You Want the Best for Your Cat, Right?
A cat that depends on you for food is no different from you in that you are what you consume. Cats that solely eat dry food can be more prone to urinary tract issues. A balanced diet may delay or prevent the need for veterinary care for some medical conditions.
By becoming knowledgeable about the ingredients listed on cat food labels, you can choose the best foods for your pet and streamline the decision-making process.
Basic Nutritional Needs of Cats
Cats must eat animal protein to stay alive because they are obligate carnivores. Cats do not need carbs, despite the fact that corn, wheat, and rice are widely used as fillers in many canned and dry cat food products. In order to satisfy consumer demands for a visually appealing product, cat food manufacturers frequently add extra ingredients like binders, flavoring, and coloring. In order to make sure that the basic nutritional requirements of your cat are met, it is imperative to carefully examine the cat food label for the following ingredients:
- If “meat” is the first ingredient, pick a label that lists chicken, turkey, lamb, or salmon first. Protein from an identified animal source, such as meat, fish, or poultry.
- A few extra minerals, fatty acids, vitamins, and enzymes a necessary amino acid called taurine
In addition to the ingredients, look for an expiration date that indicates the freshness of the cat food.
Kibble or canned food?
Many dietitians agree that cats should eat a variety of meals, both dry and canned, for a number of reasons:
- Although dry food is more practical and may be put out for “free feeding,” canned food is still important because it largely consists of water and many cats do not regularly drink water. Cat food may be one of the most expensive aspects of cat ownership, right behind veterinarian care.
- If you give your cat a variety of meals, it will get a balanced diet of nutrients. It’s likely that your preferred cuisine has either too few or too many vitamins and minerals.
- If they become bored with the same meal after a while, cats may just stop eating. Or, a lack of options might make a cat finicky and cause them to become food addicts. A finicky cat could even become addicted to a particular flavor and brand of cat food. Giving your cat a variety of foods from the start will help you avoid this kind of addiction, which can be challenging to break.
- Allergies can gradually develop in cats, but this seldom happens. You can avoid allergies to specific foods by feeding your cat a range of meals.
Cheaper name brands could result in erroneous savings
Despite your best efforts to save money by purchasing inexpensive cat food, sometimes you get what you pay for. Cats may eat an excessive amount of cheap food with savory fillers, but they may eat less of pricey food with less palatable ingredients and more nutrients. Long-term feeding of your cat subpar food has also been connected to the emergence of health problems that may call for pricey veterinary care.
Additional Label Information for Cat Food
You might find it fascinating to read some of the additional terms and ingredients included on cat food labels. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- The FDA cautions against making by-products, beef, poultry, or bone meal the first ingredient on the label or the principal ingredient in the diet since they may not give your cat the right amount of protein and taurine.
- Animal digest is manufactured from partially digested (hydrolyzed) animal protein sources (poultry or meat from undigested animal tissue), and it must be free of hair, horns, teeth, hooves, and feathers. This is a substance that is frequently added to food to enhance flavor.
- Chemical preservatives and additives, including but not limited to BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate, may put cats at risk for health issues.
- Because the bulk of them are potentially dangerous gelling agents, the use of gums in cat food has historically been comparatively controlled.
- Carbohydrate fillers like cornmeal that make up more than 50% of the food, especially in dry food, may be problematic for senior cats and diabetic cats. In many commercial pet meals, however, less than 50% is typical, and the food could also include carbs to help it keep its shape.
The term “complete and balanced” on a cat food label is a nutritional adequacy statement. Pet food manufacturers cannot print “full and balanced” on their labels unless one of the following criteria is met:
- The food must pass feeding tests for the life stage recommended on the label.
- The composition of the food must meet or exceed nutrient levels established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
Is cat food regulated?
The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for regulating pet food and ensuring that its contents are safe (FDA). However, pet food products do not require FDA pre-market approval.
AAFCO is a consulting group that makes recommendations for regulations governing the production and labeling of pet food and other animal feeds. Representatives from multiple state feed control bodies, Born Free USA, the FDA, comparable organizations in Canada and Costa Rica, as well as representatives from various veterinary colleges make up its membership. The following are included in AAFCO’s purview:
- Establishing quantitative criteria for label titles, for example, “Chicken Cat Food,” “Chicken Dinner for Cats,” and “Chicken-flavored Cat Foods,” using definitions of terms used on labels, such as “meat by-products.”
- outlining the criteria for the claim that a pet food is “complete and balanced,” as it appears on labels
- It is important to take into account a cat’s age and activity level when prescribing percentages or minimum/maximum amounts of particular ingredients in pet diets. Establishing criteria for food labeling that discreetly suggest a food item for adult cats, kittens, or nursing queens contains certain ingredients can aid with specific conditions like hairballs or dental care.
AAFCO can provide independent laboratories with guidance on testing protocols and regulations despite having no regulatory authority. The association does provide guidance to consumers on how to make this determination for themselves, but it doesn’t truly establish what constitutes “human grade” protein quality, which is what you could find on pet food labels.