For optimal pet nutrition, select high-quality ingredients and natural preservatives that meet AAFCO compliance for complete and balanced nutrition.
Cat food options range from grocery store brands to mid-tier and top-tier products. Your cat’s diet plays an important role in weight management, hairball control and urinary health – so ensure it’s of high quality for optimal benefits.
1. Look for Meat as the First Ingredient
Protein is an essential nutrient for all animals. Animals require a balance of high-quality protein from sources like meat or poultry, fish, and organs like liver and kidneys.
As a general guideline, look for cat food that contains at least 25 percent of its total protein from meat, poultry, fish or organs. Ideally, quality cat food will have meat or poultry protein as either the first ingredient or one of the top five components.
Lower-quality foods often include fillers first, such as ground yellow corn, wheat gluten meal, beet pulp or another vegetable or fruit. While these fillers may make up a substantial portion of the food for your cat, they are unnecessary to provide him with essential nutrition.
Be mindful of chemical preservatives in pet food; these have been known to cause cancer in pets and should be avoided.
2. Look for Natural Ingredients
When purchasing high-quality cat food, look for only natural ingredients that haven’t been artificially processed. This is the most essential factor to consider when searching for a top-notch product.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) specifies the definitions for animal food ingredients, so food manufacturers must ensure their ingredients meet these specifications in order to list them on a label.
In addition to meat, a high-quality cat food should contain additional nutrients like Omega 3s and 6s that support your pet’s immune system and skin health. Furthermore, an extensive list of vitamins and minerals is necessary, including water-soluble B12, C, folic acid, niacin, iron and zinc.
Some cheaper brands may contain filler ingredients like ground yellow corn and beef tallow, as well as preservatives like BHA and BHT that have been banned in most countries due to potential links to cancer. Furthermore, watch out for ethoxyquin, originally created as both a pesticide and food preservative but now banned from human foods.
3. Look for a Guaranteed Analysis
Selecting the correct food for your cat is critical to their overall health and wellbeing. When purchasing commercial food or switching up your current cat’s diet, it’s essential that you know what to look out for on the label.
Guaranteed analysis is similar to the Nutrition Facts panel on human foods, providing critical information about nutrient content for pets. It includes minimum percentages of protein, fat and fiber as well as maximum amounts of these essential nutrients plus any additional nutrients listed if applicable on the product label.
However, guaranteed analysis cannot provide precise percentages of nutrients in different food formulas due to testing being done on an “as fed” basis and not taking into account water weight. As such, dry kibble may contain higher levels of certain essential vitamins than moist canned or raw food – leading to confusion when selecting what food formula to feed your pet.
4. Look for the AAFCO Statement
When a food label includes an AAFCO statement, it indicates that it meets the nutritional standards for the life stage it claims to be intended for. This helps pet parents differentiate quality from lesser-quality items.
AAFCO is a nonprofit membership association of state and federal agencies that develops nutrition standards for dog and cat food. Furthermore, AAFCO saves states money by crafting model laws and regulations regarding animal feeds.
If a product is labeled with either an AAFCO “Feeding Trials” statement or “Nutrient Profile,” it has undergone real-world clinical testing to guarantee it provides complete and balanced nutrition for its intended use. These statements are more reliable than other assurances of nutrient adequacy, such as endorsements or seals of approval from other organizations.