Red Flags To Avoid When Choosing Food for Your Cat

Kitten with head tilted

There is a lot of misinformation online about which ingredients to avoid in pet food.  As pet parents, we tend to be swayed by ingredients that sound appealing to us and by creative marketing claims. You may have heard that pet foods containing ‘meat by-products’ or ‘chicken meal’ are ‘bad.’ But, on the contrary, these ingredients are commonly used in pet food as they provide an excellent source of nutrition, reduce waste, and the FDA strictly controls their quality.

Though the ingredients list doesn’t tell us the nutritional value of particular pet food, here are some red flags to avoid:

Red Flag One: No AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement

High-quality cat food should be labeled ‘complete and balanced’ and contain an Association of Animal Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional adequacy statement. AAFCO sets the standards for pet nutrition in the US based on current scientific research. Make sure to check the label, as not all companies measure up.

Diets can either be analyzed to check the formulation meets the calculated AAFCO nutritional standards on paper or undergo a feeding trial. Though feeding trials do not precisely replicate years of daily feeding, they are still considered the gold standard in pet food testing.

Reg Flag Two: Very few ingredients

While pet food marketing often appeals to our desire to feed our pets in a similar way that we would want to eat, pet food should contain necessary nutrients, especially vitamins and minerals. A smaller list of ingredients doesn’t necessarily equate to a superior option for your cat.

Red Flag Three: Missing taurine on the ingredients list.

Taurine is an essential amino acid required by cats. Without it, your cat can develop severe diseases. It would be incredibly rare to find a diet on the market that doesn’t contain taurine, given its well-documented role in feline health and nutrition; however, it doesn’t hurt to check!

Red Flag Four: Vegan or Vegetarian Diets

Cats are obligate carnivores meaning they require meat in their diet to meet their unique nutritional demands. This means cats cannot be fed a vegan or vegetarian diet. This doesn’t mean that they need to be provided an entirely meat-based diet, as they also require carbohydrates and other essential nutrients from plant sources as part of a complete and balanced diet.

Red Flag Five: ‘Exotic’ ingredients

‘Exotic’ ingredients such as rabbit, venison, bison, and lentils are not necessarily bad for cats, but they haven’t been extensively studied. They may be appropriate for animals with allergic skin disease or dietary sensitivity as a novel protein or carbohydrate source.

Nutrition is important for the health and well-being of your cat. With countless options available, choosing high-quality cat food can be overwhelming. For more information, check out our article  “Choosing a Good Cat Food”.