Cat Food poison? He’s just resting…

A Siamese rather like mine

A Siamese

Original Full Sized Image.

There is an UPDATE at the bottom! Byproduct “smoking gun” chain of: ‘reasonable’ plausible contamination route; identified from wiki page information. Also, FWIW, “Fancy Feast seems to have changed the formula for “Gourmet Chicken” and it now contains fish. It no longer is acceptable to my cat.

The story continues on a followup posting here:

Remember this story about contaminated cat and dog food?

There are more on the Google search:

Well, IMHO, “He’s BAAaaak!”

I have 2 cats. One is an indoor Siamese, the other is an outdoor American Tabby.

About 4 months ago, the Siamese was near death. She had adopted us, so we are unsure of her age, but thought it was about 9. That’s young for a cat to be dying. She had lost a great deal of weight, had poor thinning matted fur, a persistent sinus “infection” with sneezing and mucus that would not resolve, even with antibiotics, and sporadic problems with eating poorly and / or constipation, diarrhea, and watery sunken eyes.

One night I spent most of the night holding her in a towel to keep her warm and trying to decide if we ought to just “put her down” or not.

I decided to give her the best “exit” a cat could want, and gave her the special foods a cat loves, but usually does not get. Our salmon (not from a cat food can, the stuff we ate). Chicken roasted and minced just for her, with juices and pan fat (cats MUST have a decent amount of fat to live). You get the idea.

She improved some.

I went back to “wet” cat food.

She got worse.

Thus began a search for “the issue”…

The “outdoor cat” is younger and likes to catch his own food some times. We briefly had some rats under a brush pile. Happy cat. No more rats… We also have a dove population that nests under the eaves of the back porch. He seems to get about 1 out of 4 or 5. The Doves are expanding their flock (and we keep the hawks away that were getting 2 out of 2…) so they seem to be “ok” with the cat tax…

Why does this matter? Because some times he would sniff the food, eat a bit, then go out and get some “good food”. We thought it was just pickyness, until…

The Search

I started a systematic testing of various types and brands of cat food, vs the Siamese health. For a while I was cooking chickens and grinding about 3/4 chicken with 1/4 rice. This was OK but I was a bit worried about taurine levels and general vitamins. I could not get the cats to eat the cat vitamins I bought. But she recovered somewhat more.

The first thing I did after that was to just go buy some canned Friskies and some of the fancy brand, on the assumption that more money might mean better ingredients. That was Fancy Feast. I fed a broad mix of flavors, but had to stay in the “loaf”, “gourmet”, or “pate” groups of texture since she could not chew chunks any more. It had to be soft and ground up. She got somewhat better, but still had ups and downs.

I noticed a pattern.

When fed the Friskies “Ocean whitefish and tuna” she was worse. When not fed the “Ocean whitefish and tuna” she was somewhat better. We shifted away from Friskies entirely and over to the fancy brand. (I don’t think there is anything wrong with Friskies per se, I needed to pick one brand and went with more expensive). She got even better, but still had “sneezy bad days”. Death, however, was not on the agenda. That was about 3 or 4 months ago, I’d guess.

But she still was not “better” or “normal” all the time.

The End Game

This past 2 months I’ve done controlled feedings of one type of food at a time, and only from one vendor at a time. Always “Fancy Feast”. (No slam on Friskies, I just needed to pick one. I went for more expensive. My conclusion is that it is ‘fish by-product’ related, not brand per se.) Batches of “Salmon”, “Chicken”, “beef”, “mixed grill”, etc. were fed and observed. My conclusions are based entirely on when the cat was ill (her sneezing and mucus rises inside 24 hours, lethargy and bowl issues about 48 hours). Having, I think, worked it out, I’ve now gone back to trying some other brands. For example, we have fed some “9 Lives” chicken with no issues observed, though it was only 2 days. (Update: Now 6 days and still fine. I’m even more convinced it is a “fish byproducts” issue, not a brand issue. See the UPDATE at the bottom.)

FWIW, the outdoor cat serves as my control for individual sensitivity issues. He will eat full meals of the “good stuff” and only eats small meals of “the bad stuff” (i.e. suspect canned cat foods) and asks for something else first, before giving up and eating some of the ‘other stuff’ from outdoors. He, too, is looking somewhat healthier and has fluffier fur and generally seems less distressed (though he was never sick like the indoor cat, IMHO because he could go hunt down something else if he only had ‘bad stuff’ in the food dish). His opinion of what’s “bad stuff” often matches what makes the other cat ill.

The indoor cat has roughly doubled her weight, and has nearly no ‘sneezing issues’ on the best foods. (Where “best” is not a brand, but is a type: those with no seafood component). The wet drippy eyes are now normal bright Siamese eyes. Her fur is now full and becoming more lush. She has resumed grooming (and has presented a hair ball or two… so we ‘vacuumed the cat ;-)’; against her will, I might add… and is generally just a much happier cat. She no longer sits looking longingly at the lap, or dragging herself slowly and painfully into the lap; she leaps up on the couch and hops into the lap…

Where to go from here

There is Something Bad in the seafood products from several makers. I suspect that the “Chinese Contaminant” problem is back, perhaps with a different ingredient that is not yet being found by testing. The Chicken and the Beef products seem to be OK (IMHO because we are a net producer of both and do not import byproducts from China…)

At this point I’m doing the ‘slow expansion’ out into other brands, but have had no problem with Fancy Feast as long as it is restricted to the Chicken, Beef, Turkey and related types. Trout seems to have been OK too (but it was only fed as part of a rotation before I decided to toss all the fish out for a while). I need to do another trial with trout, but only after the indoor cat has had a full recovery. Since the USA produces a lot of farmed trout, that it would be OK would be reasonable. We have a lot of trout byproducts to use. The salmon seemed to be a somewhat mixed bag. Mostly OK, but not as OK as the non-fish.

I’ve tried “9 Lives” and their chicken seems to be OK. I’ve also tried Science Diet Kitten in chicken and it didn’t show any problems. I don’t think this is a “maker” issue, I think it is a source issue…

At this point, I am planning to feed only non-fish canned food, with a possible trial of trout, for some time to come; AND I’m working up my own personal home made cat food. I will avoid ALL commercial canned cat food in seafood or “mixed grill” or mixed who knows what’s in it types. (Though even the “single type” kinds often have other types of ingredients on the list. For example, “9 Lives Chicken” lists fish on the ingredient list, but fairly low in the list.)

Both cats seem to just LOVE trout, salmon, and chicken sashimi… And with chicken at 69 cents a POUND whole and Fancy Feast at more than that for 3 OUNCES; and trout at $2.x / lb at Costco, it looks like fresh is even cheaper than the canned stuff. Heck I even got pink salmon at $2.50 / lb a couple of weeks ago (whole fish). Canned cat food runs about $3 / lb for the big cans, close to $4 / lb for the fancy stuff.

But the bottom line for me is this:

You can not trust the pet food makers to protect their product or your pet. Once is a horrible mistake. Twice is a pattern. I’m not waiting for three times…

My present “home canned” recipe is very crude and needs lots of work. It is: Roast a chicken, strip it from the bones. Mix with 1/4 cooked rice and run the whole mix through the grinder (including juices and fats). Can at 10 psi (240 F) for one hour. Same process for fish. I’ve also made this with raw chicken or fish and done the cooking during the canning process. The cats prefer the raw form, but sometimes you want something on the shelf at 1 am when the cat demands a snack…

Any ideas and pointers to recipes appreciated.

I’m also planning to feed a fair quantity more roast chicken, and fish sashimi to the cats. There is a local fish market that often has some “odd fish” for cheap and I’m lucky enough to be on the Pacific coast where from time to time Pink Salmon sells dirt cheap. I’ve also bought farmed ‘catfish nuggets’ very cheap. Boiled, the meat and skin falls off the bones and the cats like it.

While it makes me just a bit nervous to feed raw chicken to the cats, both have tolerated it with NO issues at all (and with great relish, wide eyed looks, and begging for more ;-) I do have to mince the skin (especially the neck skin that is tough) for the indoor cat. It is not very hard to scrape the meat off the bones of a raw chicken and the cats like all the parts, so I’ll be making less chicken soup with the “backs, necks, tails, and such” and feeding more of it to the cats. Frankly, at less than $1 a pound when the Fancy Feast costs about $.60 to $.80 per 3 ounces, I’m seriously wondering why I’m not feeding them fresh chicken all the time. Yes, they need the vitamins and the taurine that is in organ meats, but the ‘fish eyes’ and chicken livers ought to cover that…

If your cat is ‘less than stellar’ check what you are feeding them. If it is a canned fish or seafood product, or a dry food with “fish meal” in it, well, try some chicken sashimi and see if your cat perks up …

UPDATE Oct 10:

The “outdoor cat” has continued a slow weight gain and his fur is better than it had been. His demeanor is also more settled and calmer than when we were feeding some of the suspect food.

The “indoor cat” has been substantially normal for the last couple of weeks. She now “asks” to go outside by looking at the front door and waiting (something she had stopped doing) and positively bounded toward me down the sidewalk at her last entry into the house from outdoors. I can’t remember the last time she was that active. Sneezing and snivels seem to be entirely gone. Fur continues to improve and she now seems happy and content (where before she was clearly distressed).

From this wiki page:

This page is about the various kinds of “crap” that can be added to feed to raise the nitrogen (and thus the “crude protein”) percentage without being protein. The generic term for all these things is “Non-Protein Nitrogen” or NPN.

With my comments interleaved, We have:

Non-protein nitrogen as a feed additive
Further information: Non-protein nitrogen
Ruminant animals can obtain protein from at least some forms of non-protein nitrogen (NPN) through fermentation by their rumen bacteria, hence NPN is often added to their diet to supplement protein.[59]

First off, we simply have to realize that there is a wiki page dedicated to this. That tends to mean it is not irrelevant…

Second, notice the tense. “NPN is often added”. So there is not a question of “is there or is there not NPN in feeds”. The only question is what additives and in which feeds.

