Thursday, October 20, 2011

What should I know about Cat Nutrition? Part 2


Let's face it - feeding your cat is one of the most important functions you have as a cat caretaker! Here is some more handy information about feline nutrition.

A can of pet food, showing the label
What information is available on the food label?
Besides the AAFCO statement, all food labels must also include:
1.      Ingredient list by weight, with the heaviest ones first.
2.       The product name and brand name.  
3.       The species name (in this case, cat) this food is designed for.
4.      Size; how much pet food is in this bag or can. This information must be on the lower third of the front of the bag.
5.      Guaranteed analysis of the pet food stated as Crude Protein (minimum), Crude Fat (minimum), Crude Fiber (maximum), and Moisture (maximum).  
6.      The name and address of the food manufacturer or distributor – this must be made available in case of adverse reactions or recalls.
7.      How much to feed: Every cat food label must have recommendations regarding how much to feed cats of different sizes or ages. These guidelines usually overestimate the amount of food a typical cat needs to eat every day. Some people believe that this is a ploy on the part of the pet food manufacturers to sell more food. Others suggest that pet food manufacturers overestimate to make sure that no diet can be accused of causing unhealthy or undesired weight loss in a pet when fed as directed.

The pet food manufacturers that perform feeding trials on their diets maintain that these guidelines are based on calculations of what typical pets in their feeding trials needed to satisfy their energy requirements. Whatever the reason, many pets can safely be fed less than the daily recommendations on the packaging.

Ingredients: Now that we know what nutrients need to be in cat food, how does it get there?
  • Protein from a meat, fish, or poultry source
  • Taurine, an essential amino acid
  • Certain other vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids
  • Water
A cat looking at stacks of canned diets
That is all cats need. They do not need carbohydrates. In the wild, the only carbohydrates a cat would get in its diet would be the stomach contents of its prey – partially digested grains and seeds, most commonly. Corn, wheat, and/or rice are often used as fillers for dry cat foods. Other ingredients, such as binders, flavoring, and coloring, are added by cat food manufacturers to satisfy the aesthetic wants of the consumer. Although preservatives are necessary, to keep foods fresh for our cats, canned food should not be allowed to remain out for a long period of time. Don’t be fooled into thinking that a food is good for your pet because it lists ingredients such as peas, carrots, cranberries, blueberries and the like. Pets don’t really need these ingredients to thrive, but they make for good marketing to the pet’s human. They can be a source of antioxidants and vitamins, but the amounts are probably not significant enough to make a difference.
Here are some of the most common ingredients:
A gray tabby cat eating kibble
  • Meat: Cleaned flesh from chicken, lamb, turkey, cattle, and related animals that have been slaughtered specifically for animal feed purposes. However, flesh means more than skin. It may include muscle, (including the diaphragm), fat, nerves, blood vessels from the skin, the heart, esophagus, and the tongue.
  • Meat by-product: Clean, non-flesh parts from the same animals mentioned above. This can include the blood, bone, brain, liver, lungs, liver, kidneys, and emptied stomach and intestines. There are no hooves, hair, horns, or teeth in meat byproducts. Chicken by-products are feather-free. This might sound gross, but remember what your cat’s natural diet consists of – there are important nutrients available in organ meat that cats require.
  • Beef tallow: A fat made from beef.
  • Meal: Finely ground tissue.
  • Bone meal: Finely ground bone from slaughtered feed animals.
  • Fish meal: Clean, ground undecomposed whole fish or fish pieces. The fish may or may not still contain fish oil.
  • Ground corn: Chopped or ground corn kernels.
  • Corn gluten meal: A product that forms after corn syrup or starch is made.


Pet food labels are required to list ingredients in decreasing order by weight. This can be confusing when trying to figure out what amounts are really in the food. For example, if a label reads: chicken, ground corn, corn gluten meal and so on, you might be tempted to think that this is a food primarily made of chicken - it IS the first ingredient, after all. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case.

The corn ingredients in the example above have been split into two different ingredients: ground corn and corn gluten meal, which, while two different ingredients, misleadingly allows the chicken to be the first ingredient. This is really a corn-based food with chicken added. Due to the specificity of the ingredient label, different types of cereals and grains must be listed separately, but when combined as overall grain content they will constitute a greater part of the food.

Many pet food labels
What do you think of the ingredients of these popular brands of food? Do you know which brand of food each of these ingredient lists is from? Which one would you choose to feed your cat?

