Today I stand behind those articles, but must admit that they were written for cats in a perfect world. Unfortunately, we don't always live in a perfect world, so I am here to acknowledge that there are times when we must make food compromises. This fact was borne home to me when I read an email awhile ago:
- I will never be able to switch my critters to an all-canned or raw food diet. I'm not a professional "rescue" worker, but kitties-in-need often find me. I have nine at the moment, which is actually on the low side for me (I lost two 20+ year olds to cancer in the last few months.) You've helped me realize that the "nutrition" in their normal diet is just too ...icky ...to be tolerable. I'll find the money to upgrade to better dry and canned. But the budget will never stretch so far as to make all of your suggestions feasible.
My concern is this: If a cat's choice is to have a healthy, safe, loving home while eating a diet that is less than ideal, or to end up homeless, I'd much prefer to see the former. Even a reduced life-span brought on by inferior nutrition, during which the cat experiences a loving home, is preferable to his ending up on the SPCA's carcass pile.
This email intrigued me so much that I put the question to my forum members, which stimulated a lengthy and lively discussion. Since there are a number of situations involved which may legitimately call for deviation from the "perfect world" philosophy of cat foods, I'll break it down. The first two are similar to a degree, but are listed separately:
Depending on finances and the number of cats in a household, some food compromises may need to be made. With my own three (previously four) cats and current income, I find that I can't follow my own advice all the time, as the cats eat a combination of dry and canned food (almost always premium - the exception will be noted below). In addition, I recently was "adopted" by a little neighborhood stray cat, Jennifur aka Jenny, and feeding her (along with other strays and an opportunistic raccoon who steal her food) is becoming expensive with the premium brands I use. A forum member's comment on this dilemma:
- "Economically, we tend to have a mid-range income (especially when my husband is working) If we had more than two cats, we definitely would have to find something cheaper to feed them, but with just the two, it's feasible for us to feed them Wellness."
Rescues and Fosters
Certainly, many people either "officially" in rescue, or just "suckers for a pretty face," will reach a point where they have to make compromises - either by limiting the number of cats they can comfortably handle, or settling for a lesser quality of food. Our forum rescuers chimed in.
- "We feed Chicken Soup adult dry exclusively to our 'inside' cats now. We have seen dramatic improvements in all of the cats. They have beautiful, soft and thick coats, bright eyes and the best health we have ever experienced with them. I know that a canned diet would be much better for them, but with 12 indoor cats that would make my monthly inside cat food expenses more than $450.00. Now, do we spend that money on canned food (assuming that we had it, of course) or do we compromise and feed dry for approx $80.00 a month? Then we can spend that other $300 plus on rescue, donate to a shelter or whatever? It is a tough choice."
- "This is something we are actually dealing with right now. Since March we went from being a single cat household plus two fosters to a trio of cats (we're adding two more next month) and 5 fosters. Quite a big change. It definitely changes the food issue for us as we had to look at the cost much more closely than before. Because we have different ages of foster cats and some with special needs we have at least 5-6 bags of cat food and Lord only knows how many kinds of canned in our house at any given time. It's been a big change."
- "My inside cats have been switched to Chicken Soup and Nutro Complete Pouches. However, the colony of outside cats get Special Kitty and canned food 2 times a week. There are about 15 of them out there and there is no way I can afford to feed them premium food. But they get fed dry food twice a day. If I notice a skinny cat I will feed them a little extra food with some Missing Link in it. Possibly when I get my car paid off in a few years I can start adding some Chicken soup dry to their food."
This is a good place for the reminder that cheap food is not always cost-effective. Well nourished cats who are not starving tend to eat just enough food to satisfy their nutritional requirements. Thus, cats may overeat the cheaper foods, loaded with corn fillers, just to get the nourishment they require. They will normally eat far less of the denser, nutrient-packed premium foods with named protein source (chicken, turkey, lamb, etc.), particularly if they are able and willing to eat canned foods almost exclusively.
However, sometimes, cost is not the only issue, as we will explore on the next page.
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