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What Exactly is in Your Cat's Food?

Donna has been a cat parent and writer for many years, and her passion is to share her love for cats with others.

Organic? Natural? You Decide!

Organic? Natural? You Decide!

We love our cats and want the best for them, so we buy them delicious and nutritious food! But- Have you ever wondered what exactly is in your cat's food? What about the ingredients printed on the label, and what do those "foreign" words mean? Manufacturers don't tell us how they make cat food.

The question is, do they want us to know, or are they hiding something?

We all know that companies should include nutritious ingredients in our pet's food! The best alternative is to make your cat food at home, but who has the time for that? So, what do we do? We rely on pet food manufacturers to make the most nutritious cat food for our pets. Right?

So, What's the Problem?

But the real problem is the lies and deception of the industry about what pet food consists of and how it can make pets ill. Unfortunately, they don't seem to care!

The Truth will Shock You!

Feline parents always strive to feed their indoor cats nutritious/healthy food! But how much is known about the ingredients that are used in cat food? There’s more to what manufacturers are putting in cat food than we know about and how do they get away with it?

The Shocking Truth!

Well-known brands use meat-by-products and meal-by-products ingredients to make pet food, and though it's not listed on the labels as such, the question is what are the health “benefits” of those ingredients?

Labels - Organic? Natural?

From 1996 to 2002, pet food companies jumped on the “natural” and “organic” train! And the companies were moving fast down the track since the recall of the melamine pet food crisis hit all manufacturers of pet food.

Every manufacturer tried to avoid this recall scandal and make their cat food more enticing.

They started playing word games with the public, and it worked!

Companies started labeling their pet food as “organic,” “natural,” “vegan,” and now “holistic” Soon, consumers grew suspicious of the tactics of the well-known brands. Smaller companies joined the bandwagon with a more trustworthy appearance.

“Natural” & “organic” are only the best for our cats!

“Natural” & “organic” are only the best for our cats!

Smaller Companies Make a Name for Themselves

And the public was not suspicious of the little guys as they were the bigger guys! They made a name for themselves in the pet food industry! But, still, the public wanted to know who regulates the labeling of pet food?

The FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration) regulates the label and most states have supported the recommendations of AAFCO!

Wordplay on Labels

Companies would disguise their unhealthy ingredients and play on other words such as "natural," "holistic," "gourmet," and "fresh'! Disregard those four words; they are to distract and misinform you!

Other words are used on their labels, such as "gluten-free" or "grain-free"!

Does your cat have food allergies to grains, proteins, or carbohydrates? Do certain foods upset their stomachs? One way to tell is to pinpoint the culprit and remove certain foods from their diet one at a time.

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And once you cut the foods that bother your cat's tummy, you can pinpoint the culprit and remove it from their diet.

You going to cook this or what Mother?

You going to cook this or what Mother?

What’s in Your Cat's Food?

Grains and gluten are not harmful to most cats (pets); in most situations, they don't need to be removed from your cat's diet. Just go by the specific reactions of your cat's body and how their body/chemistry reacts to particular ingredients and brands, and then eliminate that food from their diet.

Pay attention to the percentages of proteins and the nutrients and water percentages you need to look for in your cat's (pet) food.

Let's move forward to AAFCO. Association of American Feed Control Officials.

AAFCO - Association of American Feed Control

According to AAFCO:

“The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a voluntary membership association of local, state, and federal agencies. Their members are charged by their local, state, or federal laws to regulate the sale and distribution of animal feeds and animal drug remedies”. — AAFCO

AAFCO doesn’t regulate or inspect anything because they’re not a government agency. Yet, all the members of this group are part of the government agencies they represent. This agency does have a say in things because manufacturers follow their guidelines!

The three agencies that work together are:

• AAFCO • FDA CVM and • your state government

The Truth Will Shock You!

You're going to feed me what again?

You're going to feed me what again?

Who is AAFCO?

AAFCO is a private non-profit corporation featuring:

• A process for defining ingredients used in animal feed and pet food.

