We all have certain obsessions we can't seem to shake. One of mine is cat food. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. I'm constantly thinking about the food my two cats, Franny and Zooey, eat. The fixation isn't helped by their incessant whining out of supposed hunger. Seriously, you'd think these cats had been neglected or are wasting away by how much they cry and beg to be fed. In reality, they're overweight and eat four times a day — two servings of dry food and two of wet. Still, they sit next to me and claw at my arm while I work, scream-meow whenever my partner or I walk close to their food bowls or approach the closet where their food is kept, and nuzzle my ear in the middle of every single night in an attempt to rouse me for a 2 a.m. snack. So, really, how could I not think about what they're eating all the time?
Despite their incessant complaining, I love my two darling cats deeply and they bring me immense joy. In return, I pour my soul into caring for them, worrying about them, and making sure they are happy and healthy. In my mind — and theirs, seeing as they too are obsessed with food — their diet plays a big role in that. This fixation also intersects perfectly with another one of my neuroses: my impact on the environment. If I'm trying to subscribe to a low-carbon diet and decrease single-use plastic in my kitchen, shouldn't I make sure that the meat that goes into my cats' bowls is sustainably sourced and packaged, too? (Clearly, there's a lot going on in my brain.)
All that said, researching new and improved cat food options is tricky, because, despite the fact that Franny and Zooey love eating, they are also extremely picky and have very particular palates. With that in mind, my cats did seem to be the perfect taste-testers for the new cat food line created by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and Nacho, his equally famous (in my book, anyway) cat.
In case you hadn't heard, Bobby Flay, of Food Network fame, recently launched a cat food brand called Made by Nacho. According to the brand's website, Bobby and the titular Nacho "have always been passionate about great food: — just like me and Franny and Zooey! Unlike us, Bobby and Nacho used their food-obsession and created their own line of cat food, because "as best pals and kitchen confidantes, they'd been searching for a cat food that delivers on both taste and nutrition but hadn't quite found the full package."
I'll admit, as much as I was intrigued by their never-ending journey to find cat food that tastes good and is healthy, I was also a little jealous that Nacho and Bobby had apparently walked arm and arm through this grueling journey together. I wish I could call my cats my "best pals and kitchen confidantes," but in truth, Franny and Zooey are more like finicky food critics who demand to be served at the farm-to-table restaurant I'm trying desperately to get off the ground, but seem dissatisfied with everything and make clear that they'd much rather be eating fast food.
Despite my jealousy toward them, I am grateful to Bobby and Nacho for creating food made with cage-free chicken, sustainably caught salmon, and grass-fed beef that includes protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of moisture. I was on board to try and since they don't have opposable thumbs, and therefore, cannot feed themselves, so were Franny and Zooey.
Made by Nacho offers three wet recipes, three dry recipes, and five varieties of freeze-dried treats. Franny and Zooey (and I) only reviewed the wet recipes, because they currently eat (and are surprisingly happy with) a dry food that was specifically prescribed to them by their vet in order to help them lose weight. We're also not going to review the freeze-dried treats because one of my cats — in compliance with HIPAA, I won't say which one — is on Prozac and therefore only gets soft treats that can be used to hide the daily pill. So, Cage-free Chicken Cuts in Gravy Recipe; Grass-Fed, Grain Finished Beef Cuts in Gravy Recipe; Sustainably-caught Salmon Cuts in Gravy Recipe will be our main focus here.
Before trying Made by Nacho, my kitties had been eating Fancy Feast's minced chicken feast in gravy for senior cats. I know, I know, Fancy Feast is often referred to as the McDonald's of cat food, but I've given them so much of the high-end stuff, and nothing hits quite like this. Franny and Zooey love it, and honestly, how can I blame them? McDonald's is really good! My girls are particular about the shape and texture of their food. If you put pâté in front of them, they literally turn their noses up at it. If the meat in their food is shredded, they dramatically smack their lips and tongue in order to show me just how difficult the tendrils are to swallow. I think the main reason they love this specific Fancy Feast formula is that the chicken pieces are quite small and suspended in gravy, making them easy to slurp up. And what I like about it is that this food is specifically crafted for cats over the age of seven — plus, my vet said Fancy Feast isn't actually that bad so please don't cat-mom-shame me for this choice. I'm doing the best I can. Still, I have no idea where the meat in this wet food is coming from and the senior formula is actually weirdly hard to find. I recently got a notification from Chewy that my autoship of the product had been discontinued because it was out of stock and it sent me into an absolute spiral. Good thing, I had Made by Nacho.
