What Cat Food Ingredients Should I Avoid?

Photo of Person Opening a Can of FancyFeast Cat Food
FancyFeast Gourmet Cat Food. photo © Getty Images / Tom Kelley Archive

Question: What cat food ingredients should I avoid?

Answer: Pioneers such as Ann Martin, with her book, "Foods Pets Die For," raised new consumer awareness about the ingredients in commercial pet foods, including cat food.

In more recent times, modern crusader Susan Thixton, founder of Truth About Pet Food, has taken on the FDA and the pet food industry like a caped crusader. She, along with Mollie Morrissette and Dr. Jean Hofve are working together to give consumers a voice with the FDA and the AAFCO.

Although much more information can be found about choosing quality cat food for your cats in my article, "Tips for Choosing Cat Food," I'll synopsize the ingredients you should avoid here:

  • BHT, BHA, and ethoxyquin
    These are chemical preservatives which are very effective at preserving dry cat food but are suspected to be potentially cancer-causing agents. In recent years, many pet food manufacturers have moved toward using more "natural" preservatives, such as Vitamins C and E.
  • Meat By-Products
    The AAFCO (American Association of Feed Control Officers) defines meat by-products as " 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 and stomachs and intestines freed of their contents. It does not include hair, horns, teeth and hooves." Besides the fact that you don't know what species of animal the "meat" comes from, by-products, as a rule, are considered an inferior form of the protein which cats need.
  • Meat Meal, Meat By-Product Meal
    "Meal" is generally produced by rendering, a process which raises a red flag to cat enthusiasts. I would definitely recommend avoiding cat foods containing these ingredients.
  • Corn Meal As Filler
  • Excess of carbohydrate "fillers" (Dry food can contain as much as 50 percent grain) Older cats and cats with diabetes can be fed grain-free food, as long as the carbohydrate content is limited.

    Make sure to read the ingredient label before purchasing food for your cat.