September 28, 2022

Our cat food research methodology

To select the cat foods for this guide, we consulted two veterinary nutritionists and a professor of animal and nutritional sciences. None of these experts recommended specific brands or endorsed any of the products in it, but they helped us understand what makes a high-quality cat food and what to avoid.

We also consulted guidelines and recommendations from Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and the World Small Animal Veterinary Association Global Dietary Guidelinesamong other organizations.

The cat foods selected for this guide were chosen based on the following criteria:

AAFCO Nutritional Sufficiency Statement: The most basic measure of a nutritionally complete cat food is the presence of an AAFCO statement on the label. AAFCO is a non-profit organization that sets standard nutritional requirements for pet food and animal feed. An AAFCO certified cat food is guaranteed to be complete and balanced for a cat at various stages of life. Read more about AAFCO standards on the next slide.

Guaranteed Analysis and Nutrient Profile: The guaranteed analysis consists of the percentages of protein, fat and other important nutrients in a food. Food for adult non-pregnant cats should have at least 26% protein, 9% fat and the presence of essential nutrients, including amino acids such as taurine, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins. There is no minimum fiber or carbohydrate requirement for non-pregnant adult cats, and a complete and balanced diet does not require additional essential nutrients, Okada said.

Swanson told us that cats with failing kidneys require diets that are lower in protein. The less protein a cat with kidney problems has, the less likely it is to accumulate waste products in the blood that make it sick.

If you are looking to compare wet food to kibble, you will find that the guaranteed analysis of wet food does not give you the full picture of how much of these vital nutrients are actually present. Read more about how to decipher the guaranteed analysis for liquid food in How to read a cat food label.

Special preparations: For this guide, we’ve prioritized brands that have a qualified nutritionist on staff that aligns with WSAVA guidelines. Both veterinary nutritionists we spoke to agree.

Always look for pet food manufacturers that employ at least one full-time board-certified veterinary nutritionist or an animal nutritionist with a master’s or doctoral degree.

Brands that manufacture their products under the guidance of a non-staff veterinary nutritionist may not be able to ensure the highest quality standards.

“Pet food production requires a thorough knowledge of pet nutrition, pet food ingredients, processing methods and their effect on nutrients, as well as a good understanding of physiology, chemistry, mathematics, microbiology and biochemistry Okada stated. “My biggest concerns are very small companies that may have the best intentions but very limited experience and technical knowledge.”

Ingredients List: Ingredients on a pet food label are listed in order of weight. Protein in the form of whole meat or meat meal should be first on the ingredients list. Don’t get too attached to the order of the ingredients that follow.

Construction standards: When choosing a brand of cat food, it’s important to consider the manufacturer’s quality control measures and the types of facilities where they produce food. Parker said that information should be easily accessible on a pet food company’s website. If not, you should be able to call the company and get quick answers.

Some smaller pet food companies produce their food in facilities used by larger, more established manufacturers. According to Okada, this is a reliable way to ensure food quality and safety. When in doubt, choose a larger manufacturer with a long history of pet food production. “If there is a problem, it will probably be discovered sooner if the product is widely distributed,” Okada said.

Calorie content: The calorie content of cat food is listed in kilocalories or k/cal. According WSAVA, the average cat weighing between 8 and 10 kg should consume between 230 and 270 kcal/day. The calorie content of a cat food must be clearly stated on its packaging.

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