Reading cat food labels can be confusing. It’s also one of the most important things we need to do. Food is foundational – for our health and our cats. Unfortunately, the regulations for cat food allow for some very sneaky marketing tactics.

The FDA is the agency that regulates cat food labeling. You might think this makes everything as ‘safe’ as the human foods they also regulate. However, they defer to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) – a non-regulatory agency to create these labeling guidelines. Loopholes may be a more accurate word for these ‘guidelines’.

Here are 3 tips to help you understand what these guidelines mean when reading cat food labels.

  1. The 25% Rule. If the food you feed says chicken ‘dinner’, beef ‘platter’, nugget, formula, or entree the protein in that food is actually not the main ingredient. The 25% rule means that any food with these words on the label need only contain 1/4 of that ingredient in the whole bag or can.
  2. The Flavor Rule. If your cat food says (insert protein here) ‘flavor’ on the label it gets even worse. Under this rule, a specific percentage of the identified ingredient is not required. At all.
  3. Not Fit For Food. In 1995, the pet food law required “the food and all articles used as components or ingredients thereof shall not be poisonous or deleterious and shall be clean, sound, and fit for food.” If a manufacturer used any ingredient not fit for food it had to say so. The front of the label – near the name of the pet food – had to say “Below Standard In Quality. Not High Grade”. Helpful for us health-conscious cat parents, right? Well, in 1999, the FDA deleted this entire section of law. Just for pet foods.

These clever loopholes are why the quality of our cat’s foods are so compromised. We suspect this is also why we’re seeing a skyrocketing level of disease in our cats over the past 30 years. Cancers, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, IBD… the heartbreaking list goes on. As we all know all too well.

We hope these tips help you pick a food that feeds your cat health. Not the opposite.


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