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.
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?
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.