More and more people are changing the way they eat - with awareness of how processed foods can negatively impact our health. In a world where pets have become fully-fledged members of the family - it’s only natural that attention is turning towards what we’re feeding our pets.
We set out to uncover the truth behind natural cat food; what’s fact and what's fiction - are there real benefits to our cat’s health by opting for brands that boast ‘natural credentials?’ To delve deeper, we called on experts at two leading cat food brands, Edgard & Cooper and Webbox, to uncover the truth.
The natural cat food revolution
“Owners are becoming more educated about what is in their pet’s food, as pets are seen more and more as a member of the family,” explains Jennifer Dean, New Product Development Technologist at Webbox. She goes onto explain how a higher level of obesity in pets has made people more inclined towards natural cat foods, as they don’t tend to have added sugar, like cheaper products do.
“There’s a desire for clearer labelling methods that name individual ingredients, with a named meat as the first listed ingredient”, explains Jennifer
Louis Chalabi, Co-Founder at natural pet food company, Edgard & Cooper, had the idea for the company after natural food came to the aid of their own dog, Egdard. He suffered with digestion issues, sore skin and patchy fur, which only improved when they made the switch to a natural alternative.
Since then, “Edgard’s feline friends, Ella & Charlie, used to steal Edgard’s dog food instead of eating their own”. They soon got the hint that it was time to create their own cat food brand, and haven’t looked back. This is now the case for an increasing number of UK cat owners.
For many cat owners, it’s shocking to discover that leading household cat brands contain only 4% meat. Which begs the question, what else is included? Undeniably, it’s hard to shake off the feeling that feeding our cats processed, cheaper brands is no less the equivalent of feeding them junk food. But what is the science behind this hunch?
The science behind natural cat foods
When it comes to choosing a healthier food for your cat, there are countless options. Grain free to raw meat - but what are the health benefits behind each one?
According to a study by Lily’s Kitchen, one in 20 of us buy the cheapest brand on offer, and 64% of cat owners have no idea what mix of ingredients they should be looking for, and in what quality.
Jennifer at Webbox explains that as a rule of thumb, natural cat foods also have added beneficial ingredients to target specific areas of health. Take Edgard & Cooper’s wet and dry cat food range, for example. Their MSC Whitefish dry kibble is high in omega-3 rich fish - which is ideal for soft and shiny fur. Their high protein recipe also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which support joint health, and taurine, an essential nutrient for eye and heart health in cats.
Likewise, Webbox’s natural cat food, both dry and wet, boasts a range of added health ingredients - including prebiotics which can support and help improve digestive efficiency, cranberry to help with urinary tract infections, yucca extract to reduce stool odour, and natural antioxidants to support the immune system.Their 55-60% high meat recipes also provide essential minerals and vitamins, eliminating the need for fillers.
”Artificial additives are known to cause allergies and aggravate ADHD in humans”, explains Jennifer. They can also be carcinogens, leading to a variety of cancers. Although there are still a limited number of studies that demonstrate the causal effect on our pets, owners will have peace of mind knowing that natural cat food brands, such as Webbox and Edgard and Cooper’s, do not include any artificial additives.
What makes a good natural food brand
With cats being carnivores, it’s also very important to look for brands with a high meat content, and this should be the first thing you look for.
Most cat foods are made up of fillers such as grains, bone meal, sugars and flavourings - with a very poor quantity of real meat. Henrietta Morrison, Founder of Lily’s Kitchen - a premium natural cat food brand - claims that many customers have reported an improvement in their cat’s overall health, digestion and all-round behaviour, once making the switch.
Jennifer at Webbox also reassures us that most natural foods won’t include allergens, such as wheat, making it easier for owners with cats who have allergies - to choose a safe food.
Top 7 things to look for in a natural cat food brand
- No artificial colours
- No artificial flavours
- No artificial preservatives
- Named meats and high meat content
- Meat as the first ingredient
- Clear labelling
- Ideally no added sugar
Cat food that reduces our carbon footprint
Opting for healthier, natural cat foods is the first step for conscientious cat owners. But Edgard & Cooper go a step further and offer a solution to help with the environmental impact of cat food consumption. “Most cat foods are over-processed and come wrapped in plastic”. Explains Louis, Co-Founder at Edgard & Cooper. Not only is their food packed full of lots of fresh meat and fish, they’re also the first brand in Europe to use biodegradable packaging across all of their range of kibbles and treats.
Edgard & Cooper’s wet cat food also uses widely recyclable aluminium – the most recycled material in the world. They also donate 10% of their profits to cats and dogs they can’t reach, and are already supporting an amazing Dog Care Clinic in Sri Lanka, and have plans to partner with a similar cat charity in the near future.
Cost vs. benefit of natural cat food
“Natural foods are more expensive than standard foods, but the increased quality and reduction in ingredients - such as sugar - can lead to improved health a fewer number of vet visits and associated vet fees in a cat’s life” - explains Jennifer.
Natural cat food brands also have a lower feeding guide then standard foods, meaning food lasts longer and the expense is reduced.
Another cost effective option is choosing dry cat food over wet - as the cost is usually lower. There is a misconception that wet and dry food is the optimum mix for cats, but if your cat is healthy- there is no nutritional need to have both. However cat owners may like to give some variety to their furballs!
Natural cat foods undoubtedly have higher price points for owners, but usually this is consistent with a higher quality set of ingredients with multiple health benefits, as well as a better source of meat.
The future: will it be natural?
Pet owners should opt for the best quality cat food they can afford. The higher meat quality, and less artificial flavourings and fillers - the better. In reality, the humanisation of pets will no doubt see pet food ingredients mirroring the trends in human food. Louis at Edgard and Cooper is adamant that cat food is too over-processed and things need to change.
“We hope that pet parents agree - enough is enough. It’s time for naturally tasty cat food that you, your pets and our planet can feel good about” - claims Louis.
About Gus & Bella Box:
If you're keen to make the switch to natural cat food - Gus & Bella Box offers an exciting way to try a range of premium natural cat food brands, to let your cat 'try before you buy'. Each monthly box will have a selection of natural treats, dry and wet food, plus unique products chosen to promote the health & happiness of both you and your cat.
You can find out more about our boxes here.