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Why You Should Not Feed Your Cat Iams (or Any Other Cheap Food)

Updated on April 17, 2016

The Truth is All in the Labeling...

I had been debating switching my veterinarian. But I made my final decision swiftly when I asked him what was a good food to feed my feline friend, and he recommended Iams. My colleagues and I, working at a veterinarian hospital as vet techs and staff, all knew that Iams was one of the worst foods available for pets. However, we also knew that behind closed doors, veterinarians were being pushed to sell Iams, Eukanuba, and Science Diet pet foods.

If you look at its commercials, or at the promises on the package, you may perceive Iams as a good company producing healthy cat food. But it's easier to find out if a cat food is good by looking at the label, not the advertising. A label tells the truth, or at least gets the closest to the truth. Learn to read a cat food label and list of ingredients.

Don't be impressed by the "shiny coat," "healthy teeth," and "healthy heart" Iams promises; most of these benefits simply derive from feeding any dry crunchy diet found at any store.

The truth is that like many other cat foods sold at supermarkets, Iams is full of fillers. Fillers are simply cheap ingredients used to save money. Fillers allow cat-food producers to use less meat because fillers will make up the bulk of the kibble. Fillers are unnecessary to cats. Think about it, most fillers derive from corn. Cats have lived without corn throughout their history, so there is no reason why cats need corn now.

High carbohydrate levels derived from corn and other grain fillers have been associated with the onset of feline diabetes. Furthermore, fillers can cause food allergies. Cats need only five simple nutrients (besides water) to live healthy: protein, taurine, vitamins, minerals and fatty acids. Carbohydrates, preservatives, flavorings, colorings, and binders are not at all necessary and likely to be rather harmful.

The second biggest flaw of Iams is that it contains meat byproducts. This term means that the meat used in the product has been found to be inappropriate for human consumption, that is, meat from diseased or dead animals, or spoiled meat. This meat derives straight from the rendering industry.

Good cat food should list actual types of meat on the label, things like chicken, lamb, or fish. Any reference to "meat" in general, or worse, "meat by-products," means the material very likely came from the rendering plant.

One "pro" of Iams is that it contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help cats get glossy, shinier coats. Iams' promise of "healthy heart" derives from the presence of taurine, but keep in mind that taurine is added to most cat foods nowadays (even though it is not mentioned on the label) because taurine deficiencies have been related to blindness and heart problems in cats. Good dental health, another promised benefit, derives from the simple fact of chewing any dry kibble.

What Food is Good for My Cat Then?

While Iams is not the worst cat food available on the market, it can be categorized as mid-grade, not the worst but a far cry from the best. There are many better foods with no meat by-products and no fillers.

More and more pet owners and nutritionists say proper foods are the key to a cat's health and longevity. I would recommend all feline lovers do their homework when it comes to choosing a good diet for their cat. While the best cat foods may be costly, the truth is "you get what you pay for," and owners investing in high-quality cat food will save money in the long run. Chances are that if cat owners do their math well, two plus two will make four, meaning that healthy diets will make healthy cats. Looking for the best food for your cat? Watch Karen Becker's video for some pointers.

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    • KT pdx profile image

      KT pdx 7 years ago from Vancouver, WA, USA

      Right on target! I used to work for a pet food company doing demonstrations/helping people choose pet food. It's amazing how many people would come in complaining their pet was scratching and had dander, but when I asked them what they were feeding they said it was one of the grocery-store brands! So many people don't know what you pointed out about veterinarians recommending what the pet food companies want them to sell, too. I'm glad someone else other than me is saying this on HubPages too, because it's something people need to know!

    • Mighty Mom profile image

      Susan Reid 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thank you soooo much for explaining how to read pet food labels. I have four cats, but only one of them has any interst in the hard, crunchy food. That is the one who is clearly having allergies. I am glad to have this knowledge going in to talk to the vet about what food I should switch him to. If Eukaneuba is not significantly better than Iams which is not significanly better than Purina.... they better have a good suggestion for my little Gremlin. He's scratching all his fur off!

      Hello ktpdx, too. Haven't seen you about in awhile and you are looking most fetching, I must say.

