While cat food labels are great at telling us exactly which ingredients are used in that specific product, they aren’t so great at telling us why those ingredients are beneficial for our cats (or worse - not healthy for our little fur balls). This is why it’s important to keep yourself educated and informed regarding cat food ingredients.
There are many different cat food manufacturers and brands, and nearly all of them use different sets of ingredients, blends, and recipes. How can you possibly decipher through all of these different nutritional profiles? Luckily, reading cat food labels isn’t too difficult, and once you have the basics down, you’ll be able to properly gauge the healthiness of any cat food product quickly and efficiently.
Below are some of the best strategies to employ while reading pet food labels, as well as an overview of some of the better ingredients to look for (and also which ingredients to avoid). Managing your cat’s diet doesn’t need to be complicated, but you should at least know the basics - which is why we developed this blog.
An Overview of Ingredients and Their Benefits
There are three main macronutrients to look for when choosing a cat food; protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Cats are naturally hypercarnivores, which means that they get nearly all of their nutrients from animal sources. However, domesticated cats have been consuming carbohydrates for quite a while, so they’ve essentially become adapted to carbs. While carbs aren’t necessary for a cat’s diet, nearly all major manufacturers include them in their products.
For example, Fancy Feast White Meat Chicken Primavera, which is a popular cat food product, includes wheat gluten and corn starch in its list of ingredients. While these specific ingredients aren’t exactly carb-heavy, they do contain carbs. Other brands might even include major carb sources such as potatoes, rice, or various grains.
Vitamins and Minerals
Just because your cat is a carnivore doesn’t mean that they can only eat meat and meet all of their nutritional needs. While this might be true in the wild, it’s not necessarily true for your pet cat. This is why many brands often include vegetables, fruit, and other types of ingredients in their cat food products. These ingredients aren’t necessarily bad, and they provide your cat with lots of vitamins, minerals, and other micronutrients that typically aren’t found in protein and fat sources.
This brings us to the question of vitamins and minerals, specifically, which vitamins and minerals are essential for our cats? Like most other animals, including humans, cats need a wide range of vitamins and minerals in order to be as healthy as possible. Calcium, Vitamin A, sodium, magnesium, and other nutrients are all essential for your cat’s continued (and future) health.
Wild cats are able to consume these essential nutrients entirely through animal sources. Remember, wild cats are 100% carnivores, meaning they eat the entire animal that they kill, which is how they get their nutrients. Domesticated cats aren’t usually consuming whole birds and rodents (okay, well, sometimes they might), so that means you need to look for a cat food that has a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients included in its list of ingredients.
Essential and Non-Essential Ingredients
It’s generally recommended to purchase cat food rather than prepare it on your own. Making sure that your cat receives all of the necessary nutrients can be challenging, especially if you’re cooking all on your own. Even getting the ratio of fats:protein:carbs correct can be difficult, let alone adding all of the essential micronutrients (i.e. vitamins and minerals).
You should look for ingredients that are naturally-sourced, and you should also watch out for ingredients that could be considered as “fillers.” Additives, fillers, byproducts, and meals are all ingredients that aren’t as high-quality as naturally-sourced ones. We recommend choosing a brand that only uses naturally-sourced proteins and fats, and one that avoids including unnecessary filler products. Remember, your cat’s health is largely dependent on their diet, so making the right choice when it comes to food is incredibly important.