Hi stranger! Signing up for MypetMD is easy, free and puts the most relevant content at your fingertips.

Get Instant Access To

  • 24/7 alerts for pet-related recalls

  • Your own library of articles, blogs, and favorite pet names

  • Tools designed to keep your pets happy and healthy



or Connect with Facebook

By joining petMD, you agree to the Privacy Policy.

petMD Blogs

Written by leading veterinarians to provide you with the information you need to care for your pets.

Subscribe to
Nutrition Nuggets
 
 
Your cat's nutrition is important for a healthy & happy life. petMD experts help you to know what to feed your cat, how much food to feed, and the differences in cat foods, so your cat gets optimum nutrition.
Nutrition Nuggets is the newest offshoot of petMD's Cat Nutrition Center. Each week Dr. Coates will use her expertise and wisdom to blog about the intricacies of cat nutrition.

What Kind of Meat By-Products Are in Your Cat's Food?

June 13, 2014 / (1) comments

I recently saw the results of a survey that asked 852 consumers what ingredients were legally permissible in the meat by-products that are included in many cat foods. The responses took me by surprise:

 

87% — Internal Organs

60% — Hooves

22% — Feces

13% — Road Kill

 

In truth, hooves, feces, and road kill cannot be included in a meat by-product. From this list, only internal organs are allowable. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) definitions of “meat by-product” and “meat by-product meal” make this clear:

 

Meat By-Products – is the non-rendered, clean parts, other than meat, derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, & stomachs & intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth & hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food.

 

Meat By-Product Meal – the same as Meat By-Products, except it is the dry rendered product derived from slaughtered mammals. It includes, but is not limited to lungs, spleen, kidneys, brain, livers, blood, bone, partially defatted low temperature fatty tissue, & stomachs & intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth & hoofs. It shall be suitable for use in animal food.

 

Gross? Well the AAFCO definition of “meat” isn’t much better:

 

Meat – is the clean flesh of slaughtered mammals and is limited to...the striate muscle...with or without the accompanying and overlying fat and the portions of the skin, sinew, nerve and blood vessels which normally accompany the flesh.

 

I bring this topic up because I often hear owners talking about the importance of meat in the diets of their cats. This isn’t exactly wrong so much as imprecise. What cats really need is protein sourced from animals (a little bit of plant-based protein is okay, too). This can include meat, meat by-products, and meat by-product meal.

 

When feral or wild cats hunt, they don’t limit themselves to eating “meat.” In fact, they often feed on other organs first precisely because they are a richer source of many of the nutrients cats need to thrive. Our preference for meat over by-products is simply cultural, as anyone who has traveled extensively can attest to.

 

Think of it this way. Cats hunt birds and eat most of what they kill. Therefore, most parts of a chicken carcass are appropriate foodstuffs as well. If an ingredient list were to include such things as chicken spleen, chicken blood, chicken kidney, and chicken intestine, owners might be a little taken aback but probably wouldn’t question whether or not they were suitable for cats to eat. All of these ingredients are actually by-products.

 

The question should really be whether the chicken carcass from which both meat and by-products are derived is of high-quality. Was the animal fed and housed well when it was alive? Is it free from contaminants? Unfortunately, there is no way for owners to make determinations like these based on a cat food label. The best you can do is pick a food made by a reputable manufacturer and assess your cat’s response to it. If after a month or so, the cat has normal gastrointestinal function, healthy looking coat and skin, and a good energy level based on his or her age and health, you’re on the right track.

 

Dr. Jennifer Coates

 

Image: Leyla Ismet / Shutterstock

 

Subscribe to Nutrition Nuggets

Comments  1

Leave Comment
  • Haunted
    06/16/2014 06:33pm

    I'm still haunted by something I saw as a child. A bat flew into the picture window and the cat got it before it regained its senses. By the time I got to the cat (to save the bat), there was only a wing hanging out of the cat's mouth. The bat was completely consumed.

 



ABOUT NUTRITION NUGGETS

JENNIFER COATES, DVM

Photo of Jennifer

... graduated with honors from the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine in 1999. In the years since, she has practiced veterinary medicine in Virginia, Wyoming, and Colorado. She is the author of several books about veterinary medicine and animal care, including the Dictionary of Veterinary Terms, Vet-Speak Deciphered for the Non-Veterinarian .

Jennifer also writes short stories that focus on the strength and importance of the human-animal bond and freelance articles relating to a variety of animal care and veterinary topics. Dr. Coates lives in Fort Collins, Colorado with her husband, daughter, and pets.

  • Lifetime Credits:
  • Today's Credits:
Hurry Before All Seats are Taken!
Enroll
Be an A++ Pet Parent! Take fun & free courses to earn badges & certifications. Choose a course»

Poll


 
MORE FROM PETMD.COM