Choosing Cat Food

With so many brands and types of cat food on the market, it’s not surprising that choosing the perfect food for Fluffy is not an easy task.  Cat foods are not all the same – in price, quality or in ingredients.  There are, however, certain commonalities to look for.

When you look at cat food, check first for the AAFCO certification on the package or can.  AAFCO, or Association of American Feed Control Officials, is the regulatory agency that guarantees ingredient analysis and sets standards for the pet food industry to follow.  They guarantee minimum and maximum standards required for pet food.

According to Tom Carlos, DVM, MS, of Englewood Animal Health Center  in Englewood, Florida, “These standards are important as pet food containers may say 24% protein content, but the protein derived from chicken feet is not the same as protein from chicken breast meat.  Likewise, calcium derived from seashells is not the same quality as calcium derived from shark cartilage.”

Another statement to look for on the package label is “Life Stage,” or is the food designed for an adult cat or a kitten.  Dr. Carlos says, “This is extremely important, as different stages have different metabolic needs.  For example, ….kittens need a much higher protein and calcium content than adult cats.  Also, senior pets should have less salt and sodium than adult cats.”

Dr. Carlos doesn’t believe that one-size-fits-all when it comes to pet food.  “Many factors come into play, such as size, age, metabolic needs, dental status and medical conditions.”  He went on to say that pet food should have been field tested on animals.  “Animal testing of pet food takes a considerable amount of money that some companies are not willing to spend.  This is important because even if the ingredients and quantities are of proper standards, questions will remain.  Will the food cause vomiting or diarrhea or growth abnormalities?  The best way to determine the answers is to study how real pets respond to the food.”

Read the ingredients label.  Know that the ingredients are listed with the first one being the one carrying the most weight.  For example, if the first ingredient shown is corn, that means there is more corn in that food than any other item.  The rest of the ingredients are listed in descending order of weight.  Look for cat food labels that show:

  1. A named meat, fish, or poultry first on the list.
  2. Water
  3. Vitamins, minerals, including taurine.
  4. Natural flavorings, colorings and preservatives.

There are some who claim that corn is a wonderful source of protein, as well as carbs. The truth is that corn is difficult for cats to digest and some cats are allergic to it.

Avoid by-products, chemical preservatives like BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin, meat and bone meal, animal digest, and animal fat.

Fluffy doesn’t need sugar in any form (corn syrup, fructose) added to her food.  Nor does she need salt or sodium.

Variety is good for cats.  Try to get your kitty used to eating both wet and dry foods.  Read here to find out how to accomplish this.  Dry cat food doesn’t contain much moisture so if Fluffy doesn’t drink enough water, she will be deficient in water intake.  The addition of wet – or canned – food to her diet will increase her moisture intake.

Dry food is a convenience for us cat owners.  It can be put out and left all day for Fluffy to nibble on as she pleases.  If your cat prefers a diet entirely of canned food, that’s a good thing.  She’ll get all the nourishment she needs in that little can, as long as it is AAFCO-approved and contains the proper ingredients.

Fluffy doesn’t need carbohydrates added to her diet, but many commercial cat foods include such things as wheat, corn or white rice.  Avoid those “fillers,” because they add nothing but empty calories.

Finally, check the expiration date on the can or package.  It’s there for a reason.  You don’t want to feed moldy food to your kitty.


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