What Information Do Cat Food Labels Contain?
Cat food labels provide limited information regarding the nutritional value of the package contents. It is important for customers to know what can and cannot be determined from the label, and what information is particularly important. Major components of a pet food label include:
- Guaranteed Analysis
- Company/Customer Service Information/Satisfaction
- Ingredient Panel
- Manufacturing Code, Expiration, or "Best Used By" Information
- Feeding Instructions
- AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy
Values in the guaranteed analysis are expressed as either minimum or maximum. A maximum guarantee (% max) means at most this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. A minimum guarantee (% min) means at least this specific amount of the nutrient is included in the formula. The following four nutrients must be included on all pet food labels:
- Crude Protein (% min)
- Crude Fiber (% max)
- Ingredient Panel
- Crude Fat (% max)
- Moisture (% max)
For example, a cat food with a 25% minimum crude protein guarantee should contain at least 25% protein, but could contain much more. The only way to determine the actual amount is by laboratory analysis.
Other information may be guaranteed on cat food products, such as magnesium (% max), taurine (% min), ash (% max), and linoleic acid (% min).
- The guaranteed analysis is an important tool when beginning to compare cat food formulas, but it doesn't provide meaningful nutritional information. Using information on the energy content and nutrient density of a food is the only way to properly compare cat foods. This information is available from the manufacturer.
Ingredients must be listed in order of abundance (largest quantity listed first).
- Because ingredient definitions and designations are standardized, it is difficult to determine the quality of ingredients. Ingredient quality can only be determined from laboratory analysis and animal feeding tests.
AAFCO Statement of Nutritional Adequacy
AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements are required on all pet foods. Products may either be formulated or tested according to AAFCO procedures and recommendations.
- A "formulated" statement means the product has been manufactured according to AAFCO nutritional guidelines, but not actually fed to cats prior to sale.
- A "tested" statement indicates the product has been formulated, then fed to cats prior to sale to ensure it meets important criteria related to growth, maintenance, and/or reproduction.
Veterinary-exclusive products include statements such as, "This product is intended for intermittent feeding only" and "Use only as directed by your veterinarian."
Manufacturing and "Best Used By" Codes
Manufacturing codes allow the company to track products for quality and inventory issues. In order to quickly and efficiently handle a customer inquiry, the company's customer service department will usually ask the customer for this code.
Expiration or "Best Used By" dates are optional, but are helpful in determining product freshness and shelf life.
Company Information and Satisfaction Guarantee
The manufacturer's information should include the company name, address, and phone number so customers can quickly and easily obtain product information.
A toll-free telephone number should be provided as a convenience to the customer and to ensure that a charge is not incurred when calling for information.
- The satisfaction guarantee should be an "active" statement. This means that in addition to stating that the product is guaranteed, the company should indicate what action will be taken to meet customer expectations (replace product, money returned, etc.).
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Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.
- What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
- Choosing the Right Cat for You
- Where to Adopt a Cat
- The Cat Adoption Process
What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).
Cat-proofing Your Home
Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:
- Household cleaners and chemicals
- Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
- Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol
Cat Supplies You’ll Need
You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.
Cost of Cat Care
Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.
Cat Exercise and Playtime
Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.
Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.
Litter and Litterboxes
Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.
A Lifetime Commitment
Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.
Choosing the Right Cat for You
A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.
What Is Your Lifestyle Like?
If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms.
Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.
What Cat Personality Suits You?
Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.
Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat?
Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.
Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.
Fur Better or Fur Worse
All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.
Where to Adopt a Cat
There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.
In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.
Adopting a Cat from a Shelter
At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.
Adopting a Cat from a Rescue
Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.
Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.
The Cat Adoption Process
While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:
Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.
Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:
- Do you own or rent?
- Have you had a cat before?
- Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
- Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
- Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
- Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
- What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?
They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.
2. Home Inspection
A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.
3. Adoption Fees
As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.
Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.
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