    • profile image

      clevelandcloset 7 years ago

      I agree completely - my cat was diagnosed with feline diabetes which WENT AWAY COMPLETELY after changing his diet and eliminating high-carbohydrate foods. Cats should eat meat not corn.

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 7 years ago from USA

      Wow that's amazing, good to hear he did not need insulin, very likely you must have caught it on time. Thanks for posting.

    • profile image

      Anna 6 years ago

      Sorry everybody but here's the real reason: Iams, Purina, Purina One (usually), Alpo and others do not have Acidophilus in them. No acidophilus, little to no life.

    • profile image

      nellie 5 years ago

      my cats eat a mixture of iams and purina one. and fancy feast canned. none of them have the health issues u have said. most iams food does contain chicken as the first ingrident and so does purina one. so it one better cheap foods.

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      Nellie, not all cats suffer from health issues from eating Iams, just as not all people eating sweets get diabetes. Chicken as the first ingredient is not always good, if it contains chicken by products you are dealing with head, feet, entrails, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, liver, stomach, bones, blood, and intestines, all parts not good for human consumption.

    • profile image

      nellie 5 years ago

      yes, and cats are hunting animals. not a human. cats eat by products. i used watch my cats eat bugs they would eat the whole thing from the wings, legs and the all the insides. so stop comparing cats to humans. cats and humans have different nutrional needs. it is immpossible to do.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      It is not the fact of those parts specifically per se (of course I know cats eat livers, hearts, intestines and all!) it's the fact that these are products not fit for human consumption, what this means is that the rendering practice collects all sorts of waste and this can include euthanized animals, road kill, and meat from diseased animals. Not to mention spoiled waste of little nutritional value. According to the book ''Food pets die for'' ''If a pet food lists "meat by-products" on the label, remember that this is the material that usually comes from the slaughterhouse industry or dead stock removal operations, classified as condemned or contaminated, therefore unfit for human consumption.'' Here is a link:

      http://www.homevet.com/petcare/foodbook.html

    • Karen N profile image

      Karen N 5 years ago from United States

      Very true!

      The best food for your cat is meat, it's what their body was designed for. Commercial pet foods is little better than eating at McDonald's.

    • profile image

      Pamela 5 years ago

      Excuse me, what you do mean livers, hearts, and intestines are not fit for human consumption.... I know a lot of ppl who eat them and a lot of cultures where that is part of their culinary cuisine. Are you racist?

      Have you ever seen an outdoor cat, they often eat the entire bird/ mouse except for the head, which includes all components. Think about that.... cats evolved for thousands of years to be able to consume that type of diet and digest those components. With that said, indoor cats don't have the flora in their stomachs to handle this myriad of new bacteria, but that doesn't mean that they can't get cooked non-diseased byproducts of animals which are perfectly fine for animal consumption. I don't see it any worse than eating fully loaded antibiotic overloaded chicken that we eat. Cats are born scavenger/ hunters... they'll be fine.

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      As a wife of a hubby that likes to eat chicken livers sauteed with onion, I know you feel alarmed but it is not the livers, hearts or intestines per se, it is the way rendering plants collect these parts and that they may come come from diseased animals. May I suggest a great book that is a real eye opener? "Food Pets Die For: Shocking Facts About Pet Food." By Ann N. Martin. NewSage Press (1997).

    • profile image

      Dormouse 5 years ago

      Personally in our house, we differ our cats food from buying different brands of pet food (most expensive to fair price - a mix of wet and dry) and see which one our two prefer the most. I also believe that the amount of exercise cats get daily/weekly (both in and out) should help with health. (that's just my theory anyway)

    • profile image

      Derrick 5 years ago

      im so sad because i lost my job, and all i can afford now is the store brands. :( fcking sucks. out of the store brands i choose iams cause it seems like the best of the worst. oh well.

    • profile image

      guest 5 years ago

      So what is a better cat food then?

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 years ago from USA

      If you visit your local petsmart you will notice their aisles are divided in aisles ranging from cheap supermarket food to grain-free premium cat foods. I would definitively look in this aisle.

