Buying a packet of cat food for your cute pet sounds simple. All you need to do is to get to a supermarket, walk to the pet food aisle and pick up a packet of cat food. And it is done. Well, is it that simple? When you reach the pet food aisle, you will be looking at an 8-foot-high meters long stack of cat foods from dozens of different brands, each having a specific utility. And now comes the big question: Which one to choose?
We are here to help you get a thought-through answer to that question. This list will walk you through all the things that you need to watch for when picking up a cat food brand for your little pet.
1- You need to first learn to read the label
Just like human food, pet food is also regulated by the governments. After all, they, too, are living beings. Governments and administrative bodies have established rules and regulations that require the manufacturers to mention some necessary things on the food labels, and you need to understand them. The first thing to look for on the label is the statement of intent. This will confirm that the food is manufactured specifically for cats.
The second thing that requires your attention is the list of ingredients. By law, the manufacturers are bound to mention the correct proportions of all the ingredients used in making of the product. The different quantities of the same ingredients in different products can help you compare them and pick up something that suits the nutritional requirement of your cat best.
2- Make sure that you know what you are getting – cat food or kitten food
The label on the pet food is printed with a nutritional adequacy statement. AFFCO establishes the base level regulations for pet food, including recommended ingredients, guaranteed analysis, and nutritional adequacy statement. An AFFCO nutritional adequacy statement on the pet food you are buying confirms that the product is completely optimized for your pet. This statement is something like “Name of the product – is formulated to meet the nutritional levels set by AFFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for (life stage).”
This means that you are going to pick food based on the life stage of your cat. This is important too, because a product that is made for kittens will not fulfill the nutritional requirements of an adult cat or a breeding cat. Make sure you are picking the right kind of food.
3- If you have an elderly cat, you should look for special food or make food at home
Our pets are oddly similar to us when it comes to health and care. Just like us humans, cats start to have health difficulties as they age. These elderly cats are going to have special needs. If you have raised this aged cat since it was a fragile little creature, then you already know a great deal about it. Rather than putting your pet - with whom you have a bond of many years - at risk of general mass-produced cat food in the market, you can opt for some better and safer options. You can consult a vet, and he will recommend you food recipes. You can handpick these ingredients and prepare personalized cat food on your own.
4- It makes no sense to simply buying a brand for what it says on the front of the box
Generally, statements on the front of any packaging are in a special format governed by the laws and regulations. Laws bound the manufacturers to mention something like “fish cat food” or “beef cat food” only if the product contains at least 95 percent of the ingredients stated. However, if the label is using the “with the format,” then they are only bound to include at least 3 percent of the ingredient named. This means Fish cat food does not translate to Cat food with fish.
Also, products using terms like Dinner, Platter, Entrée, or Formula are of inferior nutritional quality. They only require to contain between 25 percent and 95 percent of the ingredient stated.
5- Study the ingredients list to see where on the list the main ingredient stands
There are specific terms used in the ingredients section, and each refers specifically to a particular source of that ingredient. For example, when the term “meat” is used on the label, this will indicate that the flashy parts of the stated animal were used instead of vital organs or intestines. “Meat by-product” is an indication of the use of essential organs but no bones, teeth, or horns.
Sometimes, labels will also use the term “Meal.” This is used when there is the use of tissues are finely ground up. Another similar term is “Bone meal.” Bone meal refers to the ground-up bone.
6- You should care more about the nutritional value of a product rather than the ingredients included
One thing that you need to understand at this point is that the nutritional value of an ingredient is something different from the ingredient itself. You have learned to look at the ingredients list and gather information about the food sources used in the making of that particular product but what ingredients list does not tell you is the appropriateness as a portion of food for your cat. The dedicated section of the label for this purpose is Guaranteed Analysis.
The Guaranteed Analysis indicates whether the included contents fulfill the basic nutritional requirement of your cat or not. Studying the Guaranteed Analysis part on the label will help you quickly make a comparison between different brands without getting lost in further details.
7- Do not worry about the preservatives
Preservatives are used to increase the shelf life of the food products, which otherwise would rot too quickly. Preservatives are added to the pet food to make sure that the food does not go bad. Unpreserved food can sicken your cat – which you do not want, obviously.
However, there has been a long hot debate about the harmful effects of preservatives. Many people claim that preservatives have cancer causatives. Some of them can have an effect on the overall health of the cat. In reality, any such claims have not been proved yet. There are studies, but there are not certain results. The point we are trying to make is that you should feel safer buying a cat food product with preservatives listed on the label.
8- You should probably not buy organic cat food
We have stated in detail that there are certain rules in regulations with the manufacturing of cat food products. The standards for those marketed products are maintained and are under strict check. That is what makes them reliable too.
But there are organic foods. The problem with organic foods is that there are no specific standards. This lack of standard quality check makes us question the health of the food.
If some brand makes a claim to be organic, it is unclear what it actually means.
Besides that, organic products cost much more than the usual ones. Given the situation stated earlier, paying extra for organic cat food does not make sense.
9- Natural cat food is not the same thing as organic cat food
The biggest reason behind the popularity of organic food is that people mistake it for natural food. Buyers who are looking for natural food end up buying organic food. We are sorry to break the news, but organic foods are not synonymous with natural foods. Natural food means that the food contains no artificial component like coloring or preservative, and the pet foods claimed to be natural ought not to contain any of these.
But there is one important note to take regarding natural foods. The term “natural pet food” is not a standardized term to use for describing pet food. Again, it is not advised to pay extra for such cat food products.
10- Premium or ultra-premium cat food may be a waste of money
The government has set no standards for verifying cat food products for terms like premium or ultra-premium. This means the products labeled with the eye-catching tag of something like premium or ultra-premium are not certified to be charged higher than normal. Since there are no standards for this, a product advertised with the label of “premium” does not necessarily have to contain better ingredients. The product manufacturer may or may not be using better quality ingredients, but there is no certainty. Again, our advice would be not to waste money.