During the American Veterinarian Medical Association’s July Convention, a press conference was held to discuss the steady decades plus decline in companion pet health (see Banfield’s “State of Pet Health 2011” report). Among other issues noted, diabetes is up 16% in cats, and ear infections and dental disease have both increased. (The AVMA’s tentative conclusion – which doesn’t quite ring true to me – is that these increases can be traced to decreased vet visits.)
This past February, the Waltham Centre for Pet Nutrition (part of Mars Petcare) funded a study whose results showed that cats, when given the option, will choose foods closest to their natural prey diets. (See the “Geometric analysis of macronutrient selection in the adult domestic cat, Felis catus” abstract or this article published in the PetFoodIndustry.com News section, “Research finds cats prefer food similar to their natural prey“.)
And this month, the Winn Feline Foundation highlighted a study that links kibble diets to urinary tract blockages (Feline Urethral Obstruction).
At some point, the preponderance of information is going to reach a tipping point and the pet food industry (PFI) will have to begin responding to it. Will this spell the end of kibble and / or high-carb foods? And if the PFI begins to increase the meat / decrease the carb content of their foods, how will this impact the quality of the meats they choose to obtain? To sustain their current profits, they’re going to be mighty tempted to use the lowest grade “meat” they can get their hands on… historically, this has meant by-products and unnamed meat meals – NOT what our cats really need to thrive.
Personally, I’m cautiously optimistic the PFI will eventually have to eliminate feline kibble products. The evidence of issues associated with feeding these foods is growing every year, and there are stores that have already pulled kibble off their shelves. I think cat owners will also be treated to a growing variety of high-quality canned and raw foods with carefully chosen meat sources. Lesser-quality canned foods will likely stay around – look at what’s on the shelves for people! – but I think discerning pet owners can expect to have more and healthier options for their cats’ dinner menus over the next few years, especially consumers looking to raw feed.