Learn What Those Confusing Cat Food Labels Really Mean, And Protect Your Pet

If you have a cat, there’s no question you love it dearly. And that’s why you should be the one asking the questions.

Not of your cat, of your cat’s food.

An estimated 40 percent of all animal owners don’t read the label when it comes to their pets’ food, the Sun reports. And that’s a big problem.

Not all pet foods are formulated to offer a complete meal to our feline friends, and at least 64 percent of cat owners aren’t sure how to fill in those gaps.

Photo:Adobe/osobystist A healthy cat is a happy cat!
Photo:Adobe/osobystist
A healthy cat is a happy cat!

“What concerns us most is the amount of ‘nasties’ that are contained in some of the mass-produced cat food available in UK supermarkets, including cheap bulking ingredients such as cereals, which cats can find difficult to digest,” said Henrietta Morrison, founder and CEO of Lily’s Kitchen which commissioned a research project on cat owners “Cat owners don’t stand a chance when the labelling is so misleading and doesn’t state clearly what the packet or tin contains.”

Even indoor cats will make due with what they have, and if that means eating unhealthy foods, they’ll often times settle for what’s available. But not everything in the party Is suitable for them.

via Adobe Stock Not all cat foods are created equally.
via Adobe Stock
Not all cat foods are created equally.

Foods that are unhealthy for cats

Like dogs, cats’ digestive systems cannot handle foods like garlic an onions, chocolate, and alcohol. Undercooked foods can cause issues, as well. According to Hills Pet, raw dough can expand in the stomach, and cause severe gastrointestinal pains.

Source: Pexels Do you know which foods are best for your pet?
Source: Pexels
Do you know which foods are best for your pet?

Other foods that can cause digestive issues in cats:

  • Raw eggs, meat and bones

    – A danger with many undercooked foods is bacteria like E. Coli or salmonella, while bones can present a choking hazard. Always make sure your pet’s food is thoroughly cooked, and wash your hands after preparing it!

  • Milk and dairy products

    – Lactose, found in milk, can actually cause stomach upset in cats. It’s commonly fed to kittens, but what many many not realize is that their mother’s milk lacks lactose, which is much better suited to their needs.

  • Grapes and raisins

    – these foods can cause kidney failure in cats, and should be avoided at all costs. A cat that ingests grapes or raisins may begin vomiting uncontrollably, or become hyperactive. Either way, veterinary care should be sought immediately.

  • Dog food

    – Dog food is formulated for dogs, with vitamins and minerals that their bodies need to thrive. Cats need vitamin A, taurine, arachidonic acid and protein, Hills Pet maintains, which dog food just doesn’t have enough of.

Source: Twitter/LydiaCoutre Ozzy the cat loves peaches, as you can see.
Source: Twitter/LydiaCoutre
Ozzy the cat loves peaches, as you can see.

Foods that are healthy for cats

If a cat lingering near the dinner table makes you feel even the slightest bit guilty, you’re not alone. Many people feed their felines scraps from the table, but not everyone understands what might be inviting potential health issues.

There’s no need to worry. Plenty of human foods are healthy for cats, too.

  • Cooked meat

    – If you aren’t letting your cat catch its prey outdoors, you may as well feed them meat inside. Cats love eating meat, and it provides a number of distinct benefits, not the least of which is a ling and healthy life, a strong heart, and good eyesight. Of course, you must always make sure it’s cooked!

  • Whole grains

    – Whole grains like corn, brown rice, and barley contain protein, which cats need to thrive. More over, the texture will help them clean their teeth while they eat, and maintain good dental health.

  • Fish

    – Packed full of omega-3 fatty acids, cooked fish can help improve your cat’s ocular health. According to WebMD, an occasional fish filet can help stave off arthritis, kidney disease, and heart disorders, as well.

  • Fruits & vegetables

    – Some cats are picky about their ruffle, but a curious few find the broccoli stalk or pumpkin puree quite delicious. Experiment with your pet to see what’s a good fit, but make sure you leave onions or garlic aside.

Source: Pexels Do you know what the label on your cat's food means?
Source: Pexels
Do you know what the label on your cat’s food means?

How to read a cat food label

There are three parts to most cat food labels: an ingredients list, a laboratory-backed guarantee, and a definition of nutritional standards set by Association of American Feed Control Officials.

The first part is easy enough for anyone to understand. If it isn’t, it may not be the right food for your pet. Ingredients that make up the most of the food are listed first. According to Nutro, if the first listed ingredient is chicken, the food will consist primarily of chicken, which is a good sign. You always want real meat in your feline’s food.

