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Iams Cat Food Review – Get Better Food?

Iams cat food company logo

Iams Wet Food -

3.9/5

(3.9/5)

Iams Dry Food -

2.9/5

(2.9/5)

Iams overall has good quality and safety standards.

Iams wet food has a high meat content and good ingredients. However, owners of senior cats or cats with kidney disease may want to consider a wet food with a lower phosphorus content.

Iams dry food cuts cost by including plant proteins and having a high carbohydrate content. Iams dry food is a decent choice only if spending more is not an option.

Who Makes Iams?

Iams pet food has been around since 1946. The current owner of the Iams brand is Mars Petcare. Mars purchased Iams, along with several other pet food brands, from Proctor and Gamble Co in 2014. Proctor and Gamble had itself purchased the Iams Company in 1999.

About Mars Petcare

Company Know How

Mars is a huge family owned company that makes everything from candy bars to pet DNA test kits. By revenue, Mars is the biggest pet food company in the world. They make not only Iams, but Cesar, Eukanuba, The Goodlife Recipe, Nutro, Whiskas and Pedigree.

Mars utilizes its large size to employ many experts in pet food formulation, food safety, manufacturing and veterinary health. However Mars Petcare does have some issues fully utilizing their expert resources as individual pet food brands are typically managed by small teams. A huge positive to Mars is that it has facilities to humanely test all pet foods with non-invasive feeding experiments. Before any product hits the market, important factors such as palatability, digestibility and urine pH have been closely studied.

Company Values

Mars is a family owned company, which means that they have more freedom than companies who must answer to investment firms or public shareholders. They are considered a great company to work for, but are also noted for their high level of secrecy and lack of transparency. Mars offers pet food for every budget and every brand is equally well researched, tested and studied. However, due to the highly segmented nature of their production and brand oversight, quality control and formulation expertise may vary significantly between low and high end brands. It appears that this is something Mars is actively trying to overcome by expanding their formulation team and centralizing workers at their headquarters in Tennessee.

Mars has purchased a large number of chain animal hospitals such as Banfield and VCA. This has gained significant criticism by veterinary professionals against the increasing corporatism in veterinary medicine. Mars also ran highly criticized ads in 2015 for their Eukanuba dog food which claimed that dogs would live 30% longer. The Federal Trade Commission brought false advertising charges against Mars for these ads.

Production

Mars has huge and complex supply chains in order to make their pet foods. Despite their huge size, Mars Petcare was able to almost totally avoid the 2007 melamine pet food recalls for their brands (excluding Royal Canin, which operates as a subsidiary company within Mars). The company appears to do a good job of understanding where their ingredients come from and performing quality control. However, there have been human rights concerns raised for Mars’ tuna. Serious allegations have been made that the tuna they purchase is caught using slave labor.

Up until 2018, Mars Petcare produced both their own brands and manufactured private label for other brands. They have since decided to focus on manufacturing only their branded foods. There are some apparent factors going into this decision: The 2014 purchase of Iams, Eukanuba and Nutura pet foods from Proctor and Gamble; as well as the large disparities in health, safety and quality between their over one-dozen production facilities across the US.

Perhaps the most striking example of the disparities between Mars’ pet food manufacturing facilities is the Joplin MO plant that was closed in 2013. Employees from this facility have sued over health issues and the facility was under serious investigation by Occupational Health and Safety. It is important to note that many of these concerns predated Mars’ purchase of the plant in 2006. It seems that Mars purchased a problematic plant and was unable to bring the facility up to standards under their ownership.  Additional evidence for large variations in quality between manufacturing plants is a 2008 salmonella recall that can be traced to issues in a single production facility in Pennsylvania.

Specifically, Iams is manufactured in Mars’ facilities in Ohio, Nebraska and North Carolina. Ingredients are internationally sourced, which is frankly the only option when purchasing in the quantities required by Mars.

Iams Cat Food Recalls

Since the purchase of Iams by Mars Petcare in 2014, it appears that there have been no recalls on the brand. While under the ownership of Proctor and Gamble Iams had undergone recalls for production contamination such as salmonella, mold and aflatoxin. They were also recalled in 2010 for lack of thiamin (aka vitamin B1). However, these recalls are hardly relevant to the current Iams brand under the management of Mars Petcare. Much more about the quality of the food can be understood by looking at the recall history of all of Mars’ pet foods rather than the recall history of Iams as a brand.

