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Rebecca Watson, a cohost on the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast, recently made a claim that Hill's Science Diet was not a healthy choice to feed to your cat. She later explained her answer on a blog post

On a recent episode of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, we discussed some research that (unsurprisingly) found that adding a whiff of “science” to your advertisement may result in better sales. I joked about how I used to feed my cats Science Diet because “science” was right there in the name, until I did some research and realized that it was overpriced crap.

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So, I started feeding my cats primarily wet food. I chose Science Diet because it was recommended by one of my vets as well as a shelter where I picked up my previous two cats. And seriously, the other reasons were pure marketing: it has the word “science” in it, and it costs more than the stuff at the supermarket. It must be good, right?

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Well, honestly, it’s probably good enough. I don’t think feeding a cat Science Diet is an awful thing, especially if it’s the wet food. But it’s not the smartest thing, by a long shot. The problem is that dry food is, well, dry. It doesn’t contain the water that cats need to thrive. You can supplement that with a water dish, but it can still lead to urinary problems.

My wife and I are both new cat owners, having adopted a cat a few months ago. Our vet actually specifically recommended Science Diet dry food, saying he feeds it to his own cats. In the process of researching cat food, I realized the pet food industry has the potential of making pseudoscientific claims and selling snake-oil to worried pet owners for double or triple the price of conventional pet food. I'm trying to figure out the best way to investigate this claim. I'm particularly worried about poor decisions due to the argument from authority fallacy and there is a lot of contradictory information out there.

  • Hi pooter03. This isn't the site for asking that kind of question. Our purpose is to examine specific claims to say whether they are true or false. This question really doesn't fit that category. Please have a look at the help section or the FAQ for more info. Thanks for stopping by. – DJClayworth Nov 6 '14 at 17:29
  • I posted a question about cat food: and this answer said there are "AAFCO Dog and Cat Food Nutrient Profiles". I could suggest you ask your veterinarian, if you haven't already. – ChrisW Nov 6 '14 at 17:38
  • DJClayworth, the help site says, "Skeptics is about applying skepticism — it is for researching the evidence behind claims you encounter. It is not for speculation, philosophical discussions or investigating original claims." My question is on how to investigate this issue from a skeptical mindset. Would it be better if I asked about specific claims made in regards to pet nutrition (ie, are there really health benefits to buying premium organic pet food?) rather than my broader question? – pooter03 Nov 6 '14 at 18:57
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    @pooter03: Thanks for rewording the question. I appreciate that you are making an effort to improve the question. I intended to re-open the question, but I note that Watson did not claim Science Diet was unhealthy in her clarification - merely that it was a waste of money. – Oddthinking Nov 7 '14 at 16:47
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    The domesticated cat's natural diet is mice; they evolved to fill the niche caused by human agriculture. Why isn't that the #1 ingredient? The pet store near me would get a shipment in on Wednesday, when I (and other snake owners) would pick up "fresh" dinner for our pets. So it's not a silly suggestion. Some kinds of pets do get a true natural diet. – JDługosz Nov 8 '14 at 7:42

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