Thursday, August 16, 2012

Hill's Global Pet Nutrition Center Tour--Teri's Tale

Teri, the Curlz and Swirlz Personal Assistant aka Roving Repurrter, has been on the Hills' Global Pet Nutrition Center Media Tour, and she would like to tell our furriends, both feline and canine, about what she has learned! She'll probably do 2 or 3 posts about it, just so she keeps it short and sweet, hahameow.

I tried to start the post while on the shuttle bus on the way to the airport since it was a 2 hour drive, but I tend to get carsick if I don't watch the road, so I didn't get much accomplished.

I flew in to Kansas City, Missouri on Tuesday, and was met at the airport by Amy Palmer, my blogging friend from Sebastian, the Sensitive Soul blog. We went to lunch for some KC BBQ and a beer, and we talked and talked.

Then we stopped by Amy's place to meet her new kitty, Harvey! Oh, I got to meet Amy's husband, too! Harvey was very soft and quite the 'teenaged' boycat! And her hubbie was nice, too, hahameow!

Amy drove me to the hotel and I settled into the large and comfy room, but I really missed the cats, as I always love seeing them investigate and settle into a hotel room, too. I invited two of my favorite blogger friends, Robin and Angie, to come for a champagne cocktail before we all headed out to dinner.

Dinner was held at the Kansas Museum of History, and after a nice meal and getting to know the presenters and bloggers and writers who were invited on the tour like me, we got to tour the museum... It it reminded me of that movie, A Night at the Museum.

It was filled with all kinds of artifacts and memorabilia from the region, including a haunted train car and an old McDonalds!

Wednesday, we were in classes from 8am to 4pm, listening and taking notes, and asking questions. The President of Hill's U.S. told everyone about Hill's history and mission. We got to hear scientists talk about Nutrigenomics and how Hill's is one of two pet food manufacturer applying Nutrigenomics to develop superior cat products! MeWowZa, I didn't know so much could be learned from a blood sample, telling so much about how cat and dog nutrition can be helped by science!

We got to listen to a veterinary nutritionist (they're as rare as hen's teeth!) and learn how veterinarians and staff can better help evaluate and educate pet owners about nutrition. I learned from other attendees that most of their vets don't even ASK what they are feeding their pets! That made me proud that we ask that of every client every time we see their cat!

We got to learn about Hill's Shelter Partnerships and how they are actively involved in their community, too and how much food they donate when natural disasters occur! 

I learned more about how to read cat food labels and how misleading they can be, too.  I remember years ago attending a nutrition seminar and learning that a pet food label could read exactly the same whether the food was made from shoe leather and crank case oil or from quality ingredients like chicken and natural things like Vitamin E and Fish Oils.

A pet food label is like a recipe card and unless you trust the company and the science behind the making of the food, you can end up with a not so nutritious food. So much of marketing foods is based on pictures on the bags and what us humans think is a tasty dinner.

Hill's said they have been told they are stodgy and their advertising not very exciting or trendy, or that because they are a mega large company with worldwide distribution that people often like to use the new, 'boutique' foods out there...but often they don't have the 'science' behind their recipes. I agree with that. We got to talk to the lady in the following video, who is VP of Product Safety and Quality!

I like the fact that Hill's has over 150 vets, nutritionists and food scientists on staff around the world! Some food companies don't even have veterinarians working for them, and that makes me wonder about how much they know about pet health!

Working for a feline vet and having to call companies and try and find out where they get their ingredients and the work done behind their formulas can be very frustrating! Attending this tour really helped me trust Hill's more. We got to listen to Dr Jewell, a nutrition scientist at Hills, and he spoke lovingly of his cat, Wishful...

He talked about their various diets and why they put in the ingredients they do. While I don't typically feed Science Diet or Hill's foods to my cats, they do get Hills' t/d dental diet as a treat help their teeth and I think it is a healthier treat than many 'junk food' treats and I feel good about that, and I will talk more about the tour of their manufacturing plant that we did on Thursday in my next post.

All studies conducted or supported by Hill's, at the Nutrition Center or in consumers' homes or at veterinary schools, have to meet their stringent criteria to ensure exceptional, high standard of animal care. During the tour this afternoon, that was shown over and over again and I was very impressed.

And none of the testing done on the cats and dogs is invasive, they do not 'create' disease to study,  and they do no studies that require euthanasia at the end of the study. They have animals on site from 1 week old to almost 20 years old and employees can apply to adopt the 'retired' Pet Partners and if they aren't adopted, they can live their lives happy, well cared for and loved by the passionate animal lovers at The Hills Global Pet Nutrition Center!

These next photos are of of the tour of Pet Nutrition Center. What a clean, spacious and state of the art facility! The cat habitats were something I know my cats would like and filled with lots of environmental enrichment furnishings! They even have a retirement cabitat for kitties that can't climb high because of arthritis, or other issues. They have single cat condos with skylights and cubbyholes for cats that are shy or on a special diet,  etc.

Everything is designed with the needs of cats foremost in mind and she especially liked the overhead cat runways with the skylights for sunbathing, and the fact that they set up routes so cats could pass one another and not invade each others space, avoiding traffic jams and 'road rage', hahameow!

And the dogs looked happy and healthy, too, with multiple dog park play areas, nice indoor lounging areas, and large sleeping 'caves' with their names on them. 

The dogs had numerous Dog Parks to romp in and they all looked very happy sniffin' and leaving their pee mail on every post, and splashing around in wading pools! They even have Buddies, employees who come and play with them when they are on breaks, besides their regular caretakers and veterinary technicians who care for them.