Mars Recalls in the US Since 2008

DateBrandReasonWho Discovered?Injury or Illness?
Aug. 2014Pedigree Dry Dog FoodMetal FragmentsPet Owners?None Reported
Jun. 2012Pedigree Canned Dog FoodPlastic FragmentsPet OwnersNone Reported
October 2008Special Kitty Dry Cat FoodSalmonellaFDA?None Reported
Sep. 2008Many Brands of Dry Dog and Cat Food (excluding Iams)SalmonellaConsumers/FDA2 Cases of Human Illness
Aug. 2008Pedigree Dry Dog FoodSalmonellaFDA?None Reported

Other Notable Mars Recalls

In 2017 in Australia, several cases of megaesophagus were linked to Mars Petcare Advance Dermocare. 47 dogs ended up dying, but only a small portion of the dogs who ate the food got sick. The exact cause was researched, but remains unknown.

Quality

As a whole, Mars has a good track record of recalls. Looking back as far as 2008 there are no reports of any of Mars’ foods causing illness to a pet. Considering that they are the largest pet food manufacturer in the world this is an impressive track record. We would argue that Iams has improved in safety and quality since its 2014 purchase by Mars Petcare.

Clean Label Project

The Clean Label Project is an independent watchdog group which tests consumer products, including cat food, for contaminants such as heavy metals and BPA. They have only tested and reviewed one Iams cat food, Proactive Health Healthy Adult dry cat food. They rated this food 5 stars for purity which is great news! However, this food does not contain fish, which is the primary source of heavy metal contamination in pet food, so a high rating is expected.

Transparency

Mars as a company is known for being secretive, but relative to other large pet food manufacturers they are not significantly more closed off. Basic customer questions are eventually answered. Our emails to ask about the copper content of their cat foods were ignored for over a month before receiving a reply. Mars does perform significant research on their foods, but does not appear to publish information in scientific literature. Mars does readily answer questions on the production location of their foods and has pictures of some facilities online.

Mars’ Scorecard

Nutrition
Knowledge

B+

Company's Transparency

D

Company
Values

C

Production Knowledge

B

Quality
Standards

B

Feeding
Trials

A

What Foods Does Iams Make?

Iams offers roughly 10 wet food and dry food varieties each. The brand is available in most chain pet stores. Foods come in a variety of flavors, textures, life stages and health concerns (such as sensitive stomach or optimal metabolism).

Iams Wet Food Offerings

Flavor and Texture Variety

A

Ingredient
Quality

C+

Meat
Content

A

Phosphorus
Content

D+

Omega
3s

C

Iams wet cat food is offered in plastic “Perfect Portion” packs. These twin packs contain 1.3 oz of wet cat food on either side to help easily divide out how much your cat should be eating for each meal. Varieties are mostly designed for certain ages and lifestyles of cats. These include kitten, senior, indoor, adult and optimal metabolism. In order to appeal to the tastes of most cats they offer a pate and cuts in gravy texture as well as chicken, turkey and fish flavors.

Here is a list of the wet cat foods that Iams offers:

Healthy Adult Chicken Recipe Pate

Healthy Adult Tuna Recipe Pate

Healthy Adult Salmon Recipe Pate

Healthy Adult Chicken Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Indoor Chicken Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Indoor Turkey Recipe Pate

Indoor Salmon Recipe Pate

Indoor Tuna Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Indoor Salmon Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Healthy Kitten Chicken Recipe Pate

Healthy Kitten Chicken Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Healthy Senior Chicken Recipe Cuts in Gravy

Optimal Metabolism Chicken Recipe Pate

Iams Wet Food Nutrition Review

Iams Healthy Adult Chicken Recipe Pate has been chosen to be closer examined for its nutritional content. Iams formulations are all similar and this food is both top selling and a good representation of the brand’s wet food offerings overall.

Iams Healthy Adult Chicken Pate Ingredients

The first three ingredients of this food all come from chicken, which is great news. This indicates that the food is high in meat content, important for our carnivorous kitties. Seeing these ingredients at the top of the list is a good sign of quality.

The fourth ingredient is both an animal protein and a way to enhance the texture of the cat food. Dried egg product is an elegant solution to making cat food both healthy and tasty.

Another texture enhancer guar gum also provides soluble fiber. It is a natural material made from the guar bean.

Color is mainly to appeal to the cat owner and not the cat. This is not an issue for most cats, but some can be sensitive to added colors. If your cat has a sensitive stomach we recommend avoiding foods with added colors. There is no real reason to add them to a cat food other than to appeal to humans.

