Understanding the ethics behind ethical cat food
Ethical and sustainable cat food is the talk of the town, but what do these terms imply? Climate change requires a shift in the way we feed our furry friends, so can we make a pawsitive impact with smarter food choices? The answer is yes, and we’re going to talk about how you can do it easily.
In this informative article, we will dive into ethical cat food matters and explain:
- Reasons why some cat food is labelled ethical
- The impact you can make on the environment by switching to ethical cat food
- Ways ethical cat food benefits your furry friend’s health
- How to find tailor-made and sustainable wet and dry cat foods for your kitty
What makes cat food ethical?
Cat food is considered ethical when the production process and the product itself cause no harm to the environment.
The first thing that comes to mind is the source of the ingredients. But, the ethics in cat food production is a combination of many factors, each regulated by specific laws. As we break them down, you will notice how intertwined and mutually conditioned they are.
There are four ethical issues to consider:
- The source of ingredients
- Carbon footprint of the production process
- Recyclability of the packaging
- Animal testing
My diet can change the world?!
Source: Photo by Monstera
Source of the ingredients in cat food
Cat food can be considered ethical if the ingredients are sustainably farmed and produced without abusing the workers or natural resources.
Healthy feline nutrition is based on a carnivorous diet with meat as the primary ingredient. Ethical brands often opt to buy local meat from animals that aren’t confined and eat healthy and natural food. By sourcing the meat locally, those brands support small farmers and ensure the highest quality ingredients for their cat food.
If you want only the best for your furball, you should buy from brands with the following certificates:
- Naturally fed
- Dolphin safe
- Sustainably fished and grown
Animal protein is vital for our kitties, and they need an abundance of it to thrive. Scientific research backs free-range farming because meat from free-range animals contains significantly less fat and more protein.
Carbon footprint of the production process explained
A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide and methane) generated by someone’s actions. In terms of the carbon footprint of cat food production, there are a lot of aspects to consider, such as the following:
- Ingredient production process
- Transportation of products
- Creation and disposal of the packaging
- Manufacture of the finished product
Let’s analyse the two most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions in the cat food industry:
Source of greenhouse gases
Ingredient production process
Ingredient production emits high quantities of greenhouse gases. Did you know that plants produce up to 33 times less CO2 than cattle? The larger the animal, the more CO2 it produces
Cats, as obligate carnivores, rely on a hefty amount of animal protein to satisfy their nutritional needs, so we can’t remove meat from their diet. We can opt for brands using the meat of animals that create fewer greenhouse gas emissions—poultry and fish
More and more vehicles are produced every year, and their fumes pose a danger to the environment
You can reduce the negative impact if you opt for brands that ship their food via couriers and third-party transportation services. Since oil is a non-renewable resource, it’s even better if the couriers use electric vehicles
Recyclability of the packaging
Recyclable packaging is made of reusable and repurposable materials. Unfortunately, many containers used for cat food are coated in various materials to help preserve the quality of the food, which prevents the packaging from being recyclable. Whenever you get a chance, opt for brands that use recyclable materials, such as:
- Metal tins
- Special wrapping paper and cardboard
- Recyclable plastic, such as polyethylene terephthalate (PET) and high-density polyethene (HDPE)
Recycling packaging saves energy, water, and raw materials and reduces waste and greenhouse gas emissions.
Despite knowing how harmful to the environment it is, many brands still use non-recyclable materials because of their preservation properties. For example, a consumer favourite—cat food pouches—are non-recyclable, no matter what brands using them claim. This packaging is made of polypropylene (PP)—a widely used type of plastic, only 1% of which is recycled, and the rest ends up in landfills. Polypropylene is an inappropriate material and raises environmental issues because it:
- Is difficult to remove the smells of the substance it contained
- Is expensive to recycle because of the complex cleaning process
- Takes 20 to 30 years to decompose
So. Many. Tins. THANKS, MOM!
