Cat food is a type of
engineered for the feeding of
Cats are carnivorous by nature and need many essential nutrients, such as
their food. Commercial cat food contains these supplements, which is why other
pet foods are not
recommended for cats.
Ingredients of Cat Food
Many popular brands of cat food are made from what would otherwise be waste
products of the meat industry. Some cat experts claim that this practice, as
well as the overly processed nature of dry cat food, is responsible for many of
the age-related ailments of cats. Additionally, many major brand-name cat foods
are primarily grain-based, often containing large amounts of corn or rice
supplemented with meats and essential vitamins, and usually saturated with
'digest,' a euphemistic term for real or synthetic cat vomit, to attract the cat
as cats are prone to re-eating previously swallowed and vomited foods.
Some less well-known pet food manufacturers offer more 'natural' formulas of
cat food that contain fewer grains and by-products. A few pet food brands, such
Innova EVO, are even made without any grain products at all. Natural cat
food brands are often claimed to have cuts of meat closer to those that humans
eat, with some manufacturers offering meat that is claimed to be 'human grade'.
Many brands of such cat foods are made from raw ingredients intended to provide
nutrition as close as possible to the cat's natural diet. These brands generally
include raw meat with organs, ground bone, some raw vegetables, and some dietary
Many pet owners feed cats homemade diets. These diets generally consist of
some form of cooked meat or raw meat, ground bone, pureed vegetables, taurine
supplements, and other vitamin supplements. Some pet owners use easily digested
human vitamin supplements, and others use vitamin supplements specifically
engineered for cats. Veterinarians sometimes recommend including Digestive
enzyme supplements in a homemade diet.
Vegetarian cat food, made with no animal products, has been available for
many years, and is aimed primarily at
animal rights activists. Vendors of vegetarian cat food claim it is
nutritionally sound in some cases, and in other cases the food is intended to be
supplemented with other cat foods. Some veterinarians recommend against
exclusively vegetarian diets for cats, as they must eat certain amino acids
not found in vegetables to remain healthy. Vegetarian cat food either includes
these nutrients or the cat's food must be supplemented with them.
In some countries, feeding vegetarian food to cats may constitute not feeding
an appropriate diet. If the cat requires veterinary treatment for dietary
deficiencies, the owner risks action under animal care legislation.
Forms of Commercial Cat Food
Store-bought cat food generally comes in either a kibble form, often called
dry cat food, or a canned form. Very few brands of cat food come in semi-moist
form, which is generally reserved for treats.
Dry food is generally sold in bulk, with a bag of dry food lasting days,
months, or even years. Canned food generally comes in much smaller serving
sizes, and common can sizes are 3oz, 5.5oz, and 13oz.
Many cat enthusiasts and veterinarians recommend a diet consisting largely or
entirely of canned cat food. One of the reasons for this is the high water
content of canned food, which is thought to be a healthful amount of water
compared to the amount that cats will drink when eating dry food. Canned food
also generally contains significantly less grain or other carbohydrate foods.
This is thought to reduce the chances of
diabetes and maintain a healthy weight. In general, most canned foods are
formulated to resemble a cat's natural diet more closely than dry food, where
the focus is often shelf life and price.
Other enthusiasts and veterinarians recommend a diet consisting mostly of dry
food. Often this recommendation is based on the idea that cats must break apart
dry foods with their teeth, which causes the food to scrape off
dental calculus, although the degree of benefit this provides has been
disputed in recent years.
Pet owners often prefer dry cat food due to the convenience and price. Dry
cat food is generally significantly less expensive than canned cat food. Dry cat
food can also be left out for the cat to eat at will over the course of several
days, whereas canned cat food spoils or becomes unappetizing after several
Cat Food Nutrient Profiles
Entire section ref.