Nonruminants such as cats, dogs and pigs (and humans) cannot utilize NPN. NPN are given to ruminants in the form of pelleted urea, ammonium phosphate and/or biuret.[60] Sometimes slightly polymerized special urea-formaldehyde resin or a mixture of urea and formaldehyde (both are also known as formaldehyde-treated urea) is used in place of urea, because the former provides a better control on the nitrogen release. This practice is carried out in China and other countries, such as Finland [61], India[62] and France.[63]

So it is supposed to be done only for ruminant animal feed. OK, the same factory can have two bins of material, one adulterated and one not, and it is perfectly “legal”. And exactly how hard would it be to change a label and make more money?

FWIW, I am particularly sensitive to formaldehyde and tend to get red eyes, sneezy drippy nose, mild bronchitis, a “dull feeling” and sometimes sleepy headache feelings when around too much of it.

I first discovered this in the context of new furniture and new carpet in businesses. As Director of Facilities at one of them, I developed a “solution”, literally. Treating the new surfaces with a 50% dilution of commercial white vinegar, misted, then waiting 1/2 hour; followed by a similar misting with 50% dilution of commercial ammonia solution, with a 1/2 hour wait; then ventilating the space. Sometimes it takes 2 treatments. On one occasion after a large new “build out” I ran the heater on high for the weekend as a “bake out” (that is the actual facilities jargon for the process… that there is jargon for it says a lot.) The “bake out” works better for thick materials like pressboard where the ammonia and acetic acid vapors have a harder time penetrating.

So there is ample evidence for formaldehyde as “bad” and for individual increased sensitivity to it. At this point, my major suspect would be formaldehyde and related compounds, rather than melamine, based on the present use in feed and the known tendency for individual animals (i.e. me) to react to it. (There were other folks reacting to it too. It’s not just me, but it is a sub-population. It is part of “sick building syndrome”.)

Cyanuric acid has also been used as NPN. For example, Archer Daniels Midland manufactures an NPN supplement for cattle, which contains biuret, triuret, cyanuric acid and urea.[64] FDA permits a certain amount of cyanuric acid to be present in some additives used in animal feed and also drinking water.[65]

So the FDA is not going to be your guardian on this issue. And buying your feed from ADM and other reputable manufactures is no guarantee either. It also looks like we can add India, Finland, and France to the list of places where things might be sourced with “issues”.

Also notice the ever lengthening list of chemical names we’re stacking up here? Melamine, biuret, triuret, cyanuric acid, urea, formaldehyde treated urea, polymerized urea-formaldehyde resin, pelleted urea, ammonium phosphate, …

Clearly the notion of a ‘non-melamine’ contaminant is supported as very plausible, given large bins of ‘NPN contaminated’ feed sitting around the feed makers factories as ‘ruminant’ feed.

Melamine use as NPN for cattle was described in a 1958 patent.[66] In 1978, however, a study concluded that melamine “may not be an acceptable nonprotein N source for ruminants”,because its hydrolysis in cattle is slower and less complete than other nitrogen sources such as cottonseed meal and urea.[67]

So this also adds the possibility of non-hydrolyzed NPN accumulated in the “byproducts” added to cat food as a potential ‘source”. If you can feed the stuff to an animal who’s guts (and contents) can end up in your cat food, exactly now sure are you that none is getting into the cat food? (I really want to know if NPN can be in farmed fish food… if it is, then the ‘fish byproducts’ would almost certainly contain some. And as we saw, the FDA will say that’s fine…)

In China, it is known that ground urea-formaldehyde resin is a common adulterant in feed for non-ruminants.[68][69] Domestically it is often sold under the euphemism “protein essence” (蛋白精) and is described as “one kind of new proteinnitrogen feed additive”.[70]

OK, it is a widespread practice in China to adulterate the non-ruminant food. So we take, oh, farmed tilapia guts, NPN contaminated, and put them in cat food and?… Yes, speculation, but informed speculation. They widely farm fish in China. This citation shows widespread use of NPN adulterants in ‘non-ruminant’ feed. It’s not a leap of faith to think that an animal fed NPN will have some in it’s guts at slaughter time. And that would end up in the “byproduct” bucket.

However, urea-formaldehyde resin itself has been suggested as appropriate for use in feed for some non-ruminants in at least one UN FAO report, suggesting its use as a binder in feed pellets in aquaculture.[71]

And BINGO! we even have the UN FAO saying to “go for it” specifically in feed pellets in aquaculture.

It sure looks to me like we have a pretty straight line of evidence connecting the practice, approved and demonstrated as happening now, of NPN in non-ruminant feeds, to the approved use in aquaculture, to the fish byproducts. The only ‘leap’ left is putting the fish byproducts into the can and putting the cat food label on it. And what does that label say? “Fish” and “byproducts”…

At this point I have to say that I think I have a hot, smoking, gun and I’m watching the trigger be pulled.

But there is more:

There is at least one report of inexpensively priced rice protein concentrate (feed grade) containing non-protein nitrogen being marketed for use in non-ruminants dating back to 2005 . In a news item on its website, Jiangyin Hetai Industrial Co., Ltd. warned its customers of low-priced “PSEUDO rice protein” for sale in the market by another unnamed supplier, noting that the contaminant could be detected by analyzing the isoelectric point.[72] It is not clear from that report whether the contaminant in that case was melamine or some other non-protein nitrogen source or whether any contaminated rice protein concentrate made it into the food supply at that time.
On 18 Apr 2007, an ad was posted on the trading website selling “Esb protein powder” in Xuzhou Anying’s name.[73][74] The product is said to be protein in nature and suitable for livestock and poultry feed, yet claims a crude protein content of 160-300%. It also mentions in passing the product makes use of “NPN” which is an acronym for non-protein nitrogen. Similar ads were placed on other websites, some dated as early as 31 Oct 2005.[75] Products with similar descriptions were also sold as “EM bacterium active protein forage” by Shandong Binzhou Xinpeng Biosciences Company [76] and “HP protein powder” by Shandong Jinan Together Biologic Technology Development Company.[77]

Well, it sure looks to me like the “issue” has been fairly wide spread and active. People are not exactly afraid of retribution if they are advertizing.

Proteins, unlike most other food components, contain nitrogen, making nitrogen measurement a common surrogate for protein content. The standard tests for crude protein content used in the food industry (Kjeldahl method and Dumas method are used for official purposes) measure total nitrogen.[78]

So the standard methods of testing is just test crude nitrogen, not actual protein. Now I know what “crude protein” on the label means. It means “test does not find adulterants and shows them as protein”

Accidental contamination and intentional adulteration of protein meals with non-protein nitrogen sources that inflate crude protein content measurements have been known to occur in the food industry for decades.

Re-read that part a couple of times. known to occurfor decades. This is not what you say about something that is a non-issue…

At least one pet food manufacturer not involved in any recalls, The Honest Kitchen, has reacted to the news of melamine contamination by announcing that it would add melamine testing to the suite of quality control tests it already conducted on all ingredients it purchases.[82]
In at least one other segment of the food industry, the dairy industry, some countries (at least the U.S., Australia, France and Hungary), have adopted “true protein” measurement, as opposed to crude protein measurement, as the standard for payment and testing: “True protein is a measure of only the proteins in milk, whereas crude protein is a measure of all sources of nitrogen and includes nonprotein nitrogen, such as urea, which has no food value to humans. … Current milk-testing equipment measures peptide bonds, a direct measure of true protein.”[83][84]

And there is an easy way to test for “the good stuff”, but it is only used in the milk industry so far (probably because a few dead babies is an even worse headline than a few sick cats, IMO). By extension, a simple “aw shit” test would be to do a “crude protein” test and a “true protein” test. The difference between the two ought to be the “crap not protein” (though it would be prudent to calibrate this by doing both on a known clean piece of meat to assure effectiveness).

Measuring peptide bonds in grains has also been put into practice in several countries including Canada, the UK, Australia, Russia and Argentina where near-infrared reflectance (NIR) technology, a type of infrared spectroscopy is used.[85]

Notable by it’s absence from this list is the U.S.A.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recommends that only amino acid analysis be used to determine protein in, inter alia, foods used as the sole source of nourishment, such as infant formula, but also provides: “When data on amino acids analyses are not available, determination of protein based on total N content by Kjeldahl (AOAC, 2000) or similar method … is considered acceptable.”[86]

And the UN FAO thinks you ought to be careful and thorough with baby formula, but cats? Not so much…

OK, I’m a firm believer in Hanlon’s Razor (“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity”). So I’m willing to give the benefit of the doubt that nobody was being malicious here. There sure does look to be one heck of a lot of stupidity, though.

But it is also clearly that case that, with no one acting maliciously nor fraudulently, we can easily have NPN “enriched” feed being fed to farmed fish (legally) and their byproducts (including some undigested feed in the gut) ending up in the “fish byproduct” that goes into the cat food can. All this can be tested to FDA guidelines and inspectors can be standing all over the place assuring nobody is putting melamine powder in the cat food or ingredients; and I can still get NPN in my cat’s dinner.

All this while following the “industry standard good practices”.

So, until further notice, no “fish byproducts” are going to be in my cat’s diet. Period.

But just to make it clear: “Human grade” might not be enough, and it might not be just your cat that is at risk:

The original Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten was “human grade,” as opposed to “feed grade,” meaning that it could have been used to make food for humans such as bread or pasta. At least one contaminated batch was used to make food for humans, but the FDA quarantined it before any was sold. The FDA also notified the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention to watch for new patients admitted to hospitals with renal failure. There have been no observed increases in human illnesses and little human food has tested as contaminated, however the FDA still has not accounted for all of the Xuzhou Anying wheat gluten.[98]

I’m so comforted that the FDA is “protecting me” by asking the CDC to tell them if a whole slew of folks check into the hospital with kidney failure… Maybe a little more up front testing and a little less hospital watching is in order? Hmmm? (And maybe we just ought not be feeding plastics and resins and formaldehyde to animals in the first place…)

Maybe I need to find a kosher butcher… They don’t allow any of this crap in the feed.

