Man of La Muncha and I are currently "owned" by a small tortoiseshell cat, Ms. Teeth and Claws. Ms. Claws is our third cat; previous cats included a pretty black and white girl and a large Maine coon cat. We have loved all our cats, and have always fed them "good" pet foods, figuring that while they cost more, the cats will be healthier and better fed than if we bought bargain-basement cat food. And while our cats have primarily subsisted on kibble, we have bought the occasional can of wet food as a special treat or, upon occasion, as a bribe.
The recent massive recall of pet foods produced by Menu Foods has increased awareness in the public with regards to the production of pet food (if you want to find out what has been recalled, a good starting point is itchmo!). Even the supposedly good pet foods such as IAMS, Science Diet, and Nutro were affected by the recall, making us realize that there are no significant controls around what goes into pet food, and what we in turn are feeding to our animals. What goes into the vast majority of pet food, apparently, is the non-human food grade scraps--the offal from the slaughterhouse floor, road kill, anything that ends up going to a rendering plant. If your pet food lists "hydrolyzed" protein (i.e., hydrolyzed chicken, hydrolyzed beef) or protein "meal", it is not high-quality protein and has likely come from a rendering plant. Brands like IAMs or Science Diet cost more than a store brand because of niche marketing, not because their food is any different in form or content from the store brands.
So what is an Ethicurean to do? Is it possible to feed cats (and dogs) in a SOLE manner?Currently, Ms. Claws eats Wysong kibble, which, while not organic, has the advantage of being made of human-grade materials. Wysong does all their own manufacturing and has not been impacted by the recall; they appear to be a company that is trying to make a difference. But they're certainly not local, and they do not claim to locally source the ingredients for their products. So if we were to move Ms. Claws to a more sustainable diet, we would have to find another way to feed her.
One option would be to make her food ourselves. The book The New Natural Cat by Anitra Frazier is a tremendous resource for cat owners who are willing to go out of their way to maintain the health and happiness of their pets. In addition to information on grooming, spaying and neutering, litterbox habits, and management of chronic health conditions, Ms. Frazier includes a full section on diet, including a recipe for home-made cat food. Her recommended diet is as follows:
Cat Diet (Courtesy of The New Natural Cat)
60% Protein. Use raw ground chuck, raw organic chicken, raw organic egg yolks, cooked egg white, tofu (though only in small amounts--taurine, a critical amino acid for cats, is present only in meat), or cooked chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef. No cooked poultry bones should be used.
20% Vegetable. Use finely grated raw zucchini or carrot, finely chopped alfalfa sprouts, steamed broccoli, carrots, or corn, baked winter squash, yam, or sweet potato.
20% Grain. Use soaked oat bran, cooked barley, millet, oat flakes, brown rice, teff, quinoa, amaranth, sweet corn, or mashed potato.
Vita Mineral Mix (to supplement daily). 1.5 cups yeast powder, a quarter cup kelp powder, 1 cup lecithin granules, 2 cups wheat bran, and 2 cups calcium lactate or calcium gluconate.
Every meal, Frazier recommends adding a teaspoon of Vita-Mineral Mix (see above) and a quarter teaspoon of feline enzymes. Once a week, give the cat a capsule of alpha tocopherol vitamin E and one capsule each of vitamin A (10,000 units) and vitamin D (400 units). Note that this can be a raw food diet; if you choose to feed your cat a raw diet, the food should be left available for only thirty to forty-five minutes; after that, it should be thrown out. If you do opt to cook the meat portion, it should be lightly cooked to avoid losing taurine.
There are other homemade pet food recipes available on the Internet (Everyday Simplicity has good links to dog and cat options); it's probably best to talk with your vet before starting a new diet, and always good to make any transition gradually, by adding the new food in with what you're feeding your pet currently, and increasing the percentage of the new food until the old food is phased out.
Another option would be to feed Ms. Claws organic pet food (which Wysong is not). A great resource is the All Natural Pet Food Directory, categorized by retailers, natural pet food treats, natural pet foods with organic ingredients, human-grade pet food, and additional links. A delivery service, similar to the service Sprouts provides for baby food, would also be an option. Unfortunately, I was unable to locate anything comparable to pets for the Puget Sound area, though such a thing may be a possibility in other locations.
Ultimately, given our current work schedules and options, we will likely transition Ms. Claws to an organic diet rather than making homemade pet foods. A raw food diet is a commitment we cannot make at this time, but we can at least make a commitment to the O of SOLE. It may not be local, but at least we know that our cat won't be ingesting rat poison or plastics toxins.
Sadly, right now that is enough.