How to Spot Problem Ingredients in Cat Food.

Nov 16th, 2009
Most people assume that all cat food sold is healthy for their pet. This is not true, the pet food standards are very low and some foods only meet them and offer problem ingredients too.

Cats should not have milk, or dairy (most cats are lactose intolerant). Cats should not have dog food (among other faults it is low in protein). Cats should not eat mice (they carry worms). These are all things most cat owners know, but most owners would be surprised to learn that many cat foods contain ingredients that cats simply should not have.

Some rules of thumb are:

Grocery stores and department stores generally do not sell good food.

Pets have to eat more of the lower quality food to get the same level of nutrition as in better foods.

Some cats never show problems related to food ingredients, others experience allergies, vomiting, diarrhea, increased shedding, or have health problems later in life.

Cheap foods spend their money on advertising, not nutrition.

A glossy coat does not indicate a good food, only one that uses fat to give the pet a shiny coat.

If somebody only sells one brand of food, they will usually tell you it is the best, you need to read the ingredient list yourself.

Good foods often boast of containing Human Grade Meat and ingredients.

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http://www.flickr.com/photos/mmechtley/2813791136/  By the way, cats (and dogs) should never be fed out of plastic bowls. 

Let us look at Problem Ingredients:

BHA and BHT

These are cheap preservatives used in the lower quality pet foods. They keep food fresher than the better preservative, Vitamin E (tocopherols), but have been linked to many health problems in pets, including cancers, digestive problems, and so forth.

By-Products

By-Products are essentially waste matter, things that are not considered meat. The AAFCO notes that this may be lungs, spleen, brains, bone, etc. even cancerous tumors. Unfortunately meat by-products can also include (legally in the USA) things like chicken feet, feathers, and beaks, road kill (including cats and dogs), and collars. But that is not the worst part of meat by-products. The by-products are preserved with a chemical pesticide known as Ethoxyquin. This product is actually banned from use in some countries such as Japan, due to the health risks associated with it. It has been linked to cancer, liver and kidney problems and many others. Ethoxyquin is often considered part of the by-product so may not be listed on the ingredient list itself.

Corn

Cats are carnivores, corn has no place being in the first three ingredient spots on a cat food ingredient list. If so it means the cat must eat more food to get any nutrition.

Dyes

Artificial color serves no benefit to the cat and is strictly used for marketing purposes, to appeal to owners. However some dyes have been shown to cause allergies or behavior abnormalities.

Ethoxyquin

As mentioned above in by-products, this chemical pesticide is used as a cheap preservative and has been linked to many health problems.

Fish

Although people assume cats like fish, and they do, it has no business being in cat food. Calcium, from fish bones, contributes to urinary tract problems in adult cats, and tuna is far too high in mercury. Many food companies use fish to give their food a smell that is appealing to cats.

Gravy

This applies to canned food that offers “chunks in gravy”. Gravy is carbohydrates, fattening and unnecessary in a cat food.

Meat Meal

This is an unspecified meat source, not to be confused with known meat sources such as Chicken Meal, Lamb Meal, and so forth. Meat meal is a problem because it means that the food could contain any rendered animal and will be inconsistent bag to bag. One bag might be goat, the other cattle.

Those are pretty much the key problem ingredients to watch out for. Chances are if a food has one problem causer it has several.

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Brenda Nelson
Brenda attended Olds College to study Horses, working with Arabian horses for several years.  She later went into Animal Welfare and worked in an SPCA for five years.  She wrote a weekly pet newspaper column before moving to a hobby farm. Says Brenda…
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