Guest post by Joseph J. Wakshlag, DVM

For the cat parent looking for commercial raw and ultra premium cat foods, there are plenty of choices, and lots of claims to wade through.  Since these foods are often more expensive, how do you read the labels correctly and make sure you’re getting the right food for your extra cash?

Too often manufacturers throw out the terms “holistic” or “natural” which have little to no regulated meaning. “Holistic” has no definition in the pet food industry and can be used by any manufacturer, while “natural” has limited value since it only means that there are no synthetic preservatives in the food. (Synthetic preservatives are uncommon in the organic and ultra premium market.)

5 Little-Known Facts About Cat Food Labels

1. Check Out the Second Ingredient

Oftentimes consumers see a starburst on a pet food that says something like “Real beef: #1 ingredient!” What you may not know is that all meat ingredients (turkey, pork, beef, etc.) are added as “wet weight” while some of the other ingredients are added as dry ingredients. This is true for canned as well as for dry cat foods. This means that the dry ingredients may actually make up more of the nutritional value of the food than the wet beef (subtract the water that’s naturally in the beef and you get less volume and less nutrition from this ingredient than from the dry ones).

So the key is to also look at the second ingredient. This will tell you even more about the quality of the food you’re getting.

2. Labeling organic ingredients

Cat parents interested in organic food, don’t be fooled by confusing labeling! If a manufacturer labels a cat food explicitly “organic cat food,” this means that it must be over 90% organic. If, however, the label claims to be “made with organic chicken,” then the food may be significantly less organic. 

3. Sodium panthothenate and thiamine monochloride: Don’t be afraid!

What are these strange words that most people can’t pronounce? Don’t fret, these are vitamins and minerals that are actually essential to optimal health and are helping to meet all of your cat’s nutritional requirements.


Many super premium foods may tout claims that they are sourced with only US ingredients. This is actually becoming harder and harder to do since more often the vitamins and minerals discussed above are only manufactured in Asia, and these manufacturers will have the most consistent supply. Many US pet food manufacturers need to utilize these sources. If a manufacturer claims 100% USA sourcing, this may not be entirely true. Most likely many of the true food ingredients, such as protein, are being sourced in the US, but if you’re concerned, you should contact the manufacturer.

5. How much protein and how much fat?

Check the protein content in the guaranteed analysis on the label. In a canned or raw cat food a high protein content would be 10% or higher. But with the increasing incidence of obesity in our feline companions, it’s just as important to pay attention to the fat content in a food. Typical prey that a cat would eat in the wild would have approximately a 2:1 ratio of protein:fat, or be even higher in protein.

To help curb weight gain you should look for a fat content that is half of the protein content. For example, if the protein is 12% then the fat content should be around 6% or lower. Too often the protein content will be 12% and the fat will be 10%. Not only are you predisposing your cat to obesity when feeding a food like this, you are also feeding something that is not similar to the prey they would naturally eat.

Dr. Joe is a board certified veterinary nutritionist and graduate of Cornell University’s program for Veterinary Medicine. He is a Consulting Nutritionist for The Wet Nose Press and PetCareRx. The information contained above is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian.

Photo by Sukanto Debnath, Flick Creative Commons

16 Comments on 5 Tips on Picking a Quality Raw or Canned Cat Food

  1. We have some with nasty egg allergies in the house, is there an alternative to egg yolks? Or a suitable supplement to replace them?

  2. I have 4 cats I need help to feed them whats best for them can u advise me
    One has tecently developed high protein levels in urine due to tabs he was prescribed. Can u help

  3. Hi Ingrid,

    We love your blog and all your nutrition advice.

    Mum likes to feed us AlmoNature canned food from time to time, but hasn’t seen it reviewed on your site at all. Or anywhere else for that matter… We are wondering if it is a good choice for wet food? We absolutely love it and gobble it up, but we wanted a second opinion on its nutritional value.

    Thanks for all your pawsome and informative posts!

    -Bella (and sisfur Molly)

      • We are in Canada, so it may be a region thing.
        they have a website here (
        Many of their recipes are fish, but they have some chicken options too.

        Mum likes that they are just meat and water for cooking, but she worries about the lack of added nutrients. (For now, these cans are our treat, but we’d never say no to more!)

        Hopefully this is helpful to other kitties in Canada looking for good foods, as we’ve not been able to find some of your recommendations, but this we can get near-by.

        Thank you for your reply 🙂


  4. What about carbs? The carb percentage is much more imperative for a cat’s well-being than protein/fat ratios. For *obligate* carnivores like cats, they only need around 12% carbs or less). If you get rid of the carbs, the protein/fat ratio automatically increases to decent ratios because they have to replace all that carbs with fat and/or protein.

    Carbs are what makes cats fat because they will keep eating carb-dense food until they can reach the necessary amount of protein & fat intake that they need. The higher carb food, the more of it they need to eat to make up for the lack of fat and protein.

      • There have been a few studies related to carb intake and overrating with cats. They’ve discovered that cats are very good at knowing when they need more fat and/or protein and will keep eating till they achieve the proper amount, regardless of how many carbs they have to consume to get there:

        From the study above:

        “Rather, the weight of evidence suggests that cats regulated the macronutrient composition of the diet towards a target composition lying within the region bounded by the wet diets. We estimate from the data in Expt 9 that the intake target lies close to 26 g day protein, 9 g day fat and 8 g day carbohydrate, yielding a macronutrient energy composition of 52% protein, 36% fat and 12% carbohydrate.”

  5. I ordered the Nature’s Logic Natural Chicken Dinner Fare Canned Cat Food and it was expired. It has an actual expiration date of 1-26-13. This is May 30th. I had to wait a week for this stuff to be shipped across country and my cats went without any soft food because I was waiting for this to come in. I am in rural KS and there are not Petco’s or shops that carry holistic or natural cat foods close by.

  6. My kitties usually have different tastes in food – some of them eat whatever I give them and a few turn their nose up at almost everything, but they all seem to love B.F.F. or Tiki Cat which is all protein and no filler, like rice. It’s more expensive, but I think it’s worth it to give them high quality wet food…less veterinary bills down the road hopefully!

  7. My cat Cole is a little overweight and I’ve been trying to feed him differently. The article about the protein and fat content was something I didn’t know. The one thing is he won’t eat better quality can food. I feed him premium dry, but can food he’s picky.

  8. I have tried and tried to feed my 6 cats ranging from 5months to 15years high quality wet food and they hate it. I have tried everything. They love Friskies so I add Alaskan Wild Salmon Oil to their food. They get a quality dry food. But that being said they will eat the dog’s Blue Buffalo wet given the chance. I cannot figure them out.

  9. Hi,
    I’ve been feeding my cat canned and also I cook
    chicken livers for him. I hope that it is not too rich, but he loves it!

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