Welcome curious cats! Skye Blake here with the scoop about cat food brands.
Most people want somebody to tell them the “best” brand, because that’s easier than figuring it out themselves, but it’s not that simple.
Let’s look at what’s important to know…
The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs.
- Who Is Skye Blake?
- Choosing a Reliable Cat Food Brand
- The Simple Way To Choose the Best Cat Food Brand
- List of Sources
Who Is Skye Blake?
Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you!
Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page.
All sources are at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.
Choosing a Reliable Cat Food Brand
Many people choose their kitty’s brand of food using unreliable methods, mainly because they don’t know of a better way.
Just picking something because it’s cheapest isn’t going to keep your cat healthy and you’ll probably end up spending more money later on vet bills because you fed a diet without the right balance of nutrients your cat needs.
Let’s look first at the not-so-good ways to choose and then see what the best ways are.
The Not-So-Good Way
The Ingredient List
Pet food manufacturers in the U.S. have certain labeling requirements they must follow but aren’t required to include anything specific about the quality.
Ingredients must be listed in a specific order and the label can say other things about them but must be accurate.
Since food is basically a vessel for vital nutrients to get into your cat’s body, the ingredients that get them there aren’t as important as the nutrients themselves.
In other words, having chicken in it isn’t as important as having the protein in the chicken.
Choosing a cat food brand or type of food solely by ingredients doesn’t guarantee you have a complete and balanced diet.
Learn more about nutrients in cat food at “What Nutrients Do Cats Need?“
The Most Persuasive Marketing
Marketing words sound good but often don’t mean anything beyond appealing to what people want.
Discover more about appealing marketing words and what they mean at “Reading Cat Food Labels“.
Ratings websites aren’t helpful because they don’t base their ratings on nutrition or quality, only on marketing information or myths about food.
Be very skeptical about anything you see on the internet, especially social media, no matter how insistent people are that they know best.
There’s so much bad advice given by people who think they know… but really don’t.
Even those who give links to scientific studies could be misinterpreting the study results.
Only vets and veterinary nutritionists have the training, knowledge and skills to give sound nutritional advice.
And even vets in Facebook cat groups will strongly recommend you talk to your own vet to be sure your food choices meet your cat’s individual needs.
Here’s a helpful guide from WSAVA to dealing with the internet… “The Savvy Cat Owner’s Guide to Nutrition on the Internet“
Pet Store Recommendations
It seems sensible to ask someone who works at a pet food what brands they recommend.
The problem is they won’t know what your cat’s specific needs are and aren’t trained in cat nutrition.
They might promote the store’s own brand, those that make the store the most money, or those have appealing marketing.
Here’s the Better Way
Talk to Your Vet
Talk to your vet so you can determine your cat’s medical condition, weight, and stage of life.
You can then figure out what cat food products are complete and balanced to fit your cat’s specific needs.
Use the WSAVA Guidelines
Use the WSAVA Guidelines to know what questions to ask when determining which brands/companies are reliable.
The Main Points of the WSAVA Guidelines…
- Does the company employ at least one board-certified veterinary nutritionist? A qualified nutritionist on staff is considered better than hiring a consultant.
- Who formulates the diets used by the company? This is extremely important because nutrition is complex and when formulated wrong, can have disastrous effects on your cat.
- What is the quality control used throughout the manufacturing process for both animal and human safety? Products formulated according to AAFCO guidelines should meet quality standards.
- What product research has the company done? Do they continue to research and study nutrition? Do they publish their findings in peer-reviewed journals?
Companies who have board-certified veterinary nutritionists and other degreed nutrition experts on staff, show a level of commitment to animal health that is important.
You may notice that the guidelines don’t address evaluating ingredients or product recall history.
They also don’t endorse or promote any specific companies or products.
Discover more helpful details at”WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods“.
The Simple Way To Choose the Best Cat Food Brand
So, to make it simple, the way to find the best brand for your cat is…
- talk to your vet
- determine your cat’s needs
- look for brands that have high standards
Their products should clearly say they’re complete and balanced meals.
Those that say they meet or exceed AAFCO and/or WSAVA nutritional recommendations are best.
Using these criteria, you can separate the truly nutritional brands from “boutique” brands, as well as being able to choose complete meals instead of treats, or supplemental foods that aren’t made to be a complete diet.
You might be surprised at how many cat food brands don’t meet these criteria.
Currently Purina®, Hills®, Iams™, and Royal Canin® are the major brands that meet these criteria.
Here’s a helpful video by a veterinarian that’s worth watching…
This is an easy-to-understand video explaining what’s on cat food labels.
Discover more about feline nutrition and food at “Cat Food!“
Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.
Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.
Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.
Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own.
Sometimes they refer to primary sources.
When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.
List of Sources
“Did You Know? AAFCO Doesn’t Approve Pet Foods” by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School (tufts.edu), March 1, 2021
“GNC Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods“, WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee (wsava.org)
“Guaranteed Analysis” – Pet Food Institute
“How To Evaluate Your Pet Food Using Ingredients List“, Doc Of All Trades, alltradesdvm.com January 12, 2021
“Important information you could be misreading on the pet food label” – Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School (tufts.edu), January 26, 2016
“Ingredients in Dog Food and Cat Food: Complete Guide“, by Amanda Ardente, DVM, PhD, PetMD, September 16, 2020
“Nutritional Assessment Guidelines” (wsava.org)
“Pet Food Decisions: How Do You Pick Your Pet’s Food?” by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), Clinical Nutrition Service, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, Petfoodology, Dec 16, 2019
“Questions You Should Be Asking About Your Pet’s Food” by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School (tufts.edu), December 19, 2016
“The Savvy Cat Owner’s Guide to Nutrition on the Internet“, Global Nutrition Committee (wsava.org), 2013
“WSAVA, AAFCO, and DACVNs“, AllTradesDVM, January 15, 2022
“WSAVA Global Nutrition Committee: Guidelines on Selecting Pet Foods“,wsava.org, March 10, 2021
“What is in Pet Food?” The Association of American Feed Control Officials (aafco.org)
“What Is Guaranteed about the Guaranteed Analysis?” by Lisa M. Freeman, DVM, PhD, DACVIM (Nutrition), Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School (tufts.edu), December 28, 2020
Updated July 10, 2023