Vet know how logo 500 transparent

All about

Spook's Story: Grain-Free Chicken Cat Food

INSPIRATION FOR OUR ULTRA FRESH Chicken CAT FOOD

As pet owners, we know how convenient it is to be able to feed dry food to our cats, however as vets we also know that most cat foods contain high levels of carbohydrates that are not designed to promote optimal health. Therefore, we wanted to develop cat food with a difference – one that we would be happy to feed our own cats.

Traditionally dry cat food has been low in protein but high in carbohydrates. However, cats are carnivores (a fact that 100% of people we surveyed knew) and they rely on animal tissue (meat) to survive. A carbohydrate or plant based diet is unsuitable for cats and a lack of meat may lead to poor digestion, poor coat quality, low energy and urinary tract issues. It has been theorised that high carbohydrate diets may cause obesity, which in turn can result in diabetes. Whist the carbohydrate and obesity link is yet to be confirmed, it is known that a higher protein diet aids satiety (keeps cats feeling full) so they are likely to eat less.

With all this in mind, we set out to revolutionise dry cat food in the UK. Our aim was to produce a dry food that was higher in meat and more in line with a cat’s normal physiology, including grain free option due to the rise of food allergies and intolerances in our feline friends. 

RESEARCH

Unlike dogs, cats cannot digest and absorb carbohydrates efficiently. Compared with dogs they only have 5% of the amount of pancreatic amylase (which is the enzyme required to breakdown carbohydrates), their physiology is designed so that they obtain energy from protein (meat) instead of carbs and vegetables. This is because there are certain amino acids (building blocks of protein) that cat’s cannot produce themselves and must get from meat. This includes taurine –essential for vision and heart health and Arginine, which is required for enzyme production. Without these and other essential amino acids the cat would not survive. A really good visual example, which owners of black cats can see for themselves, is when a black cat’s coat turns brown. This change in coat colour can be caused by a lack of Tyrosine. Tyrosine (another amino acid) is not essential as cats can produce it themselves from other amino acids found in meat. A deficiency affects coat colour by preventing the body from making melanin, but more importantly it is necessary for thyroid hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain.  

Meat and fish is also a critical source of animal fat. Animal fat is necessary for providing essential fatty acids as cats (again unlike dogs) cannot convert linoleic acid – a type of omega 6 fatty acid into arachidonic acid. Omega 6 is required for many functions including healthy growth, skin and coat. Cats can also struggle with utilising Omega 3’s from vegetable sources such as seeds and nuts. Instead they require marine sources including fish and seaweed, with meat to a lesser extent. Again, Omega 3’s have several functions including being required for normal brain function and the nervous system.

KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERTISE

Creating a healthy cat food was of upmost importance and unless an ingredient has proven health benefits it doesn’t make it into our food. We look at clinical studies and journals to check the latest research and when producing our Ultra Fresh Chicken cat food, we looked at the natural diets of cats including whole prey items such as mice to see what the make-up of their wild diet would be compared to dry food. On average a prey item (per 100g dry matter) is 62% animal derived protein, 11% fat and 13% ash (mainly mineral content from bone). Armed with this knowledge we knew what we wanted to create and we could start working on the perfect recipe, one which was much more similar to a cat’s wild diet.

As vets we also know that most cat foods contain high levels of carbohydrates that are not designed to promote optimal health.

We also wanted to include natural active ingredients that would help promote healthy digestive and urinary systems – as these are problems we see regularly at our in-house vet clinic. For example, studies show that cats fed on wet food with a moisture level of 67% or higher don’t have to drink as they get all their water from their food. Cats fed solely on dry food don’t get as much water from their diet and are more prone to urinary problems, so with this in mind we added dandelion and parsley into our Ultra Fresh Chicken as these are natural diuretics, proven to aid the urinary system. Diuretics increase the amount of water excreted from the body and encourage cats to drink more.

Chicken, especially freshly prepared chicken is highly digestible but for further support we included natural sources of prebioitcs – chicory root into our Ultra Fresh cat food. Chicory is a great source inulin prebiotics called fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and these have been proven to feed the good bacteria in the gut and reduce unhealthy bacteria numbers, such as , therefore helping to create a healthy digestive system.

FORMULATION

We were the first company in the UK to use ultra-high levels of fresh meat in dry cat food. The meat or fish that usually goes into dry kibbled food is dried, however by using new technologies we were able to include 60% fresh meat in our food. This new slow-cooked method ensures the meat remains highly digestible and retains much more of its nutrients.


For the more sensitive feline, we’ve made our Ultra Fresh 80% chicken cat food with chicken as the only meat source (single source of protein) making it suitable for cats that may have intolerances to other meat sources.

We use a small amount of sweet potato as a digestible carbohydrate source. Although cats require a good supply of animal protein in their diet they can digest and utilise small amounts of high quality carbohydrates, which they can use for an additional source of energy and fibre. We’ve chosen to use sweet potato so that this recipe is suitable for cats that require a grain free diet.

FEEDING TRIALS

Before launching any food we need to get paws up approval from our panel of experts. We want to make sure the food is as delicious as possible as well as being healthy. However, we only use willing volunteers to test our food.

Brand Ambassadors

We are proud to use real pets on the front of our packaging. We call these our brand ambassadors because not only do they eat the food, it has made a difference to their long term health too. The beautiful black cat you see on the front of our Ultra Fresh Chicken Cat food is called Spook… here’s Spook’s story:

 ““His coat is really nice and shiny and it's good for his digestive system. I’m so pleased- all my cats and dogs are now happy and healthy on Vet's Kitchen food. Spook loves it… thrives on it - wouldn't give him anything else.NICOLE CROCKFORD.


References:

Faber et al (2004) Department of Animal Sciences, University of Illinois.

Case, Daristotle, Hayek & Raasch (2011) , 3rd edn., Missouri: Mosby Elsevier. P10

Kremen et al (2013) , J ANIM SCI 2013, 91:1270-1276

Zoran (2002) , JAVMA, Vet med Today: Timely Topics in Nutrition, Vol 221, No. 11, pp 1559-1567.

Kreydiyyeh SI and Usta J.  .  J Ethnopharmacology.  2002;79:353-357.

Sparkes, A.H., K. Papasouliotis, G, Sunvold et al. 1998a. 59(4): 431-435.

Sparkes, A.H., K. Papasouliotis, G, Sunvold et al. 1998b. . 59(4): 436-440.

How much should you give to your dog?

Use our simple, vet approved Calorie Calculator to help you get just the right amount of good stuff in those tummys.

Calorie Calculator