What you should know about cat food



A few weeks ago we received a mail from consumeradvocate.org, USA, with  their "Guide to find the best food option for your cat's specific needs", based on more than 100 hours of research, interviews with experts, 50 sources, 20 companies and 461 foods examined.


Analyzing ingredients and protein quality, safety and recalls, certifications and guaranteed analysis.


They discarded raw and lyophilized foods because they are not as safe as processed ones and may be at risk of contamination by bacteria (eg salmonella) and parasites; BARF and home cooked food  (althought it can be an interesting option, if you have time and do it right - consulting a veterinarian specializing in nutrition), and diets for different health problems, considering it should be a vet who determines the right diet.


* Note: Of 114 recipes on the internet and in cookbooks, ALL were missing at least one essential nutrient (including Taurine and Vitamin D) - and a deficit or surplus in vitamins and minerals can put your cat's health at serious risk.



The complete study, with a list of 9 recommended US products, at: www.consumersadvocate.org/cat-food.


 Although their general advices serve wordwide, the study is based on US products and legislation. That’s why we added lots of hours more of our own resarch, regarding also Europe. And some other points that concern us, as "trendy" ingredients, like cranberries. That something is good for us doesn’t mean it’s for them, for having different nutritional needs and a different metabolism.



Let's start then ... with the headlines




As it’ll be a rather long post, we’ll divide it into blocks, with the most important and links to expanded information on the same page below.





  • As the term indicates, the pet food industry is an economic activity to meet our  (who are the ones to  decide for our animals) needs. And, as everywhere, there are also companies who put their profits before the nutrition and health of our pets.
  • Make sure the food is adequate to the nutritional needs according to the physical condition and age of our cat.
  • Although it’s cheaper, don't buy very large bags of kibble. Even if it has a several months' expire date, it can become contaminated and / or lose nutrients.
  • Choose a food with an animal protein as the first ingredient, noting that the kind / name of the meat is especified, and it’s not not by-products or mystery meat.
  • Raw materials are listed by law in decreasing order of weight, so the first 3-5 ingredients contain most nutrients.
  • Avoid sub-products (meal of… etc.), coloring, or preservatives.
  • Choose preferably wet food (+ humidity  / - calories) or supplement the dry with water or broth. Cats are obligate carnivores and in the wild  their prey provides them with many proteins, some carbohydrates and water (muscle meat has 67%).  See also: 3 studies that help to improve your cat's health  and Does your cat drink enough?
  • Don’t let the marketing fool you: "Gourmet" or "premium", "healthy" etc., or even "grain-free" does not necessarily indicate quality.
  • Look where the food is manufactured and if the company had to make recalls of its products.
  • Look at what they put on the label




mandatory data on the label

that, according to the FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation) and the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) and the applicable laws * must specify:

  • Product description (eg complete food).
  • Animal species / category for which the food is intended (eg kittens, adult dogs etc.)
  • Feeding Directions: Amount of product per (weight) of dog / cat.
  • Ingredient Statement, listed in order of predominance by weight, in%.
  • Analytical components /  Guaranteed Analysis: Lists the percentage of certain nutrients (mandatory declaration depends on the type of food and / or the target animal species): For cat and dog food: Protein, crude fiber, fat, inorganic matter (raw ash) and moisture.
  • Name and address of the manufacturer or distributor.
  • Quantity Statement: net weight or net volumen.


The mandatory EU labeling also includes:

  • Additives (only those with maximum legal value).
  • GMO notice (produced from compounds of or containing GMOs).
  • PARNUTS / Food intended for specific nutrition objectives / Dietary foods
  • Contact information where the consumer can obtain extended information on the composition (toll-free telephone number, e-mail or Internet address).
  • Traceability tools (batch number and producer establishment authorization number)
  • Minimum durability date (use (preferably before ... »date: (day), month and year.





In the European Union there have been harmonized regulations since 1970 for all Member States.

The FEDIAF (European Pet Food Industry Federation) cooperates closely with the authorities, editing Good Practice Guides/strong> and has on its website a list of European legislation and other applicable or relevant standards.


In the US, the market is regulated by state and federal laws, which the AAFCO (National Association of Pet Food Manufacturers) tries to match as much as possible. It also has a Guide for Labeling.



EU legislation allows for the cat and dog food only proteins of animal origin from animals declared fit for human consumption before slaughter or controlled fish and shellfish.


This doesn’t mean that there are not companies, whose commercial success is more based on marketing and less on the ingredients of their products, which use from these animals by-products such as skins, horns, feet, bristles or feathers, and on top of that promoting the use of the latter in milled form, as a source of hypo-allergic protein. And with very high prices, paying the consumer - as in many brands - first of all the name and advertising).


On the other hand, producers who use only ingredients and meats suitable for human use, cannot declare their products like this, if they are not manufactured in a processing plant for human food.




tool for comparing analytics of wet and dry food

We know how difficult it is to compare different food types. So maybe the ONLINE DRY MATTER CALCULATOR (referred in the consumersadvocate.org study), which converts any value listed as a percentage from wet to dry food, may be helpful to you.




grain free food

Grain-Free diets have become very popular over the last decade. BUT...


Grain-Free doesn’t mean Carbohydrate-Free.

