River and Cooper’s Food

To help you better understand what goes into choosing a pet food, I’ll explain how I chose the food for my boys.

While I love Hills and Royal Canin for their business ethics and research to make sure your pet is getting what they need in their diet, they’re just out of my price range so I’ve always adored Iams, for their efforts to make cheep food still provide nutritional quality. When cooper first came, he ate Iams adult:

Cooper never had an issue eating this diet. Once the initial stress of a new household passed, he always cleared his plate. When Old Man River joined us, he loved it as well.


But then came the diarrhea and vomiting… Ugh… Both boys were in on it (it is actually why River joined our household, Cooper just thought he’d play along) and I spent a LOT of time cleaning. An awesome vet at Holladay Veterinary Hospital suspected Cooper was chicken intolerant and River might have IBD. I opted out of the biopsy to confirm his suspicions due to River’a advanced age and the scrawniness of my wallet so removing chicken from the boys diet was the first recommendation.

That’s when the research began. Most Iams, and other grocery store brands, have chicken additives even when using a novelty protein, as you can see below, because chicken is easy to source and relatively inexpensive. You will note salmon is the first ingredient, which is awesome, but chicken by-product meal is the second. So sadly, no more Iams in this house.


Ingredients: Salmon, Chicken By-Product Meal, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Corn Grits, Chicken Meal, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken, Tuna, Brewers Rice, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed Tocopherols), Dried Beet Pulp, Brewers Dried Yeast, Dried Egg Product, Natural Flavor, Sodium Bisulfate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, DL-Methionine, Fructooligosaccharides, Vitamins…, Minerals…, Taurine, L-Carnitine, Rosemary Extract.


One by one I went through the other brands and many were exactly the same. Even some top name brands added chicken, because it is such and easy protein and cats need so much protein. I really thought I was going to have to get a second job to feed my cats when I ran across Natures Balance. It beat others in price and had no chicken in the ingredients! Yay!


 We started out on Salmon LID Natural Balance and the boys simply LOVED it, but the diarrhea and vomiting continued, if not worsened, so I contacted their regular vet and she asked what diet I had changed them to. That’s when I learned that salmon, and fish, isn’t the easiest on kids with digestive issues. Fish is great for skin and fur issues with all those omegas, but not great for sensitive guts… sigh.



My friend Draco, the Holladay Office Cat, rotates between RCVD Venison and Rabbit, which is a fantastic diet, well out of my price range. Cooper and River have both shared Draco’s venison crunchies on occasion so I thought venison would be the next thing to try, and I got vet approval for the meat source. Yay! It’s a purple bag too. Who can beat a purple bag?


Draco man ready for work


So, the trial began. Cooper is now diarrhea and vomit free and River has been vomit free for months! Thank you venison. I was so tired of cleaning vomit!

Things important on the bag:

When picking Natural Balance, the ingredient list was not the only consideration. Here are the rest of the ‘must check’ items on a pet food bag.

AAFCO Statement:

*Natural Balance® L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets® Green Pea & Venison Formula is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for Adult Maintenance.

Life Stage:

It is made for the nutrition of Adult Cats. If River wasn’t underweight, I might have to be concerned by this since he is very much a senior cat, but at his weight, adult cat food is acceptable.

But what do all these ingredients mean?

Prepare yourself for a run down of what the ingredients are and remember this is labeled as a ‘Limited Ingredient’ Diet. This might get TMI real fast so don’t worry if you don’t make it to the end. You can just use it as a reference list.

Note: This is from the dry version since it is the boys main diet:

Green Peas: Being easy on the digestive system, this protein rich fiber rates high for my boys. It also comes with essential vitamins like A, B1, B6, C and K for bone health, minerals and lutein which is an antioxidant that supports eyes, skin and heart health. Yay. Peas are also a great treat for your pets, but just as a treat. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Cats are obligate carnivores after all. They are best at digesting meat, meat and mostly meat. They cannot be vegetarians since they are horrible at digesting plants.

Venison: Low fat meat. Cooper is gaining around the middle so low-fat is good. Besides, it was very amusing to picture Cooper, River and declawed toothless Draco trying to hunt down a deer. Though, I’m sure their saber tooth ancestors would have had no issue with hunting this particular beast.

