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Cat Owners Claim New Felix Formula Is Making Their Pets Seriously Ill

Kimberley Bond

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| Last updated 

Cat Owners Claim New Felix Formula Is Making Their Pets Seriously Ill

Featured Image Credit: Alamy/Julie Heron

It was just before Christmas 2021 that Julie Aspbury noticed there was something amiss with her beloved cat, Duke. Julie, who has five cats, was shocked when Duke climbed into his cat tray and "projectile vomited".

“I'd noticed he’d lost a lot of weight and fur,” she explains. “Because he’s 11, I thought it was ageing."

But Julie later noticed two of her other cats, Kitty and Daisy, were also poorly.

“Daisy started being sick more frequently," she said. "Kitty lost a lot of weight – when you held her, you could feel her bones."

Julie believes the only common factor between her three cats was their pet food, with all three eating Felix As Good As It Looks pouches.

Purina has vehemently denied claims that Felix cat food are making pets sick, although admits "minor changes" were made to the recipe in March 2021.

Duke was sick over the Christmas season (Credit: Julie Aspbury)
Duke was sick over the Christmas season (Credit: Julie Aspbury)

“I ended up googling 'what's wrong with Felix cat food', and I found other cat owners with similar stories,” Julie says.

In recent months, concerned cat owners have become increasingly worried about their pets – with many adamant that Felix cat food is behind a spate of sickly cats across the country.

The UK is home to 10.8 million cats, with 26 per cent of all households owning at least one – and Felix, a Purina brand, feeds an estimated one third of them.

Julie noticed her cats were sick after eating As Good As It Looks (Credit: Alamy)
Julie noticed her cats were sick after eating As Good As It Looks (Credit: Alamy)

A Facebook group was created in June last year by a group of cat owners who held the belief that Felix, with a focus on the As Good As It Looks variety, could be making their cats unwell.

The group now boasts over 28,000 members, who use it as a space to discuss their cats' wellbeing.

Common symptoms reported in the Facebook group include: sickness, kidney problems, overgrooming, lethargy and a lack of appetite.

Glennis Hill spotted the symptoms in her cats, Sandy and Ruby, in March 2021, shortly after Purina announced they were removing colourants from Felix.

“Suddenly, they didn’t want to eat it,” Glennis explains. “I tried all the variations of As Good As It Looks and they didn’t want it.

Sandy exhibited sickness and passed blood (Credit: Glennis Hill)
Sandy exhibited sickness and passed blood (Credit: Glennis Hill)

“Then they both started being sick. Sandy was lethargic and she had scabs on her skin.”

After an examination, a vet said Sandy may have eaten something poisonous. As Sandy was an outdoor cat, Glennis accepts she may have hunted something that made her poorly.

However, Ruby – who hardly goes outdoors and doesn't hunt – was still being sick, with the problem worsening after Sandy was struck by a car.

Concerned, Glennis took Ruby to the vet – and was left even more confused by what she was told.

“I was told it was her teeth at first, but they were fine,” she said. “I then got told it was the heatwave, but Ruby has coped in hotter weather. Then I was told she wasn't eating because she was missing Sandy. But it was [the cat food], I’m sure of it.”

Ruby struggled to eat (Credit: Glennis Hill)
Ruby struggled to eat (Credit: Glennis Hill)

After a short course of antibiotics, Ruby started to eat again, with Glennis putting her on a different brand of cat food.

“Ruby used to love her food, but now she doesn’t really eat,” Glennis says. “She used to sit and wait to be fed – not anymore.”

Allison Barton has a similar story. Her 11-year-old cat Oliver started looking frail in the new year, sparking concern.

“He was scrawny,” she says. “He was sick and had an upset stomach – there were marks of his dribbly diarrhoea on the carpet.

As well as sickness and incontinence, Allison noticed Oliver had gone off his food in more recent weeks.

“Oliver has eaten Felix since he was a kitten,” she says. “But I couldn’t get him to eat."

Oliver started to look scrawny (Credit: Allison Barton)
Oliver started to look scrawny (Credit: Allison Barton)

While Allison took Oliver to the vet, they believed Oliver’s fighting with another cat was to blame, rather than any digestive issues.

But Allison believes Felix was the cause, and noticed a difference a week after changing Oliver’s food.

“He’s healthy, happy and active now,” she says.

While Allison never contacted Purina directly, Glennis and Julie reached out, receiving a letter that assured them “no quality concerns” had been identified.

Oliver has 'recovered' after eating different cat food (Credit: Allison Barton)
Oliver has 'recovered' after eating different cat food (Credit: Allison Barton)

Having been alerted to concerns, Purina issued a lengthy statement about its commitment to animal welfare.

It said: “Following minor changes to our Felix recipes in March 2021, we received some reports from cat owners about food refusals and cats being unwell, which owners believed was linked to eating our foods.

"We understand and sympathise with every owners’ distress when their pet is poorly. However, there was no evidence to support a link to our foods and no quality or food safety issues were found with our Felix products. Any claims to the contrary are not based on fact." 

Purina has strongly denied their cat food is the cause of sickness in cats (Credit: Alamy)
Purina has strongly denied their cat food is the cause of sickness in cats (Credit: Alamy)

It’s fairly common for cats to sometimes go off their food, says Caroline Reay, Head of Veterinary Services at national pet charity Blue Cross.

“Outdoor cats may be getting food from neighbours, sometimes pets will eat less in hot weather," she said. "But it can be a sign of emotional upset or of ill health."

Sudden changes to diet can also cause stomach upset.

"Changes to the recipe may cause them to go off their food,” Caroline explains. “It’s good to get kittens used to eating a variety of foods. If cats have been fed on exactly the same food lifelong they can be very resistant to changing, so it may be advisable to get your cat used to eating different types and brands of food." 

Caroline adds that while its tempting to swap out food when your cat turns its nose up, it’s worth having a little bit of patience.

“Cats naturally eat little and often so you should try and mimic this,” she says. "It’s a good idea to use food toys instead of just putting food in a bowl, as this mimics cats’ natural foraging and hunting behaviour and avoids boredom.

“Many cats like to graze, so if your cat is just eating slowly or eating less but not losing weight, you might not need to try a new flavour.”

Purina has rigorously tested their cat food (Credit: Alamy)
Purina has rigorously tested their cat food (Credit: Alamy)

When Tyla contacted Purina directly, a spokesperson made a further statement.

The changes in March 2021 were to remove non-artificial colours, which only affected the appearance of the food. The overall nutritional composition, quality and completeness of the food remained the same. Nothing was altered that would have caused cats to be unwell,” the spokesperson said.

“Despite this, we took owners’ concerns very seriously when they were raised last summer. We opened and reviewed more than 650 returned pouches. We also reviewed our already incredibly stringent internal quality checks, had discussions with vets and reviewed vet notes whenever owners gave us permission to do so, and we arranged for independent external product analysis to be carried out at one of Europe’s top laboratories for pet food testing.

“In every single case, we did not find any quality or food safety issues, and there was no link between Felix and the types of illness being reported on social media. We can say with confidence that Felix foods are completely safe for cats to eat. We encourage concerned owners to visit: Keeping Pets Safe – The Facts About Felix Cat Food.”

If you believe your cat may have been affected, and would like to get in touch, please email [email protected]

Topics: Cats, Animals

Kimberley Bond
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