Finally, for “Per” who seems to think anyone even thinking of putting melamine in food would be scared off by a quick threat of punishment:

Reports of widespread melamine adulteration in Chinese animal feed have raised the possibility of wider melamine contamination in the human food supply in China and abroad.[6] Despite the widely reported ban on melamine use in vegetable proteins in China, at least some chemical manufacturers continue to report selling it for use in animal feed and in products for human consumption. Said Li Xiuping, a manager at Henan Xinxiang Huaxing Chemical in Henan Province: “Our chemical products are mostly used for additives, not for animal feed. Melamine is mainly used in the chemical industry, but it can also be used in making cakes.” [99]

Doesn’t seem real worried about putting melamine in ‘cakes’… So I’d expect ‘fish food binder’ that is an approved use would be a ‘no brainer’ (in more ways than one…)

On 31 May 2007, the International Herald Tribune reported that melamine has also been purposely added as a binder to fish and livestock feed manufactured in the United States and traced to suppliers in Ohio and Colorado.[9]

So it isn’t just a China story. Looks like the world has plenty of stupid people in it on both sides of the ocean.


In the United States, five potential vectors of impact on the human food supply have been identified. The first, which has already been acknowledged to have occurred by FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, is via contaminated ingredients imported for use in pet foods and sold for use as salvage in animal feed which has been fed to some number of hogs and chickens, the meat from which has been processed and sold to some number of consumers: “There is very low risk to human health” in such cases involving pork and poultry.[20][92][93][94] On 1 May 2007, the FDA and USDA stated that millions of chickens fed feed tainted with contaminated pet food had been consumed by an estimated 2.5 to 3 million people.[8]

The second potential vector is via contaminated vegetable proteins imported for intended use as animal feed, which has apparently been acknowledged to occur with regard to fish feed in Canada,[95][96]

So contrary to the assertions that this is a ‘non-issue’ because the pet food industry has been so diligent about it; it looks to me like an ever blossoming issue spreading further and wider as folks continue to try feeding plastic manufacturing chemicals and resins into part of the food chain and thinking it won’t get into other parts…

Finished? Done? I think this is just getting started…

Sidebar: Aquaculture and formaldehyde binders

Think the aquaculture feed binder formaldehyde issue must be a small one? These folks make binders, and provide an alternative formulation. this page also says:

The mostly widely used binders are urea formaldehyde, wheat gluten and gelatin.

So it’s in the “big three” and listed in the #1 position. (Though it is not clear if position has rank meaning).

They go on to note:

Urea formaldehyde is a synthetic binder with no nutritional value. Fish or shrimp cannot digest it. Instead it adds nitrogen (false protein) to the diet that ends up as ammonia in the ponds.

In the process, formaldehyde is bound to the NH2 group of urea to form a polymer. However, the formaldehyde can also bind to other amine (NH2) groups in other products such as melamine or amino acids. Formaldehyde is a cross-linking agent which inactivates, stabilizes or immobilizes proteins. Urea formaldehyde has been shown to react with the amino group of N-terminal amino acid residue and the sidechains of arginine, cysteine, histidine and lysine residues. Furthermore, urea formaldehyde is not permitted either in the EU and the USA, leaving only wheat gluten and gelatin as real options in these regions.

Gee, why am I not happy at the idea of this in my cat’s food dish…

Notice in particular that it only lists the EU and USA as forbidding it, and it is not digested in the pond. So all those shrimp aquaculture operations in the east with all those shrimp byproducts to get rid of…

All in all there seems to be ample evidence for NPN getting into “fish” or “seafood” and other byproducts.


About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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32 Responses to Cat Food poison? He’s just resting…

  1. per says:

    you can guarantee it is not melamine again !
    the last time they managed to kill lots of humans, and there have been rather punitive sentences

    you know, it doesn’t have to be adulteration. There are sometimes problems with foods that particular animals cannot eat.

    But having said that, you seem to have identified a real issue with your cat. Good luck !

  2. E.M.Smith says:


    The outdoor cat is the ‘control’ for individual sensitivity issues. I at first thought the Siamese had a ‘seafood allergy’ and just moves her off of seafood. (That was about 3 weeks ago). But the outdoor cat was ‘dull’ on the seafood (he got what was still on the shelf, all of it and only it) and lackluster about eating it. Yet BOTH of them LOVE fish if it is ‘human fish’. The leftovers from our trout and salmon dinners. Any trimmings. The ‘purpose bought’ catfish nuggets. And they have no ‘issues’ with them.

    (Now you know what I’ve been doing the last 3 weeks instead of working on GIStemp ;-)

    The bottom line is, I think, that I’ve adequately controlled for individual sensitivity to sea foods. Yes, it is only one “control cat” but it is also controlled feeding of known good (human food) sea foods… I’ve updated the posting to reflect these facts.

  3. Iridium says:

    So not only you are finding hole in AGW arguments and exploiting mankind by trading stocks and being interested only in your dividendes, but now you are doing scientific experiments on living animals?
    You are accumulating anti-politically-correct stickers :D

  4. E.M.Smith says:

    It is not so much ‘experimenting on animals’ as that I must feed my cats something, and I can supply a higher intelligence than they can supply…

    N’est-il pas vrai que je défends l’humanité tout entière, et les chats aussi?

    Ce n’est pas le cas, que la vérité doit être défendu, car les chats et pour les gens?

    Le politiquement correct, sera condamné.

    Mais je préfère que “the politically correct be damned!”

    Mais je préfère mai la politcaly correctes soient damnés!


  5. E.M.Smith says:

    Et ce n’est pas tellement que “je suis exploitant l’humanité et la recherche de dividendes” que je suis professeur de la façon d’éviter l’exploitation. Je suis public avec ce que je fais, ce n’est pas vrai?

  6. E.M.Smith says:

    Et pourquoi est-il qu’en français, je peux dire et sentir les choses que, en anglais, je ne peux pas? Qu’est-ce qu’un tyrannie c’est sentir seulement vivant dans une langue «étrangère»! 8-)

  7. a jones says:

    So what is wrong with penicillin V please?. The cat has a chronic infection. so why don’t you cure it? instead of torturing her with this or that diet.

    Peniciillin V may be old fashioned but it is cheap and despite scares over resistance remains very effective especially in small domestic animals.

    As your vet, or vetinarian as I believe you call them in the USA, would advise you.

    Kindest Regards

  8. rephelan says:

    Fascinating post. My indoor cat, Hsiao-mao, died two months ago with symptoms very similar to what you are describing. When we took her to the vet he had to remove two of her fangs and address an oral infection, but a course of amoxycilin seemed to clean that up. Her blood work came back negative for AIDS, cancer, liver or other problems, but feeding her and getting her strength back remained a problem. At one point she seemed to have some sort of cerebral event and then went into a steep decline. Oddly enough, she seemed to prefer the dry Delicat food you can get at Costco and when I put out both the dry food and the expensive canned stuff, she’d go for the dry food. Gotta wonder…

    REPLY: My condolences on your loss. It does sound rather similar. When the Siamese did the antibiotic rounds (I think it, too, was amoxycillin in round one) all that happened was that the mucus changed from green tinged to white / clear. The vet diagnosed a secondary bacterial infection that the antibiotics stopped, but the fundamental cause was “something else” she could not cure. We, too, talked about having teeth pulled and various other extreme measures as an attempt to find the “hidden infection”. In the end, the vet basically said she could not do much more. I wish now that I’d posted this 2 months ago when I first “had clue” rather than waiting until it was “rock solid”… -ems

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  10. E.M.Smith says:

    a jones
    So what is wrong with penicillin V please?. The cat has a chronic infection. so why don’t you cure it? instead of torturing her with this or that diet.

    You seem to have missed the part about having been given antibiotics. Can you not read well?

    Look, I’m not “torturing” anyone. I’m doing the best possible thing for my cat. She was taken to the vet and more than once. We discovered in that process that her issue was not subject to antibiotic cure and then went looking for what was the cause.

    Also, do you realize the great gall you have to attempt to diagnose my cat from your keyboard? The idiocy of your claim that penicillin would be curative after a vet has already tried?

    But to answer your basic question: “What is wrong with penicillin V?”

    Nothing at all is wrong with it. It works quite well for many things. Just not this one. However, do not mix it with a tetracycline class antibiotic, since the penicillin depends on active formation of cell wall (it works by making new bacterial cell walls leaky) while tetracyclines work by inhibiting growth. The two fight each other.

    Peniciillin V may be old fashioned but it is cheap and despite scares over resistance remains very effective especially in small domestic animals.

    I agree completely.

    As your vet, or vetinarian as I believe you call them in the USA, would advise you.

    Again, re-read the posting. We went to the vet. We had antibiotics. It did nothing to the base issue. As my vet did advise.

    Kindest Regards

    I realize it is a pro forma close, but to accuse someone of torture, then say “kindest regards” indicates a rather large case of insensitivity at best.

    Finally, did you not notice the part about the outdoor cat having negative reactions to the same classes of food as the indoor cat? He just had more control over ‘dose’ and ‘alternatives’ and so could avoid it.

    BTW, the indoor cat is sleeping peacefully at my feet as I type. Weight has doubled and she is not ‘sneezing’ nor showing other signs of sinus infection.

    So lets make a little score card:

    1) Vet and antibiotic treatments: Zero

    2) Carefully observed response to foods and selection of only those food that have no negative response: Home Run.

    I’ll take the careful observer, thank you very much…

    Also, btw, a “challenge” diet is one of the usual standards for finding food allergies (and some blood sugar issues too.). I’ve had several “challenge” diets over the years myself. As a family we have a predisposition to allergies. I won’t go into the details, but we have had a very long history of needing to find out “what’s in the food this time”. One friend is gluten intolerant too. That one took a while to sort out as well (his Doctor originally diagnosed hypoglycemia).

    So for better or worse, I’ve got about 50 years of experience at sorting out allergies from infections from food contaminants.

    Sidebar: I once spent 3 years on antibiotics of various sorts as my doctor kept assuring me I had bronchitis and “this time for sure” the next magic pill would cure it. I even got sent off to the specialist for a year (complete with repeated chest x-rays).

    Nothing worked.

