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How to Decipher Cat Food Product Labels

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How to Decipher Cat Food Product Labels

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

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.).

  • gray and white kitten licking lips ready to eat healthy cat food containing taurine
    gray and white kitten licking lips ready to eat healthy cat food containing taurine

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    The Importance of Taurine in Kitten and Cat Food

    Taurine is an important component found in all IAMS™ kitten and cat foods. This important amino acid is essential for cats of all ages, and critical for healthy development, normal heart muscle function, vision and reproduction. It even aids in digestion!

     

    Unlike other amino acids, taurine is found as a free amino acid in body tissues, such as the heart and eyes, and is not incorporated into proteins.

     

    Most mammals manufacture taurine from other amino acids, but cats and kittens need more than their bodies can produce and rely on their food to make up the difference. Pet food’s animal-based protein ingredients are natural taurine sources, and the amino acid can also be added to pet food recipes on its own.

     

    Why Does IAMS™ Add Taurine to Kitten and Cat Food? 

    All IAMS™ kitten and cat foods are formulated with high-quality animal-based proteins that are naturally rich in taurine as their primary ingredient. So why supplement these foods with additional taurine? Two reasons: natural variability and the production process.

     

    IAMS™ Dry Cat Food: The Natural Variability 

    IAMS™ dry cat and kitten foods include taurine to supplement each food’s primary source of the amino acid — an animal-based protein like chicken, egg, lamb or fish. These natural sources naturally vary in their nutrient content, so adding supplemental taurine helps ensure your cat or kitten is getting enough in their diet every day.

     

    IAMS™ Wet Cat Food: The Production Process 

    For wet food, the canning process itself may affect the complex taurine balance of the food. That means IAMS™ wet cat foods must contain more taurine, as much as twice the taurine found in dry food, to ensure cats are getting enough.

     

    black kitten and white kitten laying on each other under a blanket, relaxed and full on healthy cat food containing taurine

     

    Symptoms of Taurine Deficiency in Cats and Kittens

    Cats and kittens need their taurine! Kittens need taurine for healthy growth and development, and adult cats that don’t get enough taurine can develop serious health conditions. Low levels of taurine put your pet at risk for preventable health conditions that can become serious over time.

     

    Impaired Vision and Blindness 

    Taurine is essential to the proper development and ongoing health of feline eyes, particularly the retinas. Without enough taurine, retinal cells can’t function properly and may die, which can cause impaired vision and even blindness (a process called feline central retinal degeneration).

     

    Heart Disease 

    Taurine plays a key role in supporting cardiovascular health, too. A lack of taurine weakens the heart muscle, which, in turn, can lead to heart failure. This condition is known as dilated cardiomyopathy and can be fatal.

     

    Decreased Reproductive Performance and Growth 

    Optimal reproductive health and growth also rely on taurine to complete a number of important health processes. Maintaining adequate levels during pregnancy, nursing and early growth helps ensure proper structural development for kittens and wellness for the mother.

     

     

    Feeding your pet well is an important part of taking care of them. Learning the importance of ingredients like taurine is one way you can ensure you’re giving them exactly what their body needs. By giving your kitten a healthy start and understanding  their nutritional needs, you’re giving them the best shot at a long, healthy and happy future. Your cat would thank you if they could!

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