What is in Your Cat’s Food?

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All pet foods tell you they are the best. How is an owner really to know? Is there really a difference when you pay more? What is in that food, anyhow?

Cats are carnivores. They require good quality meat in their food. However, many commercially available cat foods use a lot of filler. As a result the cat must eat more food to get at the nutrition. These lower quality foods also use FAT to give the pets a glossy coat. Many owners feel a glossy coat = a healthy pet = good food. Unfortunately in combination with the lower quality of the food, and the addictiveness of fat, the cat must eat a lot more food, thereby eating a lot more fat. Thus contributing to obesity and feline diabetes.

Because food brands vary from country to country and each brand may change its’ formula from time to time I will not get into brand names. I will refer to the more common ingredients and discuss why they are good or bad. YOU can then determine if your cat is on a good, or poor, quality food.

The FIRST FIVE ingredients are the ones you want to pay most attention to. If the top ingredient is a good meat source, but the remaining four are all cheap filler, your food may not the best.

If the food indicates that it is Human Grade, that is even better, as it indicates the food is fit for human consumption. If it does not say human grade then it can even be meat from animals who were euthanized.

what is in your cat dry food

Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, Turkey Meal, etc – Good

Any meat marked with “MEAL” following it is a good source of actual meat. One of these MUST be the first ingredient listed on your bag. Chicken, Turkey and Lamb, being the gentlest on a cats tummy and the least likely to cause allergies. Fish Meal, such as salmon or tuna, should never be the first ingredient, as fish is high in calcium it may contribute to urinary tract problems.

Meat Meal, Animal Fat, Etc – Bad

Any unspecified meat is mystery meat. It can come from ANY animal that died and was rendered that day. In the past there have been pet foods found with dog or cat in it. When you feed mystery meat, you can contribute to pet allergies as the food will not be consistent from bag to bad. It is best to stick with a consistent meat source.

Corn and Corn Gluten Meal – Bad (if in any of the top 3 positions)

A filler really, corn is of no nutritional value and is a common allergen, especially in dogs. Corn is a carbohydrate, and should never be higher than fourth on your pets food ingredient list. Carbs will make your cat fat!

Chicken By-Products, and by-Products in General – Bad

Cheap filler of low digestibility. By-Products are waste left over by the rendering process. Beaks, feet, undeveloped eggs, intestines and even feathers. Not exactly yummy. But even worse is that by-products are preserved with a nasty chemical pesticide known as Ethoxyquin (see below).

Ethoxyquin – Very Bad

A preservative. It is a chemical pesticide considered so bad it is banned from use in some countries. It may be used on its own or hidden in the by-Product and as such is considered part of the by-product so may or may not appear listed on the ingredient list. Has been linked to health problems.

BHA and BHT – Bad

Cheap chemical preservatives, used in lower quality pet foods. Both have been linked to numerous health problems.

Tocopherols (Vitamin E) – Good

This is a more expensive preservative. It is natural, safe, and will preserve a food up to 12 months.

Rice – Acceptable, with explanation

Rice is a filler, Brown Rice being exceptionally better than Brewers Rice. Rice Flour also being low in value for nutritional purposes.

Yucca – Good

You wont find this in the top spots, it is a lesser ingredient used primarily to help control odor in the litter box. Also believed to help with arthritis.

Flavors and Colors – Bad

Color dyes seve no purpose other than to make the people buy the food. The cat does not care if the pieces are different colors, the chemicals used to make flavors and dyes have been linked to health problems.


There are certainly more ingredients than I have listed, but these are important ones to watch for. Better food is more expensive because of the use of quality ingredients, BUT as a result your pet wont need to eat as much, have fewer health problems, and best of all, have less mess in the litter box.

Every food markets itself as the best! I caution you not to take the advice from any one who sells a particular kind of food (and only one food) they are making money by promoting that food and will only tell you good things. This even includes veterinarians. They are paid to sell certain foods. I do not want to discredit veterinarians knowledge when it comes to helping sick or injured animals but typically they receive little or no training on food brands or ingredients except from food companies who directly approach them to sell their kind of food.

Cats need access to their dry food all the time, and should have canned food when they are kittens. Canned food should be given 1 teaspoon per feeding, ideally mixed with water to make a soup, which will help prevent urinary tract problems. Adult cats may have this mixture once a day. With canned food you will want to avoid the “chunks in gravy” because the gravy is carbohydrates and will contribute to problems you do not want.

Cost does not determine quality. Some food companies inflate their price so you think its better food, others have their prices higher because of paying for veterinarian endorsement. Food made in your own country may be less costly than a product made elsewhere.


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