questionshow important is "grain free" and/or "all meat…

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Here is my comparison of Nature's Variety "grain free" vs. their not grain free:

http://www.amazon.com/Instinct-Grain-Free-Natures-Variety-5-5-Ounce/dp/B005HUVY8K/ref=pd_sim_gro_8

http://www.amazon.com/Prairie-Homestyle-Natures-Variety-5-5-Ounce/dp/B005HUW2DG/ref=pd_sim_gro_10

Would getting either one be better than the junk they get now, even if it has grains? Or is it either get the best or it's no better than fancy feast junk?

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@meh3884: Cats like other things than meat, if left to their own devices. Things that all cats like to eat include barley. I've never had an animal that would turn down a bit of bread dough, either (it's the smell of the yeast that draws them, I believe). Most cats I've owned will eat their fill of cooked string beans. Cat grass is sold in supermarkets for a reason (although I've never owned a cat that liked it).

I've had cats that only had rare supervised visits to the outside, and cats that were working cats (as in, kept the barns and environs clean of mice, voles, and other tasty critters).

I used to buy fancy feast, which is just as good as anything else. I have always put down dry food as well, though. Unless you have a competitive eater, a little of both is good. I think I bought the Friskies that comes in a purple bag and was meant for indoor cats, last time I had a cat.

{Grain doors stayed shut on the barley to keep the cats out of it.}

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Paging Dr. @nortonsark ...you're needed here.

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@shrdlu: As usual, you are most helpful, thanks! :) My kitties get a limited portion of Purina dry food as well in the morning at night, but one of them has a bit of a ahem weight problem (and he is LAZY), so I limit it to 1/4 cup at a time.

I will see what Dr. Norton has to say about it and maybe can go with the grain food or just stick with the cheapo fancy feast. The stuff I linked to is on par to be twice the price so if it really doesn't matter, I'm all for "fancying" it up.

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The big thing you do not want in your cat food is corn. Cars cannot digest corn. Corn is the first ingredient in both friskies and purina. If fed these foods, your cat will not be able to digest the corn in them. Also grain free does not equal all meat. Grain free dry foods use alternate proteins, like sweet potato pr potato, which is very easy for cats to digest. Cats can digest rice, barley, and oats, but it's not as easy on their system.

I recommend Natures Domain which is available at Costco and is grain free.

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I had a cat who ate almost exclusively dry food (Iams indoor) for most of his life. At 12 he was diagnosed with diabetes and had to be put on insulin. I had previously tried to switch him to wet food (not paying attention to the brand) and it didn't go well, so my vet actually told me to stay with the dry. This time, I researched and switched to wet - Fancy Feast actually. Just these flavors because I wasn't sure of the gluten issue and this seemed the safest route. In less than a month he was off insulin for good. My vet was NOT helpful during this time and actually told me to do dangerous things (like up the insulin AND switch food), so make sure you do your own research, like you are doing now. If you are curious about the carb/protein levels of the food you feed your cats, here are some other links. The Janet & Binky food charts are awesome.

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@jdevenberg: Thanks. Corn gluten is the 3rd ingredient on the dry food I give them...maybe I should the extra money on a better dry food for them, perhaps.

@mkdr: Thanks! I try to give my cats the "classic" FF as much as possible, since I noticed before it seems to have fewer fillers in it, but they get very fussy over it and prefer the gravy stuff with the wheat gluten in it.

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@meh3884: mine go on streaks with the different classic flavors (I never get the chopped grill and or the turkey anymore), but LOVE the "sliced" variety. Now that the diabetic cat has passed away (not from diabetes) I will swap that kind in more often. I forgot to mention, you can rarely beat Amazon Subscribe & Save pricing on some of the flavors (they definitely vary in price) of the classic in any store except a Sams or BJs. Pet stores or Target have them on sale occasionally and I stock up, but I also get most of my supply auto-shipped - cheaper and easier. I don't pay over $0.55 a can, prefer to be less than $0.50.

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I feed a lot of strays that are dumped and become permanent residents at my home. I know it's not the healthiest, but I buy the absolute cheapest stuff I can find or no one would eat.

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@mkdr: I love Amazon subscribe and save! Cat food is one of my favourite uses for it, but occasionally their prices jump to more than $.60/can, so I buy it at Wal-Mart instead at $.54, though I think it may have gone up to $.58 recently.