I started the girls out on the chicken recipe because they're chicken lovers: One time, after I threw away the carcass of a rotisserie chicken, Franny and Zooey opened the cabinet under the sink where the trash is kept, turned the trash can over, and gnawed a perfectly square hole in the chicken container just to get at the remnants; I was horrified and very impressed. Anyway, when I first put the chicken wet food in front of them, they were excited. They dove in, lapping up the gravy, which I was thrilled to find out was made with chicken and turkey bone broth. Chic! After the initial burst of excitement, though, their enthusiasm waned and I waited with bated breath.
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Zooey seemed to think the chunks of chicken were a bit too big. She walked away from the bowl and sprawled out on the ground, apparently exhausted by the effort it took to chew the chicken. Franny also took a break, but came back a few minutes later and began scratching the floor around her bowl. I've seen the behavior before from Fran, especially when trying to feed her anything but her precious Fancy Feast. It's actually a common action among cats and can mean a few different things. For example, it might be that she doesn't like the food, and is trying to clean up her dining area in the same way that she would scratch around in her litter box — in effect, letting me know she thinks the food I'm giving her is akin to fecal matter. I told you these cats were harsh critics. However, it could also mean that I've given her too much food and she's full but would like to bury the leftovers for later. Since I am not a pet psychic — although, trust me, I've looked into booking appointments with several cat psychics in my area — I wasn't sure what had motivated Franny's scratching and decided to keep feeding her Made by Nacho.
On day two, I tried the cats out on the beef recipe. They went nuts for this one, which shocked me because I don't think they'd ever had beef before. Both cats devoured the pouches I had poured into their bowls. I was thrilled, but the triumphant feeling was short-lived because Zooey promptly threw all the beef formula up on the living room floor. Lest you think this is an indictment of the food, I want to make clear, it was really all my fault. Despite having devoted dozens of hours of my life to reading about cat food, I didn't read the instructions on how to properly introduce your cats to Made by Nacho. As all mothers likely know, when your darling babies are crying out in hunger, a sense of urgency takes over and you just throw the food at them. That's how mothering works, right?
If I had acted with a little less love-fueled haste, though, I would have realized that, as per Made by Nacho's instructions, the correct way to introduce cats to the brand is by adding it to their regular food in increasing increments each day until they fully adjust. Oops! I learned my lesson, though, and since switching to the appropriate approach, Zooey hasn't barfed and Franny hasn't been scratching around the bowl, because there are no longer leftovers. Victory! It's amazing what problems can be solved by simply following directions.
My cats actually seem to be big fans of all three of the wet recipes, but from my perspective, as their mother/server, there are a few things I take issue with. The food comes in plastic pouches that, unlike aluminum cans, cannot be recycled, it seems. Weighing this against the sustainable way that the ingredients are sources, though, it's likely a net win compared to Fancy Feast. I also think it's important that I mention the price. A 24-pack of Made by Nacho's Cage-free Chicken Cuts in Gravy Recipe is $34.89. By comparison, before my autoship was tragically discontinued, I was paying $15.36 for each case of 24 cans of Fancy Feast. But, while it's more expensive, I'm willing to pay the higher price for healthier and more sustainably sourced food — I also freely admit I might feel differently about this expense if I had human baby mouths to feed in addition to Franny and Zooey's.
Finally, I'll say this: Of the three wet recipes, the salmon is my least favorite. Listen, all wet cat food smells not great and really all packaged fish tends to have an intense smell, but that doesn't make me less grossed out by the fishy scent that lingers in the air of my kitchen even after my girls have devoured every last morsel. In a small apartment, it's especially tough to take. But, honestly, the stench might be worth it since I seem to have finally found better-for-them food that even they, the fussiest of food critics, can sign off on. Or, maybe I'll just stick with the beef and chicken recipes. Yeah, probably that.