Cat Food Vs. Cat Feed - What's the Difference?

Most pet "foods" on the market are really pet "feeds". What's the difference? I'm glad you asked!

A quick Google search reveals that food is defined as:

any nutritious substance that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to maintain life and growth.

The same site defines feed as:

food for domestic animals.

The truth is that feed and food are two very different things. Both provide basic sustenance, but at very different degrees of effectiveness. To get to the heart of the matter, we have to look at the usage and connotations of each word.

Food is generally thought of as something that people eat. Our concept of food is that it is delicious and nutritious. It brings to mind family meals around a table at Thanksgiving, or at a favorite restaurant. When we think of food, we usually think of the meals that sustain us.

Feed is something that we throw down for animals to keep them alive just long enough for us to get something from them. That something is usually their very bodies. Feed is cheap. It's neither delicious nor nutritious beyond the very base needs of the species that's being fed. It's basically recycled garbage left over from human food production or other industries. I recently saw a plea for citizens to bring in palm fronds downed during a storm so that they could be used as cattle feed. Feed is roadkill. Feed is diseased waste. Feed is whatever can be forced on a starving animal to keep them alive for one more day. And feed is where the pet food industry began.

Let's look at the history of that most famous of pet food brands, Purina. According to Wikipedia:

Ralston Purina traces its roots to 1894, when founder William H. Danforth established the animal feed company Purina Mills. William H. Danforth, partnered with George Robinson and William Andrews, entered the business of feeding farm animals by founding the Robinson-Danforth Commission Company. The name was changed to Ralston Purina in 1902. Its predominant brand for each animal was generally referred to as “Chow”; hence “Purina Horse Chow”, “Purina Dog Chow”, “Purina Cat Chow”, “Purina Rabbit Chow”, “Purina Pig Chow”, and even “Purina Monkey Chow”.

The fundamental difference between human food and animal feed is reinforced throughout the article, and in my opinion, throughout the culture of Purina. Of course, Purina is just one of several big companies that own many, many different brands. Most of these big companies buy up smaller brands to own marketshare, but keep the brands on the shelf in order to create the illusion of choice in the marketplace.

The marketing of all of these substandard feeds has been so successful that many cat caregivers actually believe that they're feeding their cats great food by buying these brands. All it takes is a picture of a happy cat on the package alongside images of human food and most consumers are convinced that their choice is a good one. Unfortunately, despite the pictures of real food on the outside, what's inside those packages is still animal feed because it's more profitable.

Regardless of what you think of the meat and dairy industries, you must acknowledge that meat producers are only interested in getting cattle to live long enough to be slaughtered for processing. That's a very different agenda from us cat lovers who want our feline friends to live happily for as long as they can.

I have no doubt that the pet food industry will continue their profitable practices as long as consumers keep buying. Every time you spend a dollar, you're casting a vote, and when you spend on these substandard feeds, you're voting for this garbage and harming your pet at the same time.

If you'd like to learn how to choose better nutrition for your pet, check out the excellent resources at the following links:

http://kittyhelpdesk.com/help-desk/best-cat-food-and-treats

http://www.naturalcatcareblog.com/2010/12/the-7-best-natural-commercial-cat-foods-so-far/

https://catinfo.org/

http://truthaboutpetfood.com/

Wishing you and your feline friends all the best!