Monday, May 9, 2011

Feline Nutrition: Food Allergy Or Intolerance? A Guest Blog (And Give-Away!) By Jill Gainer From "Nature's Variety"

I’m Jill Gainer, Director of Communications for Nature’s Variety.  A big thanks to Caren and Cody for letting me take over Cat Chat today!  What an honor.

Cody and Caren have given me an opportunity to talk a little about feline nutrition.   In full disclosure, I have a dog, not a cat.  (Gasp!)  But it’s not for lack of love of our feline friends!  (I just have some highly allergic kids in my house.)    But we always had cats growing up.   Delilah, our Himalayan, did me the honor of allowing me to live in HER house for 17 years.   And when I got my first apartment after college, the first thing I did was adopt a kitten, Samantha.  So I am a cat girl.

We fed Delilah what we considered to be a good food- it was a well-known brand name supported with lots of advertising and a catchy jingle.  So when it came time to pick a food for my new kitten,  I took my cue from what we fed Delilah.   Was it a good food? Yes.  Was it the best nutrition for her?  Maybe not.    Pet nutrition knowledge has come a long way since then!  And consumers and pet parents are a lot more educated on what makes a truly healthy meal for their pets.

 It’s a well-known fact that cats are obligate carnivores, which means they really don’t need any grains at all in their diet.  (Think about it- cats were used at granaries to keep the mice out because they WOULDN’T eat the corn, just the mice.)   Additionally, cats can have food intolerances or food allergies to certain ingredients in their food, just like people do.

 So what’s the difference - Food allergy or intolerance?  A food allergy presents itself with physical symptoms such as itching, sneezing, skin problems, hot spots…very physical manifestations of symptoms.  Food intolerances are similar to when a human might eat something that upsets their tummy every time they eat it (like milk, soy, spicy foods, etc.)  Does your cat exhibit any of those symptoms?     In cats, the most common food allergies are caused by just a few ingredients:   seafood (surprise!) beef, dairy, corn, soy or wheat.  It’s interesting, because those were a lot of the ingredients in the food that I fed my cat!

  So what’s a cat lover to do?  Fortunately, both food allergies and food intolerances can be alleviated or even eliminated when certain “culprit” ingredients are eliminated from their diet.  Sometimes veterinarians will recommend an “elimination diet” to pinpoint exactly what the animal is allergic to.  An elimination diet removes all of the commonly known allergens then slowly reintroduces them one at a time. It takes a lot of patience and time (sometimes as long as 12 weeks) to complete the trial.

   Nature's Variety has just introduced a new diet for cats- Instinct Limited Ingredient Diets, which contain none of the common allergens for cats.  It’s a great option to try BEFORE going to a full elimination trial.  First of all, it’s grain-free.  Turkey meal is the first ingredient and tapioca is the only starch.  It provides a complete and balanced meal with simple ingredients, and none of the top allergens for cats.  Additionally, it’s coated in green tea for antioxidant support (and it’s really tasty- cats preferred it to our competitors in our testing).  I would be happy to send out a few bags if anyone would like to try it!  So contact Cody and Caren with your info (how to contact you should you be one of the five winners), by leaving a comment on this post by Monday, May 16th at MIDNIGHT (EST) and on Wednesday, May 18th we’ll draw five names and ship to the winners. Contest is open to the U.S. and Canada.

  For more info, check us out at

Thanks again Cody and Caren!

**Caren and Cody here. It was our pleasure to feature Jill as a spokesperson for Nature's Variety. In the interest of full disclosure we have not actually tested Nature's Variety Cat Food.  Jill contacted us for a review and since we do not use this food (and could not test it because Cody is on a special diet that I didn't wish to veer from) I felt I could not properly review it. I offered Jill the opportunity to guest post to further explain her product to all of us. We received no compensation for Jill/Nature's Variety appearing today.  From time to time we will feature products that we may not have tried ourselves but we feel they may be of interest to our readers. When that is the case we will always let you know, as we are today. It is up to you, our valued readers, to form your own conclusions. 


  1. So glad to hear from a pet food company that is addressing the grains issue! Our cats don't seem to have allergies or intolerances, although I prefer to not feed them grains anyway. We've got a dog who just can't handle any; for him it's definitely allergies. Thanks so much for providing this interview, Caren, and thank you Jill, for getting the word out!

  2. It was nice to meet you! We have a Delilah too!

    We are using Nature's Variety Rabbit as a food trial for our Samson's allergies, and we had heard about the turkey, but only after we started on the rabbit. We're all grain-free and we would love to try it!

  3. Hooray for Nature's Variety, we've had some allergy problems here and had to switch to grain free, and that did the trick!

  4. Thanks for your nice comments! It's so important for cat lovers to understand about grain-free nutrition. :)

  5. Great Post! Even though me is a pure bred siamese and Kozmo is just a cat, me has no allergies, but Kozmo has allergies to grains! Mommy and Daddy had a heck of a time when he first came home, to find a crunchie he could eat! Now we has found one, me is happy cuz I missed making the loud crunches in the middle of the night!!

