Making an Educated Choice
Cat food manufacturers use a variety of marketing tactics to encourage cat owners to purchase their foods. Many cat food companies are producing products that are marketed as being “natural”, a term which resonates with many cat owners who are seeking healthy choices for their cats. But what does the term “natural” really mean and does it equate with quality nutrition for your cat?
What Does 'Natural' Mean
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed a definition for the types of ingredients that can be referred to as “natural”. These ingredients must be “derived from plant, animal or mined, unprocessed or subject to physical, heat, rendering, purification, extraction, hydrolysis, enzymolysis or fermentation, but not subjected to chemically synthetic process.” According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “for the most part, ‘natural’ can be construed as equivalent to a lack of artificial flavors, artificial colors, or artificial preservatives in the product.”
It's important to realize, however, that the term “natural” does not guarantee the quality of the cat food or that your cat will do well eating the food. Let’s talk about some of the things you need to consider when evaluating a cat food.
1. Is there a Balance of Nutrients?
Your cat’s food needs to be complete and balanced, providing all of the nutrients your cat needs to sustain life and thrive. There are six basic nutrient groups that need to be present in your cat’s food:
Each of these groups of nutrients plays a vital role in making sure your cat’s body function normally, and it is the ingredients in your cat’s food which are the sources for these nutrients. Each ingredient provides a unique set of nutrients. Whether “natural” or not, all the ingredients in your cat’s food contribute to the nutrient balance. No one ingredient can provide a properly balanced food by itself. However, a proper mix of ingredients will provide complete and balanced nutrition for your cat. Without the proper mix of ingredients and the resultant balanced and complete nutrient profile, your cat is at risk for potential illnesses as a result of excesses or deficiencies of specific nutrients. No one item in the ingredients list is more important than any other, even if that ingredient is listed as the first ingredient on the list. An ingredient list simply provides a list of ingredients ranked by weight.
How do natural cat foods measure up? Compare and discover for yourself.
For the complete slideshow on ways to choose quality natural cat food, visit petMD.