    • profile image

      Howie 3 years ago

      I use to feed my cats friskies' BIG mistake all they did was throw up from it; then i put them on Blue Buffalo' they bin on it for a month now and their coats are like silk and their breath smells a lot better' no more of the other crap! no more MEAT BY PRODUCTS!

    • alexadry profile image
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      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      I am glad you are seeing such good improvements Howie, better products can make a world of difference!

    • profile image

      Howie 3 years ago

      Yes' I'm glad to! You do get what you pay for!! I also give my cats spring water' tap water has led in it and other junk as well! I need Blue Buffalo my the truck load the way my guys eat!! They love it' To their health!

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 3 years ago from USA

      Howie, good to hear you are feeding your cats a premium food and offering them spring water to drink! Your kitties are sure lucky to have you, cheers!

    • profile image

      Howie 3 years ago

      Thanks. Cheers back' Funny thing' I wrote to Imas and ask them how was their pet food any good if they had meat by products in it'and other junk as well' That was 2weeks ago' and they never wrote me back' I guess the truth hurts! also saturday night is turkey night for my guys' I get 2 pounds of pure chipped turkey from the deli' they love turkey night!

    • profile image

      Teresa 13 months ago

      What do you recommend for dry cat food? I always thought Iams & Purina were good choices because they are so expensive & my cat went crazy for Iams when I bought it one time to see if she would like it & she did.

      I've been feeding her Purina Cat Chow which is less expensive than the other Purina dry food but I've been wanting to switch her food to something of a higher grade because one bag of cat food lasts her a long time. So what do you recommend that isn't filled with fillers?

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 13 months ago from USA

      See Dr. Beckers video I have added in the article above for a pointer.

    • profile image

      Renilouise 10 months ago

      But you just said cats wont go near meat that is already dead. it has to be a fresh kill. So how is it they will eat meat thats been frozen or in the fridge a few days? The longer the animal is dead the more Taurine vanishes. And all meat is ripened in the butcher shops before they even get to the store. I have had cats my whole life, and that is over 60 years and never have I been able to get any of them to eat raw meat. But when they killed something themselves, they ate it right up because its a FRESH kill. However many cats wont even eat their fresh kill unless they are starving. PS, someone is behind your chair in the video. I saw the hand.

    • profile image

      Renilouise 10 months ago

      My cat lived 20 years on Science diet yet it also has meat by products. However she loved to hunt and ate her own mice. That's what kept get going I'm sure.

    • chip3333 profile image

      Chip Waple 9 months ago from Friendsville,TN

      If your kitty cat is suffering with kidney disease, it is imperative that you feed your cat high quality wet food only.

    • profile image

      seahorse 5 months ago

      We have 3 cats, and the youngest of the 3 got severe allergies, hair falling out, scratching, itching, and significant weight gain, from IAMS. The older cat also became hypothyroid and weighed 16 lbs when she should have weighed about 8 lbs. Took away the IAMS and everyone is much better now. Unfortunately, they won't eat the expensive meat based food, so we still are using a mix of Friskies and Rachel Raye's gluten free meat-based kibble, but they are all doing much better!

    • alexadry profile image
      Author

      Adrienne Janet Farricelli 5 months ago from USA

      Glad to hear your kitties are feeling better! Iams formulations have improved since I wrote this article, but it sounds like people are still having problems with it, according to reviews and personal testimonies.

    • profile image

      SVA 4 months ago

      I tend to feed my cats grain-free food, I switched them over after my oldest, a now 11 year old female, started having urinary tract issues (constant infections, about once every two months, and these were true infections as my vet was doing urinalysis using a needle straight to the bladder). I'm sure aside from infection she was likely having general irritation/crystals in her urine from the food she was eating. A food switch and a few sanitary shaves later, she has not had one for about 4 months. However, I'm not the only one who does the shopping here, and when my roommate goes shopping, he buys the supermarket stuff. I've talked to him about it and he doesn't listen, and I don't always have the time to go get the food myself when they need it and I don't want to waste an entire bag. I worry sometimes that the occasional week of cheapy food will cause issues again, I'm considering starting to buy in bulk. It can be a little pricey but grain-free food is always cheaper than a $300+ vet visit.

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