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And you thought you knew all about making a good cat food…

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Hi fellow humans owned by cats ūüôā

Well I just had a very interesting e-mail conversation with Nigel Woodd, director of the ZiwiPeak pet food brand we partly feed to our kitties. I know Mr. Woodd through work and we met in person some months ago.

If you thought you knew about how to make a top-quality cat food, or what that would be, you might be in for some education. Mr. Woodd patiently answered my nosy questions associated with feeding my cats a species-appropriate diet and so I thought it would be useful to share what I learned.

Mr. Woodd kindly agreed to sharing our e-mail conversation so I’ll just copy it here as it is. Enjoy ūüôā

Please also make sure to read to the end since Dr. Pierson whose site catinfo.org is mentioned in our conversation, kindly added her comments. Thank you Dr. Pierson!


Hi Mr. Woodd/Nigel,
How have you been.¬†Haven’t seen you lately…
I’ve been wanting to consult you about the carrageenan issue but¬†since I haven’t seen you in person lately, I decided to send this e-mail.
So, regarding carrageenan… I did see the FAQ on your website where it is¬†explained that you only use undegraded carrageenan. However, apparently this¬†is not a valid excuse (any more).
Have you heard of/read the cornucopia study about carrageenan being harmful?
This seems like a legitimate study with valid concerns and does not seem to me like fearmongering but wanted to hear your opinion.
Another nice article on the subject which again does not seem like fearmongering to me:
Anyway, my question/concerns are that

1. apparently it is physically impossible to manufacture undegraded carrageenan that does not have any degraded in it and this can be up to 25%.
2. even some of the undegraded will turn into degraded during the process of digestion, and apparently cats have a much more acidic digestive system compared to humans, so this is more likely to happen.
Now, these concerns seem serious enough to me that I don’t want it in my or¬†the cats’ food, but it seems to be added to everything these days, pretty¬†much like aspartame or MSG. I mean, I cannot find any chewing gum in Japan¬†that does NOT have any aspartame. It is starting to look like this with¬†carrageenan.
Since it seems to be a texture enhancer/gelling & binding agent, I can¬†somewhat understand that it is added to human food, in order to make it more¬†appetizing, but as for pet food, the cats sure don’t care! I suspect this¬†might be a kind of marketing to humans, to make the food look better, but¬†shouldn’t it be about what is best for the pets? Especially with a pet food¬†maker like Ziwipeak, why add something that might be harmful to cats?
I seriously cannot understand this concept, and trust me, there are others¬†out there who are concerned about carrageenan and won’t buy your product¬†because of this.
It would be awesome if you could consider removing it from the canned foods,¬†the cats don’t care if the food looks sloppy or wet. They will still eat it¬†(I would think).
It really seems to me that carrageenan is only added because of the¬†customers (=humans) and not for the cats’ interests. If so, it really has no¬†place in your food.
If you absolutely must add some kind of texture enhancer, perhaps consider¬†switching to guar gum that seems to have less health risks.¬†But, I would just ask/suggest that you remove it altogether and don’t add¬†any other gums.
Please consider all the above.
Best regards,

Hi Timea,

How are you? I have not been in Tokyo recently.
Thanks for your email below on Carrageenan. We don’t use it as a texture enhancer but we do use it as part of our gel structure due to the very high raw meat & organ content it is difficult to keep the all-natural meat ingredients bound together during the canning process.
However we are aware of the negative publicity over this ingredient and while there is no proof that undegraded carrageenan is carcinogenic we are undertaking production trials to use an alternative emulsifier system.
So far we have had a successful trial on some of the canned products but we have not quite finished this process yet.
I would like to think that in another month or 2 we may have completed the trials and will be able to eliminate carrageenan from our products.

If we are able to complete it faster than this we will definitely be trying to do so.

