The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (2023)

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (1)

Bad Cat Food Versus Good Cat Food - Can You Tell The Difference?

Before we dive into the eight worst cat food brands, let's recognize a few key facts about what's good and bad in cat food.

There are a few common misconceptions about cat food. One is that any commercial food is bad and it's always better to prepare your cat's food at home. On the contrary, poorly balanced homemade foods can lead to nutrient deficiencies and serious health complications. Never prepare food for your cat without following a reliable recipe that provides complete and balanced nutrition.

A second misconception is that "Big Pet Food" is the bugbear and that small, independent brands consistently deliver superior products. While large pet food companies are major contributors to the horrible food population, they are not the only culprits. Some small businesses may produce food that is unbalanced, nutritionally incomplete, and manufactured under poorly managed conditions.

And another misconception we don't usually voice is the feeling that you can judge a cat food by its packaging design. Even cat food labeled with images of mountain lions, salmon, waterfalls, and mountains on an earthy background can be nutritionally substandard.

So what's the secret to spotting bad cat food?

When choosing cat food, you should rely on a combination of reading labels and buying brands. Label expertise is fundamental. Learning to read labels intelligently will put you ahead of the vast majority of cat food consumers.

Once you know what you're looking for in a food item, you can start thinking about the brand's reputation. Knowing that you can trust the company you are buying from will make you feel more comfortable feeding your cat food from that company.

Let's take a look at some of the worst ingredients on a cat food label.

We start by identifying certain ingredients that say a lot about the quality of the food.

As a rule of thumb, remember that the first three ingredients on the cat food label should be meat. If corn, peas, or rice are first, second, or third on the cat food label, skip that product.

Remember that the ingredients are listed by weight.

Dividing ingredients is a common tactic used to create the illusion of higher meat concentration. For example, if a food contains multiple variations of corn, it's possible that all the corn ingredients would be lumped together and they would be the first ingredient on the list.

Pea protein, soybean meal, corn gluten meal and other types of vegetable protein

Cats need 22 amino acids to stay healthy and can only synthesize 11 of them. The remaining amino acids, called essential amino acids, must come from their diet. For this reason, cat food should contain at least 30% protein.

But not all proteins are created equal; Each protein source varies in bioavailability. Eggs have a biological value of 100, while feathers have a biological value of zero. Cats thrive on animal protein because it is highly metabolizable and nutritious.

Vegetable protein sources are cheaper and round off the guaranteed analysis, but are less biologically available than animal proteins. Plant proteins and other types of less bioavailable protein are processed inefficiently by the body, increasing the workload on the liver and kidneys.


As real (compulsory) carnivores, cats have practically no natural carbohydrate requirements. Cats can survive and thrive on a diet as low as 1-2% carbohydrate calories. Despite this, most dry cat foods contain between 30 and 45% carbohydrates. Cat food labeling does not currently indicate carbohydrate content. If you want to know the exact percentage of a specific food, you need to contact or use the manufacturerCarbohydrate and calorie calculatorto determine the percentage yourself.

Common high-carb ingredients include corn, wheat, potatoes, rice, and oats.

Animal by-products

People often experience a visceral reaction to the idea of ​​animal by-products in their cat's food, assuming that stomachs, intestines, udders, and chicken heads are just as unfit for cat consumption because they are disgusting to humans.

But this feeling of nausea is misplaced and driven by a fundamental misunderstanding of cat nutrition. Cats are predators, eating almost every part of their prey, consuming feet, eyes, noses, fur and skin that humans would find appalling.

It's not the "ick factor" that should make us avoid by-products. The problem lies in regulation and administration.

You'll find by-products labeled in a variety of ways, but they all fall into two basic camps. The distinction is important.

Generic by-productsare indicated by vague names such as meat by-products, meat and bone by-product meal, meat by-product meal, and animal by-product meal.

Named by-productsappear on the ingredient list as chicken by-products, turkey by-products, pork by-products, chicken by-product meal, and so on.

While neither type is ideal, generic by-products are worse. This may include animals that have already died through euthanasia, sick animals, or disabled animals that are using drugs.

AEPA Documentfrom 1995 describes how meat processing plants source raw materials:“Independent (recycling) operations obtain animal by-products, including fat, blood, feathers, offal and whole animal carcasses, from the following sources: butcher shops, supermarkets, restaurants, fast food chains, poultry processors, slaughterhouses, farms, ranches, feedlots and animal shelters .”

We know nothing about the uniformity of bioavailability of any by-product. Certain parts of the animal carcass are highly bioavailable, while others, such as beaks and feet, are virtually non-metabolizable. In other words, animal by-products are an unreliable and volatile source of protein for your cat.

Another problem with non-specific animal content is the potential for introducing allergens into your cat's food. Animal by-products are made from unspecified parts of unspecified animals. They may contain mutton, beef, or pork, which will make your cat nauseous.

