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Do you spoil your dog or cat?

Spoilt dog

Is it actually worth spending extra cash on premium pet food? Or is money no object when it comes to feeding your canine or feline pals?

Pets are supposed to be a part of the family – and god knows they can sometimes cost as much as having a child.

You watch them grow up, enjoying their boundless enthusiasm when they’re playful and keeping a worried eye on them when they’re unwell. You share their pictures on Facebook and they get a special mention in the Christmas round-robin.

But the costs of pet care can run into the thousands over their lifetime – insurance, vet checks, pet passports, grooming, and of course, food. And unlike children, there isn’t the prospect that they’ll be looking after you in your dotage.

All Which? members, I’m sure, are out exploring supermarkets for great deals on food, buying the great value Best Buys our taste tests have uncovered. But by the time we reach the pet food aisle, we’re tempted to throw in a tin of extra-premium, super meaty, specially-textured, well-it-must-be-good-for-them pet food (in jelly) – just so they know we love them.

So we set out to find out whether the fancy stuff is actually any better for your dog or cat.

Costly chow

If you have a small Labrador and feed him exclusively on standard Butcher’s dog food, you’ll be spending just under £640 a year. But buy Butcher’s Superior and you’ll be shelling out £850. So what does this extra £210 a year get you, exactly?

According to the animal nutritionist who worked with us on the pet food investigation in the June issue of Which? magazine – not an awful lot. She told us they provide almost exactly the same level of nutrition – and actually, the Butcher’s Superior tin will contain a little less meat and a little less protein than its cheaper counterpart.

We found a similar pattern with other dog and cat foods we looked at. In fact, top vets told us that any pet food labelled as ‘complete’ or ‘complete and balanced’ will provide all the nutrients they need in their diet.

Butcher’s told us that every dog is different and their range of products mean consumers have a selection of recipes to choose from. And it’s true that every so often, you might want to pick up something different for your dog (or cat) to try.

So – do you pick up premium pet food for your furry friends? And do you think it’s worth the extra expense – or does it not matter when you see them devouring it and licking the food bowl clean?

Do you think you spoil your pet?

I don't have a pet (39%, 216 Votes)

Yes - all the time (28%, 158 Votes)

Occasionally (26%, 144 Votes)

No (7%, 39 Votes)

Total Voters: 557

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Our cat lived with us for 20 years until it died it was the most spoiled /loved pet in existence . My wife got it as a small kitten and it bonded with her , it was totally possessive/ protective to my wife , never left her –and I mean NEVER left her ! Didnt like me in the bed at night always tried to keep close to her , she would wake up covered in sweat because it lay right on top of her and you know cats have a higher temperature than human beings . It never thought it was a cat would turn down most cat food(unless it was expensive ) and only eat what my wife eat even if it was not what a cat eat normally .It was always on my wife,s lap . When somebody came in it didnt like it and made it obvious by getting down from my wife,s lap going to the visitor – look up at them and went YAhhooow and walked out the door . One visitor stayed a long while after the usual -YAoooW and walking out the door it walked back in went up to the visitor and vomited at her feet . Two other visitors got the “bad smell ” treatment ” when it thought they had overstayed he went up to them and farted in their direction . One time I got a Chinese chicken meal delivered because it was my wife,s birthday as the chicken was done inoriginal Chinese style of leaving the skin on my wife could not eat it so our cat got it , it looked at my wife then the food and she told him tom take it , it had rice /prawn crackers etc , he eat half and slowly moved a few feet away – sat licking for 5 minutes thought about it ,turned round and eat the lot , he could only drag himself a foot or two collapsed as his stomach was level with his paws and stayed that way for a day , it was the quietest we have ever seen him . He looked on me as competition and “played ” with me like a dog claws /teeth into my hands luckily I have thick skin ,until my wife said —LUCKY — STOP !! then instantly the claws went back in and amazingly he licked my hand , he wasnt stupid , never laid a finger on my wife only a slight brushing if he wanted her attention unless she was reading then when he wasnt the centre of attention he burst right through the newspaper . Having said all that when we took him to the vet and he had to be “put down ” we both cried and it took months to get over it.


