in the proper amounts.
To determine if the formula used in each recipe meets these standards, reputable companies will analyze the recipe using either a nutrient database or chemical analysis of the product once it’s produced.
What Quality Controls Does the Company Have in Place?
Quality controls are important to ensure the safety of both pets and their owners.
The procedures companies use should include “ingredient (food and supplement) validation, final diet nutrient analysis, toxicology, bacteriology, and packaging/shelf-life screenings prior to, during, and after manufacturing.”2“GNC_Guidelines” (wsava.org)
See “How Is Cat Food Made?” for more detailed information.
Are Small Companies Better Than “Big Cat Food”?
There’s an image being created on social media and marketing that smaller cat food companies are better than large ones because they care more and use “pure”, “healthy”, or high-quality ingredients.
The implication (and sometimes direct accusation) is that Big Cat Food is an impersonal, unfeeling group of evil capitalists who want to kill your cat with bad food.
These types of images and sweeping generalizations should always set off alarm bells because they’re designed to manipulate people, not deal with facts.
Every company has to be evaluated on its own merits, but it turns out that generally the larger, more established companies have consistently reliable complete and balanced food.
There are a number of reasons for this.
The “Big Guys”
- Have been around the longest and are most experienced at creating good quality cat food
- Have scientists and vet nutritionists on-staff
- Make diets that meet better-than-minimum-standards
- Invest money in peer-reviewed product research that they make available to the public
- Do feeding trials
- Manufacture/process in their own facilities for better quality control
- Have stringent quality control standards
Some of the companies that fill these criteria most are what vets typically recommend because they have high standards with products that are science based.
A few examples are…
You may say, “But they have cat food recalls”, thinking that makes them bad companies.
But that’s not always the case as you can discover at “Cat Food Recalls – What Do They Mean?“
The “Little Guys”
The most important criteria from a cat owner’s perspective when evaluating a cat food company, is to find out who actually manufactures the products.
Smaller cat food companies can meet the above criteria but often do not because they don’t have the experience or money to employ vet nutritionists and other experts.
They often hire other companies to process and package their products and only put their names on them.
This means they have no control over the quality of ingredients and bioavailability.
The experience of Blue Buffalo® over the years is a good example of what can happen when a company doesn’t have good control over their products or any testing of them.
If you look at their product labels, you’ll see most do not say the products are complete and balanced.
This means you need to be careful about using their products because you don’t know the quality or safety of them.
Here’s a great video from a vet with helpful information…
Discover more about various aspects of feline nutrition and cat food at these related pages…
Related Pages of Interest
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. Sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
“AAFCO The People Behind Animal Feed and Pet Food“, aafco.org, 2019
“AAFCO-Approved Pet Food: Everything You Need to Know“, PetMD
“About AMS | Agricultural Marketing Service” (usda.gov)
“The Association of American Feed Control Officials” (aafco.org)
“Canned or Dry Food: Which is Better for Cats?“, Skeptvet (skeptvet.com)
“FDA’s Regulation of Pet Food“, FDA.gov
“6 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know About Cat Food “, by Amanda MacMillan, Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM, April 01, 2018, webmd.com
“Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Definition” (investopedia.com)
“How-Pet-Food-is-Made.pdf“, Pet Food Institute (petfoodinstitute.org)
“How pet food is made – making, used, processing, parts, components, product, industry, machine“, How Products Are Made (madehow.com)
“Pet Food“, FDA
“Questions & Answers: Contaminants in Pet Food“, FDA, July 29, 2021
“WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods“,wsava.org, March 10, 2021
Updated February 18, 2023