Most pet owners have heard that it is better to feed their animals specially
formulated food for pets rather than table scraps. An occasional treat is fine,
but table scraps used to excess may unbalance a pet's diet. Purchasing pet foods
labeled as "complete and balanced" can help ensure that your pet's diet is
Cat foods labeled as "complete and balanced" must meet standards established
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) either by meeting a
nutrient profile or by passing a feeding trial. The AAFCO's Feline Nutrition
Expert (FNE) Subcommittee have established new nutrient profiles for "complete
and balanced" cat foods. Cat Food Nutrient Profiles were established
in 1992 and updated in 1995 to incorporate new scientific information.
nutrient profiles replaced the recommendations of the National Research Council
( NRC) as the AAFCO-recognized authority on feline nutrition. Cat foods labeled
as "complete and balanced" based on the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profile must meet all the
nutrient minimum and maximum levels as established by the Subcommittee. The
Subcommittee set these levels after considering the most current information on
good nutrition for cats.
The profiles are designed to provide practical information for manufacturers of
There are now two separate
nutrient profiles -- one for growth and reproduction and one for
adult maintenance, instead of just one for all lifestages. This allows cat
foods made for adult
cats only to contain lower amounts of some nutrients, eliminating
unnecessary excesses. Also, maximum levels of intake of some nutrients have been
established for the first time, because of concern that
overnutrition, rather than undernutrition, is a bigger problem with many pet foods today.
The protocols for conducting the feeding trials for cat foods have also been
updated. With these improvements, label reference to either the
AAFCO nutrient profile or AAFCO feeding trials better assures the consumer of the validity of a "complete
and balanced" claim. Endorsements, seals of approval, etc., from other
organizations do not add assurances of safety and may be misleading.
The table below lists the
nutritional profiles for cat foods.
It must be noted that the levels of nutrients are expressed on a dry
matter basis, while the levels listed in the guaranteed analysis on
the label are expressed on an as fed basis. To allow for meaningful
comparisons, the as fed guarantees must be converted to dry matter.
For a canned product that is 75
multiply the guaranteed level times 4. For a 10
multiply by 1.1.
Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO)
Cat Food Nutrient Profilesa
a Presumes an
energy density of 4.0 kcal/g ME, based on the modified Atwater
values of 3.5, 8.5, and 3.5 kcal/g for protein, fat, and
carbohydrate (nitrogen-free extract, NFE), respectively. Rations
greater than 4.5 kcal/g should be corrected for energy density;
rations less than 4.0 kcal/g
should not be corrected for energy.
b Although a true requirement for
fat per se has not been established, the minimum level was based on
recognition of fat as a source of essential fatty acids, as a
carrier of fat-soluble vitamins, to enhance palatability, and to
supply an adequate caloric density.
c If the mean
urine pH of cats fed ad libitum is not below 6.4, the risk of
struvite urolithiasis increases as the magnesium content of the diet increases.
d Because of very poor
bioavailability, iron from carbonate or oxide
sources that are added to the diet should not be considered as
components in meeting the minimum nutrient level.
e Because of very poor
bioavailability, copper from oxide sources that are added to the diet should not be
considered as components in meeting the minimum nutrient level.
f Add 10
IU vitamin E above minimum level per gram of fish oil per kilogram of diet.
Vitamin K does not need to be added unless diet contains greater
than 25 percent fish on a dry matter basis.
h Because processing may destroy up to 90
percent of the thiamine in the diet, allowance in formulation should be made to
ensure the minimum nutrient level is met after processing.
Biotin does not need to be added unless diet contains antimicrobial
or antivitamin compounds.
Methionine may substitute choline as methyl donor at a rate of 3.75
parts for 1 part choline by weight when methionine exceeds 0.62
David A. Dzanis, D.V.M., Ph.D., DACVN
Division of Animal Feeds, Center for Veterinary Medicine. (November 1997).
SELECTING NUTRITIOUS PET FOODS. (HTML) INFORMATION FOR CONSUMERS.
Food and Drug Administration -
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