Of all the big-name supermarket canned cat foods, experts find certain flavors of Fancy Feast OK. It's a lukewarm endorsement, though.
Contains byproducts, but at least it's grain- and vegetable-free. Experts say most supermarket canned cat food -- and most flavors of Fancy Feast -- contains too much low-quality grain and iffy byproducts to be good for cats. But Tracie Hotchner, author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat," includes a few flavors of Fancy Feast on her list of acceptable supermarket cat foods.
"Think of this list as 'second best,'" she cautions. She approves of only the Fancy Feast Flaked Fish and Shrimp Feast and Classic Feast flavors. They're free of grains and vegetables -- a good thing, experts say, as cats are strict carnivores that shouldn't eat many carbohydrates. The Flaked Fish and Shrimp Feast is byproduct-free, too, although veterinarian and cat food critic Lisa Pierson says you should limit fish-based foods to once or twice a week, if that. Fish can be contaminated with heavy metals and other chemicals and can cause allergies in cats.
The 12 Classic Feast flavors all rely heavily on byproducts -- in some flavors, they're the first ingredient -- but Pierson says at least byproducts won't cause allergies or other diseases in cats, like grain can. She points out that cats eat plenty of fresh byproducts in the wild (the kidneys, spleens and other organs of their prey), but pet food byproducts can legally contain diseased organs, which makes her reluctant to recommend them.
Another top expert awards several Classic Feast flavors 3 out of 4 paws, but the byproducts, dyes and "menadione sodium bisulfite complex" in them raise red flags. Menadione, an FDA-approved synthetic vitamin K, can damage organs with prolonged or repeated exposure, this source says.
Note that other Fancy Feast flavors -- those that say "gravy," "chunky," "roasted" or "flaked" on the label -- probably contain wheat gluten and aren't recommended.
No recalls. Fancy Feast has a clean recall history. A search of the Food and Drug Administration's online database -- which goes back to the deadly melamine recalls of 2007 -- shows no recalls for Fancy Feast.
The melamine recalls were due to tainted grain from China, and one top expert still prefers pet foods that get their ingredients from more tightly regulated countries like the United States, Canada and New Zealand. This expert notes that Fancy Feast gets its ingredients from all over the world.
You can do better for the price. Fancy Feast isn't cheap. Ounce for ounce, a 3-ounce can of Fancy Feast (the only size available) costs more than Natural Balance Indoor Cat Formula (*Est. $1.20 for a 6-oz. can), a premium cat food that uses only ingredients that are fit for humans to eat -- and no byproducts.
Also, for less than a little can of Fancy Feast, you can get a bigger can of Trader Joe's Chicken, Turkey and Rice Dinner (*Est. 60 cents for a 5.5-oz. can). Trader Joe's canned cat food contains some better grains, but no byproducts and no artificial flavors, colors or preservatives, making it by far the best supermarket pick.
Some flavors of Fancy Feast canned cat food -- the Classic Feast line and the Flaked Tuna and Shrimp Feast -- beat other supermarket cat foods by nixing the unnecessary grains and veggies. But Fancy Feast still contains byproducts, dyes and other artificial ingredients experts aren't happy about. If you live near a Trader Joe's, reviews say its no-byproduct house brand of cat food is a better choice.
Excellent Susan Thixton covers five Fancy Feast classic flavors, including the Classic Chicken Feast. Her reviews are detailed and fact-based, studying ingredient quality, ingredient sources and more before assigning a rating to each cat food.
Review: Fancy Feast Cat Food, Susan Thixton, Updated December 2010
Excellent Veterinarian Lisa Pierson recommends higher-quality canned cat foods first, but she says she'd "much rather see a cat eat any canned food" -- including Fancy Feast -- versus dry food, which she says is usually too high-carb and always too low-moisture to be good for cats.
Review: Commercial Foods, Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, As of October 2012
Very Good Like Pierson, Tracie Hotchner -- author of "The Cat Bible" and host of the syndicated radio show "Cat Chat" -- prefers higher-quality canned cat foods. But she publishes this "second best" list of acceptable supermarket foods, including some varieties of Fancy Feast.
Review: Cat Chat -- Cat Food Supermarket Brands, Tracie Hotchner, Not Dated
Good This website lists cat foods that are suitable for cats with feline inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). To make the list, foods must be free from low-quality grains, dairy and certain spices and additives that can irritate cats' bowels. Fancy Feast makes the list, but only the Flaked Fish and Shrimp Feast and the Classic Feast flavors -- the only ones that are wheat gluten-free.
Review: Wet Food, Editors of IBDKitties.net, Not Dated
Fair About 50 cat owners review Fancy Feast's Classic Feast flavors here, awarding them an average rating of 4.9 out of 5. Some say their cats simply love the flavor and texture (it's a paté-style food, with no chunks or gravy), while others appreciate that it's grain-free for their diabetic cats.
Review: Fancy Feast Gourmet Canned Cat Food, Contributors to Petco.com, As of October 2012