Image (c) Untamed
Animal testing in the cat food industry
Testing cosmetics on animals has been banned in the UK since 2013, but the law doesn’t prohibit experiments in other industries. Fortunately, testing on animals is forbidden if there is a viable alternative. Companies have to go above and beyond to prove that animal testing is the only way to evaluate the product’s quality before being given the green light to conduct experiments. Many argue that animal testing is inevitable in the cat food industry, so is there an acceptable way to do it?
When someone mentions animal testing, invasive methods are the ones that typically come to mind. These experiments involve cats specifically bred to live (and die) in a laboratory. Non-invasive methods are a more humane alternative—much more friendly to felines and sufficient to prove that particular cat food performs well. The non-invasive methods include:
- Taste tests
- Stool tracking and examination
- Digestion tracking
- Visual inspection of the cats’ skin and coat
Next time you go shopping for cat food, check whether the product has a cruelty-free label. It will take a few extra moments of your time, but you will be sure you’re doing the best for the less fortunate kitties and our planet. If you need additional help, take a look at the list of cruelty-free and PETA-approved cat food brands.
How does it apply to cat food?
To follow ethical standards, a company needs to reduce its negative impact on the environment by implementing changes in product design, production, packaging, and transport. To summarise, ethical and eco-friendly cat food means that the manufacturer:
- Uses recyclable packaging
- Sources its ingredients sustainably (responsible fishing and sustainable, free-range farming)
- Puts in maximum effort to reduce its carbon footprint
- Does not perform cruel and life-threatening tests on animals
A vegan or vegetarian diet must be the right choice for your cat then, right?
Unfortunately, cats lack the enzymes necessary to absorb plant protein properly. Enzymes aside, even if cats could absorb plant protein, you would have to feed them a substantial amount to meet their nutritional needs.
Cats should never be put on a vegetarian or vegan diet because meat provides nutrients felines cannot get from a plant-based diet, including:
- Fatty acids
- Amino acids (such as taurine)
Forcing a veggie diet on your cat can result in nutrient deficiency, leading to:
- Coat, bone, and teeth deterioration
- Muscle loss
- Low to no energy
- Ventroflexion (neck flex)
If you have put your kitty on a plant-based diet, don’t be surprised if they start looking for food elsewhere. Cats are clever and will never allow themselves to starve, so your kitty will try to make up for the nutritional deficit by hunting outside (or in your kitchen).
Human, it’s been days. Can we go back to meat and fish?
Some cat parents claim that you should switch to cat food with grain to feed your cat sustainably. While cats usually have no trouble with gluten and can’t have celiac disease, healthy feline nutrition should be mostly grain-free. You can include a dash of grain to allow the fibre to stimulate your cat’s digestion, but it’s not a replacement for meat.
Is ethical cat food good for your feline?
From a nutritional point of view, ethical cat food might be the closest alternative to a wild cat’s prey. Meat from naturally farmed animals ensures your kitty gets the nutrients they need—no steroids, growth hormones, or any other chemicals involved. Many commercial cat food manufacturers add artificial flavouring to boost the taste of their—typically nutritionally poor—food. Ethical cat food contains only the natural juices derived from the ingredients used in the production process, and that’s why it is so appealing to cats.
Lunch was great, so I’ll tolerate some smooches.
Image (c) Untamed
Ethical cat food in the UK—how to recognise it
With so many options available, it can be hard to recognise ethical and sustainable products. Fortunately, many institutions regulating the use of labels and declarations on cat food to protect consumers from false advertising, such as the:
- UK government
- Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA)
- European Pet Food Industry Federation (FEDIAF)
- Department of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra)
The above-mentioned organisations regulate the production process and set standards for all pet food manufacturers, so the companies can’t slap on a sticker claiming their products are natural and organic if they are not.
Here is what cat food claims actually mean, according to FEDIAF:
How to read cat food labels
A cat food label can tell a lot. Check out the commonly used claims on cat food labels to find out what they mean:
The energy value of the food is at least 15% lower than standard options available on the market in the same product category
The ingredient or nutrient in question is 15% more or less present than in other products of the same brand or competitor’s products
The ingredient in question is not used directly in the production of the cat food or indirectly as animal feed, additives, or similar
Is Untamed cat food produced ethically?