(Video) That ugly truth about your favorite cat food brands


This seaweed-derived ingredient is a naturally effective binding agent and thickener that has a disturbing history. It can create inflammation in the body that leads to a variety of serious complications, including fetal toxicity, ulcerative colitis, immunosuppression, and yes – cancer.

While some voices in the scientific community disagree with claims that carrageenan is dangerous, there isn't enough evidence to completely dismiss them. We just don't know if it's harmful or not.

BHA, BHT und Ethoxyquin

These chemical preservatives have been linked to organ disease, cancer, and skin problems. It's easy to avoid BHA and BHT by choosing foods preserved with mixed tocopherols (vitamin E).

Ethoxyquin is more stealthy — although it's often not added to pet food itself, it can sneak in with fishmeal.

Due to the risk of dangerous preservatives ending up in food at various points in the supply chain, it is important to choose a transparent, communicative company that closely monitors its suppliers.

artificial colors

Several controversial dyes are used in cat food. These include yellow 5, yellow 6, red 40 and caramel color. Although generally considered safe, these dyes have been linked to behavioral problems in children and can cause cancer in mice. They have no nutritional benefit for your cat. So if you have any doubts about the safety of these artificial colors, there is no reason to use them.

Pay attention to the brand reputation.

A history of ethical behavior on the part of the manufacturer and parent company promises a high quality product that will nourish your cat for years.

Signs that you are dealing with an unethical cat food company:

A history of recalls, cover-ups and scandals

Some cat food brands are plagued with problems. Some facilities have performed poorly in FDA inspections. Others became involved in crimes. recalls can happenThe best cat food brands, but good brands always treat them gracefully. In contrast, a bad brand of cat food only gets worse when something goes wrong. Instead of issuing a recall and being upfront about what happened, unscrupulous brands try to cover up the problem.

Second, recalls should not occur more frequently than once every five years. If your cat lives to be fifteen and you continue to feed her the same food, she could face a recall three or more times. This is a game with your cat's health.

Opaque procurement

Some cat food manufacturers refuse to disclose the origin of their ingredients. You can get them from poorly regulated countries or other unwanted sources. Also note that pet food companies often work with co-packers rather than making the feed themselves. There's nothing inherently wrong with co-packers, but it's important to be aware of the co-packer's history and reputation. What other brands does the co-packer work with? Do these brands have a clean history?

A history of customer complaints

Thanks to blogging, social media and sites likeconsumer affairs, customers have a louder voice than ever. A web search will give you the consumer pulse in a few moments.

The worst brands of cat food bring in thousands of complaints. You'll know if people have found bits of bone or metal in their food, noticed their cats got sick after a meal, or had other negative experiences with the brand.

Sometimes things go wrong. If your business is huge and sells to millions of customers every year, the likelihood that you will have complaints increases. In this sense, numerous customer complaints do not always indicate a bad company. Look at the consistency of the complaints and the brand's response to them.

The 8 worst cat food brands

1. 9 lives

Canned and dry cat food

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (2)

9Lives was founded in 1959. It is currently owned by Big Heart Pet Brands (formerly Del Monte Corporation), which manufactures, distributes, and markets pet foods throughout the United States. Big Heart Pet Brands is owned by JM Smucker.

9Lives food is available in both dry and canned recipes. There are five dry product lines; They are called Plus Care, Long Life, Daily Essentials, Lean & Tasty and Indoor Complete. Their three canning lines are Tender Morsels, Meaty Pate, and Hearty Cuts.

Most 9Lives products are made in the United States and are made primarily from North American ingredients.

Remember the story

In 2017 theJM Smucker Company rememberedmultiple brands and prescriptions, including 9Lives, due to potentially low thiamine.

Top recipe:9Lives Daily Essentials dry cat food

The first 5 ingredients: Whole Wheat Corn, Chicken Byproduct Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Soybean Meal, Whole Wheat

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

Thanks to the inclusion of ground corn, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, and whole grain wheat, this food is high-carb and high-glycemic. These phytonutrients are also rich in protein to varying degrees, giving us a skewed picture of the overall bioavailability of protein content.

Most meat ingredients are vaguely named. The recipe includes chicken by-product meal, beef fat, meat and bone meal, animal digest and salmon meal.

At the bottom of the ingredients list you will find artificial colors: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1 and Blue 2. The food also contains the preservative BHA.

This food consists of 30% crude protein, 9% fat and 46% carbohydrates.

2. Kit & Kaboodle

Dry food for cats

(Video) A kinder worst cat food brands video

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (3)

Kit & Kaboodle is a low-end grocery brand from Purina. There are only two variants of Kit & Kaboodle - Essentials and Original. Both are brightly colored and high carbohydrate dry food formulas.

Kit & Kaboodle is made in the United States using primarily North American ingredients.

