What to Look for in a Cat Food Analysis

Cat food analysis may seem like a confusing and somewhat daunting idea to a cat owner. To get the most information out of the labels on your cat’s food, let’s look at what goes into a cat's diet and a cat food analysis.

Protein Is Important for a Healthy Cat

First, let’s look at the components of a balanced feline diet. Healthy cats need protein, amino acids, vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fatty acids and water to maintain good health.

Protein can come from chicken, fish, turkey or other meats, or the organs of these animals. Muscle meat is better than organ meat because it contains a higher biologic value, which means that the muscle meat contains a higher level of usable amino acids than organ meat does.

The most important amino acid cats require is taurine. Taurine is found in meat, but it is missing in plant proteins. Cats that do not receive adequate levels of taurine in their diet may develop a heart problem called cardiomyopathy, or they may become blind. Other amino acids your cat needs in her diet include arginine, histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine.

Vitamins, Minerals and Fatty Acids Also Play Roles

Cats require both fat-soluble and water-soluble vitamins in their diets. Vitamins, A, D, E and K are fat-soluble, while the B vitamins and vitamin C are water-soluble. Cats also need minerals, such as calcium, potassium, zinc, magnesium, iron and phosphorus, in their diets for good health.

Your cat’s diet must contain some essential fatty acids because her body cannot make them independently. These include linoleic acid, arachidonic acid, and other Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids. These dietary components help maintain your pet’s coat, keep her kidneys working properly and reduce inflammation caused by allergies, arthritis or inflammatory bowel disease.

The Obligate Carnivore Issue

Although carbohydrates are often added to both dry and canned cat foods, cats do not require them to maintain good health. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a meat-based diet supplemented with water to remain in good health. Vegetarian diets are inappropriate and unhealthy for cats because their bodies are not designed to process proteins from vegetable sources as effectively as proteins from animal sources.

What to Look for on a Food Label

Now let’s look at a food label to see what’s contained on it and what you can learn from it.

The first thing you’ll probably see is the name of the product. This information will include the food brand, the type of animal it’s designed to feed, the weight of the product in the package, the principal protein source in the food and the life stage it is designed for (e.g., kitten, adult, geriatric).

One of the next things to look for is the ingredient list. This provides you the ingredients used to make the food in the order in which they appear.

The guaranteed analysis is another important part of a food label. It contains information on the amount of protein, fat, carbohydrates, water and various minerals. The recommended amounts of these dietary components are established by the American Feed Control Officials.

Another important part of the food label is the feeding instructions. Here you will find the recommended portion size and the frequency of feeding. Use this information to plan your cat’s diet accordingly so that you don’t feed your pet too much or too little.