• A forum where state agencies, federal agencies, and industry develop uniform language that states may adopt or reference in various laws.

• Two meetings per year that include specialized training for members and industry.

AAFCO is a "voluntary membership association" that does not regulate or inspect pet food. And I repeat- They cannot inspect or regulate anything!

Why? Because they are not a government agency, they are a group.

Their members are government agencies representing the fifty states and Canadian governments. (US Food and Drug Administration, Center of Veterinary Medicine, FDA CVM).

AAFCO Definition of “Meat”

What do AAFCO and other "officials" define as "meat"?

  • Brain, blood, bone, lungs, partially de-fatted low-temperature fatty tissue, stomachs, and intestines are freed from their contents. Meaning washing and cleaning, and disinfecting before this "meat" is used in your cat's (pet) foods. (Cleaned and disinfected with what?)
  • What is NOT allowed: Hair, horns, teeth, and hoofs.
  • Meat- is the clean flesh of slaughterhouse mammals: but limited to the striated muscle, with or without the accompanying and overlying fat & portions of the skin, ligament, nerve, and blood vessels accompanying the flesh!
  • Meat by-products are the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to, lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially de-fatted low-temperature fatty tissue, and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth, or hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal feed. If it bears a name descriptive of its kind, it must correspond thereto.

What is in Pet food?

"In addition to using the term "meat," the pet food manufacturer may also identify the species from which the meat is derived, such as "beef" or "pork." However, to use the generic term "meat" on the label, it can only be from cattle, pigs, sheep, or goats. If it comes from any other mammal, the species must be identified (for example, "buffalo" or "venison"), so you can rest easy that if any other species were used, it would have to be declared. Also, if the muscle is from non-mammalian species, such as poultry or fish, it cannot be declared as "meat" but must use the appropriate identifying terms." -AAFCO.

Meat from slaughterhouse scraps! It’s real folks!

Meat from slaughterhouse scraps! It’s real folks!

"Meat" Definitions

Some other ingredients- Animal and vegetable fats or oils to supply additional energy and flavor, plus plant ingredients like corn, barley, peas, and potatoes also provide energy and help hold kibbles together.

Meat LabelsAllowedNot Allowed

Meat - Beef or Pork (Non-rendered)

Cattle, pigs, sheep or goats

Poultry or Fish is allowed if declared on packaging. - cannot be labeled as "meat"

Meat- "Poultry" (Non-rendered)

Chicken and turkey - flesh and skin

Feather's, feet, and entrails

Poultry by-products (Non-rendered)

Clean parts of carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as heads, feet, viscera.

Free from fecal content and foreign matter

Meat meal (rendered)

Mammal tissue

Blood, hair, hoof, horn, hide trimmings, manure, stomach, and rumen contents

Meat and Bone meal (rendered)

Mammal tissue and bone. Similar to "meat meal," but can include added bone in addition to what is normally found in whole carcasses.

It cannot contain extraneous materials.

Poultry by-product meal (rendered)

Consists of the ground, rendered clean parts of the carcasses of slaughtered poultry such as necks, feet, undeveloped eggs, and intestines.

Feathers are not allowed. note -The same as "poultry by-products," but in rendered form. so, most of the water and fat has been removed to make a concentrated protein/mineral ingredient.

Are you serious? I thought I was eating real food!

Are you serious? I thought I was eating real food!

What Are They Really Saying?

The AAFCO allows for a "rendered" process when preparing the ingredients in pet food. But what does "rendered" mean, and what types of "meat-by-products" do they use?

The rendering process destroys disease-causing bacteria. The "meat-by-products" are subject to heat and pressure during this process. This process removes most fat and water, leaving only minerals and protein.

The "rendered" product is from mammal tissues and does not include added blood, hair, or horn. Also, this process has no hidden trimmings, manure, or stomach contents, except in such amounts that may be in good processing practices.

All this time, we thought we were feeding our cats healthy food! I am so disappointed and concerned about what I'm feeding my cat!

Grrr… what did I just eat mama

Grrr… what did I just eat mama

What is A Cat Parent to Do?

