By: Kaylin Stinski, Pet Wellness Advisor
All cat food is practically made of the same base ingredients and have little distinctive changes after that. It can be overwhelming walking into a pet store and trying to pick what cat food is best for your feline friend. There are websites that will provide you with comparison guides to help you narrow down your selection, but it is also good to know the truth behind pet labels.
Cat food, and all pet food in general, tend to follow along with the current trends in the human diet world, if you want to eat gluten-free, you can guarantee there will be a cat food that will also be gluten-free. Cat food doesn’t just vary by age and flavor anymore. There is a product out there that will meet whatever your needs are from organic, holistic, natural, kosher, vegetarian, or all-meat diets to those that are high-protein, high-fiber, low-fat, or even anti-allergy and lite. The thing is, that the FDA has a variety of requirements and standards for label claims, what may be labeled may or not be what is inside.
For cat food labels that are marked as “premium” or “gourmet” the products aren’t required to contain any specific or higher quality ingredients. These “premium” cat foods are also not held to any higher nutritional standards than other products that are considered complete and balanced. The Association of American Feed Control Officials have developed a definition for the term “natural” and guidelines for products claiming to be “natural.” In general, these products are simply the lack of artificial flavors, colors, and/or preservatives in the product. For foods claiming to be “organic” there are no official rules that currently govern the labeling of organic foods for pets currently. However, the United States Department of Agriculture is in the process of developing regulations that will dictate the use of synthetic additives, such as vitamins and purified amino acids, that are being used in cat foods labeled as organic.
What the FDA truly regulates is the Product name, net quality statement (how much product is in the container), manufacturer’s name and address, ingredient list, guaranteed analysis (guaranteed minimum percentages of crude protein and crude fat and the maximum percentages of crude fiber and moisture), as well as a nutritional adequacy statement, feeding directions, and calorie statement. Everything else is pretty much up for grabs currently and is not regulated. When you compare your so-called premium cat food with supermarket brands you will find that the ingredient lists, when compared, are quite similar and all meet certain nutritional standards.
According to the research done by Marion Nestle and Malden C. Nesheim, the first five ingredients of nearly any kind of car food are pretty much the same, they all represent a protein source, fats, and carbohydrates, everything else below that is only present in very small amounts. Cat food, and all pet foods for that matter, are made from the byproducts of human food production, so no matter what the image on the package depicts, your cat isn’t eating a whole filet of salmon. They will be getting whatever is left once the salmon has been prepared for human consumption. If you look at who the major manufacturers are of cat food, you will find that most of them are human food companies.
Now this doesn’t mean that different cat food products won’t make a difference to individual cats. Cat’s digestive systems are just as varied as human digestive systems and some food may be perfectly fine, while eithers will wreak havoc on them and their litter box. The trick is to find the cat food that works best for your cat and then stick with it. Cats can be very sensitive to their food and even a slight change, like the same brand but just a different flavor, can cause a myriad of problems.
Remember you don’t have to pay top dollar for quality cat food, when you can find a similar product that may be generic. All you must do is take the time and read the labels and see what differences there are. Sometimes the top dollar products are just using marketing gimmicks to make you chose their brand over something else that is exactly the same. Either way, feeding your cat a commercial diet will provide them with the nutrients they need in the right amounts. If you find you are paying for an attribute you like, whether it be kosher to holistic, continue with it, as long as your cat is healthy and happy with the food, it is worth the cost.
Disclaimer: This content does not necessarily represent the views of IWB.