How to read the labels on cat food

Knowing how to interpret the labels that are included in the feed packages is essential to be able to choose the most appropriate to the needs of our cat, if we decide on this form of feeding.

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The first thing to know is that all feed is required to be labeled. We will distrust anyone who sells us without him. The label shows the analytical composition of the product, as well as its ingredients. By comparing the labels we can find the highest quality feed.

They report the percentage of protein, fat, fiber, cellulose, ash, moisture, vitamins, amino acids, etc. The amounts are offered raw, which indicates how much the cat will eat but not what percentage it takes advantage of. We must look at the order in which the ingredients appear in the list, because it tells us how much each one is in.



They are a fundamental parameter for cats, but their quantity is not the most important thing. We are interested in its quality, that is, what percentage the cat is able to take advantage of. It’s digestibility . This concept is also related to the type of stool. The higher digestibility, the lower fecal volume because there will be more use and less waste.

To know the origin of the protein we will look at the ingredients. The annotation “cereals” or “cereal by-products” indicates that the origin is vegetable, which is more difficult for the cat to use , unless it has been treated. “Meat meal” refers to all kinds of shredded slaughterhouse waste such as nails, feathers, horns, etc.

Feed can contain animal or vegetable protein or both. Animals are supposed to be better, but it must be taken into account that quality is related to their origin. This can be indicated as “meat”, “by-product” or “by-product”. If this protein is of low quality, there will be better ones of vegetable origin, such as corn gluten.

Proteins can be hydrolyzed , that is, fragmented into the amino acids that compose them, which prevents them from producing allergic reactions. In addition, cereals can be subjected to extrusion processes that achieve, through high temperatures and pressure, that the proteins they contain are somewhat more usable by the cat.

Therefore, the non-extruded feed will be of lower quality. They are distinguished by the fact that the croquettes are more flattened than ball-shaped. Cats will have to eat more of this type of product to get all the nutrients they need. It is essential that the feed contains an adequate amount of the amino acid taurine.



They will enhance the flavor and texture of the feed. Animal fats or vegetable oils can be used. There are saturated or unsaturated ones. Vitamin E helps to preserve fats , acting as an antioxidant, since they can undergo a rancidity process that will degrade them. The unsaturated ones are more recommended.


It is a vegetable ingredient that the cat cannot digest but that is essential for good intestinal transit. This helps avoid constipation or blockage due to hairballs .


The moisture of the feed ranges between 8-10%. These low values ​​are needed to facilitate their conservation because the lack of water prevents the growth of bacteria. Even the best feed must be accompanied by an adequate intake of water.


Vitamins and cereals

The problem with vitamins is that many deteriorate when going through the processes of making feed. For this reason, sometimes the amount indicated on the package is higher than the one that finally results. Some manufacturers do guarantee these amounts in the final product.

The minerals should be chelated to favor their use. The chelation involves binding to an organic molecule so that it facilitates passage of the intestine into the blood.

High levels of calcium and phosphorus may indicate that meat meals with a high percentage of bones have been used. This type of feed is of low quality but, instead of producing more abundant stools, as it would be logical to contain less usable materials, due to the presence of so much bone they will be more compacted.

In addition, an excess of calcium inhibits the absorption of zinc, so it is important, not only the vitamins and minerals that are added, but their proportion to maintain the necessary balance.


Preservatives, colorants or flavorings are ingredients that are used to preserve the feed and give it color and aroma. This makes it more palatable to the cat . A large amount of additives may be masking poor quality feed. The best will be those with less preservatives, colorings and flavorings.

Other feeds add chondroprotectants, essential fatty acids, amino acids, etc., to provide an extra to the food. Also included are acidulants, emulsifiers, stabilizers, flavors, thickeners or sweeteners. In many cases these substances are added for marketing purposes. For example, cats are indifferent to the color of the feed.

Evaluating the quality of a feed


Finally, the best indication that a feed meets our expectations is our cat. A lustrous coat, good health and vitality are the signs that will show us if the chosen feed is the most suitable for it, regardless of the labeling analysis.

In addition to the feed we can feed our cat with wet, dehydrated or homemade food, always taking into account the quality criteria that we have mentioned. Sometimes it is necessary to try several options before finding the food that suits you best.

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