1) Ingredients: ground yellow corn, corn gluten meal, chicken by-product meal, soybean meal, beef tallow (preserved with mixed tocopherols (a form of Vitamin E)), animal digest, calcium carbonate, turkey by-product meal, salmon meal, ocean fish meal, phosphoric acid, choline chloride, salt, potassium chloride, titanium dioxide (color), vitamins (vitamin E supplement, niacin supplement, vitamin A supplement, d-calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate [source of vitamin B1], riboflavin supplement [source of vitamin B2], pyridoxine hydrochloride [source of vitamin B6], menadione sodium bisulfite complex [source of vitamin K activity], vitamin D3 supplement, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12 supplement), potassium chloride, minerals (ferrous sulfate [source of iron], zinc oxide, manganous oxide, copper sulfate, calcium iodate, sodium selenite), taurine, yellow 5, red 40, yellow 6, yellow 5, red 40, blue 2, dl-methionine, l-lysine, rosemary extract.

2) Ingredients: Chicken meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, brewers rice, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), corn meal, chicken, salmon, powdered cellulose, ground whole wheat, soybean hulls, malt extract, brewers dried yeast, phosphoric acid, natural flavor, tetra sodium pyrophosphate, calcium carbonate, salt, choline chloride, dried spinach, parsley flakes, potassium chloride, taurine, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, niacin, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, copper sulfate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), sodium selenite.

3) Ingredients: Chicken, chicken meal, whole brown rice, soybean meal, whole barley, whole oat meal, soy protein isolate, animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of Vitamin E), brewers dried yeast, dried egg product, natural flavor, dried beet pulp, fish oil, phosphoric acid, caramel color, dried carrots, salt, dried sweet potatoes, dried apples, calcium carbonate, potassium chloride, taurine, choline chloride, Vitamin E supplement, zinc sulfate, niacin, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, Vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, Vitamin B-12 supplement, copper sulfate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, Vitamin D-3 supplement, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), calcium iodate, sodium selenite.

4) Ingredients: Chicken By-Product Meal, Brewers Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Animal Fat (preserved mixed tocopherols and citric acid), Powdered Cellulose, Whole Grain Corn, Lactic Acid, Chicken Liver Flavor, Soybean Oil, Potassium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Calcium Carbonate, DL-Methionine, Iodized Salt, Vitamin E Supplement, vitamins (L-Ascorbyl-2-Polyphosphate (source of vitamin C), Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Riboflavin, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid, Vitamin D3 Supplement), Taurine, Calcium Sulfate, minerals (Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Manganous Oxide, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite), preserved with Mixed Tocopherols and Citric Acid, Phosphoric Acid, Beta Carotene, Rosemary Extract.

5) Ingredients: Turkey, Chicken Meal, Chicken, Herring Meal, Chicken Fat (Preserved with Mixed Tocopherols a Natural Source of Vitamin E), Peas, Eggs, Turkey Meal, Pea Fiber, Natural Flavors, Apples, Carrots, Cranberries, Herring Oil, Tomatoes, Pumpkin, Dried Chicory Root, Cottage Cheese, Alfalfa Sprouts, Taurine, DL-Methionine, Minerals (Zinc Proteinate, Iron Proteinate, Copper Proteinate, Manganese Proteinate, Calcium Iodate), Vitamins (Vitamin E Supplement, Betaine Hydrochloride, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin Supplement, Beta Carotene, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Vitamin D3 Supplement, Biotin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Folic Acid), Direct Fed Microbials (Dried Lactobacillus acidophilus Fermentation Product, Dried Lactobacillus casei Fermentation Product, Dried Enterococcus faecium Fermentation Product)

6) Ingredients: Chicken Deboned, Chicken Meal, Potato Dehydrated, Turkey Meal, Chicken Fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols – a source of Natural Vitamin E), Sweet Potato Dehydrated, Dried Egg, Natural Flavor, Yeast Culture, Dicalcium Phosphate, Lysine, Sea Salt, Alfalfa, Salmon Oil, Choline Chloride, Acai Berry Freeze-Dried, Blueberry Dried, Yucca Schidigera Extract, Rosemary Extract, Taurine, Zinc Amino Acid Complex, Chondroitin Sulfate, Glucosamine Hydrochloride, Chicory Root, Marigold Extract, Lactobacillus Plantarum, Enterococcus Faecium, Lactobacillus Casei, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Iron Amino Acid Complex, Vitamin E Supplement, Manganese Amino Acid Complex, Vitamin A Supplement, Vitamin B12 Supplement, Copper Amino Acid Complex, d-Calcium Pantothenate, Vitamin D3, Niacin, Lecithin, Riboflavin Supplement, Biotin, Ethylenediamine Dihydriodide, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cobalt, Amino Acid Complex, Folic Acid, Thiamine Mononitrate, Sodium Selenite.

7) Ingredients: Ocean fish, fish broth, shrimp, calcium phosphate, vegetable oil, guar gum, Vitamin E supplement, Vitamin A supplement, sodium nitrite (to promote color retention), zinc sulfate, thiamine mononitrate, manganese sulfate, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of Vitamin K activity), riboflavin supplement, folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride, Vitamin D-3 supplement.