5 Ways to Know Your Cat Food is Worth the Money

PetMD Editorial
Updated: October 16, 2020
Published: December 22, 2014
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Spend Smartly

Saving money makes sense for certain items, but not when you're talking about skimping on pet food and getting the "cheap" brand. Your cat is wonderful companion and deserves a diet that will help keep him or her healthy for many years to come. How do know if your cat food is worth it? Let's look a few key factors.

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1. Where was the Cat Food Made?

Quality and safety is a concern for all pet food manufacturers, but some companies take particular pride manufacturing the food at their own facilities (versus co-manufacturing or manufacturing off-site) in order to uphold these two principles. According to Mindy Bough, CVT, vice president of operations for the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center and head of the ASPCA’s Pet Nutrition Services, manufacturing pet foods onsite allows for better quality control as it relates to ingredient sources and processes. Look for a statement on your cat’s food that says it is “manufactured by” the pet food company rather than “manufactured for” or “distributed by.”

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2. Who Makes the Cat Food?

Formulating your cat’s food is not easy. In fact, quality pet food manufacturers employ nutritionists who must properly balance key ingredients in the diets (sometimes numbering more than 50 nutrients ) as well as individual nutrients and minerals to help maintain your cat at optimal health. 

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3. Does it have Artificial Flavors, Additives or Preservatives?

Premium pet foods use natural ingredients instead of artificial flavors, additives or preservatives that are often the source of "empty" or non-nutritious calories. Some preservatives are even known to be carcinogenic (cancer-causing) in humans such as butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT).

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4. Has the Cat Food Undergone Feeding Trials?

According to Ashley Gallagher, DVM at Friendship Hospital for Animals, AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) feeding trials are the gold standard when it comes to feeding trials for pet foods. Diets that have been substantiated via this type of feeding trial have been fed to pets under strict guidelines and found to provide proper nutrition. Look for a statement on your pet’s food label that reads: “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that [Name of Pet Food Company] provides complete and balanced nutrition."

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5. Does it have an AAFCO Statement?

Also called a "nutrition claim," the "AAFCO statement of nutritional adequacy or purpose" is a statement that indicates the food is complete and balanced for a particular life stage, such as growth, reproduction, adult maintenance or all life stage..