I generally do not write book reviews because most of the time someone else has done a great job conveying my thoughts. I find no purpose in writing a redundant review. After purchasing The Complete Cat's Meow , I knew I had to make a couple of comments. Throughout my ongoing quest to learn as much about best nutritional and health practices (keeping it as natural as possible) for my four legged family members, I have purchased several books. While Arden's, The Complete Cat's Meow, has lots of general info and is easy to read, a couple of things stood out that I just could not overlook as critical misconceptions or misinformation on the part of the author.
First, on page 100 Arden states that dry, crunchy food "may help keep kitty's teeth clean." Jean Hofve, DVM says, "Let's get this one straight once and for all: dry food does not clean your cat's teeth!" In my research I have discovered that vets, homeopathic and conventional, agree that dry food is not a good diet for any of pets. Dry pet food is just that... dehydrated (10% or less moisture)... hence very little water, which our pets need! Low water consumption for our cats is a problem we face already without exacerbating the problem with dehydrated food. According to [...] a few problems with dry cat food include, but are not limited to, low moisture, high carbohydrate, protein from plant rather than animal sources, and overconsumption. Arden acknowledges some of the problems with feeding dry food, but touts that reading the label can help ensure a good dry food choice. The problem with that is pet food labels are very difficult to interpret and there are no good DRY food choices. Dry food should never be the animal's primary food source (Anitra Frazier, The Natural Cat).
Secondly, Arden attempts to reassure the reader that commercial pet food is safe for pets based on research, past and ongoing, performed by pet food companies. She states that pet food companies can afford to hire veterinary nutritionists to conduct studies on cats fed various commercial pet foods. Anyone, whether they have taken a basic statistics class or not, can see the problem with this right away. UGH! Arden also states "...be sure to choose one from a reputable company..." Arden denotes reputable as a pet food company with the AAFCO's stamp of approval. Let me explain the AAFCO's role in pet food production and sales. I'll share information from Dr. Pitcairn's book, Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs & Cats" (pg 16-17). Here's what Dr. Pitcairn has to say: "The usual standard is that set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) which `is a private advisory body whose members are representatives of individual state and government agencies, the US Food and Drug Administration and other federal and foreign agencies that share responsibilities in the regulation of animal feed.' Like me, you likely assumed that pet food is regulated as to quality by organizations like this, right? AAFCO, however, has no input as to the ingredients actually used in pet foods, as it has no enforcement authority and does no analytical testing on pet food or the source of protein, fiber, or fats used. Feeding trials, which are done for some (not all) of the foods are `either run by the company itself or by a contracted facility, and the company then attests to the results.' "Even more disappointing, as Ann Martin reports in her book, Food Pets Die For, acceptance of even the AAFCO's standard of quality (yikes) is not universal." Further, Dr. Pitcairn states, "Some of the food you buy might say `USDA inspected.' But the point to realize is that the inspection was to determine if the food was suitable for human consumption. What was not edible was put into pet food. So it is incorrect to think that because the food was inspected, what your pet is eating is of high quality. It actually means the opposite-that because it is inspected, your dog or cat is eating the discarded remnants." I will spare you the gory details of what really is in a lot of our commercial pet food. If you are serious about the health and nutrition of your four legged family members, I highly recommend Dr. Pitcairn's book to you. It is harder to read, but well-sectioned so you can traverse the book as you need help in various areas.
Next, I'll mention that Arden suggests that free feeding (which implies using dry food) is acceptable for some cats (pg 104). Free feeding encourages overeating and a host of other issues such as food addiction, kitty bullying, laziness on the part of the pet companion (temptation to leave uneaten food out for long periods), and bugs. When it comes to free-feeding, I just have to ask myself if I would eat food that has been left uncovered, exposed to dust and dirt and whatever else is floating around in my house. Food left out gets stale and loses it palatability and possibly whatever nutritional benefits it might have had. I can't believe I ever did this to my kitties. I completely understand her point about leaving food out for cats to eat as their energy needs dictate, but seriously, our housecats are not hunting for food using up energy. One thing is for sure, we do better when we know better.
Finally, anyone who needs help finding quality commercial pet food should check out dogfoodadvisor.com. This very valuable website rates commercial dog food (both wet and dry). The website belongs to Dr. Mike Sagman, graduate of the Medical College of Virginia and a dental surgeon in Williamsburg, Virginia who lost his little four legged girl unnecessarily. He has made the commitment to "save good dogs from bad food" by informing consumers about the quality of commercial dog food. His ratings are unbiased and he states the advantages and pitfalls of the analyses. Although he does not currently rate cat food, I make the leap that a company that cares about the quality of its dog food, hopefully cares about their cat food products the same. I also note that just because Dr. Sagman rates dry food, I still discourage its use unless combined with water and other plant and animal sources of high nutritional value. It's a place to start anyway.
Books I recommend:
Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs and Cats
Anitra Frazier's The Natural Cat (published in 1981, but has been updated to current findings/research)
Andi Brown's The Whole Pet Diet