    I eventually “cured” it myself when I had a significant worsening while on a trip. I realized that my food pattern had shifted. After a 3 month “elimination and challenge diet” (I started by eating just potatoes for 2 weeks – symptoms went away…) and “challenge diet” process (week 3, I added chicken…) at about week 8 I added “cow stuff” including milk. One week later my bronchitis was back. Stopped the cow stuff, one week later I was fine. This, BTW, is what was recommended by an MD specializing in allergies as the proper course of action.

    Re read that. An MD said to do it.

    So contrary to your snark about torture, what was done for my cat was exactly what was done for me.

    And both of us are now quite happy with the outcomes.

    The one twist is that the cat is fine on the same sea food if “human quality” sources. That, IMHO, points to an additive, which implies a risk of contaminated additive. Especially given the history.

  11. per says:

    “The bottom line is, I think, that I’ve adequately controlled for individual sensitivity to sea foods.”

    well, i am suggesting not. You don’t know what is in the particular, problematic mix. There are several known problems, for example, algal blooms make toxins, which fish eat and can cause poisoning. Shellfish are notorious for picking up toxins. There are several possible explanations, without invoking adulterants.

    I would also say that I guess that your pet food manufacturer would also be interested in what you say. After being bitten by the melamine story, the big manufacturers are hypersensitive to this type of problem. One of the big problems for pet food manufacturers is that pets don’t speak; so it is much more difficult for them to get feedback that there is a problem. Not the case for humans that get food poisoning from fish they ate.

    “You can not trust the pet food makers to protect their product or your pet.”

    I can only speak about the big boys, but the big pet food makers have worked hard on the melamine issue; much more than any government, and in advance of any statutory duty to do so. Maybe you have specific knowledge about melamine (or other) adulterants; but it is kind of a generic smear, isn’t it ?

  12. a jones says:

    You are quite correct I did misread the post and missed the line which referred to previous antibiotic treatment.

    I apologise without reservation.

    Kindest Regards

    REPLY: Fair enough. Accepted, without reservation. I probably over reacted some too. It is just that I’ve spent nearly a year working on this and finally found the answer, the whole time stressing about doing the best I could for my cat. To have that mischaracterized kind of got under my skin. So, sorry if I was too cranky about it.

  13. E.M.Smith says:

    “The bottom line is, I think, that I’ve adequately controlled for individual sensitivity to sea foods.”

    well, i am suggesting not. You don’t know what is in the particular, problematic mix.

    First off, there is no “the” particular, problematic mix. So you start from a flawed premise.

    There are several vendors with several products each. That’s your first big clue. Now notice that I said “I’ve adequately controlled for individual sensitivity to sea foods.”

    That was done by feeding the same species as labeled on the cans with no problems as long as they were human quality ingredients.

    So when “tuna” was an issue, I fed human quality tuna with no issue. (In fact, madam had a nice Chicken of the Sea tuna dinner tonight). Similarly, human quality Salmon has no problems (she had pink salmon last week, part of our dinner). I could list all the species of sea food she has been fed with no issue, but it would be tedious.

    The bottom line is that I’ve fed her seafoods, lots of them, and she has no “individual sensitivity to sea foods”.

    BTW, I’ve had several years worth of education in biological sciences, including lab work, at the University level. I know how to do testing. (And yes, I’ve had bacteriology. Heck I even had 2 upper division genetics classes along with some biochemistry and … well, you get the idea. I was pre-med for several years.) I’ve also worked in hospitals for several years (as I was putting myself through school) and yes, I’ve worn a lab coat and sat in the Dr. lounge on the wards (doing medical records work at a major teaching hospital). My roommate, FWIW, went on to do feeding studies for a major pet food maker and we ‘talked shop’ from time to time. I have nothing against the folks who are doing that work(!) I just think they are being outflanked and might benefit from a “heads up!”.

    There are several known problems, for example, algal blooms make toxins, which fish eat and can cause poisoning.

    So you are making the case that if the pet food maker is poisoning my pet with natural algal poisons that is OK?

    Strange position to take…

    Please note that at NO time have I said this is melamine. I have said it is most likely, IMHO some kind of contaminant. But have left exactly what open. That will depend on lab tests to figure out. (Though I’ve saved 4 cans of “known problematic” food for the day when I can wangle access to a mass spectrometer somewhere…)

    Shellfish are notorious for picking up toxins.

    Yes, they are. Unfortunately for this distractor, there are no shellfish in “tuna” nor in “Ocean Whitefish”. That was one of my first ideas (shell fish allergy or shell fish red tide toxins). I did trials where I left out any nondescript “seafood” labels and went to straight single (or in some cases duel) fish only. FWIW, the “trout” seemed to be OK, but my trial was too short (as noted above) to give it a “clean” label. Similarly, salmon was “sometimes ok sometimes not so ok” (though, again, fresh, frozen, or canned human quality is just fine.)

    So unless ALL the fish are ALL caught in shell fish country during the time of red tides (i.e. not the whole year) then this idea is just for the purposes of FUD. (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt. An old IBM term for misleading with a distractor.)

    Realize that I’ve been at this for over a year, all told. Any seasonal explanation is doomed. Red tides are seasonal. And, as noted above, I would hope you are not advocating that it is OK to put shell fish red tide toxin in cat food…

    There are several possible explanations, without invoking adulterants.

    Unfortunately, those “possible explanations” do not fit the data. (Which you do not have, and I’m not going to post, since it would be rather tedious to do so).

    Any species specific explanation dies on the multiple species feedings.

    Any allergy explanation dies on the feeding of human quality equivalent foods of the same species.

    Any “shell fish” issue dies on the “Not OK to poison my cat with shell fish toxins” standard AND on the “fed non shell fish and had the problem anyway” (unless you wish to argue that having labels that tell lies and omit to mention that they really put shell fish in the tuna is OK…)

    I would also say that I guess that your pet food manufacturer would also be interested in what you say.

    One would hope so. Part of why I’ve put this up is in the hope that their PR and Legal departments will go tell their labs to put some samples through a mass spectrometer and not just use the melamine test kit on it; and see what they really have bought.

    After being bitten by the melamine story, the big manufacturers are hypersensitive to this type of problem.

    No doubt. Unfortunately, as shown by the “lead in kids toys” problem, the adulterers are more than happy to “risk it” and keep trying. Despite the diligence of the toy makers.

    Now what I suspect has happened is that folks have ordered up a batch of melamine field test kits and spot check batches for melamine. That’s great. But it won’t catch the several (hundred?) other synthetic amines that might be used instead…

    One of the big problems for pet food manufacturers is that pets don’t speak; so it is much more difficult for them to get feedback that there is a problem.

    No Problem: I have provided feedback right here. The stuff makes my cat sick. Reliably. Repeatedly. Demonstrably. There is a problem and I’ve saved samples.

    Not the case for humans that get food poisoning from fish they ate.

    Another distractor. Any chance you have a lawyer education?

    Sprinkle enough FUD around and enough “sounds good but wrong” plausible alternatives and you can discredit the thesis in the naive jury. Sure looks like the pattern.

    Human fish ‘poisoning’ is often a matter of poor cooking (and /or raw with poor inspection for parasitic worms). This is not the same as “seafood poisoning” that includes the shell fish issues noted above nor is it the same as a food allergy that is sometimes called “poisoning” but isn’t. (One family member gets deathly sick on a particular species of shell fish. That is an allergy, but looks like poisoning.) Fin Fish do include exotics like Fugu, but I presume you are not talking about exotic sushi. It can sometimes happen if fish is poorly stored (so that it starts to grow herds of bacteria) but then it smells bad. And, typically, cooking kills the bacteria anyway. But cat food is canned.

    Canning is typically done at about 240 F for about 1 hour plus precisely for the reason that you want everything in the can to be dead and any toxins to be denatured.

    So are you arguing that the cans were not adequately processed so as to kill bacteria and denature toxins? I hope not… And that several makers would have this issue for over a year? I really hope not.

    “You can not trust the pet food makers to protect their product or your pet.”

    I can only speak about the big boys,

    So whom does your firm represent? And are you PR or legal?

    but the big pet food makers have worked hard on the melamine issue; much more than any government, and in advance of any statutory duty to do so. Maybe you have specific knowledge about melamine (or other) adulterants;

    I’m quite certain that they have worked very hard on “the melamine issue” and no doubt have decent controls in place for melamine. My concern is that some clever cheat has found some non-melamine adulterant that is not caught by the melamine test.

    I presume you are not so naive as to believe that since there is the death penalty in Texas they have never had a murder; nor that once a single drug dealer is caught, all the rest give up and quit the business… Given that, it is quite likely that there are less than stellar suppliers still making substandard product. My belief is only that they are just a little bit better than the present testing standards.

    but it is kind of a generic smear, isn’t it ?

    It is not a smear at all. It is a statement of manifest fact based on the history that has already transpired. There were melamine deaths. The pet food makers have already shown that they did not catch a (then) new threat. Just like the toy makers had several rounds of “lead paint toys” even after the first (and second, and third, and…) recalls and injury to children. And that was with one specific element, not a whole class of organic molecules, amines, and the potential for a constantly mutating adulterant.

    So, given the manifest history, I think it is pretty clear that the prudent thing to do for my cat is to assume that there will be failure to catch every single bad guy (in China?) and take defense of my pet into my own hands.

    Now maybe you want to argue that the pet food makers have absolute quality control with zero failure, error, or lapse that can defend against 100% of all toxins and adulterants regardless of source and chemical nature. I would not want to take that case …

  14. j ferguson says:


    I have very great sympathy for your problem and am impressed by your approach.

    Inspector, the female tabby who had been our friend and bureau of standards for human deportment for 18 years died early this summer.

    She started out at our place as a kitten eating baby-food in Coconut Grove, FL and living outside with the other two cats, Crocket and Marty. When Inspector was able to handle rougher food, she graduated to 9-lives canned (tuna?) which is what the other cats ate.

    We soon discovered that the local raccoons also liked it. So we set about trying to find something the cats would eat that the raccoons wouldn’t.

    The answer was Purina dry food. The Raccoons wouldn’t touch it and eventually the cats converted. Since they were living outside, we really don’t know what diet augmentation was being done.

