July 7, 2014

Why I Won't Buy My Cats a Treat They Love

I love my cats too much to give them a well-known treat they love.

I'm talking about Halo's Liv-A-Littles. I received this product in chicken flavor to review a couple months ago. It came in a cute package, appealing to me the consumer. Inside the shapes looked...weird.

They were huge white chunks that broke into pieces and crumbled way too easily. I knew this because the bottom of the cute container had a lot of dust.

I offered one of my cats a chunk. He sniffed it and walked away. It's supposed to be freeze-dried "chicken breast white meat protein." I tried another cat. Also walked away.

I broke off a smaller piece and gave it to Dori. Dori's nickname is 'Piglet.' She eats everything. And yes, she ate the treat.

Herman ate it only if I broke it into bite-sized pieces. He has a small mouth. Eventually all but a couple of my 10 cats ate the treats. Opie, who refused at first sniff, ended up smacking the container off the counter during the night, thus turning more of the pieces into dust.

Yet despite this change of heart among my cats, there was something bothering me about this treat. I have never dragged my feet doing a review for a product, and yet...I have dragged mine until now.

It's promoted by Halo as follows:

Halo Liv-a-Littles Grain-Free 100% Chicken Breast Freeze-Dried Dog & Cat Treats

100% pure chicken breast, plain and simple (and that's a good thing!) Halo Liv-a-Littles Grain-Free 100% Chicken Breast Freeze-Dried Dog & Cat Treats are so simple, tasty, and healthy, every pet loves 'em. They're freeze-dried to lock in the flavor and nutritional benefits of protein-rich chicken breast, and suitable for every stage of your pets' lives. Cats and dogs agree: one more treat, please!

Key Benefits

·         Suitable for cats and dogs

·         All-natural chicken treat

·         100% Grain-free

·         Serve on its own or crumble over food at mealtime

Sounds good, right? Hey, I'm all for Grain-Free 100% Pure - Plain and Simple!


I read the ingredients on that cute container and saw, besides chicken, the treats also contained sodium phosphate, salt and carrageenan. I know salt is bad for me, and I know its in everything because our taste buds have been destroyed over the years and we have ramped up the need for intense flavor. But why add it to pet food? Unless its to get the cat to eat more of it, because salt will do that to you.

And what's sodium phosphate besides more salt? I Googled it. It's a preservative used on this treat because they not only freeze-dried the chicken, they marinated it, thus the need for a preservative.

I also read this:

The FDA said it has become aware of reports of severe dehydration and changes in serum electrolyte levels from taking more than the recommended dose of OTC sodium phosphate products, resulting in serious adverse effects on organs, such as the kidneys and heart, and in some cases resulting in death. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/818859

I'm so not gonna give my fur kids this stuff.

And what's carrageenan, you ask? Well, it's made from red seaweed, and used to make products like yogurt and ice cream, and chocolate thicker, and low-fat foods tastier. It has no nutritional value. It's also been reported that carrageenan causes inflammation, gut irritation and cancer.

I found this bit of research very disturbing:

Although derived from a natural source, carrageenan appears to be particularly destructive to the digestive system, triggering an immune response similar to that your body has when invaded by pathogens like Salmonella. The result: "Carrageenan predictably causes inflammation, which can lead to ulcerations and bleeding," explains veteran carrageenan researcher Joanne Tobacman, MD, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Illinois School of Medicine at Chicago. She says the food ingredient irritates by activating an immune response that dials up inflammation. Her previous work showed a concerning connection between carrageenan and gastrointestinal cancer in lab animals, and she's involved with ongoing research funded through the National Institutes of Health that is investigating carrageenan's effect on ulcerative colitis and other diseases like diabetes.

Chris Kresser did a study of whether carrageenan is harmful or harmless on animals tested.

Most of the carrageenan hysteria stems from animal studies that implicate carrageenan in the formation of ulcerations and cancerous lesions in the colon. A thorough review of the approximately 45 available animal studies on carrageenan was published in 2001, and at first glance, these studies seem alarming. However, it turns out that the majority of these animal experiments used poligeenan instead of carrageenan, and as I mentioned before, these are two separate compounds with different effects. Poligeenan is significantly more detrimental to the health of lab animals than carrageenan, so the lack of a clear designation between them has given carrageenan a worse reputation than it deserves.

So much for "100% pure chicken breast, plain and simple."

Ya know what? I don't care if carrageenan's reputation is getting an unjust kick in the booty. I don't want it in my food, and I definitely don't want it in my pet's food. They depend on me to feed them the right foods to keep them healthy. They don't understand things like Marketing or FDA or why their foods might contain ingredients that will make them sick or eventually kill them.

But they do understand being put inside a cat carrier and hauled off to the vet. And that is exactly why I'm not feeding my cats this product. Sorry Halo!

Nice packaging, though.


  1. I don't blame you Kime I would be the same,How is Herman doing?Speedy was wondering,xx Rachel

  2. Thanks for the great and thorough information! There is so much on the market, and it is very important to know what your are actually giving the cats vs what they really like.

  3. You did a very thorough review. I haven't bought a commercial pet treat in years because most of them are pet junk food. Treats are more people-pleasing than pet pleasing. If someone really wants to give a treat, they could always cook some chicken breast, cut it into little pieces and freeze it. Defrost a few pieces and you have instant 100% natural, healthy treat.