There are several things to consider when judging the quality of a canned cat food, but the ingredients list is the most important thing to evaluate. Before you look at the ingredients list, however, you should check for one basic thing – an AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy. The American Association of Feed Control Officials is a group of agencies and organizations that help to regulate and monitor the production of animal feed including pet foods. AAFCO performs feed trials and laboratory tests to determine whether or not a particular product meets the minimum nutritional requirements for pets in various life stages (baby, adult, and senior). If a canned food product meets the basic nutritional requirements for cats as determined by AAFCO, it will have a on the label that reads something like the following:
If the product does not meet the basic nutritional needs for cats, it will not carry this statement on the label and you should look elsewhere. If it does have the statement, however, you can move on to the next stage of evaluation and take a look at the ingredients list. To get a quick idea whether a canned food product is of high or low quality you should look at the top five ingredients on the list.
The ingredients list on pet food products will be organized in descending order by volume – this means that the ingredients present in the highest quantities will be at the beginning of the list. The top five ingredients on the list represent a majority of the product’s make-up which will give you a basic idea whether the product is of high quality or not.
When reading the ingredients list for a canned cat food product you should look for high-quality sources of animal protein near the beginning of the list. Many canned cat food products will list some type of fresh meat (like chicken or beef) first, followed by broth and/or water. This is to be expected for a canned cat food – you would not find broth or water listed in the ingredients list for a dry cat food product.
The important thing to look for with protein in canned cat food is that it comes from a named source – it should be “chicken” or “salmon,” not “meat” or “fish”. Avoid products that are made with inexpensive fillers like wheat, soy and corn – you should also avoid products that are too carbohydrate-heavy because your cat doesn’t need much carbohydrate in his diet.