What to look for (and avoid) in cat food

These days, convenience is everything. We can get almost anything we need at the grocery store, from produce to toilet paper. Sometimes convenience can come at a cost, as is the issue with many store-bought pet foods. These formulas oftentimes contain controversial or harmful ingredients and may not have a high-quality source of protein as an ingredient. To help guide you toward a safe and nutritious option, the team at Reviews.com looked at over 1700 cat food formulas to find out what to look for and avoid in cat food.

Look for an identifiable meat as the first ingredient

Pet food ingredients are listed in order of highest content (by weight) to lowest content, so an identifiable meat source should appear very first. Avoid formulas that include “meat meal” or “meat byproduct,” which are undetermined sources of protein (more on this below).

(what are you feeding your cat graphic)

Look into the company or brand’s origin and recall history

Pet foods that are made in the US, Canada, and New Zealand abide by strict guidelines for pet food manufacturing. While that doesn’t mean that all other sources are unhealthy, it’s hard to know for sure how foods from other origins are being made.

Considering a new brand? Check out the company’s recall history here to ensure they don’t have a recent or recurring issue with recalls. It’s a good idea to do some good old fashion internet searching on the topic as well because not all safety issues end in a formal recall. This article from Huffington Post discusses some of the important recent controversy and lobbying surrounding pet food regulation in the US.

Avoid artificial ingredients, preservatives, and dyes

  • BHA (preservative) – increases risk of certain types of tumors
  • BHT (preservative) – increases risk of cancer in animals
  • Caramel Coloring (dye) – many types of caramel color contain 4-Methylimidazole, known to increase lung cancer
  • Ethoxyquin (preservative) – the side effects of this chemical are hard to identify. Rates of present Ethoxyquin in pet foods are hard to determine, as it is often added to fish and fish meals. The FDA has a set level that they allow, but it’s hard to know if pet foods exceed this threshold
  • Sodium Nitrite (controversial ingredient) – creates carcinogenic compounds in processing
  • Vitamin K3/Menadione (synthetic vitamin) – toxic to the liver and other organs over long periods of time

Avoid controversial or questionable ingredients

  • Brewers Rice – a milling byproduct used as a filler, may deplete cat’s taurine stores, leading to lead deficiency
  • Carrageenan and Carrageenan Gum – suspected inflammatory and carcinogenic effects
  • Garlic – can lead to hemolytic anemia in cats
  • Gluten – may cause GI issues, allergies, and asthma
  • Meat byproduct and meat meal – this means that the meat source is undetermined and could be zoo animals or roadkill or even euthanized animals from shelters
  • Ocean Fish – one of the top cat food allergens and may contain mercury and other toxins
  • Rendered fat – may come from any number of animals (diseased, disabled, or roadkill)
  • Soybean – may cause food allergies, GI issues, bloat, etc.
  • Sugar – not an essential nutrient to be added to pet food, may contribute to obesity and diabetes
  • Xanthan Gum – not an essential nutrient, may cause diarrhea in high doses

These guidelines are a means by which to find a great pet food, but the choice is ultimately up to what works best for your budget, your pet, and your pocketbook. Consult your veterinarian with any questions about your pet’s unique dietary needs. For more information about choosing a cat food, or to see which formulas the team at Reviews.com recommends, you can take a look at the full article here: https://www.reviews.com/cat-food/

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