Interpreting Cat Food Nutrition Information

Cat owners must know what their pet's cat food nutrition label really means. Many foods on the market contain ingredients that do not benefit cats in any way. Fillers save companies money and are approved by the FDA, but nutritionally, they are simply feline junk food.

Optimal Cat Food Nutrition Includes Water and Protein

Canned cat food is the healthiest option for cats. Canned food contains more water than dry food, which is very important to a cat's urinary tract health. Most canned foods contain 80 percent water.

Dry food, however, is the most economical option. Dry foods do have a limited amount of water, usually 10 percent. If your cat readily drinks water from a bowl, dry cat food is okay.

Calculating the Protein Percentage in Cat Food

Cat food nutrition labels must list the amount of water in their food and the amount of protein. If your cat's dry food contains 10 percent water, you know the dry ingredients count for 90 percent of the food's content. As an example, look at IAMS Healthy Naturals food. It contains 10 percent moisture and 33 percent protein. Because you know 90 percent of the food ingredients are dry matter, you would dived the 33 percent protein by 90 to get the percentage of protein in just the dry matter. The end result is that the food has 36 percent protein after removing the water.

Now look at a can of IAMS chicken and liver cat food. It contains 78 percent water and 10 percent protein, so the dry matter in that food equals 22 percent. When you divide the dry matter by the percentage of protein, the food is 45 percent protein after the water is removed. It contains more protein than dry food making it the better choice for optimal feline nutrition.

Ingredients Found in Cat Food

Knowing the ingredients in commercial cat foods helps you know if you meeting cat nutrition needs.

  • Protein: Usually listed as beef, chicken, lamb or fish. Look for pure protein sources, not by-products or meals. The first ingredient in your cat food should be a meat like chicken or fish for proper cat food nutrition.
  • Meat by-products: Meat by-products include ground flesh from cattle, poultry or lamb. It usually includes their skin, organs, intestines, blood vessels and even the tongue.
  • Poultry by-products: Poultry by-products also include their heads and feet.
  • Fish meal: Typically includes the portions of fish not consumed by humans that is ground into a fine powder and added to cat and dog foods.
  • Ground corn: In essence, ground corn is simply a fine corn meal. Many cats are allergic to corn. It serves no true benefit to a cat.
  • Corn gluten meal: Dried residue of corn after the corn is turned into corn syrup or cornstarch.
  • Wheat gluten: Residue that comes off wheat grains when it is processed for human use. Cats are often allergic to wheat. In addition, it clings to the intestinal tract causing intestinal problems.
  • Brewer's rice: Small pieces of rice after the rice grain is removed for human consumption.

Cat Food Nutrition Needs for Growing Kittens

In terms of kitten nutrition, kittens need a higher fat content that adult cats. It's important to look for foods specifically formulated for kittens to ensure their bodies have the fat, protein and calories they need for physical development. Kittens should receive foods with 50 percent protein and 32 percent fat.