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How to Decipher Cat Food Labels

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Most of us check ingredients and nutritional information on packaging when buying food for our pets. However, reading the nutritional data on a cat food label can get confusing. So, how do you know whether your pet is getting the right food for a healthy body? In this blog, we look at what you can expect to find on a cat food nutrition label and help you improve your understanding of this information. 


What Information Do Cat Food Labels Contain?

Cat food labels provide limited information regarding the nutritional value of the package contents. It is important for customers to know what can and cannot be determined from the label, and what information is particularly important. Major components of a pet food label include:

  • Guaranteed Analysis

  • Company/Customer Service Information/Satisfaction

  • Ingredient Panel

  • Manufacturing Code, Expiration, or 'Best Used By' Information

  • Feeding Instructions

  • AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy

Guaranteed Analysis

Values in the guaranteed analysis are expressed as either minimum or maximum. A maximum guarantee (% max) means at most this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. A minimum guarantee (% min) means at least this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. The following four nutrients must be included on all pet food labels:

  • Crude Protein (% min)
  • Crude Fiber (% max)
  • Ingredient Panel
  • Crude Fat (% max)
  • Moisture (% max)


For example, a cat food with a 25% minimum crude protein guarantee should contain at least 25% protein but could contain much more. The only way to determine the actual amount is by laboratory analysis.
Other information may be guaranteed on cat food products, such as magnesium (% max), taurine (% min), ash (% max), and linoleic acid (% min).

  • The guaranteed analysis is an important tool when beginning to compare cat food formulas, but it doesn't provide meaningful nutritional information. Using information on the energy content and nutrient density of a food is the only way to properly compare cat foods. This information is available from the manufacturer.


Levels Of Cat Food Regulation

  1. AAFCO

Animal-feed laws, particularly those pertaining to pet food, are dealt with by AAFCO. AAFCO is a coalition of governmental organisations in North America that aids in regulating animal food. Cat food with AAFCO label has an assurance that certain standards have been followed while manufacturing the food. Therefore, the food is said to meet the nutritional levels required by your pet. MARS pet food too complies with the standards of AAFCO and is nutritionally sound for your pet.

Ingredient Panel

Ingredients must be listed in order of abundance (largest quantity listed first).

Because ingredient definitions and designations are standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests. 

Here is the information that is required on a cat food label

  • Overview: The brand name is usually included along with the list of names of the main ingredient(s), such as rice and chicken.
  • Distributor Name and Address: This gives you information about the manufacturer of the food, so that you can get in touch with them if you have any issues about the product.

  • Net Weight: This tells you how much food is contained in the package.

  • Ingredient List: The ingredients are listed in decreasing order, depending on the weight of the contents.

  • Product Traceability: Using the information on cat food label, you can identify when the food was prepared and even the precise factory that made the package. 

  • Statement of Nutritional Adequacy: A ‘complete and balanced’ cat food should either meet or exceed the defined standards of nutrient profile. It explains which exact cat age and lifestyle the food is meant for. 

  • Assurance of Analysis: This indicates the product’s nutritional content. It must contain the highest amounts of crude fiber and moisture and the minimum amounts of crude protein and crude fat. Although optional, percentages for other nutrients are frequently included. However, the key elements mentioned in the assured analysis of the cat food nutrition label must meet AAFCO’s nutrient profile guidelines.

  • Calorie Declaration: Calories are stated on a kilocalorie per kilogram basis and other commonly used units of measurement such as kilocalories per cup. You can compare several cat food products using this information.

  • Direction for Feeding: You can use these recommendations to figure out how much food to give your cat each day. Additionally, you might need to change the amount of food your pet consumes to assist them in maintaining an ideal body condition.


AAFCO Statement Of Nutritional Adequacy

AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements are required on all pet foods. Products may either be formulated or tested according to AAFCO procedures and recommendations.

  • A 'formulated' statement means the product has been manufactured according to AAFCO nutritional guidelines, but not actually fed to cats prior to sale.
  • A 'tested' statement indicates the product has been formulated, then fed to cats prior to sale to ensure it meets important criteria related to growth, maintenance, and/or reproduction. 

    Veterinary-exclusive products include statements such as, 'This product is intended for intermittent feeding only' and 'Use only as directed by your veterinarian.'



Manufacturing And 'Best Used By' Codes

Manufacturing codes allow the company to track products for quality and inventory issues. In order to quickly and efficiently handle a customer inquiry, the company's customer service department will usually ask the customer for this code.

Expiration or 'Best Used By' dates are optional but are helpful in determining product freshness and shelf life.


How To Read A Cat Food Nutrition Label

Here are a few tips to help you read a cat food nutrition label. 

  • Check the name of the product: This tells you the type of cat food. Typically, a key component or flavour is highlighted in the product name.
  • Know the intent or purpose: The food must state that it is for cats on the container. Cats have highly specific nutritional requirements that necessitate a certain type of diet.