I love this story, Duncan – especially the bit about the vomiting (and I don’t say that a lot!). Lucky sounds like he was a brilliant cat. Sometimes I think they can be smarter than people 😛


Slobhan – I take it from the photo and name you have some Chinese heritage ?? (correct me if I am wrong ) As somebody who has studied and got diplomas for “spiritual ” matters I have to tell you something that might interest you personally . He was born in the year of the Fire Dragon , not only that in Western astrology he was born an Aries which is a cardinal Fire sign ( I too am a fire sign ) when we were out at a Chinese restaurant and were discussing him with the owners they offered to buy him but we refused about 6 months later going back in we were this time approached by a very wealthy Chinese business man whose £60,000 Mercedes was parked out side . He said there is no luckier Chinese sign than that and that he wanted Lucky for his family — he offered us —£2000 apologizing we turned him down .


I definitely spoiled my dog, much to my parent’s disapproval. On his birthday (24th November 🙂 ) I’d buy him some smoked salmon for his birthday tea. Then at Christmas he was always the top of my present buying list – mainly because his party trick was his amazing ability to unwrap presents, he was a very gentle pooch 🐶

But going back to Siobhan’s convo … he didn’t really eat dog food, my parents would buy the scrappy off cuts of chicken from the local butcher every week and mix it up with dog biscuits, they found was much cheaper than dog food. It didn’t seem to do him any harm either, Harry was a healthy dog who lived to the ripe old age of 14


Perhaps as balance we should talk of the diseases that pets can carry and that humans can catch. I do like pets , and have a succession of cats, but some people take it way too far.

As I do not have time to dig up the evidence – congratulations on a sensible subject – with a useful result.
To hand I have this which is of interest:

“” Everybody knows that chocolate is bad for dogs. But the dangers of sugarless chewing gum aren’t as well known, even though the consequences can be just as severe. Sugarless gum often contains xylitol, a sweetener known as sugar alcohol. It’s used in many products and foods for human use but can have devastating effects on your pet.

Over the past several years, the Center for Veterinary Medicine at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received several reports—many of which pertained to chewing gum—of dogs being poisoned by xylitol, according to Martine Hartogensis, a veterinarian at FDA.

It’s not just gum that often contains xylitol. You can also find it in sugar-free candy, including mints and chocolate bars. Other products that may contain xylitol include:
breath mints;
baked goods;
cough syrup;
children’s and adult chewable vitamins;
mouthwash; and

Put simply, the problem with xylitol is that it can cause a rapid decrease in blood sugar. That’s because — unlike in humans — xylitol causes a rapid increase of insulin from the dog’s pancreas, which in turn can cause blood sugar levels to plunge to dangerous levels.

Symptoms of xylitol poisoning in dogs include vomiting, followed by symptoms associated with the sudden lowering of your dog’s blood sugar, such as decreased activity, weakness, staggering, incoordination, collapse, and seizures.

If you think your dog has eaten xylitol, take him to your vet or an emergency animal hospital immediately, Hartogensis advises. Because hypoglycemia and other serious adverse effects may not occur in some cases for up to 12 to 24 hours, your dog may need to be monitored.

The surest way to keep your dog from accidentally woofing down xylitol is to keep all human food, drugs, and cosmetics in a safe place, keeping in mind that many dogs are adept at counter-surfing.