As cat parents, we try to eat healthy foods and watch what we put in our bodies, and it's not any different for pets. Right? So now we can make educated food choices for our felines and make sure to feed them healthy foods.

Moreover, several brands are healthy and organic for your pets. Though they are more expensive, the quality and ingredients are much better for your pet. Make sure to research the product to know what the ingredients are when you read the product labels.

Homemade Cat Food

One other option is that you can make your cat food at home; it might be time-consuming. But at least you will know what ingredients are in your cat's food.

In this article, I covered a few recipes to make homemade cat food. Healthy Organic Recipes for Your Cat

Cats in the Wild

Meanwhile, the big cats in the wild and feral cats hunt for their food outdoors. This provides them with all the nutrients and vitamins needed to stay healthy.

Fun Fact

After the cat makes their kill, they eat the organs first!

Organs are a richer source of nutrients that a cat needs to survive in the wild. And they instinctively know what they need to eat, such as cats' do not eat fur or manure.

Tigress eating her meal! Real Meat!

Tigress eating her meal! Real Meat!

Are We Listening?

We love our Cats; that's a given! Cats become part of the family as soon as you bring them home, and you will do anything for them; you want to provide the best of everything for them. I do too! That is why we strive to make better food choices for our furry babies so they can live long, happy, healthy lives!

I encourage you not to accept what the pet food industry deems nutritious food for your cats (pets). Some manufactured pet food can make your cat sick, and most cats know their food is junk and turn their noses up at it. Follow the signs that your feline is trying to tell you!

In Conclusion

Some cat parents have labeled their cats "finicky" or "spoiled" because of the cat's reaction to specific brands and food types. It could be they smell certain ingredients and know it is junk!

Undoubtedly, read that label and find out what the words mean and if you don't recognize them. Look them up and do your own research. You will be amazed at what you find! And in return, your cat will thank you and love you forever!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2020 Donna Rayne


Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 23, 2020:

Thank you, William. So glad you're a cat daddy. They are the most amazing creatures!

All my best,

Donna Rayne

William Kovacic from Pleasant Gap, PA on February 23, 2020:

Thanks for the information, Donna. As a Daddy to five felines, it was most interesting.

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 21, 2020:

Sorry for your loss of Peaches. May the Lord comfort your heart!


Donna Rayne

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on February 21, 2020:

We had to have our sweet cat Peaches put to sleep last year, so right now, we are without a pet. Reading this article makes me think that I would want to cook for any future pets.

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 19, 2020:

Eric, thank you so much for your kind words and Ms. Pamela, I guess the manufacturers make what they want with no regards to that some people might actually investigate their product and Ms. Ruby, it's looking like I might need to make her wet food and Clive you are absolutely right on! Again that you so much and have a wonderful day!

Donna Rayne

Donna Rayne (author) from Sparks, NV on February 19, 2020:

Flourish, I'm having the same problem with my kitten. I need to look at to see what I can find for her. She won't eat any of the wet food I buy.

Have a great day,

Donna Rayne

Clive Williams from Jamaica on February 19, 2020:

Feed your cat home made cat food.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on February 19, 2020:

I am allergic to animal dander, so I can't have a pet, but after reading this, I think I would make my own pet food.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 19, 2020:

This such a good, informative article with concerning news about cat od. My precious cat passed away last November after a long healthy life and I don't have a cat right now. I sure miss him. I never bought canned foord and I thought I was feeding him a healthy dry food but I never paid to much attention to the label. Thanks for this information.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on February 18, 2020:

Well that is disgustingly interesting. I read somewhere that those meats are more nutritious than steaks. It is a crazy world.

FlourishAnyway from USA on February 18, 2020:

Yuck. There are some brands of cat food (expensive brands!) that none of my six cats will eat. I have offered it to my mother’s three cats and they decline and even left it out for the feral cats I feed and they won’t touch it either. You need to wonder what the heck is going on there. I have several cases of it and I’m stuck with it. Hmmm. I’ve also always been curious what “mixed grilled” is with cat food.

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