AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement: A cat food with an AAFCO statement on the label is nutritionally complete for a cat’s life stage. The AAFCO is a nonprofit organization that defines the standard nutritional requirements for pet food and animal feed. Food with an AAFCO statement for growth or all life stages is guaranteed to be complete and balanced for kittens. Food with an AAFCO statement for maintenance or all life stages is guaranteed to be complete and balanced for adult cats.
Guaranteed analysis and nutrient profiles: The guaranteed analysis consists of the percentages of protein, fat, and other important nutrients. For kittens, a minimum of 9% fat and 30% protein is recommended, while adult cats should have a minimum of 9% fat and 26% protein. Cat foods should also contain other essential nutrients, including amino acids like taurine, fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins
Key ingredients: The ingredients on a pet food label appear in order of weight. Animal protein is essential for cats to maintain normal body functions because it contains essential amino acids. As a result, cats are obligate carnivores. Therefore, animal-based protein should be the first ingredient in cat food.
Expert formulations: Look for brands with a dedicated nutrition expert on staff, which aligns with the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA) guidelines and our experts’ guidance. Even better are brands that are active in research on small animal nutrition or those that collaborate with universities and colleges.
Manufacturing standards: When choosing a brand of cat food, it’s important to consider the quality control measures and facilities used. Brands that own their manufacturing plants have greater control over the ingredients in their recipes and, therefore, the food your cat consumes. It’s also important that a brand is transparent about how they implement quality control measures. Merely stating that they conduct quality control may not be sufficient. Pet food companies should make this information available on their website or be willing to provide it upon request.
Calorie content: Cat food lists calorie content in kilocalories, or kcals. The number of calories a cat needs varies based on age and activity level.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, kittens should be given multiple meals daily and allowed to eat as much as they want since they require more energy to support their rapid growth. As your kitten approaches 9 to 12 months of age, consult with your veterinarian to determine their ideal body condition, weight, and caloric requirements.
The WSAVA offers a reference chart to estimate the number of calories an adult cat should eat based on their weight, but these are just general guidelines. The appropriate amount of food for your cat depends on their weight, energy level, breed, and overall health. Talk with your veterinarian to determine how many calories your cat should consume daily.
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