And by the way, note that human toothpaste often contains xylitol and should never be used for dogs.
What about cats? Their tolerance for xylitol is uncertain, but since most cats hate sweets, it’s not usually a problem. ”

Paul says:
27 May 2016

I had been waiting for this report from Which and I’m afraid I’m quite disappointed by the lack of depth, and limited range of products that appear to have been tested. I couldn’t go out and choose a cat food from this report with any confidence.
One big omission I think is explaining the quality of the meat used in pet foods. Eg What’s the difference between Chicken, Chicken Derivatives, Chicken Meal etc. Protein goes under a number of difference guises


Paul as regards the quality of pet food sold in supermarkets to cats many years ago a very cheap cat food was sold it started killing off cats in the long term and it was removed from sale . whenever you see the word –Derivatives—BEWARE ! and that includes food for human consumption it legally allows the packaging of parts of the body of the animal that no civilized person would eat for example- the sex organs ligaments, glands (various ) do you get the picture ? Yuk ! All those names are just window dressing for very cheap parts of the animal thats why when you go to a supermarket for chicken its now labeled 99 % breast and or wings etc they are legal definitions . If tested by the Environmental Health and found to contain other parts then they would be liable to prosecution under the law. pet food has lower standards . You can of course ,if you love your pet feed them high quality produce containing only quality parts of the animal or fish , then you would expect a longer life from your pet.


Sorry to hear that, Paul. When planning the article, we did consider ways to determine the ‘best’ cat and dog foods – there’s an awful lot of choice out there, and a lot of it depends on the preference of who’s eating the food. There’s always the risk that a dog or cat will turn their nose up at what you give them, and taste tests for dogs and cats aren’t as straightforward as they are for people!

So instead, we set out to answer the question of whether premium pet foods are worth the extra money, which I hope is still useful.

If meat quality is important to you, our expert nutritionist told us that a high-quality food will list the actual ingredients used (for example, will say ‘chicken’ rather than just ‘meat derivatives’), and meat ingredients will be first on the list, meaning the recipe contains more meat than anything else.

When I was looking at products for the article, I did find some products that specifically say they use chicken breast rather than just saying ‘chicken’, but none of these were complete foods. If you chose one of these, you’d have to supplement your cat’s diet with a complete food to make sure it gets all the important vitamins and minerals. You might be able to find a complete food that states the cut of meat used, though.

Our expert also told us that using the by-products of the meat industry in pet food is potentially a more sustainable option, because this uses ‘unfashionable’ cuts of meat and offal that would otherwise be wasted. But your choice of cat food is down to personal preference.

Maryclare says:
30 May 2016

Yes I have been a subscriber for a few years now and was waiting on this review to appear, I find the choice of pet food is bewildering , lately I have opted for Aldi’s dry food for dogs Earls and have been pleased with it but I was hoping that this guide would give me an indication of whether this was a good choice or was I just a cheapskate. yes a bit more depth would be good


Earls doesn’t have a good list of ingredients – Cereals, Meat and animal derivatives ( Chicken 4 % minimum in the moist meaty chunk biscuit with chicken) Derivates of vegetable origin. Oils and fats.Vegetable protein extracts. Vegetables (4 % in the green kibble) Minerals with antioxidant. EC Additives. Coloured & Preserved with EC Additives.
Full of derivatives, additives and colourings – not good……..

Whethergirl says:
30 December 2016

I agree with Paul. Very limited information and disappointing as this is such a huge industry and so many of us want to balance good nutrition with sensible expenditure. Try again Which.

Richard says:
27 May 2016

I too had been waiting for this report, and think that Which? has wasted my time!

My late (lamented) Guy lived to 13 (and a dark night as he crossed the road) on IAMS which is widely available, but you don’t bother to mention. Fin, now 14 months and 38kg, is on Royal Canin Large Junior, and looks gleaming on it. It is expensive, but … Again you don’t bother to mention it.

I asked his Vet in Scotland, who said that this was an interesting question, and that she’d been stuck with a sack of one of the premium brands, specially ordered for a customer who changed his mind. She’d given it to her own dog, and had noticed that his turds were much smaller, from which she deduced that there was more nutrient in the expensive product.

Please do the job again, starting with the international brands, like Royal Canin and Purina’s various products.