Last updated: August 10, 2016
Filet mignon, smoked salmon, chicken and brown rice… are you feeling hungry yet? While these delicious foods may sound like menu options from your favorite restaurant, they are also flavors of cat food!
These days, pet food companies offer an increasing number of dietary options that sound more like gourmet dinners than something you would feed your cat. One emerging trend in the pet supply industry is human grade cat food. So if the pet food is made out of human food ingredients, does that mean it’s good enough for humans to eat?
FDA Pet Food Regulations
What is human grade pet food anyway? The definition is simple; it’s pet food that’s fit for human consumption. Conversely, pet food that is not fit for human consumption is called feed grade pet food.
So what’s the difference in the two? Let’s start with the manufacturing and quality control regulations. Human grade pet food has 100 such regulations, while feed grade pet food only has 15.
The FDA designates feed grade pet food as such due to its ingredients and the way the finished product was handled, processed, or packaged. Some of the ingredients in feed grade pet food may be rejected as unsuitable or unsafe for human consumption. Examples of such ingredients include slaughter by-products, as well as meats from slaughterhouse animals that were dying, diseased, disabled, or dead on arrival.
On the other hand, human grade pet food is classified as edible for humans because it complies with strict manufacturing regulations, and its ingredients have passed FDA inspections. Many cat owners don’t mind spending the extra money to give their cats higher quality cat food.
Clearly, some cat food is safe for humans to eat, but is it actually good for you? Cat food is specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of cats, which are very different than those of humans. In other words, a human whose diet consists exclusively of cat food will not be properly nourished.
But what about snacking? Technically, an occasional snack of cat food won’t hurt you. Your body does a great job of filtering out foreign substances, and the ones found in cat food are relatively mild. Some of the worst content in cat food is ash, which is high in minerals, but a healthy person is more than capable of tolerating it.
Reasons Why Humans Eat Cat Food
By now you’re probably wondering what could possibly motivate someone to eat cat food. The most common reason is to save money; you can buy three cans of cat food for the cost of one can of tuna. For some people, this is a voluntary choice; they can afford more expensive food, but they choose to supplement their diets with cat food to cut down on expenses. Sadly, some people make the switch to cat food out of financial necessity. This phenomenon is most commonly reported among the elderly, whose fixed incomes sometimes make it impossible for them to afford the food they need or want.
In one reported case, a woman ate cat food because she was addicted to it. The obsession started after a painful divorce, when the lady found herself spending all her time at home with her pet cats. She soon found herself craving cat treats, and she loved them so much that she added wet cat food to her diet as well. Eventually, family concerns over her health and mental well-being led her to see a doctor, who ordered the woman to give up cat food and seek therapy.
Not all cases of humans’ eating cat food are related to financial woes or mental illness. A woman who owns a pet supply store in the state of Washington ate only pet food for 30 days straight as part of a campaign to raise awareness about the diets of pets and humans. Her store specializes in pet food made from natural, holistic ingredients, and the lady received media attention for herself and her business as a result of her pledge to limit her diet to cat food and dog food for one month. The store owner contended that many pet foods contain higher quality ingredients than human foods, and she also claimed to enjoy some flavors of pet treats.
Eating Cat Food Professionally
If you have a craving for cat food, you may be able to turn it into a career! Professional pet food testers work to make sure that pet food is not only nutritious, but tasty as well. The job is only available to the highly educated as over 75% of professional pet food testers have a masters degree or a doctorate. But all that education can definitely pay off. Professional pet food testers make as much as $117,000 per year!
A good pet food tester must have a working knowledge of what animals like. They taste pet food to check its flavor, texture, and consistency. Smell is important too; pet food testers screen pet foods to make sure they are not too stinky for pet owners’ homes.
Before you dig into a can of cat food, make sure you check for any applicable safety recalls. In 2007, the FDA issued a major recall for some brands of canned pet food that were found to cause rapid kidney failure and death in hundreds of animals. Unfortunately, cat food recalls are not rare; in 2015, there were 10 instances.
Until recently, pet food recalls were only issued at the discretion of pet food manufacturers. Passed in 2015, the Food Safety Modernization Act gives the FDA the authority to mandate pet food recalls. The regulations also require that U.S. pet food manufacturers use basic sanitation to prevent product contamination and maintain written policies to prevent food-borne illnesses.
Leave the Cat Food for the Kitties
Cat food companies are offering more varieties of cat food than ever, and the trend is to focus on quality ingredients with high nutritional value. In addition, stricter regulations and enforcement mean that most cat food is safe for cats and humans. However, cat food does not meet the nutritional needs of humans. Can humans eat cat food? Yes, and some do. But unless you plan to make eating cat food your career, it’s probably best to stick with human food.