They have 420 dogs and 500 cats at the center and a ratio of about 17 Pet Partners per caretaker. I love that the dogs and cats are Partners at Hills'... it's a big part of their philosophy and I felt that commitment in each and every Hill's employee I spoke with on this wasn't just for show!

And I got to spend time chatting with the lovely Lori Smith and when she asked if I had seen her video for Hill's on of course, I had to come home and google it! Here it is for your viewing pleasure. The outtakes, which unfurtunately you can't see here, included her cat Roady freaking out at the bowl of fur and leaving her scratched and bleeding... but the show still went on!

Disclaimer: Hills paid for my transportation, meals and hotel as part of this media tour, but the opinions, and any I will share over the next few weeks, are mine and mine only. These posts are not sponsored posts, and Hill's did not compensate me in any other way, or even ask me to blog about my visit!


  1. Sounds like a very interesting and informative tip!!

  2. very interesting - we don't feed the Hill's here either, but we would like to hear more about your trip.

  3. It sounds like a good time!

    Unfortunately I cannot bring myself to purchase Hills' products after discovering that they used Ethoxyquin in Science Diet years ago. I am sure they no longer do (at least I hope not), but I can't help but remember that...

    1. No, they don't use ethoxyquin any longer and while I still am not happy with some of their grains in their diets, I actually came away with a better understanding of ingredients and their studies as to their recipes.

    2. That's a relief!

      I had very little money back then but I wanted to feed my cats a high-quality food. When my 9 year old cat Momo died - riddled with cancer - my then vet told me about ethoxyquin and how it was a known carcinogen. It's a wound that doesn't heal!

      I am feeding my cats only grain-free, quality protein foods now. It would be good if Hills would consider that kind of food for people who purchase from them.

  4. My vet has spoken highly of the facility, of course.

    I just really, really, really want to know how anyone can justify feeding obligate carnivores diets that are up to 40 and 50% grain. Seriously. I refuse to feed corn/soy/wheat grain-filled food to my cats--though if it were a matter of life and death, yes, I would. But otherwise, no.

    1. I know, and I told them that, too... In a gentle way. I told them I can't feed c/d to mt FIC cat, and it's been 2 years since he's had an episode though his urine SpG is still way too high. But, if he got I'll again, I would change.

      And right now, Disco is on z/d for pancreatitis, because I want him to get well and I can then look at other diet choices if need be, as he may have IBD, too.

  5. I do think it is great that they treat the cats at their facility so well!

  6. I'm so glad they treat their animals so well too, and that they have actual knowledgeable people on staff. I'm sure some day it will lead to even better food manufactured for pets.

    I fed Science Diet 25 years ago when I took in a nearly-starved feral kitty who needed real nutrition, and I started twice daily feeding and learning about cat diets through that start. That was back when Science Diet was the absolute best you could find, and it was far and away a better product than anything that was available in the 80s, but I discovered the Ethoxyquin too and never turned back. I'm glad they haven't stopped working on their formulas.

  7. It's good the animals are so well taken care of! Sounds like an interesting and informative visit! It's good that Hill's opens up like that and also listens to real people's concerns. Our mommy and daddy grew up in Topeka so have seen the Hill's facility in north Topeka but haven't been there. They also saw that sign at the McDonald's on S. Topeka Blvd! Oh and they rave about the KC BBQ and stop there by the race track on the way to/from the airport!

  8. Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. We don't eat Hill's foods, though, since our mom only feeds us no-grain foods.

  9. This is an intresting post! Thanks for sharing all that you learned.

  10. Thank you for not telling them about what you, Angie and I did while we were at the tour. ;-) Great article. Maybe I can skip writing mine now. hee hee!

  11. Great post - wish I could have been with you all! I was invited, but was not able to fit the tour in my schedule. Very glad the cats are so well taken care of.

  12. Really great to hear about! Maybe you should share with CR Friends too? I had Finn on s/d and c/d for awhile (think those were the names) when he had urine problems and Toby was on i/d. The s/d was great and help clear up his problem, but when he was switched to c/d he wouldn't TOUCH it. He ate dog food instead! So I then had both on s/d and i/d mixed, and they seemed to do well. I'd definitely use it again if Finn develops problems.

  13. great post. I can't wait to see what else you have to say!

  14. Sounds like a good trip. We tried hills and didn't like it. There's nothing like real chicken and steak!

  15. Fablous Tour! But we tend to get carsick IF we watch the road (or other stuff out the window). There is something too weerd about seein stuff move when WE arent movin ourselfs!!!

  16. It's nice to hear the animals at Hills are so well cared for! I wish we would have had more time together but it was so much fun to have you here!

  17. We agree - it's very nice to hear the kittehs are treated so well. We're with most folk posting here - no grains for us. Glad Hills is offering a grain free alternative now...aren't they? (though we still won't use it since we go wet & raw).

  18. It's a common misconception that grains are bad for pets. But the way Hill's utilise the grains they are highly digestible and the animals are able to get important nutrients, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, fatty acids, and protein from them. Hill's is the best there is (at least in NZ where we only have about five or six choices) and have pioneered this field - so don't be so quick to put them down. Also, feeding homemade and raw diets are going to do more harm for your pets than feeding a diet with grains because these are nutritionally unbalanced and don't take into account the many thousands of years of genetic adaptation and domestication of our cats and dogs - they do not live in the wild any more so don't need to eat like they do!


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