When picking out food for your cat, it's important to read the labels. You are looking for:
- The words "complete and balanced" - avoid packages that say vague words like "entree" or "platter".
- Main dry-weight ingredient is animal protein, like chicken, fish, liver, or beef. You can find this from the ingredients list - if the first item is not meat, then pass that up for something better for your cat. Adult cats need at least 26% dry weight protein.
- Appropriate life stage - whether your cat is a kitten (under 1 year), adult, senior (over 7 years), etc. Cats in different life stages have different energy needs, so it's important to make sure they are getting a balanced diet.
Now for a lesson in reading the labels. You want to make sure you feed your cats a high grade of food. Even though it's more expensive, it will save you in the long run because your cats will be overall healthier and they'll actually eat less to gain the same amount of nutrition. The general rule of thumb is: if you can buy it at a grocery store, it's probably not good quality. But how do you know for sure? Say we go to the store and see this label (click to make bigger):
The ingredients will list what's in this cat food, from highest percentage to lowest. See here how the highest percentage of the food is "ground yellow corn"? And that meat doesn't appear at all on the list until #3? This means you're actually filling your cat up mostly with CORN, which isn't what your carnivorous animal needs. So I'd bypass this brand and look for something else.
Now let's compare it to a higher-quality, more expensive brand:
The first ingredient in this list (if you can't read it) is "Chicken By-Product Meal". This means it's a good food, since meat is first on the list. Corn doesn't appear until #3, which is good. Also, towards the bottom it reads: AAFCO STATEMENT. AAFCO evaluates animal food by running rigorous tests. Look for AAFCO statements on the label of your cat food, because that means it has been fed to actual animals in controlled tests. On this particular label, it says that AAFCO has determined that this brand provides "complete and balanced nutrition" - two other words that are good to have!
The same concepts apply to dogs as well. The dog trainer we worked with said to look for food that had oatmeal or rice, instead of corn. Later I will try to do a label-comparison about the food that we fed our dogs.
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