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Cats’ Basic Nutritional Needs

cat food
cat food
  • Protein from a named meat, fish, or poultry source
  • Taurine, an essential amino acid
  • Certain other vitamins, minerals, enzymes, and fatty acids
  • Water

Cats do not need carbohydrates, although corn, wheat, and rice are used as fillers for both canned and dry cat foods. Other ingredients, such as binders, flavoring, and coloring, are added by cat food manufacturers to satisfy the aesthetic wants of the consumer. Although preservatives are necessary, to keep foods fresh for our cats, canned food should not be allowed to remain out for any length of time, in any case.

What to look for on the label

  • Compliance with AAFCO’s requirements for “Complete and Balanced,” as evidenced by that wording on the label.
  • Named protein source—look for “chicken, turkey, lamb, or beef,” rather than “meat.”
  • On canned food particularly, the protein source should be the first listed ingredient
  • Check the expiration date for freshness

What to avoid

  • Words such as “By-products,” “meat and bone meal,” “animal digest,” most other descriptions including “digest” or added sugars.
  • Chemical preservatives, including BHA, BHT, ethoxyquin, and propyl gallate
  • Cornmeal as a filler
  • Excess of carbohydrate “fillers” (dry food can contain as much as 50 percent grain)


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