Kind regards, Nigel

Nigel Woodd

Hi Nigel,
Well, that is AWESOME!! Of course I don’t know what the “alternative¬†emulsifier system” is going to be, hopefully it is safe ūüôā
Honestly, this carrageenan issue has been bothering me for a while¬†especially since I think most of your customers buy your products because of¬†how good it is, meaning that we really care about what’s in the food and how¬†the food is, and recently more and more write ZiwiPeak off because it has¬†carrageenan in it. So you really lose a bunch of customers because of this I¬†think… You are not just some mainstream average pet food, I’m confident¬†that a lot of your customers seek you out because they (like myself) lost a pet due to¬†feeding them crap, so now we really care about what we feed. I think these¬†people will really be turned off by the fact that despite being such a good¬†food, you add carrageenan. I’ve been seeing this trend on blogs and healthy¬†pet food rankings etc.
I also strongly suggest that once you remove the carrageenan, you should¬†really get this fact out there so that the deterred customers come back ūüôā
I’ve been trying to feed more canned lately since apparently with cats the¬†leading cause of death/disease is kidney failure/kidney disease – and so it¬†would be pretty important to make sure our cats are well-hydrated at all¬†times. We now feed your canned, your air-dry and some Orijen and Innova Evo¬†dry but I really want to cut those last two out since well – they are still¬†a kibble, even though the ingredients are pretty good. And apparently it is¬†not recommended to soak dry food and let it stand there (when free-feeding)¬†so we don’t soak. According to Lisa Pierson (you probably know her site¬†catinfo.org) it is better to feed even an inferior canned food than kibble¬†(I kinda wonder about that… inferior canned food being better than dry)¬†but apparently kibble is really really bad. There was some comparison¬†between dry-fed cats with water bowls around and canned-fed cats and the¬†canned-fed cats’ total water intake was like double of those dry-fed. That’s¬†kinda alarming…
I don’t remember if I told you before or not but the cat I lost at only 2¬†years of age had kidney insufficiency and then died from more complications.
That was about 6 years ago I think. This is the reason why I now try to feed¬†healthy ūüôā but that cat had to pay the price for my brainwashedness. The 4¬†cats we have now can thank that cat for the good food they get. Before I was¬†feeding Science Diet and Royal Canin kibble, thinking those were good foods,¬†what a joke.
Anyway I think that most of those who start looking for answers and into healthy feeding had some kind of tragic experience that started them on the way.
I simply could not accept that a 2 year old cat would get kidney¬†insufficiency and BTW he also showed some other classic symptoms of kibble¬†feeding, like getting overweight. Then I found out that kidney problems were¬†the leading cause of death for cats and I was like, well, if so, wouldn’t¬†you think that the pet food makers address this problem?? I mean, that would¬†be the logical thing to do!
Well please do continue making your wonderful canned food and hopefully without carrageenan as soon as possible.
Honestly I would rather feed raw but you can’t even buy a whole chicken here¬†in Japan, you might have some idea about how we can only get the nicely¬†packaged meats in the supermarket… If I lived in Hungary, my home country,¬†I would most definitely feed raw, there are butchers all over the place so¬†it is easy to get the necessary organs, bones etc.
Well, sorry for the long mail, please take care and see you next time. Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.
You probably get cat pictures all the time, but this is Whitey, our latest adoptee. He is almost 1 year old now.

Hi Timea

Yes it will be safe I can assure you.
I am aware of Dr Lisa A Pierson’s site and in fact just this week have spent a great deal of time reading on a few subjects.
I don’t hold entirely that a bad moist food is better than a great dry food as we can disprove that with our dry food quality I believe but as renal failure is definitely a modern illness at epidemic levels in cats and some dogs too I think her concern is appropriate.
Cats derive 80% = of their daily moisture from their food – they should not eat kibble or poor quality food and moist is best.
To be quite honest a cat owner is better off feeding our food incl. carrageenan than feeding a poor quality moist food or a kibble food. There is less risk of harm and damage to the cats systems than the other options present.
When we do change we will certainly try to make it well known as we think it will be a major advantage too.

For your own feeding regime – I strongly recommend you to drop the kibbles out – it is not a good thing to feed different regimes and the cats gut cannot settle to digest either a real meat diet or a more carb based kibble diet.
I don’t want to sound as though I am only interested in ZP as I am not Рbut I would drop the Orijen & Innova dry as they are both highly processed kibbles and the extreme heat does denature the active enzymes and nutrients.
It also changes the metabolic structure of the natural fats making them carcinogenic.
I have attached 2 articles for you that you may find interesting.

The photos of Whitey are great, thanks so much.