    Hoping you will appreciate that I am relating experience and not at all offering advice, or criticizing what you’ve done, we felt that having cats that ate only dry food was a bit like getting away with something.

    All three cats ate what they needed, not everything in sight, so we could leave a more than adequate amount of dry food in the two bowls and it would decrease over the day, but never be completely gone – we kept an eye on it.

    My Dad characterizes canned cat food as “dock sweepings.”

    My take on this is that the cost delta on what’s in a can of cat food could be significant. I also assume that the dry-food mark-up is so great that the price variation on the ingredients would not as quickly inspire the familiar search for a cheaper source.

    On the other hand, the possibility that a manufacturer could kill 10,000 cats must have some influence on how they operate.

    If the cat-food packers are not buying from primary sources, then anything could happen – I’m thinking of the sub-standard structural bolts that got loose in the construction industry some years ago in just this way – purchased by the supplier from a third-party who didn’t know that the marks on the bolt-heads meant something or were supposed to mean something.

    This doesn’t mean that it isn’t possible to have problem ingredients in dry food. I think that animal byproducts which could have included “mad-cows” were also constituents of some of the dry cattle-feeds.

    And there’s the other issue; can it only be your cats? My suspicion is that if you are having this problem, so are a lot of other people and the vets ought to be aware of it.

    If it really is only your cats, could it be a combination of something in the fishy food and something in their environment?

    We too would do anything for our cats and I can readily see that you feel the same way.

    best regards,


  15. E.M.Smith says:


    Thanks for the stories and insight.

    My spouse tells me that at least one friend, on hearing of this posting, has said something like “Gee, my cat has had problems like that too…” and is feeding dry food. Generally, very similar ingredients go into the two kinds of food. The major difference is the drying process.

    We had been feeding dry food, about 2 years ago when this first started up in ernest, and swapped to “wet” when “madam” started having trouble chewing the dry stuff as her health declined. I don’t think it is just a ‘wet’ food issue (though I could see a case where, for instance, formaldehyde under 10 psi and 240 F for an hour, could react with the food to produce something that it did not produce in the flash drying process).

    I doubt if there is an environmental issue (as noted, she’s fine now) but there is always the possibility of two things being required. We tend to run a “nothing artificial or unusual” household due to the tendency to allergies in the family. No pesticides. Simple soap cleaners. Fragrance free. You see where this is going… And we’ve lived in the same house with the same stuff for about 30 years now. Not a lot of potential change there.

    We also keep an aquarium, so anything in the water would have shown up some time ago. And the annual water company report on the water puts us in the top tier in the nation.

    My “private fear” is that I may have contributed to this in some small way by my preferential buying of seafood types of foods. “Better food quality with better amino acids and omega 3 oils” I thought. If fed a can of fish-stuff with one of chicken and one of beef and mixed grill or two, it is quite possible that the “issue” would be low enough so as not to be noticed. Also factor in the age. It may be that an old Siamese is just more “sensitive” than a young Tabby… though both reacted to some degree.

    Frankly, I probably lost 1/2 year or so to rotating between different makers and types of seafood and fish looking for something that was OK because of that bias. I thought of chicken as “cheap”. It is in retrospect that we see this kind of selection bias… But eventually I found what “worked ok”.

    It was also the case that it took about 5 days of non-fish for her to become a whole lot better. So I’d feed some chicken and some beef and… but never with an entire week of non-fish. That is, IMHO, why we had the “up and down but not better” cycle for so long. It just took me too long to match the modulation with the modulator…

    We also have the existence proof of the Tabby that has only a small issue on the stuff (though is clearly improved without it) and the Siamese fed only what is in the dish who had a dramatic problem. Well, somebody has to be the “canary in the coal mine”… (I have a few food ‘issues’ that make me more aware of some ‘issues’ before other folks, so I am familiar with being the one that keels over first… but that does not make it an individual issue nor does that make it a non-issue.) That does not mean it is wholesome for every other cat. They use LD50 for a reason. At the LD10 rate, 10% of a sample population dies, but it’s still a poison… So is this at the LD1% but 20% sick and 40% ‘off’? Who knows. But it is wrong and needs fixing.

    As the Siamese recovers, I intend to put out some ‘tougher’ foods. But frankly, she is only now recovering to the point where she is happy to chew on the ‘tougher wet stuff’. Hard dry food is likely months away, if ever. It will depend on her continued improvement.

    Or I might just feed her hand carved chicken and sashimi the rest of her life… she deserves some compensation…

  16. j ferguson says:

    Clearly, some specific food the cats are eating has something their systems cannot deal with. It has to be new because the reactions are new. I think you had been feeding them the same things and something in the food changed.

    Your description of the nitrogen additives suggests that if that is what is causing the problem, it might not arrive only in canned fish by product cat food. It could be get to the cats (or us) from more than one commercial food source – fish AND chickens, maybe pork.

    Matt Ridley’s wonderful book, “The Genome” discusses what can be in “animal byproducts” which can cause real problems perhaps even genetic problems. Some of these things exist at a sub-virus chemical level and cannot be “filtered” out of the food stream by any ordinary food processing means. Yet they can screw up complex cellular systems as well as genetic codings.

    Islanders who were cannibals used to get “mad cow” by eating human brains.

    Realizing that this might seem a bit bizarre in the context of animal feed, I still think that the animal byproduct constituency of any food item is where the risk is. And this would include anything in the animal or fish’s environment which can get into our food.

    It’s funny. When we’re faced with a global challenge we could do something about, we run off and try to control the weather.

    I’ll try to see if I can find the Genome book chapters I referred to above and make sure they said what I described.

    best, John

  17. Tony Hansen says:

    Most interesting. I will try to keep my comment brief (hope springs eternal, does it not:)
    There seems to be an ever increasing problem with food allergies. I have seen some working (cattle) dogs that had problems with so-called dog feed. Symptoms included rough coat, very bad skin etc. All sorts of treatments for the ‘symptoms’ had perfectly consistent results ie. no change.
    Changing to fresh meats (and some table scraps) solved the problem quite quickly.
    I have been wondering if the whole thing comes down to what is a natural food and what is not. Just how far back in time do we have to go to find diets for humans, and pets, that have virtually no resmblance to that of today? How much refining has been done to our foods?
    I was also wondering how much fish would have been in a non-domesticated cats diet?
    If I remember correctly our own cats ,when they caught birds, ate the whole thing bar some feathers and the head. Same thing with the remains of bird carcasses when non-domestic dogs have fed – no bones left.
    Best wishes

  18. Ellie in Belfast says:

    We’ve been fortunate not to experience anything like this over a considerable cat history, but are very familiar with the exclusion diet for humans. We have many friends with ‘intolerances’ which until a few years ago were dismissed by the mainstream medical professions. Well done for sticking with it. We’d do anything for our cats too.

    There is an awful lot to be said for basic unprocessed raw ingredients over all the fillers and additives used these days. Comes to something when you know a food factory owner (meat processing) who won’t eat his own products.

    One of my friends swears by ‘Angel Eyes’ supplement for her dog. The web site of this product mentions that wheat and corn intolerances are common in cats and dogs – could there be anything in that with your cat? Listings would be ‘modified starch’ or many other less obvious forms.

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    The list of friends with odd dietary ‘intolerances’ is fairly large. I guess we tend to “find each other” 8-)

    I first ran into differential diet issues at about 8 years old. We had a family restaurant (in which I worked stocking shelves, cutting up chickens and washing dishes…). I quickly learned that the Jewish customers were not to be offered cheeseburgers or ham and the Mormons were not to be offered caffeinated Coke. (If they asked for one, it was provided with a smile and confidentiality… and no matter how often they ordered it, you did not offer it when they were with relatives and friends ;-) though you might ask if they wanted “The Usual” with a knowing look…) We also had a diabetic customer and a couple with minor food intolerances. We also had “Fish Friday”, it being nearly 50 years ago back when the Catholic Church still cared about fish and Friday. Oh, and the 7th Day Adventists, IIRC, had about 1/2 vegetarians. It was a small town and you knew who was in what group. You know your customers very well.

    Guess I got trained early to the idea of differential diet and food tolerances…

    Oddly enough, one friend is gluten intolerant and I developed a corn allergy at 30 years old. ( I had a “flu” with fever of 105 or so and had some ‘corn chowder’. I think my body decided to just assume ANY foreign protein must be the “bug” and to make antibodies to everything. I ended up with a rapid intestinal response to corn. Sad, since I loved corn, Dad being from Iowa we always grew and ate corn on the cob.) I suspect this is the genesis of the old saw “Feed a cold, starve a fever”. Advice to avoid developing food allergies, IMHO (and unproven, other than anecdotal.

    The ingredient lists on the cans are a bit ‘unhelpful’ since they are so broad as to what is in a ‘category’. For example, what is ‘fish’ or what is ‘protein meal’? But I don’t suspect corn or wheat as issues. They might be, but I doubt it. The symptoms do not match allergies as well as I’d expect.

    Makers also tend to use an additive package over several types of foods. That, even with this tendency, the non-fish products from the same maker tend to be OK; leads me to the conclusion that it is in the “main ingredient” not the additive package. Now this is rampant speculation because there simply is not enough information, and the main ingredient is often NOT what is placarded on the front of the can (things like “chicken” on the front can have “meat” well ahead of “chicken” on the ingredient list on the back). There is also the possibility of a specific additive being put in the “fish” that is not used in the “chicken”. But I’ll double check for “mystery meals and modifieds” on the labels…

    But frankly, I don’t expect to “solve” the issue for the industry. I have “an answer” for my cats even if I don’t have “the answer” for everyone. If, someday, I can get my sample cans to a mass spec or decent lab I may get “the” answer. But that will be long after I’ve finished the “AGW and GIStemp” stuff.

    I’m just going to enjoy the glow of “madam” (presently in the lap) enjoying life again.

    @j furguson and Tony Hansen

    I could easily see this same issue in dog food. Once you have it being “OK” to feed NPN to ruminants and some non-ruminants, AND it’s “OK” to put their byproducts into animal feeds, you have a direct line from NPN to pet food via partially digested feed in the “by products”.