Remember the story

Kit & Kaboodlecurrently has no callbackson record.

Top recipe:

First 5 ingredients: Ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, meat and bone meal, animal fat preserved with mixed tocopherols

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

Remember that the first three ingredients in any cat food should be meat? The first three ingredients in this food are ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, and soybean meal. We don't see any meat until the fourth ingredient slot, and then it's a vaguely described by-product meal. The other meat ingredients on the list are animal fat, chicken byproduct meal, animal liver flavor, turkey byproduct meal, and sea fish meal. This colorful cat food is made with a variety of artificial colors.

The food consists of 28% crude protein, 8% fat and 49% carbohydrates.

3. Whiskas

Dry and wet food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (4)

Whiskas is currently manufactured and distributed by Mars, Inc., the largest pet food company in North America. The brand was originally known as Kal Kan, a company that dates back to the 1930s when cat food itself was a burgeoning industry.

Whiskas sells four dry food formulas and thirty-five wet formulas.

Remember the story

Whiskas hatwas never called back.

Top recipe:

First 5 ingredients: Poultry by-product meal (source of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate), ground yellow corn, ground wheat, corn gluten meal, soybean meal

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

There is a clue on the label. Rather than being labeled as a "chicken and turkey cat food," this food offers "chicken and turkey flavors." There is no rule as to how much of an ingredient constitutes a "flavor" provided the aroma is detectable. To earn this label, the recipe includes "natural meat, chicken, and turkey flavors" made from hydrolyzed animal tissue.

After poultry by-products as the first ingredient, the list begins with a range of grain and plant-based meals. It contains ground yellow corn, ground wheat, corn gluten meal and soybean meal.

Overall, this food consists of 35% crude protein, 13% fat and 36% carbohydrates.

4. Purina Cat Chow

Dry food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (5)

Founded in 1894, Purina was originally dedicated to selling livestock feed. It eventually became a major player in pet nutrition and merged with Nestlè to form Nestlè-Purina. The merger secured the company's place as a giant in the industry. Today it is the second largest pet food company in the world.

Purina Cat Chow was introduced in 1962. It is a budget to mid-range line of dry cat food.

Purina Cat Chow is made primarily from North American ingredients, with the exception of lamb from New Zealand and synthetic vitamins and minerals from around the world, including China.

The foods are manufactured at nineteen company-owned plants throughout the United States and Canada.

Remember the story

In 2011, Purina was dry foodvoluntarily withdrawnbecause of possible salmonella contamination. Purina Cat Chow Naturals was included in the recall.

Top recipe:Purina Cat Chow Complete dry food for cats

First 5 ingredients: Poultry by-product meal, corn meal, corn gluten meal, ground whole wheat, brewer's rice

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

Although the ingredient list starts with poultry byproduct meal, the next two ingredients are cornmeal and corngluten meal. If these two corn ingredients were combined, corn would likely be the first ingredient rather than the second. Other high-carb botanicals that feature prominently on this ingredients list include ground whole wheat, brewer's rice, and soy flour.

The recipe is full of non-specific animal ingredients, including animal fat, fish meal, animal liver flavoring, and meat and bone meal. The recipe also contains a number of potentially dangerous artificial colors.

(Video) I will always avoid these wet cat foods (and you should too)

Overall, this food consists of 32% crude protein, 13% fat and 35% carbohydrates.

5. Meow Mixture

Dry and wet food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (6)

Established in 1974, Meow Mix was originally owned by Ralston Purina but was separated and eventually acquired by Del Monte Foods (now Big Heart Pet Brands) in 2006. In 2015, grocery giant JM Smucker acquired the company.

Meow Mix offers seven dry food formulas, six wet varieties and three types of treats.

All of their food is made in the United States and most of the ingredients are sourced from North America. All international sources are verified to ensure compliance with US standards.

Remember the story

Meow Mix was never recalled.

Top recipe:Meow Mix Original Choice dry cat food

First 5 ingredients: Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken Byproduct Meal, Soybean Meal, Beef Tallow (preserved with mixed tocopherols)

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

This recipe starts with two corn ingredients - ground yellow corn and corn gluten meal. After the chicken by-product meal, we return to the plant theme with the soybean meal, which is often used as a high-protein animal feed.

It contains "animal digestion," a nondescript term for hydrolyzed animal protein of unknown origin. The recipe contains several artificial colors.

This food consists of 31% crude protein, 11% fat and 42% carbohydrates.

6. Yams cat food

Dry and wet food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (7)

The Iams Company was founded in 1946 and is currently owned by Mars, Incorporated.

The company is well-established and one of the largest pet food brands in the world, but its popularity has been met with numerous recalls and a history of scandals.

