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:
Company/Customer Service Information/Satisfaction
Manufacturing Code, Expiration, or 'Best Used By' Information
AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy
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
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.
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.).
- What Percentage Of Cat Food Should Be Protein?
- What's The Difference Between +1 And +7 Cat Food?
- What Is Not Required On A Cat Feed Tag?
- Is Pet Food Regulated By The FDA?
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.
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.
Details about the quality of food ingredients are not required on a cat feed tag.
Yes. The production of cat and dog food as well as other dog treats or snacks are all regulated by the FDA.
- adp_description_block244Your Cat’s Language: What Meows, Chirps and Yowls Mean
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Listen up, Mom or Dad, because your feline definitely has something to say. Cats use more than 100 different vocal sounds to communicate. Here are nine of the most common sounds you’ll hear and what your cat’s unique language means.
While your cat’s purrs are usually a sign that they’re happy, comfortable or content, it’s important to point out that your cat might also purr when they are anxious, agitated or sick — because purring soothes them. The key to figuring out if it’s a “worry purr” is to check if their ears are folded back, if they seem tense or if they just aren’t acting normal. (If that’s the case, call the vet and grab the cat carrier.)
Why do cats meow? It’s simple: It’s their way of communicating with us!
Meows are your cat’s most common “word,” and every one means something different. For example, your cat might meow to greet you when you come home, to ask you to open your bedroom door so they can curl up on your pillow, or to say, “I’d like some more tasty kibble or a second serving of IAMS® PERFECT PORTIONS™ paté, s’il vous plaît.”
Chirps and Trills
Chirps and trills are the loving language of cat mothers. Chirps, or chirrups, are staccato, bird-like sounds mother cats use to say to their kittens, “Follow me.” Trills are higher-pitched chirps your cat uses to say hello or “Pay attention to me.” When your cat directs these sounds at you, chances are they want you to give them some love or follow them somewhere, usually to their food or water bowl. (Shocker, LOL.)
If you have more than one feline fur baby, listen closely. You’ll likely hear your cats talk to each other with these sounds.
When your kitty spies an unsuspecting bird or squirrel frolicking outside the window, they might make a chattering sound at it. This distinctive, repetitive clicking noise is caused by a combination of lip smacking and your cat rapidly vibrating their lower jaw. This odd behavior looks like teeth chattering, and a lot of cats also chirp when they chatter.
This clickety sound is thought to be a mix of predatory excitement and frustration at not being able to get to the elusive feathered or furry prize. Some animal behaviorists even think the sound mimics a fatal bite used to break the bones of their prey. Who knew your li’l feline was so ferocious?!
Regardless of the exact reason cats chatter or chirp at birds and other small animals, most feline parents find it fascinating and amusing to watch.
The unmistakable sound of a cat hissing is like a steak hitting a hot skillet, and it can only mean one thing: Your cat feels threatened and will put up a fight if they have to. Just as important as the hissing sound, however, is the cat body language that comes with it. Your cat will flatten their ears, arch their back, puff their fur, twitch their tail and usually open their mouth to flash their fangs — aka the classic defensive pose.
Snarls and Growls
In addition to a hiss, if your cat makes a deep, guttural growlsound, they’re saying, “Back off.” Similar to a dog’s growl, this noise means your cat is annoyed, scared or angry. Some cats even make short, higher-pitched snarl sounds before launching into a full-blown growl.
While these sounds usually signify an unhappy cat, it’s important to note that some cats growl because they’re in pain from an injury or a health problem. If you suspect this is the case, a trip to the vet is in order.
If your feline snarls or growls at you for any reason, though, it’s best to leave your feisty friend alone.
A yowl, or howl, is a long, drawn-out meow that almost sounds like moaning; it’s your cat’s way of telling you they’re worried or distressed, or that they need you. They might have gotten locked in a closet, can’t find you anywhere or, heaven forbid, have discovered their food bowl is empty. Your cat might also yowl when they don’t feel well or when a new neighborhood cat trespasses on their turf.
Whatever the reason, make sure you immediately help your cat whenever you hear a yowl. Trust us — you’ll both be glad you did.
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