    And yes, the wiki information leads to the suspicion that even poultry and ruminant byproducts are a risk.

    IMHO, the basic problem starts when you feed an alien material to ANYTHING in the food chain and don’t expect it to have a ripple up the food chain.

    That is how we got prions (mad cow, scrapie, CJD, varient CJD, Kuru, etc.) on our dinner plates. Yes, they are bizarre “infectious proteins”. I spent a couple of years learning a heck of a lot about these during the CJD / Mad Cow craze. Moral: Don’t feed meat to herbivores. Cannibal Cows is a bad idea.

    IMHO, this is in the same pattern. Feeding alien things to the food chain is a Very Bad Idea. (I don’t say this from some first principles mother earth point of view; I say it from the manifest history of screw ups that come from it.)

    I’ve observed domestic cats “fishing”. They like and will find fish. (As my old fish pond demonstrated far more than I liked…) And they are very good at catching rodents and small birds. All I find of the doves are the main flight feathers and sometimes feet. The head is eaten if the cat can crack the skull bones. FWIW, I’ve observed far less “field kills” since the outdoor cat has had the “clean food”. He is not nearly as “picky” about the clean foods as he was before with the canned fish foods. A cat with rotund stomach filled with fresh chicken and sashimi is not a threat to any wild life.

    At the end of the day it looks to me like it is not so much an issue of too much refining (which is taking out the rough bits like feathers and plant fiber) as it is what is in the additives (that are alien things to diets, like melamine and toxic things like formaldehyde).

    BTW, when we had the restaurant our dogs ate LOTS of table scraps. Often for weeks on end they would be fed only leftover meat from the restaurant. (Yes, folks leave a fair quantity of rib steak, T-bone steak, etc. on their plates, and yes, our dogs often dined on rib steak and roast turkey…). We did not bother keeping the bones out, just gave them the whole thing. They were some of the healthiest dogs I’ve ever seen and never had any issues with bones in the food. IMHO, dogs raised with unlimited access to food and with bones being present from puppy on in age, do not over eat, binge eat, or have problems with bones. They eat slowly, carefully, and know full well how to handle the bones and when to stop.

    Our cats also have food whenever they ask for it. Yeah, we toss a fair amount in the trash (the cats will not eat old ‘wet’ food and I’m happy to toss it as a bacterial control). Neither one has had an overweight issue (even before this ‘bad food’ problem cropped up). With continuous access to food, they don’t overeat. They just eat what the want and say “Eh; I’ll have some more, fresher, later if I want it, you can toss this out now”. I’ve seen cats on restricted diets that will binge until absolutely rotund from the inability to control their appetites.

    And yes, I’m pretty much focusing in on “by products” as the major source of “issues”…

  20. Tony Hansen says:

    ‘Cannibal cows is a bad idea.’
    Natural selection would lead to future Olmpic sprints being won by people in big hats wearing cowboy boots:)

  21. per says:

    I tried to engage with your reasoning, based on what you had written at the time.

    “So whom does your firm represent? And are you PR or legal?”

    You have got no idea who I am, or what I know; you are simply resorting to personal abuse. You have also misrepresented what I wrote: for example, i did not suggest it was okay to have shellfish poisons present, rather that shellfish poisons are an alternative hypothesis that does not involve an adulterant.

    Since you are are an expert in this area, have consulted wikipedia, and know what the problem is, then you clearly do not need any advice. Good luck.

  22. E.M.Smith says:


    I tried to engage with your reasoning, based on what you had written at the time.

    You tried to show where you thought I was wrong. I’ve showed you I am not.

    “So whom does your firm represent? And are you PR or legal?”

    You have got no idea who I am, or what I know; you are simply resorting to personal abuse.

    Asking your affiliation is abuse? Again, you have tried to slant things. Stop it or leave.

    You have dodged the issue of who you are and mischaracterized what I did as “abuse”. What I did is a normal “forensics” behaviour (yes, I’ve done forensics for a living). Fishing for response. Yours shows defensiveness (and other things I won’t go into). When a commenter is clearly being argumentative and supporting an industry, it is perfectly legitimate to ask them if they have a paid relationship.

    I have none.

    So yes, you might be someone’s retired grandpa who has just made some very particularly broken arguments by accident. The odds of that are quite low. I fished, you bit. I have more information now. At this point, the odds of lawyer are lower (the emotional response knocks it down. Lawyers are used to this sort of stuff). The odds of PR are higher (they don’t handle getting ‘caught’ well). The one I deliberately did not put into the question (since it would have reduced the effectiveness of the “fishing”) was “lab worker or manager at a food processing facility”. That one is now higher in probability (but still behind PR).

    And again, there is no “abuse” in this fishing for affiliation.

    You have also misrepresented what I wrote: for example, i did not suggest it was okay to have shellfish poisons present, rather that shellfish poisons are an alternative hypothesis that does not involve an adulterant.

    Nope. A distractor at best. As pointed out above, there are no shellfish in “tuna”. Nice try at a distractor, and nice attempt at the “hurt” play, but it is just a pointless distractor. A dodge of simple analysis and an attempt to get the cat food off the hook. Now what did I say? I said that even if it is shell fish toxin it has no place in a can of cat food. The question of shell fish toxin or not is completely irrelevant; it does not belong in the can.

    One other note. You are the one who keeps using the “adulterant” word. i said “contaminant”. The only time I used “adulterant” was in response to your assertions that adulterants were not likely. (i.e. in quoting the Wiki that uses the word “adulterant”). I made no claims about deliberate intention to introduce a foreign substance in the original posting. You were the one who “wanted to go there” so I showed that even adulterants were easily possible (though I tend to believe it is more likely a question of “ignorance” than malice as to how the stuff gets into the food).

    Now think about that for a minute. You are asserting that you were trying to show an alternative to a claim of “adulterant”, that was never made by me.

    As a contaminant, I don’t care if it is shell fish toxin or formaldehyde. None of the crap belongs in my cat’s food. So attempting to shift from “bad stuff in food” and “contaminant” to the question of intentional adulteration (and then showing that there is a potential contaminant that is not an adulterant) is all just misdirection and distraction. And you were caught at it. (Yes, I suppose it might be accidental on your part, but it typically is not and is a ‘taught method’ in some professions.)

    The bottom line stays the same: There is bad stuff for my cat in the cat food that does not belong there. I prefer to think it is accidental due to error but the reason it is there makes no difference to my cat.

    I’ve also provided some further information that demonstrates just how highly probable it is that NPN is widely used in animal feeds and can end up in cat food. So even your focus on adulterants has a very simple and plausible route to the food can.

    And again: I don’t care if it is an adulterant, a contaminant, or bad processing. It is still bad food for my cat.

    Since you are are an expert in this area,

    Never said I was. Just said I did my work well and have a broad background of skill to draw on in doing that work well.

    It does not require a whole lot of expertise to feed a cat, note the symptoms and times, make a decent log of it all, and notice patterns. Heck, this is simpler than the lab work done in lower division biology labs. It’s not hard to draw an accurate working conclusion from this:

    Feed Cat “fish based foods” from 3 different makers. 24 hours, cat sneezing and dripping. 48 hours eyes watery, digestive “issues” that I get to clean off the carpet, lethargy and occasional vomiting.

    Feed Cat chicken based foods from same makers. Symptoms reverse in about the same order, and timing is only a little slower. Therefor not a “maker” or brand issue.

    Feed Home made equivalents of fish based products with the showcased species in the food. No problems at all. Therefor not specific fish allergy related.

    2nd Cat with smaller exposure has much reduced issues, but they are present. Issues resolve on the same “good” foods. It’s not a single cat issue. It is a dose dependent issue. (1st cat also has dose dependent response in mixed feedings).

    Cat is fine in a constant environment on the “good” foods.
    Cat is NOT fine in the same constant environment on the “BAD” foods.
    It is not an environmental issue.

    Problem can be made to appear at will by feeding the “bad” foods. 100% of the time. Problem resolves on the good foods, 100% of the time. It does not depend on who is doing the feeding. Even if fed by family members unaware of the thesis or suspicions, the outcomes are the same. There is no “Clever Hans” issue.

    I also allowed that there still might be only a small sensitive sub-population that the “bad” food impacts. I stated: IF your cat is having issues, consider trying an alternative to fish based canned foods. Why you have a problem with this is an interesting question in human studies, but not of interest to folks with sick cats who just want some idea how to keep them alive.

    My interest here is one, and only one thing: I worked long, hard, and carefully to save my cats life and make her healthy and if my experience can help one other cat lover save their friends life then it is my duty to make this experience, and insight, public. Heck, if I’d read a posting like this 2 years ago, my cat would never have gotten worse than the sneezy drippy stage.

    Why you have a problem with that is a mystery, but not a very interesting one.

    have consulted wikipedia,

    Mostly as an easy place to quote from that has a decent set of references in one place at the bottom that folks can then follow back to more scholarly works. There were lots of other works that popped up in the Google search, but I didn’t want this to turn into a doctoral thesis… Wiki does do a rather nice job, though, of showing that the basic premiss is very well founded. Feed contamination is all over the place. Some of it is even legal. And some of it might even rise to the level of “adulteration”.

    and know what the problem is,

    Yes, I do know what the problem is. Clearly stated. Carefully worked out. Repeatedly tested, with 100% correlation of symptoms, with identified stimulus. Repeatedly resolved, with 100% correlation, with removal of the identified stimulus.

    The only mystery here is the exact causal agent in the food and how widespread is the impact (i.e. is my cat in the LD1%, LD10% or LD0.0001% group for whatever the exact causal agent is in the food).

    then you clearly do not need any advice.

    Certainly none that says I’m wrong and does so with broken arguments and misdirection. “It can’t be”, when it clearly is, is a very bad strategy.

    Pointers to any other site with similar findings for comparing notes, to any ongoing R&D in the issue of pet food contamination showing “issues” with NPN or fish products, or even into how to get a cheap effective “true protein” test done on my sample cans of “bad” food would all be appreciated.

    And, given the Wiki citations, pointers to relative variability in formaldehyde sensitivity in cats would be useful as well. Especially if there is any genetic component with Siamese being more sensitive to chemicals (much as Redhead people are more sensitive to UV light, but less sensitive to anesthetics; or that Favism is a bad reaction to Fava beans that is mostly a disease of a select group of folks from one geographic area).