Source: Pexels Understanding what you feed your cat can go a long way to keeping it healthy.
Source: Pexels
Understanding what you feed your cat can go a long way to keeping it healthy.

Laboratory guarantees are just as important, but perhaps less decipherable to the average pet owner. A guaranteed analysis indicates “the minimum and/or maximum percentage of nutrients in a food,” Nutro maintains, which could include protein, fat, fiber and moisture.

AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles explain the standards for different types of pet food. While some kinds of cat food are formulated for growing kittens, others may be for active adults, or gestating mothers. Each has its own nutrient profile, as set by officials with the Association of American Feed Control.

Source: Pixabay Cats need a number of nutrients to survive.
Source: Pixabay
Cats need a number of nutrients to survive.

What food does your cat need?

There are a lot of cats in the world, each with its own tastes, but they have the same basic nutritional needs.

Protein

– Cats cannot survive without protein. According to Feline Nutrition, it’s a necessary nutrient for providing energy, along with promoting growth and development.

Complete proteins are available in meats, fish, eggs, and poultry, and “incomplete proteins,” which lack some essential amino acids, can be found in beans and grains.

Source: PxHere Protein is important for cats.
Source: PxHere
Protein is important for cats.

Fat

– Being more concentrated than proteins of carbohydrates, fats actually provide more energy to cats than other nutrients. According to the ASPCA,fats help cells absorb and use fat-soluble vitamins.

Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to healing inflammation in the body and keep the kidneys in healthy shape. And, of course, fat provides insulation for the body, and protects internal organs, as well.

Source: Max Pixel Cats need fat just as much as they need protein!
Source: Max Pixel
Cats need fat just as much as they need protein!

Minerals

Cats, especially growing ones, need calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, and chloride. A lack of any one of these minerals could lead to severe dehydration, organ failure, or bone health issues.

That said, most cats are good at getting these through a balanced and complete diet. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, supplements are often sold at pet food stores, but they may not be as necessary as pet owners believe.

When taken in excess, or unnecessarily, “supplements can be harmful to your cat, and they should never be given without a veterinarian’s approval,” the college maintains.


Source: Pixabay Do you know if your cat is getting the right food?
Source: Pixabay
Do you know if your cat is getting the right food?

Vitamins

– There are two types of vitamins that cats, and humans, need to stay healthy and grow. As the Nest reports, Water soluble vitamins are easily assimilated into the body, and eventually pass out through the urinary tract. Vitamin B and Vitamin C are both water soluble, build up the immune system, and boost collagen production.

Fat-soluble vitamins build up in the tissues of an animal. They make skin and coat look and feel healthy, and promote healthy eyesight. However, because they are not as easily expelled, fat-soluble vitamins need to be administered in regulated amounts. There is too much of a good thing, in this case, and an excess of any fat-soluble vitamin, A, D, E, or K, can lead to serious health issues

Source: Pixabay A cat's gotta eat! A cat's gotta drink water, too!
Source: Pixabay
A cat’s gotta eat! A cat’s gotta drink water, too!

Water

– Like any other animal, your cat needs water to survive. How much depends on a number of factors.

According to The Honest Kitchen, environmental factors like heat and humidity, as well as regular diet all play a role in a cat’s thirst. For an average feline, weighing 8-10 pounds, 8-10 ounces of water is enough each day, though cats that eat wet food will likley need to drink less water.

It’s not often that cats drink too much water, but those who don’t drink enough could eventually suffer from urinary tract issues.

Conclusion

Many pet owners don’t know what’s in their cat’s food, which is a big mistake. Reading the label on your cat’s food is an important first step to ensuring your pet has the proper nutrition he or she needs to thrive.

Additional Resources:

  • Pet Obesity is More Than Just a Little Extra Weight: It’s a Dangerous Epidemic
  • Fat Cat to Svelte Feline: How to Reduce Weight in Cats
  • Should Cats Be Walked On A Leash?
  • 8 Creative Ways to Work Out With Your Pet
  • 6 Reasons Why Healthy Cats Live Longer Lives
  • 7 Reasons Why Feeding Your Cat Correctly Is More Complicated Than You Think
  • 11 Physical Conditions in Cats That Need Swift Attention From A Vet
  • Help Rescue Animals

    Provide food and vital supplies to shelter pets at The Animal Rescue Site for free!

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