Kind regards, Nigel

Nigel Woodd

Cooked v’s Raw Dog & cat Foods

Grains in Commercial Petfood

Hi Nigel,
Well that was very interesting in the attachments although I knew part of it already.
Orijen and Innova Evo are grain-free but contain some other carbs like¬†veggies although not much. I think they also say that the food is cooked at¬†low temperatures (?) so I would still think that these brands are somewhat¬†ok among kibble and that’s why I started feeding them that time when I¬†learned how bad carbs (and especially grains) were. It was simply the best¬†option available so I went with that.
I kinda find it strange now, looking back, how I overlooked the being¬†hydrated factor and only concentrated on eliminating carbs. I guess I was¬†happy that I seemed to find the cause (or at least, “a” cause, looking back¬†now) and honestly I don’t remember if I looked at canned food available on¬†the market that time, maybe I did and could not find anything acceptable so then I¬†stuck with the grain free Orijen and Innova Evo. I also made sure that there¬†was lots of good drinking water around of course.
Then you talked to my colleague who¬†mentioned this to me since we talk about our pets sometimes and that’s how I¬†found out about you ūüôā Thank you very much for letting me know about Ziwipeak because otherwise I doubt that I would¬†be feeding any of your cat food right now. But then there are no¬†coincidences ūüôā
To be honest, I did not/do not want to feed those Orijen/Innova Evo kibbles¬†but feeding Ziwipeak exclusively is just too expensive and there are 4 cats¬†here. That’s a bunch ūüôā I frankly cannot afford feeding ZP exclusively, and¬†uh, I don’t want to complain too much but your prices really went up! I¬†don’t know if the previous prices were introductory or what but I remember¬†that at first I was able to get a 170g can for less than 300 yen and now the¬†lowest price is like 470. That’s quite a difference and those are even the¬†cheapest prices, most vendors will sell it for almost 600 yen per can (I¬†usually buy cat food on Rakuten which you may be familiar with and I order¬†from the vendor with the lowest price at that moment). Of course you can say¬†what Lisa Pierson said that “you can pay now or you can pay later (in the¬†form of vet bills and suffering)” but paying 500 yen for a can is just way¬†over my league.
Again, I would really love to feed raw but it is just not possible here in¬†Japan. Perhaps you should look into this more, there might be a new market¬†there ūüôā I do not know of any raw (frozen) cat food whatsoever here and just¬†yesterday I went to a pet store to read canned cat food labels and it’s like¬†95% of the cat food here is FISH! Fish with fish! Honestly it is almost¬†laughable. Especially knowing that overfeeding fish is not good either –¬†yeah we did lose a young cat due to overfeeding fish when I was little – my¬†father would catch these small fish at the lake during summer (in Hungary)¬†and the cat got a bunch of them on a regular basis. We suspected all that¬†fish killed him later that summer. So, I do agree that feeding too much fish¬†is not good but if it’s part of a healthy diet, some fish would be¬†acceptable. Although some die-hard raw feeders would disagree and recommend¬†not feeding fish whatsoever. We give our cats a can of tuna about once a¬†week (one can divided between the 4 cats) and there is also some fish¬†content in their cat food, including yours, depending on what they happen to¬†get. But here in Japan, mainstream cat food is fish with fish! ūüôā
So, since I want to introduce more moisture into the cats’ diet now, I was¬†thinking that instead of the Orijen/Innova Evo kibble I would try a somewhat¬†cheaper canned food that is still somewhat acceptable, although I definitely¬†do not want to go with the “inferior canned food” option! I know these are¬†not raw but I decided to try some canned California Natural (yes it has some¬†brown rice in it but still, it is grain-free, human grade quality and I¬†think it was about 75% moisture which is wonderful) and the Innova Evo¬†canned, that is similar. For comparison, these both cost about 190 yen for a¬†156g can. So what I plan is to feed ZP canned and air dry and these not raw¬†cans.
We’ll see how the cats like the new routine, we’ll try it gradually.
It will be nice if in the future I can feed only ZP, or somehow be able to feed raw, but until then, this is the best I can manage.

Hi Timea,

Thank you for your very nice email below.
I understand that cost is a concern and that you are very committed to your cats – they are very lucky to have you as their pet parent. I wish many other dog & cat owners were as informed and caring as you are.
Yes our costs have jumped up considerably over the past 2 years and this is driven by the worldwide demand for protein from all countries. Meat consumption has increased significantly which in turn has driven up demand on supply which results in pressure on the raw ingredients and this in turn pushes the price of the raw meat & organs up.
Regrettably we cannot see it stopping as more and more countries consume more protein. It has affected all protein sources including dairy foods, meat, fish, cereals and grains as well.
We are forced to pass these increases on or else we could not stay in business.
New Zealand meat ingredients are also in particular in very strong demand due to our clean green environment and the fact we don’t have any diseases here so consumers are looking for meat & protein from our country.
Fish is not a satisfactory diet for cats and yes it seems most of the Asian markets concentrate on Fish as the main protein to fall in line with the cultural aspects of the people but cats needs high levels of red meat & organs to sustain their nutritional requirements.
We don’t see an actual raw product being of too much interest to us as it is even higher costs than the air dried and canned products we make now and the transport, storage, freezing and thawing is not something we think consumers today want.
This is in fact the reason we developed ZiwiPeak – to give all the benefits of feeding a raw diet but with the added convenience of shelf stability and no need to freeze, thaw and touch raw meat ingredients.

