Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thinking outside the cat box

When it comes to food, I'm a rather conscientious eater, as you well know. I spend a lot of time thinking about what goes onto my plate, and by that I mean I generally eat organic, local, humanely-treated, hormone-free, and low-processed foods. Recently, I decided I needed to put more thought into what I gave my cats to eat, too.

Over three years ago, when I got Sabriel as a kitten, I fed him Iams because that's what he had been eating at the shelter. After a few months, and some conversations with my new boyfriend the Anthropologist, I learned that the company that makes Iams (and other pet foods) tests its products on animals. Now, it's true that you must "test" food out on animals by offering it to them to eat, to find out if it's palatable to cats and dogs; however, while it's never been made completely clear by PETA and similar organizations, the kind of testing that most conventionally-made pet food companies do most likely involves laboratory testing which includes various forms of cruelty to animals. So I decided to go cruelty-free and switched to Natural Balance, a company owned by Dick van Patten. It was a little more expensive, but what's a few more dollars every month or so to feel good about the food my cats were eating?

After moving a few months ago, I found myself having to pick up cat food when I was back in my old home town — because I had no idea where to get Natural Balance in San Jose. Two different stores (excluding the big chains, which I already knew didn't) the Anthropologist and I visited didn't carry it. Finally, I went to a feed store nearby and asked a woman working there to recommend a similar but different brand. I ended up buying Royal Canin, which I immediately looked up when I got home — and discovered it's owned by a company that tests on animals. How else could they could claim their food produced less odor (which is one of the reasons I actually had bought this particular brand)?

I eventually decided that I needed to go all the way with my cats' food and commit to buying a brand that I could really feel good about: Newman's Organic. I'm completely dedicated to organics, so why shouldn't my cats eat the same way? It's better for them and better for the environment. Sure, it costs about ten dollars for three pounds of food, but again, I feel better about what Sabre and Friday are eating.

It's hard to tell what exactly PETA, who, as I mentioned above, is the primary organization invested in such matters, finds objectionable about the lab testing performed by pet food companies. There are few to no details available about what sort of testing is going on, and since I'm not the biggest fan of PETA's methods (they don't even think people should have pets), I do wonder what qualifies as "cruelty" to them. Regardless, I want to do the best thing for animals, and if that means spending a little more money and a little more thought on what I'm buying, that's fine by me. It works for me, and it's working for my cats, too.

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