The science diet adult hairball control dry formula is one such formula. According to the Hills company, this is a formula made with natural fibers to prevent the formation of hairballs. It is also claimed to contain quality protein, omega fatty acids and other nutrients to support the health of your cat.
Is this formula as good as it is claimed to be?
Ingredients in Hairball Control
Chicken, Whole Grain Wheat, Corn Gluten Meal, Pork Fat, Pea Bran Meal, Powdered Cellulose, Dried Egg Product, Dried Beet Pulp, Wheat Gluten, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Lactic Acid, Calcium Sulfate, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Fish Oil, Iodized Salt, Taurine, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Thiamine Mononitrate, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin Biotin, Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Folic Acid, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Vitamin D3 Supplement), L-Carnitine, minerals (Zinc Oxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Manganous Oxide, Sodium Selenite), Mixed Tocopherols for freshness, Oat Fiber, Phosphoric Acid, Natural Flavors, Beta-Carotene, Dried Apples, Dried Carrots, Dried Broccoli, Dried Cranberries, Dried Peas.
An overview of the first five ingredients
Chicken is a very popular ingredient for pet food and in this case, they are referring to whole chicken. This is a very high quality meat source and we are pleased to see it listed. However, whole chicken loses about 80% of its content during the cooking process since the majority of whole chicken is water. After the cooking process is complete, the amount of whole chicken remaining is substantially reduced. Therefor, while whole chicken is a great source of meat protein, this ingredient alone is not enough to provide sufficient levels of meat protein in a cats diet.
Whole Grain Wheat
Whole grain wheat is a grain based product that may cause some digestion issues. In addition it is also a known food allergen for many cats. Grain based ingredients like this one are usually used by pet food companies because it is a cheap way to boost the protein percentage of the food. That said, it provides almost no nutrition for cats because cats do not have a digestive system designed for plant based proteins or nutrients. They are designed to consume and process meats. While this isn’t a bad ingredient in moderation, in higher quantities, it usually reflects a lower quality cat food.
Corn Gluten Meal
This is the dried residue from corn after the removal of the larger part of the starch and germ, and the separation of the bran by the process employed in the wet milling manufacture of corn starch or syrup, or by enzymatic treatment of the endosperm. The expression “corn gluten” is colloquial jargon that describes corn proteins that are neither gliadin nor glutenin. Only wheat, barley, rye and oat contain true gluten. For the most part, this ingredient is normally only found in cheaper “grocery store brand” cat foods. Corn is frequently used as a filler ingredient to help make your cat feel more full, but it does not add much of anything to the nutritional value in the food. In addition, this is a common allergen for many cats and corn based ingredients can often be difficult for cats to digest. That’s why we can’t recommend this food for cats with food allergies or sensitive digestive systems.
Pork fat is also known as lard, but it doesn’t look as good to put that on the ingredients list! In general this is a good source of fat and we are happy to see a named fat source (as opposed to something generic like “animal fat”). All cats require a healthy fat source. It’s only a problem if they consume too much of it (like humans). When we compare pork fat to other named animal fat sources, there seems to be a higher instance of digestion upset with pork fat. However, in most cases, this is a quality fat source.
Powdered cellulose is a cheap filler ingredient. It is obtain as a pulp from fibrous plant material and highly refined. Once processed, it looks and feels very similar to sawdust. Cellulose is used in a wide number of ways. In addition to being added to pet food, it is used quite a bit in human foods, but can also be used for things like insulation, rope making, and textiles. Just like in humans, this ingredient is indigestible for cats. There is no hard evidence to suggest this ingredient is unhealthy, but it wouldn’t be considered a higher quality ingredient, either.
Other ingredients worth looking at
Soybean oil is a vegetable oil extracted from the seeds of the soybean (Glycine max) and is one of the most widely consumed cooking oils. Soy is a plant protein used by pet food companies to boost protein content and add bulk. Because plant proteins are less expensive than meat proteins, pet food manufacturers use them to increase profit margins. The majority of experts on pet nutrition agree soy isn’t good nutrition for cats or dogs. It is considered a low-quality, incomplete protein well known to create food allergies in pets. Many cat food companies take a hard stance against the “negative publicity” that soy products receive and defend the use of soy strongly, claiming that soy helps add nutrients and improves a cats coat and skin. However, we do not find soy products to be reminiscent of a high quality cat food.
We don’t think any grain is “good” for your cat. It doesn’t mean wheat gluten is “bad” for your cat, either, but the fact it provides almost no nutritional value makes us question the quality of the ingredient. Wheat gluten can be a decent protein source for animals with digestive systems that can break it down, but as obligate carnivores, cats are not one of those animals. Their digestive systems produce only the enzymes necessary for processing animal-based proteins. There are also some allergy risks associated with wheat gluten. In addition, too much of this in a cats diet can potentially lead to weight gain and diabetes. Unfortunately, diabetes in cats is a very serious health problem, so it is important to keep a close eye on your cats weight and diabetic risk when feeding a cat food containing ingredients like wheat gluten.
Chicken Liver Flavor
As you might expect, this ingredient is simply the extracted flavoring of chicken liver. We usually don’t like “flavor” ingredients, but in this case, the animal is named. The sourcing of the flavor (liver) is also named. So in this case, we aren’t too worried about it. This ingredient isn’t going to add any nutritional value to the food, but it may make the food taste better.
Pea Bran Meal
Pea bran meal is used as a fiber additive in pet foods. It is said to reduce blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and provides roughage adding bulk for intestinal health. Pea bran must contain at least ten percent crude protein and not more than thirty-eight percent crude fiber. Pea based ingredients are becoming increasingly popular, but the benefit for cats is questionable.
Is this an allergy causing formula?
From the list of ingredients, this is a formula that is likely to lead to allergies. It contains corn, wheat and soybean extracts. It is, therefore, not suitable for cats with food sensitivities.
Healthy ingredients lacking in this formula
Vegetables – This is a pretty generic ingredient and it can include virtually any vegetable. Because of this, we are unable to properly analyze this ingredient. However, since cats are obligate carnivores, they do not gain much of any nutritional benefit from vegetables. That being said, in nature, cats almost always consume the stomach contents of their prey which usually includes various fruits and vegetables. It’s unfortunate this labeling is so generic as we are unable to vouch for the quality of the vegetables included.
Potatoes – Potatoes provide a lot of carbs and unfortunately, cats do not digest carbs well and it can also lead to weight gain. This ingredient is becoming more popular in “grain-free” cat foods because while potatoes are not grains, they serve much the same purpose by acting as a non-nutritious filler. The good news is potatoes are complex carbs. These complex carbs are easier to digest than whole grains and also don’t spike blood sugar levels like the simple carbs do. But, anyway you cut it… carbs are carbs and cats don’t need them. This is a rather non-nutritious ingredient.
Judging from the ingredients used in this formula, this is a low quality formula. While it may help in fighting hairball formation, it can lead to other health complications for your cat.