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Is dry food bad for cats?

Is dry food bad for cats?
by Dr Grant Hampson

Read time: 4 min

Part 1: How it's made

It’s a question we hear time and again: is dry cat food really bad for cats? And, if so many cats are eating it, surely it can’t be all that bad for them?

Well, just like human habits, the fact that a lot of people are doing it doesn’t make it good. And the fact that your cat seems healthy right now doesn’t mean dry cat food is the best thing for them. So, let’s explore how kibble is made, so that you can make an informed decision.

The extrusion process

Extrusion: it’s a word you might not know yet, but it’s the process used to make dry cat food and it’s one of the reasons why kibble isn’t good enough for cats.

In our next blog, we’ll talk about the actual ingredients that go into dry cat food, but for now, we’ll say that the various animal derivatives, vegetable derivatives, grains, fillers and additives that go into dry cat food are dried and powdered, for the most part. That mix of different powders is fed together into a mixing chamber, where water and steam are added, to form a dough.

That dough is then forced through an extruder: a machine that first of all cooks the dough at high temperatures – between 200-250°F, but sometimes higher. At this point, the extreme heat is taking its toll on the kibble, destroying nutrients and nutritional value. Sometimes, we call this heat-blasting, but you could just call it what it is: overbaking.

Next, the extruder forces the kibble out through a die plate: the holes in the plate will give the kibble its shape. If you’ve seen playdough pushed through small holes, you have a mental image of how the process looks at this point – and exerting that extreme pressure doesn’t help the nutrients in the cat food either. Then, the kibble is guillotined as it comes out and lands on a conveyor belt.

The conveyor belt transports the kibble onwards – straight through an industrial drier. It means that any remaining moisture is blasted away, because it helps the shelf life of the cat food. Needless to say, at this point, these dried-up, overbaked pellets look and taste nothing like the meats and vegetables they used to be.

That’s why, at this point, there’s a good chance the kibble will also pass through a coating machine. The kibbles will be spray-coated in animal fats and gravies, partly to make them more appealing for the cats. You might also find colouring is sprayed on too, making the kibble look good on the supermarket shelf. (Or at least, as good as it can look.)

Finally, at this point, you might find that the same kibble comes off the conveyor belt into a variety of different bags. Different supermarket own-brands (and even what you think are independent premium brands) can be exactly the same kibble from the same factory line – but with a different label on the front.

How is KatKin different?

Well, first of all, KatKin isn’t a dry food and we’ll never make dry kibble. We understand that cats need 100% Fresh, premium meat, and that meat should be treated with the same care and respect as what you’d cook for yourself. So that’s what we do, making the food ourselves in our very own KatKin Kitchen.

First, rather than using boiled, powdered and processed meat, we believe in sourcing our meat straight from butchers. Then we mince it, add our KatKin Nutrient Mix to balance with the meat’s natural nutrients, and portion it into individual daily-calorie pouches. Each pouch is gently steam-cooked at that point, so that juices and nutrients are locked into every serving.

And, well, that’s it. After that, we freeze, pack and send our meals on their merry way to you. There’s no extrusion. No over-cooking. No drying. No forcing our food into unnatural shapes, either.

And the result shows. For a start, we don’t have to add artificial colours or additives: our food looks and smells great straight from the packet, because it’s 100% premium meat, and nothing but.

For cats, that means a better, healthier diet and a happier life. They get meat that’s packed with nutrients and with natural nutritional value. They get food that’s high in moisture, to keep them naturally hydrated. And they get all the benefits that come with the best nutrition: everything from more energy to better digestion to a softer, shinier coat. For us, that’s well worth the care we put in.

But my cats need dry food for their teeth?

It’s often said that dry cat food is important for a cat’s teeth. But the reality is that there’s no firm, independent research to prove the truth in that. Much like you wouldn’t try to brush your own teeth by chewing a hard biscuit, dry food doesn’t prevent dental disease. (For that, find out more about how to brush your cat’s teeth and how to check their mouth and teeth.)

But my cat eats dry food and they’re fine?

We hear this one a lot, but think about it like this: some people could eat mostly junk food all their life, and seem fine, and live to be 100. Most people really won’t. But even those people who seemed fine would have felt much better and lived longer, healthier lives, if they’d had a healthier lifestyle. They could have lived to an even riper old age, and we’ll never know.

Cats who seem alright on dry food are just the same. Yes, they’re getting by, but don’t you want more for them than that? We can all help our cats live their absolute best lives, with more vitality and even better health, if we give them proper nutrition. And for that, a fresh-cooked diet is the way to go.

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