    While I would hate to think that we might be accidentally selecting against any one breed by degrading food quality until some die off, it is a possibility that there is a small genetic sub-type that just can’t take the crap as well as most. If that’s the case, it needs to be identified and publicized. Like lactose intolerance and PKU sufferers intolerance of Nutrasweet, there is the possibility of an “additive” that is just not acceptable to a sub-population. If that is known, it would be helpful.

    And any pointers to reliable home canned cat food recipes would be highly appreciated. I want to be ready, if the “good” varieties suddenly start being “bad” due to changed formulations, with an all home made alternative. I don’t particularly want to end up manufacturing cat food, but it’s needed as a “fall back” position. I have the skill needed to work this out myself, but it’s a heck of a lot of work that has already been done by someone a dozen times, and “waste is a sin” so I don’t particularly want to be wasting time reinventing what has already been invented.

    Good luck.

    Thank you. But I generally hold that while good luck is nice to have, hard work, diligence, and careful detailed habits can make the luck you need. “Chance favors the prepared mind”.

    So while I’ll take “luck” if I can get it, I’m more than willing to make up for “bad luck” with a very prepared mind. It has saved the life of my cat (along with many other benefits.)

  23. per says:

    “I made no claims about deliberate intention to introduce a foreign substance in the original posting.”
    “I suspect that the “Chinese Contaminant” problem is back, perhaps with a different ingredient that is not yet being found by testing.”
    the “chinese contaminant” problem was adulteration with melamine. You suspected it was a problem that was caused by adulteration, and you even specify that there might be a different ingredient which is not yet detected by (the current melamine) testing. That sounds very much like a claim to me.

  24. j ferguson says:

    I cannot sympathize with your eagerness to suggest E.M. is “accusing” anyone of anything.

    It seems almost impossible to discuss the possible presence of a “problem ingredient” in a food product without also hypothesizing about how it got there.

    In the scheme of things, if “it” is in there, it might be new, outside of our experience and clearly outside the experience of some feline digestive systems.

    It might be better if you joined us in divining an array of the things this clearly described feline reaction could be associated with. Please cut him some slack.


  25. E.M.Smith says:

    “I made no claims about deliberate intention to introduce a foreign substance in the original posting.”
    “I suspect that the “Chinese Contaminant” problem is back, perhaps with a different ingredient that is not yet being found by testing.”
    the “chinese contaminant” problem was adulteration with melamine. You suspected it was a problem that was caused by adulteration,

    Search the text. You had “first use” of “adulteration”, not me.

    You seem to have a problem with confounding the two words of “adulteration” and “contamination”. I was very careful and very specific about using “contamination” so as to specifically exclude “intention”. You also ignore that very important word “suspect”. That indicates a place that ought to be investigated, perhaps to prove innocence, not a conclusion of guilt. A bit sloppy for someone associated with the University of Knottingham.

    (Oh, and I need to correct my assertion that the “lawyer” angle was reduced. Your participation in:

    puts “lawyer” (or do you use “barrister?”) back on the table. Though your articles about chemistry elsewhere imply a dual degree. Of course, it is possible that it’s just an ‘expert witness’ thing with one degree. )

    Oh, and per “You have got no idea who I am, or what I know;” Might I suggest that it is A Very Bad Idea to tell a “forensics guy” that they don’t know enough about you… Would you like to know the subsidiary of Virgin from whom you buy your home cable service and in what city? Almost as bad an idea as telling them their “lab technique” is inadequate or they let evidence become contaminated…

    Why you keep trying to turn a carefully selected word that does not imply intention into an accusation of intention is beyond me.

    The choices as to why are fairly tightly constrained, though. Intentional misdirection or unfamiliarity with the difference. I’ll leave it for you to decide which.

    Now I have no idea if the original Chinese Contaminant problem was intentional adulteration or was stupidity. However, given the wide spread use of NPN in animal feeds as a normal and approved ingredient I am much more inclined to believe it was ignorance rather than intentional adulteration with a known problem ingredient. That does not make it right, but it does change how you approach “policing” the issue.

    If you happen to have some evidence that it was a deliberate malicious act that rose to the level of evidence required for an accusation of guilt, that’s fine. I don’t. So I’m sticking with “contamination” that allows for mistakes and stupidity.

    In either case, the “stuff” does not belong in the cat food and that, frankly, is the only part that I care about and the only part that is of interest.

    and you even specify that there might be a different ingredient which is not yet detected by (the current melamine) testing. That sounds very much like a claim to me.

    Yes, it is a claim. A well thought out and well described claim as to where one ought to look to find the most likely contaminant that is the issue. It is not in any way a claim of intent nor of culpability in a malicious act.

    And digging into the pages pointed at by the Wiki, the most likely place to look, the one where I would put my efforts were I in the business, would be the approved and used fish pellet binders that use Urea and Formaldehyde in fish farming operations.

    Farmed fish have risen to about 30% of total fish production. That is an ever increasing percentage of “fish byproducts” (or maybe even labeled as just “fish”) that are highly likely to contain Urea and / or Formaldehyde especially if sourced from outside the USA (as shown by the link to the food binder company page).

    This gradual growth of the farmed vs wild percentage with a demonstrable approved feed additive (Not “Adulterant”, it is on the approved list) that can end up as a contaminant (Not “Adulterant”, it is not intentionally added to the offal, it just ends up there accidentally as a byproduct of feeding an approved ingredient and slaughter of the fish) is all that is needed to put an unwelcome contaminant (Not “Adulterant”, the pet food maker does not know it is there – I hope…) into the food fed to my cat.

    And make her sick.

    Is that the way it happens? I have no idea. Is it a very likely path that needs investigation? Absolutely. One investigates the most likely first.

    None of this requires intention and adulteration. Yes, there might be deliberate intentional adulteration with known toxic ingredients. Before I can “go there” it will take a much higher level of evidence. Evidence that can not come from feeding studies. And frankly, evidence that holds little interest to me.

    Someone else can explore the question of adulteration and guilt.

    I don’t care at all if it actually is adulteration vs. contamination. The stuff is in the can (whatever it is and however it got there), so I’m not feeding it to my cat. But I will be very careful to never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, in keeping with Hanlon’s Razor.

    And I don’t care that you have an issue with confounding contaminant with adulterant. That is your “issue” and not mine.

    I do care a great deal about finding the limits to the problem, how to avoid it for other people and their cats, and hopefully to provide pointers to the industry as to how most efficiently and effectively to get “it” (whatever it is) out of the food chain.

    From here on out, that is where I want this discussion to head. Stop tossing rocks and start solving the problem.

    Distraction from the path to solution is unwelcome.

    @j ferguson
    I cannot sympathize with your eagerness to suggest E.M. is “accusing” anyone of anything.

    Thanks for the vote of support. I have tried very hard both in the original posting and in the discussion to NOT run off a “cliff of conclusion” about intent and to NOT accuse of malicious intent. I am very much a “where do the data lead” person.

    It seems almost impossible to discuss the possible presence of a “problem ingredient” in a food product without also hypothesizing about how it got there.

    BINGO! Especially for someone with forensics experience who is interested in making the bad stuff go away. My ‘goal’ is rather simple: Give pointers to likely sources that ought to be investigated to be shown clean or maybe find the cause. A statement of “It is most likely here and most likely came from there” is not an accusation of anything and is just following the available information to the most likely cause for the purpose of finding a fix to the problem.

    In the scheme of things, if “it” is in there, it might be new, outside of our experience and clearly outside the experience of some feline digestive systems.

    It might be better if you joined us in divining an array of the things this clearly described feline reaction could be associated with.

    And that is exactly where I would like this discussion to head.

    Folks, please focus on any anecdotal evidence for other cats with the issue (i.e. do you know of a cat with this kind of problem that was “cured” by swapping foods) AND on any counter evidence (i.e. a cat fed, for example, Friskies Ocean Whitefish and Tuna as a major or only food item that has no problems) and on any ways to identify what the causal agent might be. Focus on finding a solution, please.

    If there is evidence for cats fed food, known to have “the issue”, that are fine, then the likelihood of a particularly sensitive subset of cats is raised. (Though if in very different geographies, it might still be a ‘material source’ issue. So “fish” from Iceland is likely wild, while “fish” from China have a much higher aquaculture content.) In that case, gathering data on TYPE of cat with the issue becomes more important. (And geography matters too…) At the same time, if there is no pattern to TYPE of cat that does show “the issue”, then we have a harder problem to solve.

    And if there are substantially no other cats with ‘the issue’ that are cured by food change, then I’ve just got a cat (or 2) with a unique metabolic response. While I’ve adequately controlled for “species and specific food reactions” there is no way I can control for a food allergy to a common additive that is not in human food but widely used in cat food. Though even there, a large enough sample (about 1200 cats!) ought to show if this is the case…

    Please cut him some slack.


    Again, thanks for the support.

    One of the things I had not appreciated when starting a blog was the degree to which some folks want to toss rocks at the host. Sometimes with the best of intentions, they accuse the host of lying, incompetence, stupidity, torture, maliciousness, etc. Just astounding.

    Now I have a fairly thick skin, and I tend to be “problem and data oriented” and frankly, don’t care at all for the social gamesmanship stuff nor have any interest in rock throwing.

    However, when falsely accused I will defend my work, my honor, and my motives and will do so with pretty good skill and effectiveness. Any rocks tossed at me get returned.

    With that said, let me make it clear:

    The accusation and rock throwing games are over on this thread. While I like to keep an absolutely open comments thread with moderation only “after the fact”, I’m tired of the distraction from the thing that matters.

    So, for example, this snippet from another site from “per” demonstrates what will not be tolerated here:

    “{proper name snipped -ems}, you have told a lie. {name snip -ems}, you are now, and always will be, a liar. You obviously have no respect for truth. You are not fit to be a scientist.

    That is just tossing rocks and invective, not solution oriented and not what would be tolerated at a “party with friends” (see the “rules” tab up top if that is not clear).