This ingredient can be controversial among pet owners because it can be used as a preservative for meat and seafood. However, in the context of canned cat food, it is not used for preservation. This ingredient is used to bind calcium in the saliva and prevent the buildup of dental tartar. Once in the digestive system, this ingredient is easily broken down by the body and is extremely safe.

Iams includes fish oil in this food, which is great news! It is important to look for fish oil or fish in every cat food. Despite being nutritionally necessary, there are no rules requiring EPA and DHA (types of omega-3s) to be included in adult cat food.

An essential nutrient for cats’ heart health, the canning process can destroy the taurine that naturally occurs in meat. This food has added taurine to make sure that your kitty is getting enough.

This amino acid is primarily used in cat food to help maintain an optimal urine pH. The presence of this ingredient indicates that this food has been carefully formulated and researched in real cats.

Potassium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Calcium Carbonate, Choline Chloride, Salt, Thiamine, Vitamin E, Zinc Sulfate, Ferrous Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Potassium Iodide, Vitamin B6, Copper Sulfate, Vitamin D3, Folic Acid and Vitamin K make up the vitamins and minerals that have been added to this food. This appears to be a typical functional but low cost mix of vitamins and minerals. The minerals are not chelated, which means they are less available to the body.

Nutrients

On a dry matter basis this food is 43% protein, 23% fat and 4% carbohydrates. This indicates that the food is mostly meat.

Considering over 60% of senior cats have kidney disease, controlling phosphorus levels in your cat’s food is important. This specific Iams formula has 1.4% phosphorus on a dry matter basis. This is a moderate amount of phosphorus, not low or high.

Other formulas of Iams wet food have just over 2% phosphorus, including the senior recipe. This is not dangerous, but is on the very high end of safe phosphorus levels. We would recommend not feeding the senior formula to cats over 10 years old or cats with kidney issues.

Omega-3 EPA and DHA has obviously been considered in the formulation of this food as fish oil is an ingredient. However the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are unknown as they are not listed on the guaranteed analysis of this food.

Iams Dry Food Offerings

Flavor and Texture Variety

B

Ingredient
Quality

D

Meat
Content

D-

Phosphorus
Content

A

Omega
3s

C

Iams has a wide variety of dry foods for cats, each targeted at a different lifestyle, age or medical condition. The foods for medical conditions are over the counter and do not require a prescription from a veterinarian. Sizes vary between flavors, but most foods are available in a 16-lb or a 7-lb bag. Foods are mostly in the same price range, with foods specific for medical conditions priced slightly higher.

The dry foods varieties available are:

Indoor Weight & Hairball Care

Healthy Adult Original with Chicken

Urinary Tract Health with Chicken

Healthy Kitten

Adult Hairball Care

Healthy Senior

Healthy Adult with Salmon & Tuna

High Protein Chicken & Salmon Recipe

Adult Cat Oral Care Chicken

Adult Optimal Metabolism

Sensitive Digestion & Skin Tirkey

Iams Dry Food Nutrition Review

Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care is the best selling Iams cat food on Chewy.com. In order to better understand Iams dry cat food as a whole we took a closer look at this specific formula. This formula is on the higher end of price among Iams dry food and we would like to see if cat owners are getting their money’s worth.

Iams ProActive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care Ingredients

Many pet food companies work hard to make sure that meat is the first ingredient listed in their food, however this can be misleading to pet owners. Here chicken is listed before it is dehydrated into chicken meal, so the water weight is included, making it the first ingredient.

Although the second ingredient listed, chicken by-product likely makes up a larger portion of this food than chicken meat because it is stated as a dry meal on the ingredient list. The definition of chicken by-product is necks, feet, organs and intestines etc. Feathers are not allowed to be included in chicken by-product or chicken by-product meal. These sorts of ingredients can be very healthy for cats. In a perfect world each type of ingredient would be listed as “chicken gizzards,” “chicken feet” etc. However purchasing the ingredients in this manner is much more expensive and impractical for a company as large as Mars.

All dry pet foods must include a carbohydrate source in order to give them structure. Most cats do well on foods with corn for a carbohydrate source. However, here we see that corn has been listed as two seperate ingredients. This is called ingredient splitting and was likely done in order to get chicken higher on the ingredients list and make the food appear to have more meat than it really does.

This ingredient is not a carbohydrate. Gluten meals are made by isolating the proteins from grains. Corn protein is less digestible than meat protein and has a poor amino acid composition. Gluten meals are low cost ingredients that pet food companies use to up the protein content of their foods. This protein is poorly used by the feline body and ends up being burnt for energy and creating more work for the kidneys and liver.

