A Cat Lover's Educational Website
by Doug Hines

What's in Your Cat's Food Dish?®

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There's one thing I know for sure... Cats are like most people. They like junk food more than they like good, quality food. That's where we have to step in as insistent, responsible pet owners and say, "Shut up and eat the food I give you Jack!"  lol

The only problem with the "insistent" philosophy as written above is that it doesn't work. No matter how much I have begged or cajoled, my cats just turn up their nose at "good" food. Unfortunately, you just may have to settle for less-than-best in your pursuit of the ultimate cat food.

In this website you can learn how to evaluate cat food brands. The purpose of the site is to heighten awareness regarding the quality of ingredients in canned cat food, and to hopefully influence what people feed their cats. (By canned, I include pouched or boxed or little-plastic-dish or plastic tray cat food.) After all... it is our marketplace choices which ultimately drive and encourage cat food manufacturers to produce better, more healthy products. That's something we all want for our cats.

Please understand that I'm not here to advocate for raw, vacuum-packed diets or home-cooked meals over canned cat food. Right now I'm simply closely examining the ingredients in canned cat food. As to dry cat food, I'll have more to say about that below. I also don't speak about dehydrated or freeze-dried "foods". Those cat food categories may come to this website in the future.

I don't review and/or rate specific cat foods here either. I only offer you insight as to how I go about assessing cat food ingredients so that you may follow with a more in-depth study of your own.

You won't find any  product endorsements or advertising on this website either. I don't sell or promote anything. I have no attachments to the cat food industry whatsoever. I do, however, have an attachment to cats.

Some Things You Will Want to Know

Before beginning an in-depth discussion about cat food ingredients, there are other considerations to think about.

  1. As you have undoubtedly heard many times before, cats are obligate carnivores and get their protein from animal sources, not plants (grains, legumes and vegetables). Cats have zero carbohydrate requirements. To paraphrase Dr. Andrew Jones, Online Veterinarian, "Cats lack certain enzymes such as salivary amylase. These are enzymes that are there [in humans, for example] to help break down carbohydrates. Cats don't have those. Cats are uniquely designed for short, more frequent meals that are protein based."
  2. One of the greatest myths out there is that somehow fish is a better food for cats than is beef or poultry. Cats didn't evolve historically by fishing in a mountain stream or by going for a day's cruise on the ocean. Fish would be a good food, but for the fact that it contains contaminants. Resultant health problems can occur with a predominantly fish based diet - problems associated with mercury toxicity. It's best to use fish as a periodic supplement to beef or poultry meals, not as a dietary staple. Furthermore, it's best to mix it up! Serve a healthy balance of meat (50%), poultry (30%) and fish (20%). Here's a detailed article by Jean Hofve, DVM in Little Big Cat entitled 'Why Fish is Dangerous for Cats.'  Again, I'm not saying don't feed cats fish. I'm saying don't have fish be the predominant meal in their diet.
  3. As with everything in life, higher price doesn't always mean higher quality. Even a really expensive cat food brand can have issues with ingredients quality.
  4. Although a product may, on first glance, contain great ingredients, there is no way to determine how those ingredients were sourced. Is the manufacturer using diseased animal material and material sourced from non-slaughtered animals, i.e., euthanized, and/or drowned, and/or decomposing livestock, and/or animals commonly referred to as ‘road kill’ (allowed by the FDA). More on this subject below.
  5. The frugal shopper must pay attention to both can sizes and price. Whereas some manufactures use 3 ounce cans, others may use 2.8 ounce, or 2.75 ounce cans. Are the latter companies trying to deceive you?
  6. In comparing product prices, one must break down the can size price structure to arrive at the 'price per ounce'. Use the simple formula (cans per case) x (ounces per can) = (ounces per case). Divide the (price per case) by the (ounces per case) to arrive at the (price per ounce). Now you can compare products accurately.
  7. Don't let a product's fancy label design sway you. A product with a relatively plain label can be more nutritious for your cat than one created by a highly-priced graphics artist.
  8. Don't just assume that, because a manufacturer produces a particularly good product, that all of their products are good. I've seen plenty of good products that sit side-by-side on the store shelf with bad products from the same manufacturer.
  9. Pay attention to cat food recalls. Even the best cat foods have occasional safety recalls. Bookmark the FDA Pet Food Recalls page and check it regularly.
  10. I question manufacturer's claims of "human grade" cat food. That designation doesn't necessarily make a product more nutritious or safe than another other ingredients destined for cat food.
  11. "Ingredient Splitting' - a trick-of-the-cat-food-trade. Watch for similar ingredients that may appear in a product multiple times. For example, corn gluten meal and ground yellow corn. By separating plant ingredients of the same species into different components, manufacturers can make them appear lower on the ingredients list while still adding substantial amounts to the food.
  12. Call me cynical if you will, but I think I've earned the right to be suspicious after having reviewed hundreds of cat food products. In all of this ingredient label reading, you have to wonder what the manufacturer isn't telling you. What horrible ingredient isn't on the list but is in the can?
  13. I believe that one of the greatest myths in the pet food industry distribution/sales business is that independently operated, local pet stores are somehow superior to mass merchandisers (like Chewy). Many cat food manufacturers support the business model of only selling through local retailers. They argue that local stores stock a higher quality of cat foods in a variety of flavors. They also say that pet store employees are more apt to give you personalized, (seemingly) professional guidance about what to feed your cat(s). Believe me, any 'guidance' that you need should come directly from reading a product's ingredient list. Chances are, that those well-intentioned pet food store employees are not any more knowledgeable about pet food ingredients than you are. In fact, in reading this website, you will become far-and-away more knowledgeable than someone working in a pet food store. And... from personal knowledge I can tell you that the vast majority of products sold in local stores are of poor quality - no matter the price. I'm a big proponent of shopping at Chewy. Their selection of cat foods is vast, compared to a local pet store with limited shelf space. Click on any of their products, then click on the 'Nutritional Info' tab. There you will find a food's Ingredients, Caloric Content, and Guaranteed Analysis - all the things you need to make a well-informed purchasing decision.
  14. Remember... "Quality food today means fewer vet visits in the future!

Above All Ignore the Marketing Hype...

Here's actual text quoted from a cat food manufacturer's website:


With fresh flakes as the prime ingredient, slow cooked in a delicate grain-free broth, this cat food will surely excite any kitty's taste buds and keep them coming back for more!


  • No pre-formed chunks
  • No hormones added
  • No salt added
  • No wheat gluten
  • No artificial flavor
  • No preservatives added

Sounds great doesn't it? Now check out some of the actual ingredients in the can:

  • Sunflower Oil (cats have difficulty converting this to the appropriate fatty acid.)
  • Potato Starch (cats have zero carbohydrate/starch requirements, and both can be bad for a cat's blood sugar/insulin balance.)
  • Zinc Oxide (coloring additive)
  • Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (a cheap and artificial form of Vitamin K that can interfere with glutathione resulting in oxidative damage to cell membranes. Toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, and mucous membranes.)

Forget the marketing lingo, the fancy labels and the eye-popping websites. Learn about cat food ingredients in the pages which follow.