In 2002 and early 2003, a PETA investigator worked undercover at an Iams affiliate research facility. The PETA film exposed the inhumane treatment of animals in squalid conditions. The exposé caused Iams to cut ties with the Sinclair Research Center.

Iams products are manufactured at company-owned facilities in Ohio, Nebraska and North Carolina.

Remember the story

Yams hathad several callbacksduring more than 50 years of business activity.


Iams was part of Menu Foods' nationwide recall due to melamine contamination.


In June 2010, Iams issued a recall of ProActive Health canned kitten and cat food due to low levels of thiamine (vitamin B1). In July, the brand's Feline Renal formula was recalled due to possible salmonella contamination. Just a month later, Iams issued a third recall, again due to concerns about salmonella contamination. This time the Indoor Weight Control with Hairball Care dry food was affected.


In December 2011, Iams dry puppy food was recalled due to aflatoxin mold contamination. No cat food was affected.


Iams Shakeables dog treats have been recalled due to possible mold growth. No cat food was recalled. Later in the year several other dog food formulas were recalled due to salmonella potential.

Top recipe:Iams ProActive Health Sensitive dry stomach food for adult cats

First 5 ingredients: chicken by-product meal, cornmeal, chicken, brewer's rice, grits

The meat ingredients are a combination of vague labeling and specificity. The feed contains chicken by-product meal, chicken, animal fat, dried egg product and natural flavor.

Both cornmeal and grits feature prominently on the ingredient list. The recipe also includes brewer's rice, a rice by-product made from ground rice kernel fragments. It is nutritionally equivalent to white rice.

This recipe is 33% crude protein, 14% fat, and 33% carbohydrates.

(Video) Dangerous Foods Your Cat Should Never Eat

7. Friskies

Wet and dry food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (8)

The original brand started in 1958 and was sold by the Carnation Company as "Little Friskies". Little Friskies was the first dry food made specifically for cats. The brand was acquired by Nestle in 1985.

Friskies offers both wet and dry food.

Looking only at the wet food selection, Friskies is nutritionally superior to some other products at a similar price point. Wet food is superior to dry food - it provides the necessary moisture and contains lower concentrations of plant-based ingredients.

On the other hand, Friskies kibble uses liberal amounts of corn, along with other suboptimal inclusions like artificial colors.

Like most other Purina products, Friskies is made in the United States from primarily North American ingredients.

Remember the story

Friskieswas recalled in 2011because of possible salmonella contamination. Only Friskies Grillers Blend dry cat food was affected by the recall.

Top recipe:

First 5 ingredients: Ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, beef tallow preserved with mixed tocopherols (form of vitamin E)

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

The food is packed with grains and other plant-based ingredients. The first ingredient is ground yellow corn, followed by corn gluten meal. Soybean meal is also included.

Most meat ingredients are vaguely named; The recipe includes chicken by-product meal, beef tallow, meat and bone meal, sea fish meal, animal liver flavor, salmon meal and crab meal. While most foods use natural flavoring additives, this one uses artificial flavors.

It consists of 30% crude protein, 11% fat and about 42.5% carbohydrates.

8. Hill’s Pet Nutrition Science Diet

Dry and canned food for cats

The Worst Cat Food - 8 Brands You Should Absolutely Avoid | EasyPet (9)

Ironically, Hill's Science Diet is a well-respected brand. Its reputation for excellence and popularity with veterinarians has earned it a premium price tag, but Hill's food is little better than the average food brand. Most formulas are loaded with herbal ingredients and fillers.

The brand is owned by Colgate-Palmolive.

All Hill's Science Diet foods are manufactured at company-owned facilities in the United States from ingredients sourced in North America and Europe.

Remember the story

Hill’s Science Diätwas recalledseveral times in the recent past.


In March 2007, all of Science Diet Savory Cuts' canned cat food was recalled due to concerns about melamine contamination. The recall was extended to Hill's Science Diet Prescription Diet m/d Feline dry cat food in April.


In 2014, Hill's Science Diet dog food was voluntarily recalled in some states due to concerns about possible Salmonella contamination.


In November 2015, certain canned foods were withdrawn from Science Diet due to labeling issues.

Top recipe:Hill's Science Diet Adult Indoor Formula dry cat food

The first 5 ingredients: chicken, whole wheat, corn gluten meal, lard, cellulose powder

What makes it one of the worst cat foods on the market?

This food has some positive attributes: It's made with no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives, and the recipe starts with chicken rather than a vaguely labeled by-product. However, a closer look at the formula reveals serious flaws. It is made from several protein-rich phytonutrients, which skews our notion of biologically available protein content.

The second ingredient is whole grain wheat and is accompanied by numerous plant-based ingredients with minimal nutritional value such as corn gluten meal, cellulose powder, pea bran meal, wheat gluten, dried beet pulp and oat fiber.

The food consists of 29.5% protein, 16% fat and about 36% carbohydrates.


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