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Currently, I am feeding my cats Soulistic http://www.soulisticpet.com/
It is pricey but it's good. My cats get a generous spoonful in the mornings, over a spot of ascorbic acid. Two of the three have had trouble with struvite crystals. The Soulistic is a very wet, high grade cat food. The tuna looks better than what Bumble bee sells.

In addition, they get free choice Wellness kibble. http://www.wellnesspetfood.com/product-details.aspx?pet=cat&pid=18#ingredients It has a good amount of cranberry powder in it, which also helps to acidify the urine. I like Wellness because of the quality and, if you join the savers club, they'll send you $$ off coupons.
In my case, feeding a better grade of food, is far cheaper than the vet visits the crap food caused.

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My dog and cat both eat grain free foods. They are predators, and their bodies are not designed to obtain nourishment from grains, any more than you or I could live on grass like cows and horses do. My cat prefers the crap cat food, just as I like deluxe pizza better than skinless broiled chicken breast. And for pretty much the same reasons, it's filled with junk to make it taste good. But for her health, she gets the grain-free. Being Siamese, she complained vigorously about it at first, I can tell you. But after a couple of days she got used to the idea. My dog loves the grain-free, and the higher digestibility means I can feed him 1/3rd less volume for the same nutritional benefit, and have only about half as much poop to clean up.

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@hodakaroadtoad: I have just started feeding a stray a my house and bought some Alley Cat for my alley cat. We have a lot of combative feral cats in my area and I chase them off because they beat up my cat and leave dead birds in my yard. But this cat showed up a couple of months ago and got to be friends with my indoor-outdoor cat. She has a much calmer, more friendly demeanor than the feral cats. I noticed last week that she was looking very ribby, so I brought out a handful of salmon-based dog food (easier to reach than the cat's food) and not only did she eat it, she thanked me for it vocally and by letting me scratch her ears. She's started coming around every day looking for food and talking to me and letting me pet her. I have come to the obvious conclusion that she's a lost or abandoned pet and needs a home, so after she finishes this bag of Alley Cat I guess I'll haul her to the vet for shots and fixing and upgrade her food.

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@jdevenberg: Good advice. Nature's Domain also makes good dog food. Nature's Domain is made by Diamond, and is a slightly lower quality version of its flagship label Taste of the Wild. TOTW costs about twice what Costco charges for Nature's Domain, and is only perhaps 15% better by my best analysis. As I recall, TOTW has somewhat more meat protein and less salt, but Nature's Domain is pretty comparable at a much more accessible price. For the first year after I got my Great Dane from rescue, I could not find a food he could hold down, including home-cooked chicken and rice. I spent a great deal of time researching dog food before finding one he could tolerate, which turned out to be TOTW Pacific Stream.

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@moondrake: I've had bad luck with Alley Cat (and pretty much any food that has coloring). I've been using this cat food: http://www.nunn-better.com/cat_food.htm because I can get it cheap and all my cats like it.

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@hodakaroadtoad: I'm likely going to be switching her to Taste of the Wild like Jasmine is eating after this bag runs out. I just have to make sure I am not going to be attracting a bunch of feral cats by feeding her. After she goes to the vet I may bring her inside and see how she does as an indoor-outdoor cat-- if Jasmine is as friendly with her in the house as she is outside. Jasmine's pretty territorial, but this cat is her friend already.

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Thanks again everyone for their answers. I think now I am leaning toward picking up a higher quality grain free dry food as a cost effective compromise.

I'm going to check out Blue Buffalo, Taste of the Wild, and a couple others and pick up a small bag to mix in with their current food and see how it goes after a few weeks.

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So for anyone who in the future searches this topic or reads this thread - I ultimately decided to switch to Nature's Variety Instinct grain-free kibble and after that transition is complete I'll be switching to the same brand's wet food. If this food doesn't work out after a slow transition, my next choice would be Wellness.

I talked extensively with cat owners (I live in a cat only apartment building) who almost unanimously said they wish they knew 15 years ago to feed better cat food. Many of them had similar stories to the above one about insulin levels being cut in half for older diabetic cats after switching to grain-free.

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Grains are not necessary for cats and can cause constipation. My cat now is suffering with megacolon, jist bought some grain free wild buffalo wilderness. Recommended we go raw diet, homemade, meats and the added nutrients, need to learn how to do it t this will help us in the trnasition. Recommend you go raw or at least grain free.