  • Grain-Free productos use instead legumes, potatoes, sweet potatoestapioca, and vegetables.
  • According to new research probably their high content of legumes produces low levels of taurin, an essential amino acid, and cardiomyopathy (at least in dogs).
  • Grain and gluten allergies are very rare in cats (normally they're allergic to animal protein / meat, poultry, milk).
  • The substituent ingredients of the grain have different nutritional profiles and digistibility, affecting the metabolism of other nutrients.
  • And most importantly there are no studies about the use and safety of these alternative ingredients as cat food.


If you are looking for a low carbohydrate diet, switch to quality wet food.




fruits, herbs and other 'fashion' ingredients

Exotic ingredients are in vogue, with a "healthy" marketing that presents them as better, WITHOUT studies on their safety, toxicity, long-term effects, positive / negative effects on the animal health of dogs and cats.


FRUITS & VEGETABLES in an obligate carivore's diet.

The argument that in nature cats consume vegetables and fruits, contained in the stomach and intestine of their prey, no takes into account that in this case, they are pre-digested by the prey's own enzymes - enzymes that a cat lacks.



My personal experience:

Years ago, a dry food, with an ingredient as little "exotic" as apple, despite making a correct transition, adding small amounts increasing to the usual diet, my 3 cats reacted with diarrhea, which was cut immediately when we discarded the new kibbles.




which appearance in the animal feed industry has a curious history - not very different from the tradition of the 12 lucky grapes in Spain. *


In 2005 a market analysis from the Center for Business Research, University of the Massachusetts Dartmouth stated that the USAs 377 million cats, dogs and other pets represent a potentially explosive new market for the cranberry industry  (at the time with a production superior to the demand). And recommended starting a campaign to convince the pet food manufacturers of their health benefits.



And, not only because of this I have my doubts ...


In more than 30 years adquiring cat knowledge, I’d always understood that

 Benzoic acid (component of cranberries)  IS TOXIC TO CATS.


and in fact prohibited as pet food preservative in Germany.


Symptoms of poisoning include: Salivation, vomiting, difficulty breathing, apathy, muscle tremors, diarrhea, seizures, hesitant walking, loss of consciousness.

And, although doses in pet food are minimal, in the long run I don't think it's good.




Cranberries & Urinary Health - Just a market, good marketing and fashion?


The action of cranberries (prevent bacterial adhesion to the bladder wall by means of proanthocyanidins

  • only works with E.coli
  • and only with certain strains of E.coli (with fimbriae)
  • only has been demonstrated ‘in vitro’ 


In CATS, infections are often idiopathic, as a result of stress.

In dogs, only 44% of urinary tract infections are caused by E.coli.

Therefore, in both cases, especially if there are frequent or chronic infections, bacterial cultures are important.


There is currently NO scientific evidence showing the benefit of cranberries in cats and only a few data in dogs.




But there is still (something disconcerting) more:


Does the supposed remedy precipitate the disease?


The high levels of  oxalate in cranberries are detrimental to urinary infections in cats that already had oxalate crystals / stones or are predisposed to it.


As vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in food for the urinary tract, which acidifies the urine, making it less favorable for bacteria, produces oxalates upon decomposition, increasing the risk.





recalls & safety

The EU has one of the highest food safety standards in the world. Most probably because of this there are much less food recalls than in the USA (from 2007 to 2019 24 versus 223).  More info...




Careful with broth and baby food

Adding broth to the kibble improves hydration and stimulates cats with unwillingness to eat. The ideal is to make it at home, without salt. Commercial broths usually have a high level of sodium and eventually carry garlic and / or onion and / or leek (all toxic  to cats), as also do baby food jars, sometimes used for sick cats.



Whenever you buy or cook food for your cat - PLEASE KEEP IN MIND THAT FELINES ARE A DIFFERENT SPECIES. 

What is good and healthy for you, may be bad for them. 





Additional information



In July 2019 the Food and Drug Administration. (FDH), USA (published a report, which relates certain dog food ingredients with canine dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in 560 dogs, and 14 cats (of which 114 and 5 respectively died). On the list are many “grain-free” foods, with a high content of peas, lentils, other leguminous seeds or potatoes among its top 10 ingredients.

As the investigation has not yet been completed and problems with cat food have not been ruled out, we recommend caution.




2017 study, published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery:

Cross-sectional study of 77 diets of dry cats (42 with grain, 35 grain-free) randomly selected. Although generally the grainless ones had a lower carbohydrate content, there was a considerable overlap between the groups, varying the free carbohydrate / nitrogen extracts individually widely.





FEDIAF Guide of good practices for the manufacture of safe food for pets, developed in accordance with Art. 22 of Regulation 183/2005 and supported by the Directorate General of Health and Food Safety of the European Commission.



FEDIAF Code of Good Practice for Labeling of Pet Food



AAFCO Pet Food Labeling Guide






History of pet food racalls from 2007-2019:


Listings of RASFF (Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed), Europe



Listings of the FDH (Food and Drug Administration), USA



You can also check the list of






The Spanish "tradition" of beginning the New Year taking the "12 grapes of luck", one to each stroke of the clock at midnight, dates from little more than a century back: In 1909 there was a surplus of grapes in Alicante and Murcia, and some clever farmers began selling them as "of luck". And nowadays an entire nation eats grapes to have it in the year to come.