I hope the new feeding regime goes well, I am sure it will and I have very much appreciated your emails.
Once we have the new cans without carrageenan I will let you know.

Kindest regards, Nigel

Nigel Woodd

Hi Nigel,
Thank you very much for the e-mail and that you got back to all my concerns ūüôā Well, regarding the prices and that there is a growing demand for protein worldwide… I’d think if there is demand, more protein should be produced (i.e. breeding more animals for the purpose).
Also, I’ve been meaning to ask you this, how about raising mice and rabbits for cat food making purposes, I’d think it is not that hard to breed these (compared to other, larger animals like cows or sheep etc) and from what I hear here and there, they multiply like crazy too :). And apparently the cat’s natural diet is mainly mice anyway, and some birds, poultry, rabbit, small animals. I’d think it would be a logical idea to breed these and make cat food. What do you think about this?
The other thing, now that I’ve been looking at various cat foods, I came across this other NZ pet food brand that seems pretty similar to yours, K9 Feline Natural. Apparently they have a freeze-dried product that is raw and then freeze-dried, so you just add water before feeding it to your cat. I’d think that is a brilliant idea, since the food is dry and so light by weight, and easy to transport etc, there are no freezing issues, or thawing issues for the customer, and you do add water before feeding so there is plenty of moisture for the animal. I’ve never actually tried such a product but I’d think the concept is brilliant, perhaps you could make a similar product?
I agree that frozen is indeed not very practical.
Well I would really like to hear your opinion on the above, especially the mouse-rabbit-maybe some poultry farm for cat food purposes.

Hi Timea,

You make some interesting suggestions on the potential to increase protein. Unfortunately all meat protein that is processed, at least in New Zealand, has to undergo rigorous processing controls and management and must comply with many, many regulatory requirements to be classified as fit to use and export.
All our meat that we use in ZP is processed through exactly the same meat processing facilities that the human grade meats are sourced from.
This means that there has to be a significant investment in the meat processing factories, the killing and butchery lines and all other controls necessary to ensure the meat & organs are properly cared for right through the whole process.
Mice don’t provide the meat industry with sufficient return on investment to put in place a programme that would enable them to be bred, captured, killed and processed for pet food with all the associated costs involved so they are going to remain as a small wild prey for all the cats out there.
Rabbits do offer an opportunity and we pioneered this in NZ about 4 years ago but rabbit meat is actually more expensive than venison due to the rigorous controls required to process the meat. We do use rabbit in 1 canned food range only in the USA where we are trialling it but we need the meat industry to get behind us to make it an affordable and viable protein source to enable us to reduce the costs of the regulatory process controls. We do see rabbit as having some potential if we can get some of the costs out of the process.
Poultry is also used widely Рwe don’t use it as we cannot yet get poultry meat that is not fed feed supplements that can be guaranteed as GMO free but it is something we are looking at.
Freeze dried food – K9 – yes I know it well and there are other freeze dried foods sold in the USA and other markets too.
Freeze drying has been around a long time – it is a good quality process to naturally preserve food ingredients.
Compared to air drying it is not quite as good a quality process as it damages the ingredients a little more (based on an independent research carried out last June by Agresearch). It is also a very slow and expensive process. In the USA and other markets freeze dried products sell for between 40% to 60% more than ZiwiPeak.
I think freeze drying is not convenient. Pet owners have to carry water, add the correct amount and wait the correct time to allow the freeze dried product to rehydrate before it can be fed. It is dangerous to feed without correct rehydration.
The feedback I get is that consumers want top quality and they want it now so having to go through this process is not convenient and if you don’t do it correctly you risk making a mistake that could affect the health and well being of the pet.
ZiwiPeak is able to be fed directly without this process and it is slightly better in quality as the air drying process has less impact on the natural and active enzymes, nutrients, proteins and amino acids.

