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Canned Cat Foods are All the Same


Dr. Al Townshend

Have you ever heard someone say, “don’t waste your money, all canned cat foods are the same,” well, “nothing can be further from the truth.”

Not to get too carried away with famous sayings; “we are what we eat” is also frequently written in articles about human nutrition, and the saying is no less true for our beloved cats.

Canned foods have certain advantages when it comes to what’s best for cats. 

  • Better quality canned foods are generally higher in animal protein than dry recipes. Cats are known as True Carnivores, which means they need a significant amount of meat in their daily diet for optimal health. Meat is the best source of protein and fat for a cat. It more closely resembles the natural diet a wild cat would eat.
  • Quality canned foods are lower in carbohydrates than dry kibble recipes. A True Carnivore does not require carbohydrates in their diet. Cats do not have the same ability to utilize carbohydrates as dogs do.
  • Wet foods like canned and raw provide additional water that an exclusive dry diet does not provide. Cats evolved in the desert and have an exceptional ability to concentrate their urine to conserve water when levels are low. Today’s household cat does not need to stress their body and risk serious issues, especially with the urinary system.
  • Higher protein, lower carbohydrate canned foods taste better, and that is important, especially for young and older cats.
  • Canned foods often provide a greater variety of different foods for Guardians to choose from, and variety is the spice of life for cats.

The quality canned food difference.

  • High quality canned food should be as natural as possible. 
  • Chemical and artificial colors and flavor enhancers are not necessary.
  • Meat by-products are avoided in favor of fresh meat and specific organs like hearts and livers that provide ideal proteins. 
  • No fillers like corn, wheat, soy, or cellulose. 
  • Better ingredients provide highly digestible nutrition, which means the Guardian needs to feed less to maintain an ideal body mass. Feeding less helps to equalize the cost difference between lower quality foods (which often cost less) and better nutrition, and at the same time it is healthier
  • The need for less food means less feces, which saves time and money for the Guardian.
  • Protein is a major focus in determining better nutrition for cats. Protein is the most expensive ingredient in canned and dry cat foods. Better foods use better proteins and more of them, which will increase the cost. So, maybe there is something to the phrase “you get what you pay for.”

What’s in a Name?

The way canned pet foods are labeled is an indicator of the source of the protein. Pet food labeling is regulated and enforced by government authorities in the United States and Canada. The label standards are set by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), and they must be adhered to by manufacturers. 

Company names like Wellness or Meow Mix are there, but the second part of the name is just as important, if not more significant. A slight change in the name can make a huge difference in what is actually in the food.

  • Cans labeled with a specific animal protein or a combination of proteins, such as Chicken Recipe or Salmon and Mackerel Recipe, must be made up of at least 95% those ingredients.
  • Using words like “Dinner,” Entree,” “Platter,” “Nuggets,” or “Formula” in the name of a food, such as “Chicken Dinner”, means that only 25% of that specific ingredient is in the food.
  • A pet food label that uses “with,” such as “With Chicken” is only required to have just 3% of that ingredient in the food
  • When the word “Flavor” is in the label, such as “Chicken Flavor, ” only a detectable amount is required in the recipe.

Canned foods have significant advantages for our feline friends. The key is to find foods that provide the greatest value and focus on encouraging a long, happy, and healthy life.

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Additional Resources:

Cat Food Labels Explained Part 1

Why Cats Need Canned Food

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