  • Choose the right product for your cat: The information on the back of the cat food container is extremely important. You can determine whether the food will offer a complete and balanced diet for your cat’s life stage by reading the nutritional adequacy statement. The term 'life stage' describes a cat's particular stage of growth. The information can also state that the food is suitable for cats at all life stages, for breeding cats (growth and reproduction), and, possibly, for indoor or outdoor cats.


Company Information And Satisfaction Guarantee

The manufacturer's information should include the company name, address, and phone number so customers can quickly and easily obtain product information.

A toll-free telephone number should be provided as a convenience to the customer and to ensure that a charge is not incurred when calling for information.

The satisfaction guarantee should be an 'active' statement. This means that in addition to stating that the product is guaranteed, the company should indicate what action will be taken to meet customer expectations (replace product, money returned, etc.).


  1. What Percentage Of Cat Food Should Be Protein?
  2. According to AAFCO guidelines, cat food should have a minimum of 26% protein content on a dry matter basis. This portion is typically regarded as complete and nutritionally balanced.

  3. What's The Difference Between +1 And +7 Cat Food?
  4. The difference between +1 and +7 cat food is the high fiber content in +7 cat diets. Despite having the same proportions of protein, fat, and minerals as adult cat diets (+1), senior cat foods (+7) have fewer calories than food for cats aged 1+ years.

  5. What Is Not Required On A Cat Feed Tag?
  6. Details about the quality of food ingredients are not required on a cat feed tag. 

  7. Is Pet Food Regulated By The FDA?
  8. Yes. The production of cat and dog food as well as other dog treats or snacks are all regulated by the FDA. 

  • All About Kitten Fleas
    All About Kitten Fleas
    All About Kitten Fleas

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    When you snuggle up to your new feline friend and notice them scratching a tad too often, it might be a sign of kitten fleas. Along with causing itching and discomfort, this dreaded parasite can also transmit diseases. In fact, during extreme cases, fleas can even cause anemia, especially in little ones like kittens. However, don't worry, we have the purrfect guide for you to handle these pesky invaders.


    Kitten flea remedy

    • Assessing your kitten's flea situation

    Before jumping to any kitten flea remedy, you must evaluate the situation. Depending on your kitten's age and weight, your approach will vary.

    Points to remember:

    1. Kittens under 12 weeks should not be introduced to chemical flea prevention products.

    2. Always check product guidelines to ensure they are suitable for your kitten’s age and weight.

    3. Only use products designed for cats, as our feline friends process chemicals differently than dogs.

    • Effective steps to tackle fleas on kittens

    1. Comb your kitten: A fine comb can effectively remove visible fleas.

    2. Bathe your kitten: If your kitten is of suitable age, use a flea and tick shampoo made for sensitive skin. For younger kittens, you might want to try non-medicated, tear-free soaps like a baby shampoo.

    3. Clean the environment: Your battle against fleas isn't just on your kitten. Wash all bedding in hot soapy water and vacuum carpeted areas thoroughly. Empty vacuum bags or canisters outside. Sprays can help eradicate fleas and their eggs indoors.

    4. Protect the Yard: Even if your kitten is an indoor kitty, fleas might sneak in from outside. Using sprays can be an effective way to safeguard your yard.

    • Safe flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks

    When it comes to flea treatment for kittens under 12 weeks, options can be limited. Young kittens are particularly sensitive, and many treatments suited for adult cats can be harmful to them. Here's how to proceed:

    1. For kittens under 8 weeks old, your safest bet is to use a flea comb. This tool, when dipped in hot, soapy water between brushes, can help you physically remove and kill off adult fleas.

    2. Another effective method for very young kittens is bathing. A gentle bath with warm water and a fragrance-free dish liquid or natural baby shampoo can be effective in reducing the flea population. However, be sure to make this a quick affair to prevent your kitten from getting overly cold or scared.

    • Essential oils: Not always a kitten's best friend

    Natural sounds great, doesn't it? But here's a cat-sized caution: Avoid essential oils as a kitten flea remedy. Many essential oils are toxic to cats, even in minimal doses. Some flea treatments boasting 'natural' ingredients might contain these oils, which could pose risks for your kitten. Always read labels and, when in doubt, consult with your vet.

    • Safeguarding kittens from fleas: Age-appropriate treatments

    For kittens older than 8-10 weeks and weighing more than 1.5-2 pounds, topical treatments become an option. A golden rule here is always to ensure the chosen product matches your kitten's age and weight.

    • Picking the best kitten flea treatment

    It's essential to strike a balance between effectiveness and safety. Prescription treatments from your veterinarian typically offer the most robust protection against fleas. However, there are over-the-counter options available, which might be more accessible for some pet owners. No matter your choice, the key is to read labels carefully and avoid harmful ingredients, such as permethrin and certain essential oils.

    Fleas might be pesky, but with knowledge, patience, and the right tools, you can keep your kitten flea-free and happy. Always keep your veterinarian in the loop and ensure any treatment or remedy you use is age and weight appropriate. Remember, a flea-free kitten is a happy kitten!