I hope that gives you a well rounded view of the industry and I can assure you we are looking for top quality protein sources all the time that fit with the philosophy of our brand.

Kind regards, Nigel

Nigel Woodd

Hi Nigel,
Ok… Re the mice and rabbits I guess it must be a major pain to fit all those safety regulations. But I’m still hoping ūüôā Yes you are right that we want top quality and no hassle when feeding the food but at the same time us people’s convenience usually ends up making the product less good for the animal. At the end of the day we should feed what’s good for the animal.
Just one more thing, when mentioning the freeze-dry product, you said people have to “carry water”, that sounds like feeding outside, like when taking your dog out or something. But people typically feed their pets at home, especially cats, and water is always around, and seems pretty simple to add and just stir and voila you have a nice moist food with the benefits of raw.
BTW the K9 page said you did not wait long to feed it, in fact I think it said you can feed it right away if I remember correctly. But again, I haven’t actually tried anything like this, so I don’t really know.
I’m sure your air-dried product is awesome but at the end of the day, it is still a dry food, even if it does have more moisture than kibble. Preferably we cat owners do not want to feed dry – especially not exclusively.
Well sorry to have been a pita but I thought I’d bring up a few issues and see what you think.
Please continue to make wonderful food for our pets.

Hi Timea,

I have enjoyed talking to you again and I don’t think you are a pain at all.
It is good to share ideas as that is how we challenge the norm.
We certainly do intend to keep making top quality food that is for sure.

Kind regards, Nigel

Nigel Woodd


ZiwiPeak has a very nice newsletter that can be read here (haha, I first typed very mice newsletter ūüôā definitely fits with the subject!!), this month’s happens to be about cats. There are some good articles including the moisture issue, so do have a look and if you like what you see, subscribe to the newsletter. You can sign-up here.


After I uploaded the above, I sent it to Dr. Pierson since her site was mentioned and this is what she had to say:

Hello Timea,

Regarding the comment “the least expensive canned food is better than the most expensive dry food” – this is one that I will stand by very strongly for all of the reasons discussed on the Commercial Food page at¬†catinfo.org.

To be quite frank, if humans –¬†including my veterinary colleagues¬†–¬†had a cork inserted into their urethra until they¬†experienced the excruciating pain secondary to bladder distension and rupture, I have no doubt that they would start to¬†take this issue much more seriously.

It is not just about carbohydrates ‚Äď it is also about ***water content.***

Many cats suffer each day because of the water-depleted diets (read: any dry kibble) that humans insist on feeding to them.  Out of all of the subjects discussed on my website, urinary tract health Рespecially urethral obstructions Рis the subject that I am most passionate about.

If the reader had to witness the¬†tremendous suffering¬†that a cat must endure when his (or, rarely, her) urethra becomes¬†obstructed, they would understand why this subject – the feeding of a ***water-rich*** diet – is so important. ¬†(See Opie’s¬†pictures on my Urinary Tract Health page)
And while urethral obstructions cause tremendous pain and suffering and can result in death if the bladder ruptures, cystitis (bladder inflammation) is also extremely painful.  Many of these cats, understandably, develop litter box aversions secondary to associating the litter box with their pain.  This results in house soiling and cases of abuse when the poor cat is punished.

If I could have the reader of my website leave with one word firmly imprinted in their mind it would be¬†“water”. ¬†If your cat is on¬†a properly hydrated diet of 100% canned food – and¬†no dry food¬†– you stand a very good chance of never needing to read this¬†webpage.

I would never feed dry food to any cat in my care and if humans would get over their love affair with this overly processed, highly inferior source of food –¬†including products like Orijen – I would not be so busy taking care of sick cats.

In closing, if I had a dime for every time someone said “but my cat drinks a lot of water so it is ok that I feed him dry kibble”‚Ķ.I would be wealthy. ¬†Unfortunately, these people are fooling themselves into thinking that their cat is making up the deficit in their cat’s water needs when dry food is fed. ¬†Studies have shown that ¬†when cats eating canned food are compared to those eating dry – when all sources of water (food and water bowl) are considered – the cat eating canned food consumes **double** the amount of water than the cat on dry food consumes. ¬†This is because cats have an inherently low thirst drive.

Kind regards,

Dr. Pierson


So please don’t feed any¬†kibble. Feed raw, or at least canned.

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