How to Read Cat Food Labels like an Expert
You love your cat, which means you want to give it the best food possible. However, with so much jargon on the average cat food label it can be difficult to decipher what you are reading. Price should never be the only determining factor regarding the kind of cat food you buy. You need to consider the ingredients, moisture level, and the guaranteed analysis too. But what do those things mean? Use these tips and you will be reading cat food labels like an expert in no time.
- Price Per Pound
Quality is definitely more important than quantity, but that doesn’t mean you should pay more than you have to. Remember that most cats do not require a specialty diet; they merely need to be fed good food. A bigger bag may be cheaper, but it could contain lower quality food. This may cause your cat to need more feedings, which ends up not being cheaper at all. Look at the label to find out how much the bag or box weighs and then figure out how much that is per pound. While you may find deals by buying your cat food in bulk, try to keep in mind that less is sometimes more.
- Moisture Level
Knowing the moisture level of your chosen cat food is important as well, especially when you are considering the price. All cat foods will have varying moisture levels, with some canned varieties having as much as 80% water. This means you might end up paying a high price for a small amount of food. This may become quite expensive over time, not to mention leave your cat malnourished in the process. Moisture levels can also help you to determine the crude protein and fat within the food and compare it with other brands.
- Dry Matter
Keep in mind that you will have to make a small conversion in order to compare the moisture level and quality of a dry food against that of a wet one. The label shows information regarding the food as is, and does not accurately describe how it translates on a dry matter basis. Luckily, the conversion is simpler than you might think and it goes something like this:
- Dry Cat Food A has a 10% moisture level, which means it has 90% dry matter. The protein level reads as 20%.
- Divide the protein level (20%) by the dry matter level (90%).
- The answer is the amount of protein in the food on a dry matter basis (22%).
Now you have to use that information to compare it with another food. Let’s say you have picked out a wet cat food and want to compare its protein levels with the Dry Cat Food A:
- Wet Cat Food B has a moisture level of 80%, which means it has 20% dry matter. The protein level is 5%.
- Divide the protein level (5%) by the dry matter level (20%).
- The answer is the amount of protein in the food on a dry matter basis (25%).
This means that the canned food has a higher protein level per pound (on a dry matter basis, that is) than the dry food does. You can do the same sort of conversion calculation for the fats, fibers, and other ingredients.
- Guaranteed Analysis
On the information panel of the cat food label you will also find a guaranteed analysis which lists the minimum amounts of fat and protein. It also shows the maximum levels of water and fiber as well. Keep in mind that your cat’s ability to properly digest the fats and proteins in the food depends heavily on its source. Don’t rely too much on the guaranteed analysis to tell you all you need to know about the food. Be sure to take a close look at the label for information regarding the ingredients as well.
An expert cat food label reader will know the importance of considering the ingredients in the food over the price, moisture level, or even the guarantee analysis. The ingredients will come listed in order of weight, so be sure the list starts with high quality stuff like real meat or poultry and ends with very few preservatives like gluten or BHA (hydroxyanisole).