This is another carbohydrate source added in this food. It is unclear why two different carbohydrate sources have been used, but there is likely a nutritional, flavor or texture reason.

These high fiber ingredients act as prebiotics and help keep your cat full. These are especially common ingredients in healthy weight foods. Fiber is important in hairball control too. Between these three ingredients high amounts of both soluble and insoluble fiber have been included in this food.

These additional animal sourced proteins are great to see in a food. However it is unclear why they have been added in such low amounts. It may be beneficial for pet owners to see them in the ingredients list. They may also add a different amino acid balance or increase the palatability of the food.

This flavor could be just about anything that naturally occurs. Developing food that is tasty to cats is very difficult and requires a lot of trial and error. It is likely that Iams does not want to reveal their company secrets by naming this ingredient. This ingredient isn’t cause for concern unless your cat has food allergies or digestive issues.

This ingredient is a natural source of B vitamins and cats love the taste. It has likely been added in this food simply as a flavor enhancer. It also adds fiber to the food too.

This is a natural food colorant that is very safe. However, it can be derived from “cooking” a number of different plants or grains so it should be avoided if your cat has allergies and you are trying to avoid specific ingredients.

To help balance urine pH this ingredient has been added. Mars tests all of their foods in urine pH studies. This is extremely important in dry food formulations and it is good to see that this ingredient has been added to help achieve the correct balance.

Iams lists the omega-3 content on their guaranteed analysis of their dry food. Seeing that the source of these omega-3s is fish oil, this indicates that a significant portion of the omega-3s in this food are EPA and DHA, not the plant based ALA which cats cannot fully utilize.

The extruding process of making dry cat food destroys less taurine than the canning process. Often taurine only needs to be added into dry cat foods if the formula has a low overall meat content. Considering the whole ingredient list, seeing taurine added indicates a very low meat content. 

These natural preservatives are extremely safe and act as antioxidants in the food. They prevent the fats in the food from going bad.

This amino acid derivative is naturally found in high levels in red meat. It is often included in weight loss foods because it helps cells use fat as energy. This is especially important to help prevent fatty liver (hepatic lipidosis) in overweight cats as they begin weight loss. 

Nutrients

302 calories per a cup is very reasonable for a weight loss food. The food contains 44% carbohydrates on a dry matter basis, which is high, even for a dry kibble cat food. This is not ideal for a weight control food as overweight cats are at high risk of being or becoming diabetic.

Considering that corn gluten meal is included in this food as a protein source, the 33% dry matter protein content indicates that this food is primarily corn, not meat. This food is nutritionally adequate but not ideal for carnivorous cats.

Phosphorus levels are extremely important to control in a dry cat food. The combination of dehydration and phosphorus can put high stress on your cat’s kidneys. This food does a great job of controlling phosphorus with 0.72% on a dry matter basis.

This is a trend seen across all of the Iams dry formulas, with phosphorus levels being below 1%.

The guaranteed analysis of this food actually lists omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content, which is great for transparency! However, the ratio is 1:10 which is pretty poor. Typically at least a 1:6 ratio should be looked for in cat food.

So, is Iams a good cat food?

Since Iams was purchased by Mars in 2014 the quality of the food has greatly increased. The food is highly palatable to cats and has good safety standards. It is also clear that Mars invests significantly into studying their food with respect to important metabolic issues such as urine pH. This should help cat owners rest assured that the Iams is well formulated for cats’ needs.

The wet food is especially of high quality being primarily meat with added nutrients. The addition of Sodium Tripolyphosphate is a nice touch for helping prevent dental tartar. It is also great that the food is available in a variety of textures and flavors. However, the phosphorus level in the food is not well controlled. This raises concern in older cats and cats with kidney disease. In a young healthy cat Iams wet food is a great choice.

Iam’s dry food is of a much lower quality than the wet diet. The food is high in carbohydrate content, even compared to other dry foods. A significant amount of the protein in the food comes from corn gluten meal. While there is chicken in this food, the ingredients list is heavily manipulated to help make it appear that there is more chicken than the reality.

It is nice that Iams offers dry foods to address health concerns and the company has done significant research to ensure that they work as advertised. However, we would like to see Iams invest in higher quality ingredients for all of their dry foods. It is clear that there is a goal of keeping the cost of the dry foods low, which is great if you are on a budget. As a conclusion of this lams cat foods review, if your budget allows, we recommend finding a higher-end dry food.

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