    What matters is that there are cats out there at risk of death or a miserable life that can be made happy and healthy.

    Focus on how to get from where we are now to that end.

    Further distractors and accusation will hit the bit bucket.

    Focus on the problem and the cats, please.

  26. Roger Sowell says:

    E.M., I concur with your assessment of sustaining all sorts of slurs and invective from anonymous commenters. I do moderation-in-advance on my blogs, and find that about one-fourth do not make the cut and thus never see publication due to such.

    I hope your line of inquiry (pet food contamination) yields better and healthier food for pets. I was fortunate to not have any problems with our cats over the years, (or the dogs), but that may have been pure chance. Our cats roamed in and out, and were pretty good at foraging off the land when they wanted to do so.

    My kids (now grown) still talk about one of our cats that snatched a bird out of mid-air – what a leap! And then ate the bird. And kept our yard free of gophers. Mighty fine cat, all around. Would come when called (very rare for a cat), sit in my lap and purr, then went outside when I sneezed. (cat allergy).

  27. per says:

    “Now I have no idea if the original Chinese Contaminant problem was intentional adulteration or was stupidity.”
    ok; take it from me. It was adulteration, for commercial gain. That also goes some way to explaining the death sentences i linked to in my first post. If you don’t believe me, go google the chinese contaminant problem.

    [~snip -ems The Moderator
    Discussion of your difficulties in reading things and how you managed to misconstrue things are Off Topic. They have nothing to do with cats or their food issues. Discussions of you and your actions are also Off Topic. Please re-read the guidance above. Speak to cats, cat food issues, and stay on topic, or be snipped.

  28. FrancisT says:

    This is a truly fascinating post since our cat (aged 14-15) has been showing distinct preferences for food. But the exact opposite of yours in that he’s showed a strong recent preference for fish whereas beforehand he used to eat pretty much anything.

    He hasn’t yet shown any symptoms of illness beyond the gradual kidney problems that seem to go with being an old cat and a few dental infections that antibiotics have cleared up. However despite a general preference for fish and rejection of chicken and beef we have found that he will object to specific batches cans of a certain brand of catfood. We feed him the beef from Brand A bought today and he loves it, eating half a can or more in a day. The identical product bought 6 months ago is eaten slowly and heavily supplemented with neighbor food, wild animals etc. NOte this need not be beef – at different times he’s objected to beef, chicken, fish (various varieties) – nor does it depend on brand with the same behavior being observed with two name brands as well as cheapo and expensive supermarket “own brand” cans.

    My conclusion is that there is poor quality control somewhere along the line and a batch of food gets something nasty in it. Then a bit later the cause of the nastiness in that food variety is rectified and so on.

    Note that we (and cat) live in France so the rules etc. are different. I’m glad of that since most of the time his favorite food is the super cheap store brand fish variety which is the one I’d expect to be (NPN) contaminated if any of them were.

  29. E.M.Smith says:


    I just had a “no thanks” reaction to a non-fish can / brand from my cat. Reading the ingredients had “High Protein Fish Meal” listed…

    I’ve also decided to no longer feed the “9 Lives” chicken. It was OK when fed as a “side by side” with “Fancy Feast” chicken, beef, or turkey; but when I went to straight “9 Lives”, the sneezes started again (though very mild). It, too, lists “fish” as a “minor” ingredient. My conclusion is that the “9 Lives” chicken has some of “The Bad Thing” in it, but the amount is small enough that it must be the ONLY food for the reaction to show (in my, perhaps, sensitized cat).

    That you are in France is Very interesting. Given all the fish harvested from the seas and oceans nearby, including the Iceland operators, I would expect little “farmed fish byproduct”. IIRC, there is some, but not a lot, of fish farming in Europe. The EU seems to also have regulations limiting the discharge of formaldehyde from fish farms. As noted under the “aquaculture” heading in the link there, the EU also forbids Formaldehyde in farmed fish food binders. So there is not a lot of source for Formaldehyde in your “fish” types.

    Yet from the quote above about cattle feeds:

    NPN are given to ruminants in the form of pelleted urea, ammonium phosphate and/or biuret.[60] Sometimes slightly polymerized special urea-formaldehyde resin or a mixture of urea and formaldehyde (both are also known as formaldehyde-treated urea) is used in place of urea, because the former provides a better control on the nitrogen release. This practice is carried out in China and other countries, such as Finland [61], India[62] and France. [63]

    We have France as a place where Formaldehyde is ALLOWED in feed for ruminants…

    So your cat has “issues” with ruminant food …
    And my cat has “issues” with fish food …

    And in both cases, where the animal feed is allowed to have Formaldehyde in it, the cat “has issues”, and where it does not, the cat has no issues. (We import a lot of fish meal and byproducts from Asia where formaldehyde in the fish feed is allowed).


    Yes, it is only one “data point”. But it is a very valuable data point…

    This hints at a thesis: It’s the formaldehyde residue in the undigested feed in the gut of the farmed animal when slaughtered that ends up in the “by products”.

    There is another, related, thesis:

    Places with or near a lot of farmed fish get the “byproducts” and can them as a major part of “fish” type cat foods. Places near a lot of “free range” fishing get cleaner “fish” types. (And places with for example, formaldehyde regulations, get a cleaner product too). So for a formaldehyde contaminant from fish farming to end up in French or EU canned “fish” catfood, it would have to travel a very long ways… For the Pacific coast of the USA (where I am) it is one fast boat ride from Asia to here…

    But those places far from the fish byproducts source might well take a dry, processed “high protein meal” from abroad and mix it in to the chicken, beef, whatever, to meet protein standards. (BTW, this type of thing is why I asked for geographic information. It is fairly likely that “the bad thing” will change with geographies due to different sources and cost issues.)

    This would explain the “issue” my cat had this week with a “new” brand of non-fish food. It contained a “protein supplement” that was likely shipped in dry from Asia (where formaldehyde fish food coatings are allowed).

    Good luck with your cat, and, For What It’s Worth, my cats have developed a bit of a ‘nose’ for “the bad stuff”. They are showing distinct preference for “good stuff” if both are set out for feeding. They will eat that food which has shown least bad effects first; and only resort to the stuff that has had negative effects as a last resort. (Though whatever “the bad thing” is, it is not bad enough to discourage a hungry cat from eating it.) I do not know if this is a “learned response” (i.e. “that made me feel bad last time, no thanks!”) or a “smell response” (i.e. “Eau du formadehyde? Non!”). It might take a bit for a cat to develop their sense of preferences…

    But I’m now quite happy to let my cats displayed preferences be my first guide (and leave ‘feeding studies’ for a last resort).

    I’m also going to look into a “formaldehyde test kit” …

  30. j ferguson says:

    Hi Ed,

    Ruminating about the cats and the food, I inferred that either the food had changed or the cats.

    My Dad developed an allergy to barley malt at the age of 85 which expressed itself in a very nasty rash which itched a whole lot.

    This seems an unlikely allergy to pop up in someone who is almost entirely Scot and it was certainly new since he’d been eating all kinds of things with barley malt and drinking them too.

    if immune system is like a picket fence, he’d lost a picket or two.

    He’d had colon cancer 35 years ago and was given up for lost. He decided to quit the chemo if he was through in any case – and then recovered.

    Diagonosis that went with identification of of current problem as an allergy, not some unusual infection, was that immune system is involved in preventing reactions to some kinds of provocations and his immune system had been under direct attack by the chemo and some element of it finally gave up 35 years later.

    Did something happen to both cats that knocked out a few pickets in their fences?


    I really like the formaldehyde test kit and would bet that this will tell the tale.

    BTW, I’m hoping you’ll send your notes to the appropriate cat-food packers.

    I do this every once in a while when I find something that’s defective. I tell the manufacturer that my letter is not a prelude to a law suit, that I have not been permanently harmed, but their product appears to have this problem and I thought they would want to know. I ask that they respond that they got the message and I would love to be kept abreast of their internal investigation but understand why they might not want to do so.

    I’ve gotten two letters thanking me for my interest. I got another letter 40 years ago from Ernst Leitz about a problem with my Leica M-2 acknowledging that it was a problem and that I wasn’t the only one and telling me they would fix it in New Jersey if I sent it to them. I did and they did.

    I’m looking forward to the results of the formaldehyde tests.

    best regards, John

  31. FrancisT says:

    Hi there,

    a follow up – late but hey cats never cooperate.

    We’ve just had our cat get used to a particular store brand of fishy catfood and now he doesn’t like it so much. This lot is all “salmon + other fish” where other fish is tuna, shrimp or “cabailard” – cod? – depending on the can. Extreme dislike for the shrimp plus salmon one, also drinking lots more water than usual. Not so happy with the Cabailard. OK with the Tuna. However he still loves the ultimate cheapo brand. In the interests of science I’ve done some experiments such as putting the shrimp and cheapo ones next to each other and mixing them up.

    When placed side by side it’s very simple. The shrimp stuff is totally ignored.

    When mixed up he falls for it at first but its a bit of an effort to get him to finish the dish.

    I think the fish farmed salmon plus fish farmed shrimp byproduct have something nasty in them in this batch.

    We shall not be buying the “salmon plus” stuff anymore.

  32. E.M.Smith says:

    @Francis T:

    This is in keeping with what I’ve observed. Please see the followup posting at

    The “Pet Promise” brand, even in fish types, has no ‘issues’ for my cats. The Fancy Feast “Gourmet Chicken” that used to be OK now lists “Fish” on the label and I just did an “accidental experiment” in that I fed it to my cat for a week before she got sick enough again from me to check the label and see that it now had fish. Moral: Check the label in EACH and EVERY batch you buy EVERY time…

    Both cats are still fine with home cooked or raw fish. It’s the Urea Formaldehyde coating on the fish / shrimp aquaculture pellets that is allowed in Asia that ends up in the fish “byproducts” (i.e. fish guts) that end up in the cat food… that causes the problem.

    I’m now trying to nurse my cat back to full health… again…

    (I’d like to get these manufacturers in a room and make them repeat 10000000 times “Formaldehyde is NOT food!”… )

    At any rate, thanks for another bit of confirming data.

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