  6. Ernie has hasn't been determined whether it is food related or environmental related (we think it may be a combination), so he is fed a limited ingredient diet. It seems to help him.

    I feed all my cats grain-free...have been since the awful recall regarding melamine a few years back. But I feed them mostly canned foods. In fact, I have some Natures Variety Instinct grain free canned food right now...chicken and venison. Right now, Ernie eats Natural Balance venison and peas. I wanted to feed him the Instinct venison but when I looked at the ingredients, one of them is pork liver. Because Ernie is on a limited ingredient diet, I won't feed him the Instinct because of this added protein (the other cats eat it, though, and like it).

    I do give them some dry...the Royal Canin limited ingredient diet venison and peas. All the cats get this dry food.

    I'm glad that Nature's Variety is offering grain free foods!

    Island Cats' mom

  7. Thank You very much for this post! Very beautiful post!

  8. I had no idea that cats could have allergies. We have a beautiful orange tabby and he does own our house I would hate to see him get sick or something. He catches all kinds of birds, mice, rats and other critters in the woods around our home so he doesn't eat much in the way of cat food but I will be watching the ingredients in the future. Thanks for the post.

  9. I don't has allergies, but I do has dandruff! he he - also M has been reading ingredients on the labels and trying to determine what is best for me. I'm kind of picky tho and don't always like what she chooses. I'd be thrilled to try a bag of that food. You can enter me in the contest. If I should win tho, please don't send anything until after May 21st as my peeps will be on vacation until then.

  10. This is so great! I've been feeding grain free and my furkids are so soft and healthy! Please enter us!
    xx trish

  11. Very helpful information. I feel fortunate that Bogey doesn't seem to have any such sensitivities.


  12. Interesting stuff Caren! When the vet thought Jimmy had allergies he recommended a dry food which had venison and peas as the only two ingredients. We tried it for a little while, it was expensive and we would have had to switch all the other cats over to it also, so when we found out Jim had an infection and not an allergy we went back to the regular pediatric formula that he had been eating. It's all very complicated, but being informed is the best way to make a good decision so thanks for the info...I'll add it to the knowledge bank :-)

  13. Thanks so much for this highlight Caren. Only catch is that I wish I could get it in this part of the world. We have one such cat that would do really well trying this food.

  14. I never serve food which contains grain to my kitties. It's nice to have many choices for high quality food :-)

  15. This is a great post. I really think it's important that everyone understand exactly what is in their pet's food, good or bad, even if their pet doesn't have allergies. What I have found is that very often, people are feeding an inferior food simply because they didn't know better. Please enter me in the giveaway! Thanks.

  16. I once got into an argument with a friend because she was upset that the food I was feeding my cats didn't have enough grains in it. It was pretty ridiculous. Right now they're eating Before Grain and really enjoying it (and get krill and eggs as treats).

  17. I didn't know about the grain allergies in cats, it's good to know there is some good food to help the problem. We don't have a cat, but I'm always looking for recommendations for others.

  18. Dear Caren, I just stop by to tell you about meaning of Sooky la-la ( from urban dictionary )
    About word " Sooky la-la " Meaning ( from urban dictionary )

    1. Sooky La La

    A sooky, sad little person who feels the need to whinge about a recent event.
    "Did you see Nikki yesterday? She was being such a sooky La La."

    2. sooky la la

    buy sooky la la mugs, tshirts and magnets
    one) people who have a whinge or a sook over small things.

    Meg is a Sooky La La, I heard she ran away from her group today and only speaks her mind through MSN or the school emailing system.

  19. My Human keeps trying to buy me fancy expensive good-for-me food and I keep wanting to eat my favorites. Soemtimes I eat a little of the fancy stuff and then she goes out and buys more and then I refuse to eat it any more. Ha ha ha ha. I LOVE that game!

  20. Puddy thank you so much for that definition! It is quite appropriate for someone in our family. I think I am going to look it up on urban dictionary and post it as my Facebook status.....thank you!!! xoxoxo

    Thanks to everyone who is entering the contest...good luck! I am honestly rather surprised there aren't more entries, spread the word!

  21. I shared this article to my facebook friends (cat owner clients included) because this information is so useful and well needed!

  22. Hmmmm, this hippy food sounds like something the peeps would want me to eat. Peeps feed me grain-free wet food and say my poos and pees are a lot better. And, yeah, I also eat Fancy Feast tuna. You know where to reach me, should I be lucky enough to win.

  23. Awesome article. I would love to try this Grain Free food, especially for my 14 year old kitty named Cheyanne

  24. Would love to give it a try for our two boys.

  25. Interesting stuff Caren! It's nice to have many choices for high quality food. I really think it's important that everyone understand exactly what is in their pet's food. Really great article.


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