Today I’m going to discuss general nutrition – what to look for on the bag, what all that mumbo jumbo even means, and food puzzles!
If you have an overweight cat or two at home we have plenty of room in Team FatCat bootcamp! Just contact the clinic and we’ll get you in touch with one of our assistants who specialize in feline nutrition (Sophie speaking, hello!)
Reading the Bag – What to Look For
When selecting a pet food, there is nothing more critical than an AAFCO statement. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has conducted a lot of research and they are the organization that maintains the standards for complete and balanced nutrition for our pets. All commercially sold pet foods should have an AAFCO statement that confirms they maintain the nutritional requirements our pets need – if they do not provide an AAFCO statement, drop that bag like it’s hot!
Ok, so it’s AAFCO approved, what does that even mean?
Unlike humans, who have to delicately construct our diets from different foods in all the categories of the food pyramid, our pets depend on their food to provide all the nutrients they need in the proportions that they need them in. Pet food companies can meet the standards set by AAFCO in one of two ways: feeding trials or formulations. If a company has conducted a feeding trial, they have physically feed their product to animals and studied how they respond. A feeding trial AAFCO statement will state “Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that ___ provides complete and balanced nutrition for __ of __ cats.” Alternatively, pet food companies can simply formulate their foods to meet AAFCO standards. For example, if they know ingredients x, y, and z contain _% protein, _% fiber, etc then they can calculate how those values will translate into the finished product.
Additionally, the AAFCO statement will indicate whether the food meets AAFCO requirements for growth, maintenance, or all life stages. Foods formulated for growth are intended specifically for kittens and lactating mother cats. Foods formulated for maintenance of adult cats are intended for adult cats who have finished growing (pretty straight forward). And finally, foods formulated for All Life Stages can meet the nutritional requirements for both kittens and adult cats. These statements will be phrased similar to the statement above, “___ is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles for __.”
Selecting between a food formulated for all life stages vs adult maintenance could make or break a kitty cat’s summer figure!
After the AAFCO statement and its implications, the caloric content is next on the list. Most dry cat foods range from 230 kcal/cup to over 600 kcal/cup. Wet foods can range from 10 kcal/pouch to over 400 kcal/12.5oz can. This is incredibly important! Filling the bowl freely with a calorically dense food (>400 kcal/cup) can lead to a fat cat very quickly. It’s also important to take wet food into consideration. If they’re receiving wet food in addition to dry, it’s important to reduce the amount of dry they are receiving. Most dry food bags will offer feeding recommendations:
Most feeding guides will only offer how much to feed for a specific weight. Most often, it’s for a lean weight – so if your cat is overweight, then these guidelines may exceed their optimal caloric intake. Some companies, such as Royal Canin, have taken the initiative to offer feeding recommendations for multiple feline lifestyles (low activity, average activity, high activity level, overweight, etc).
To determine your cat’s optimal weight and receive a customized feeding plan, reach out to Team FatCat!
Increasing activity level in addition to dietary management is critical for weight loss. Feather toys, laser pointers, anything that gets them moving. You can also utilize food puzzles to make her “work” for her food. For cats, food puzzles are mentally stimulating which also helps alleviate boredom. We have several recommendations for food puzzles and toys on our website: / or you can try some DIY food puzzles. We also highly recommend the NoBowl Feeding System. which is a great way to replace the stationary dry food bowl and turn meal time into a playful “hunt” – and you can use the code “catlvt” at checkout for a discount 🙂