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Cat Food

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Some available options of cat food

Cat food is a type of food specially engineered for the feeding of cats.

Cats are carnivorous by nature and need many essential nutrients, such as taurine, in 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 as 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 supplements.

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 hours.

Cat Food Nutrient Profiles

Entire section ref.[1]
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 nutritionally adequate.

Cat foods labeled as "complete and balanced" must meet standards established by the 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.

The new 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 cat foods.

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 AAFCO 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 percent moisture (25 percent dry matter), multiply the guaranteed level times 4. For a 10 percent moisture dry product, multiply by 1.1.

Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) Cat Food Nutrient Profilesa
Nutrient Units
(Dry Matter Basis)
Growth and
Protein % 30.0 26.0
Arginine % 1.25 1.04
Histidine % 0.31 0.31
Isoleucine % 0.52 0.52
Leucine % 1.25 1.25
Lysine % 1.20 0.83
Methionine-cystine % 1.10 1.10
Methionine % 0.62 0.62 1.50
Phenylalanine-tyrosine % 0.88 0.88
Phenylalanine % 0.42 0.42
Threonine % 0.73 0.73
Tryptophan % 0.25 0.16
Valine % 0.62 0.62
Fatb % 9.0 9.0
Linoleic acid % 0.5 0.5
Arachidonic acid % 0.02 0.02
Calcium % 1.0 0.6
Phosphorus % 0.8 0.5
Potassium % 0.6 0.6
Sodium % 0.2 0.2  
Chloride % 0.3 0.3
Magnesiumc % 0.08 0.04
Irond mg/kg 80.0 80.0
Copper (extruded food)e mg/kg 15.0 5.0
Copper (canned food)e mg/kg 5.0 5.0
Manganese mg/kg 7.5 7.5
Zinc mg/kg 75.0 75.0 2000.0
Iodine mg/kg 0.35 0.35
Selenium mg/kg 0.1 0.1
Vitamin A IU/kg 9000.0 5000.0 750000.0
Vitamin D IU/kg 750.0 500.0 10000.0
Vitamin Ef IU/kg 30.0 30.0
Vitamin Kg mg/kg 0.1 0.1
Thiamineh mg/kg 5.0 5.0
Riboflavin mg/kg 4.0 4.0
Pantothenic acid mg/kg 5.0 5.0
Niacin mg/kg 60.0 60.0
Pyridoxine mg/kg 4.0 4.0
Folic Acid mg/kg 0.8 0.8
Biotini mg/kg 0.07 0.07
Vitamin B12 mg/kg 0.02 0.02
Cholinej mg/kg 2400.0 2400.0
Taurine (extruded food) % 0.10 0.10
Taurine (canned food) % 0.20 0.20
Nutrient Units
(Dry Matter Basis)
Growth and
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.
g 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.
i Biotin does not need to be added unless diet contains antimicrobial or antivitamin compounds.
j 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 percent.

Cat food brands


  1. ^  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 - Center for Veterinary Medicine. URL accessed on 2005-01-20.

Further Information

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