  • From our PetMed MD Information, we have just verified the validity of the packaging. Green Pea and Venison are, in fact, the top two ingredients so they will make up 95% of the boys food.

So… what’s in the other 5% of the diet, let’s check:

Uhh… Pea Protein?: More protein good but really… give me more meat protein. Please. A lot of pet foods use this as binders to keep the nice kibble shape so, alright.

Venison Meal: PetMed MD says that meal is just rendered meat. So basically they dry or cook the fat away from the bone and protein to concentrate the protein. Since venison has less protein than beef, this is a good thing. Getting rid of the fat isn’t a bad idea either since most of our pets lead much more sedative lives than their wild counterparts.

Brewers Dried Yeast: This is waste from the production of ethanol so a lot of people get angry about its use. But come on, it’s derived from the single-celled organism responsible for beer fermentation! So I get beer and they get a sterilized and inactive yeast full of B vitamins, antioxidants, selenium, potassium, chromium, iron, zinc and Magnesium.

**Note: Brewers Dried Yeast is very high in calories and can give upset stomachs in large quantities so don’t try to supplement with this stuff without your veterinarians direction.

Canola Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): What the bug nuts?! Stay with me here, Tocopherols are forms of Vitamin E that help preserve the food. Canola Oil has no clear support or condemnation. It does have omega-3 and 6 but it is plant based, so I’m a little on the fence about this ingredient.

Flaxseed: Nummy fatty acids! It is plant based as well, but I sneak it into my own food sometimes since it’s so good for you.

Salmon Oil (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols): There’s our tocopherols again, now they are preserving the salmon oil. More of those Omega’s but now in meat form. I wish we could have this higher on the list but it is salmon and therefore needs to be used sparingly for my boys.

Natural Flavor: This one always bothers me. Natural flavor of what?

Salt: An electrolyte we all need, in small quantities, to survive. Also good flavor and preservative.

Potassium Chloride: Another important electrolyte needed for heart and nerve function. Here it’s probably also used like salt to flavor and preserve as well.

Dl-Methionine: A natural occurring amino acid in meat that your cat requires to exist and apparently tastes really good as well so can help cats enjoy the food better. It is important for skin, coat, eyes and hearts.

Choline Chloride: Source of Choline, an essential B vitamin from both plant and animal sources.

*The next two are like the multi vitamin I take every night. All the things we require in small amounts for survival.

Minerals: Zinc Proteinate,  Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Sulfate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Sulfate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite.

Vitamins: Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin A Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin.

Taurine: Your cat must have this. It only comes from meat. Vegetarian cats go blind and suffer horribly without this. Cats must have meat and the taurine inside of it. It is very hazardous for your cat to go without this. This is one of the reasons that cats eating dog food run into trouble.

Mixed Tocopherols: As seen from above as a preservative.

Rosemary Extract: Its a natural preservative. A lot of places will tell you this is toxic to your pets but I was unable to find any documented issues connected to it.

There is some concern with essential oils, but not the extracts. Essential oils are very concentrated and are not meant to be eaten, by anyone, while rosemary extracts are alright for consumption.  If you are concerned, the FDA has it listed in its ‘Generally Safe’ section:

Essential oils, oleoresins (solvent-free), and natural extractives (including distillates) that are generally recognized as safe for their intended use, within the meaning of section 409 of the Act.

The ASPCA lists it as non-toxic as well and I love their database on these things so I am not concerned but speak with your veterinarian if you are.

Green Tea Extract: It has many benefits to humans through trials, but hasn’t exactly been tested in our pets, so we assume it has the same benefits. Great antioxidant, cancer reducer and provides protection for the liver and intestines.

Spearmint Extract: It is also listed as generally safe on the above FDA site but I was unable to find its intended use. It was listed with rosemary extract in the nay-sayers category but I really couldn’t find anything on it. Catnip is from the mint family and is ok, while Garden Mint is not. Perhaps they were just getting their mints confused when condemning it? Or getting it confused with essential oils? Again this is the extract, not oil.


And there you go! This is what the boys eat and why. Still have questions? Start asking!