Our goal is to provide the highest quality nutrition for your furry friend without harming our planet. By choosing Untamed, you can treat your kitty to delicious meals produced according to the highest ecological standards. Our planet pledge guarantees we are taking all the necessary steps to reduce waste and keep Earth safe and beautiful for future generations.
Our planet pledge
It’s easy to brag that you’re ethical, sustainable, and eco-friendly, but our planet pledge isn’t mere talk. All our meals:
- Consist of sustainably sourced whole meats and fish—cruelty-free and dolphin safe
- Are packed in tins and come in cardboard boxes, making the packaging 100% recyclable
Pretty, recyclable, and keeps your meals safe on their way to you!
Image (c) Untamed
Untamed—because your cat deserves the best
It’s okay to be indecisive about switching your cat to a new diet. Many loving cat parents had the chance to try Untamed, and here are the changes they report:
- More energy
- Fewer hairballs
- Softer and shinier coat
- Fewer allergic reactions
- Better digestion
- Fewer tummy aches
- Cleaner litter boxes
- Long-term weight control
Our products contain only the finest human-grade ingredients and no extras you wouldn’t have on your plate. A dash of chicken broth, sunflower oil, and tapioca add moisture and texture your cat will go wild for. We don’t compromise on the taste, either! All ingredients are gently cooked in their juices, making our meals purrfectly delicious.
This is in MY lunch? YUM!
Image (c) Untamed
Need more sustainable choices for your cat? We’ve got you!
Fussy eaters can give us a hard time, so we offer tailor-made cat food products for every taste. Is your cat more into gravy or jelly or prefers fish over chicken? We have all you need to keep your kitty happy and healthy from kittenhood to their golden years! To get your purrsonal starter pack, follow these steps:
- Visit our Try Now page
- Tell us more about your kitty
- Select a meal plan and place your order
We’ll deliver your taster pack in no time, so your cat can sample our dishes and choose the one they like. After the trial period, Untamed will replenish your stock around the same time every month, no additional shipping fees. If you want to make any changes to your standard cat food subscription box, you can do it any time.
Can you cook sustainable cat food for your feline?
Do you want to go DIY? Another way to make ethical cat food is to cook it yourself but consult your vet beforehand to ensure your cat gets all the necessary nutrients.
When you start looking for ingredients, shop local. Many small farmers will be thrilled to have a returning customer. You and your feline will eat healthy food, and the farmer’s business will thrive, especially if you spread the word to other cat parents.
Is it ethical to feed your cat raw meat?
Wild cats hunt and eat raw meat, so it is natural to think that domestic felines can eat it as well. The difference between fresh prey and the meat you serve your pet is that in the wild, the meat would be eaten right away without the chance to get spoiled. Meanwhile, the meat you buy from local butchers usually goes through several stages of refrigeration, processing, and transport before it reaches your table and your cat’s bowl. Despite being fresh, organic, and sustainably farmed, the meat you would serve to your kitty is more susceptible to contamination by listeria, salmonella, and E. coli.
What else can you do?
Ethical and environmentally friendly goes beyond cat food. Some changes you can implement immediately include:
- Switching to biodegradable litter—Do you want to improve your kittie’s potty time? The most significant benefits are:
- Lesser risk of contamination (due to lower absorption rate compared to silica)
- Less dust to clean up after
- Better smell
- Passing on the toys your kitty is not interested in—Is your kitty not happy with the toy you bought them? There are many cats who would love to play with it. Donate it to a shelter or pass it to a fellow cat parent
- Making toys out of old clothes and household items—Roll up an old pair of socks or cut shirts into strips and braid them. Now you have:
- One old shirt less to deal with
- One more toy for your cat to claw on
- More money in your wallet because you don’t have to buy as many toys
- Using biodegradable doo-doo bags (if you’re walking your cat)
- Buying toys made of recycled materials