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Common Ingredients in Dry Cat Food

3 min read

Dry cat food, known as kibble, is popular among pet owners due to its convenience and long shelf life. While the ingredients may vary between brands and formulas, several common components are found in most dry cat foods. Let’s explore these ingredients and their roles.

Protein Sources #

Protein is essential for a cat’s growth, maintenance, and overall health. Common protein sources in dry cat food include:

  • Meat and meat by-products (chicken, beef, turkey, etc.)[1]
  • Fish and fish meal
  • Eggs and egg products
  • Plant-based proteins (soy, peas, lentils)[2]

These ingredients provide essential amino acids, such as taurine, which are crucial for feline health.

Carbohydrates #

While cats are obligate carnivores, carbohydrates are often included in dry cat food as a source of energy and to aid in the manufacturing process. Common carbohydrate sources include:

  • Grains (corn, wheat, rice, oats)[3]
  • Potatoes and sweet potatoes
  • Peas and lentils

Carbohydrates also contribute to the texture and shape of the kibble.

Fats and Oils #

Fats and oils provide energy and essential fatty acids and aid in absorbing fat-soluble vitamins. Common sources of fats and oils in dry cat food include:

  • Animal fats (chicken fat, beef tallow)
  • Plant-based oils (canola, sunflower, flaxseed)[4]

These ingredients also contribute to the palatability and flavor of the food.

Vitamins and Minerals #

Dry cat food is typically fortified with essential vitamins and minerals to ensure a balanced diet. These may include:

  • Vitamins A, B, C, D, E, and K
  • Minerals like calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and iron[5]

Vitamin and mineral premixes are often added to the formula to meet the specific nutritional requirements of cats.

Fiber #

Fiber is essential for proper digestion and maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Common sources of fiber in dry cat food include:

  • Beet pulp
  • Pumpkin
  • Flaxseed
  • Chicory root

Fiber also helps in regulating bowel movements and preventing hairballs.

Preservatives and Antioxidants #

To maintain freshness and extend the shelf life of dry cat food, manufacturers often include preservatives and antioxidants, such as:

  • Tocopherols (vitamin E)
  • Citric acid
  • Rosemary Extract

These ingredients help prevent spoilage and rancidity, ensuring the food remains safe for consumption.

It’s important to note that dry cat food’s quality and nutritional value can vary significantly between brands and formulas.

[1] AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) Cat Food Nutrient Profiles
[2] Carciofi, A. C., et al. (2009). Plant protein sources for dogs and cats. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, 38(SPE), 1-11.
[3] Fahey, G. C., et al. (2008). Carbohydrate nutrition in dogs and cats. Revista Brasileira de Zootecnia, 37(SPE), 27-36.
[4] Bauer, J. E. (2006). Nutritional management of feline lower urinary tract diseases. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice, 36(6), 1361-1376.
[5] National Research Council (NRC) (2006). Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats.
Sunvold, G. D., et al. (1995). Dietary fiber for cats: in vitro fermentation of selected fiber sources by cat fecal inoculum and in vivo utilization of diets containing selected fiber sources. Journal of Animal Science, 73(8), 2329-2339.
Frankel, E. N. (1996). Antioxidants in lipid foods and their impact on food quality. Food Chemistry, 57(1), 51-55.


Updated on May 5, 2024
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How the score is calculated?

The actual calculation of the score is based on sophisticated and advanced algorithm that takes into account multiple parameters.

To simplify the explanation, the calculation is based on three main criteria:

(1) Amount of protein (more is better)

(2) Amount of carbohydrates (less is better)

(3) Quality and source of ingredients.

Based on that 3 main criteria, 9 score calculation rules are used to compare the different foods.

One major assumption is that the closer an ingredient is to the top of the ingredient list, the greater its relative weight and contribution to the food.

In general, cat food is composed of protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein is the most important component in a cat’s diet, and cats primarily get their protein from animal meat.

Fat is a primary source of energy and essential fatty acids.

Carbohydrates are controversial in a cat’s diet, as cats are obligate carnivores and typically consume very few carbohydrates.

Fibers play an important role in digestion and food absorption, and vitamins and minerals are essential for different organism functions.

Dry matter values are used to compare the amount of nutrients in different cat foods.
This means that moisture is excluded from the equation to provide a more accurate comparison.

Putting all of these and more into a formula results in a product score.

The maximum score a cat food can receive is 100.
Points are added or removed based on the score calculation rules.