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Guide to Guaranteed Analysis

The Comprehensive Guide to Guaranteed Analysis for Dry Cat Food

Learn how to use the Guaranteed Analysis table to find the best food for your cat
Cat Food Central

Cat Food Central

Table of Contents

Introduction

Choosing the right food for your cat can be a daunting task, especially with the myriad of options available in the market. One of the key factors that can guide your decision is understanding the nutritional levels of the food. This is where the concept of ‘guaranteed analysis’ comes into play. In this article we’ll be breaking down the complex terminology and help you understand what exactly goes into your cat’s diet.

Understanding the Concept of Guaranteed Analysis

The term “guaranteed analysis” refers to a standardized declaration that you’ll find on every pet food label. This declaration is far from a simple statement; it’s a comprehensive breakdown that provides the minimum or maximum levels of certain nutrients like protein, fat, fiber, and moisture.

It allows you to see at a glance the proportions of these key nutrients, helping you ensure that your cat’s dietary needs are being met. It’s particularly useful when comparing different brands or types of cat food, as it allows for a direct comparison based on nutritional content.

Guaranteed Analysis vs. As Fed

When looking at the guaranteed analysis, you’ll notice that it’s calculated on an “as fed” basis. This means that the percentages given take into account the moisture content of the food. This is a different approach from the dry matter basis often used in scientific studies, which excludes moisture content.

So, is guaranteed analysis the same as as Fed? The answer is nuanced. While both provide valuable information about the food’s nutritional content, they do so in different ways. The “as fed” values consider the moisture content, which can be significant, especially in wet cat food. On the other hand, the dry matter basis provides a view of the nutrients independent of moisture. Both are important for understanding your cat’s nutritional intake, but they are not the same.

The Significance of Guaranteed Analysis in Cat Food

The guaranteed analysis in cat food is more than just a regulatory requirement. It serves a dual purpose: it’s a tool for you, the consumer, and a means of communication for the manufacturers.

For cat owners, the guaranteed analysis allows you to look beyond the marketing claims and assess what’s really in the food you’re feeding your cat. This can help you choose the cat food that best fits your cat’s nutritional needs, whether they’re a growing kitten, an active adult, or a senior with specific dietary requirements.

For manufacturers, the guaranteed analysis is a way to communicate the nutritional value and the quality of their cat food products in a clear, standardized format. This can help build trust with consumers and allow for transparency in their manufacturing process.

Key Components of Guaranteed Analysis

The guaranteed analysis provides crucial information about the food’s nutritional content. The four main components listed in a guaranteed analysis are (1) crude protein, (2) crude fat, (3) crude fiber, and (4) moisture. Each of these components plays a vital role in your cat’s diet and overall health.

Crude Protein

Crude protein is a measure of all sources of nitrogen in the cat food. It’s essential for growth and energy, especially for kittens who are still developing.

But what does “crude” mean in this context? The term “crude” refers to the method of testing the product, not the quality of the protein itself. The crude protein content is determined by a lab test that measures the total amount of nitrogen in the food, which is then used to estimate the protein content.

However, it’s important to note that not all proteins are created equal. Animal-based proteins are more complete and balanced for a cat’s dietary needs than plant-based proteins.

Learn more about the role and importance of protein in cat food here.

Crude Fat

Crude fat in cat food provides essential fatty acids and aids in nutrient absorption. It’s also a concentrated source of energy. The fat content in cat food should be balanced – not too low, not too high.

Just like with crude protein, the term “crude” refers to the method of testing rather than the quality of the fat and is determined by a lab test that measures the total amount of fat in the food.

It’s also important to consider the sources of fat. Look for named fat sources (like chicken fat) rather than generic terms (like animal fat).

Crude Fiber

Crude fiber aids in digestion by adding bulk to the diet and helping to prevent constipation. However, cats are obligate carnivores and their natural diet in the wild contains very little fiber. Therefore, a high fiber content is not necessarily beneficial and can even be just a filler in some foods.

The fiber content is determined by a lab test that measures the plant material in the food that is indigestible. While some fiber is beneficial, too much can interfere with the absorption of other essential nutrients.

Moisture

Moisture is a measure of the amount of water contained in the food. While it might seem like moisture is a straightforward component, it plays a crucial role in your cat’s health and the quality of their diet.

Cats naturally have a low thirst drive, and in the wild, they get most of their water from their prey. Dry cat food has a low moisture, usually around 10%, while wet cat food can be up to 80% water. Therefore, cats on a dry food diet need to drink more water to stay hydrated.

The moisture also affects the total nutrients in the food. Two foods might have the same protein percentage, but if one has a higher moisture, it will actually have less protein in terms of dry matter.

Dry cat food often provides more nutrients in a smaller volume of food due to its low moisture, usually around 10%. This means that, pound for pound, dry cat food is more nutrient-dense. It’s also more calorie-dense, so it can be a better choice for cats with high energy requirements. Additionally, dry cat food is more convenient to store and can be left out for free feeding without spoiling, unlike wet cat food.

Nutritional Adequacy Statement

It might be small but it’s a significant part of the cat food label. This statement indicates whether the food provides complete and balanced nutrition for a specific life stage, according to AAFCO’s standards.

Life stages can include growth (kittens), maintenance (adults), gestation/lactation (pregnant or nursing cats), or all life stages. A food labeled for all life stages meets the more stringent nutritional needs of growth/gestation/lactation and can thus be fed to cats of any age.

The nutritional adequacy statement also tells you if the food’s nutritional claims have been validated through feeding trials or nutrient profiles. Feeding trials, where the food is fed to cats under specific guidelines, are considered the gold standard.

Feeding Guidelines

Feeding guidelines are typically found on the back or side of the cat food package. These guidelines provide a recommended starting point for how much to feed your cat based on their weight.

The actual amount of food your cat needs can vary based on factors such as age, activity level, metabolism, and health status. For instance, kittens, pregnant cats, and very active cats usually require more calories per day than adult cats or less active cats.

It’s also important to note that these guidelines are usually calculated for the average cat. If your cat is overweight or underweight, you may need to adjust the portion sizes accordingly. Always monitor your cat’s weight and body condition, and consult with your vet if you’re unsure about how much to feed your cat.

AAFCO Standards and the 95% Rule

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) plays a pivotal role in setting nutritional standards for pet food. This non-profit organization is responsible for establishing the nutritional adequacy of pet foods sold in the United States. Their guidelines are designed to ensure that pet food products, including cat food, meet at least the minimum requirements for a pet’s diet and are based on the latest scientific research on feline nutrition and are regularly updated to reflect new findings.

One of the key rules established by AAFCO is the 95% rule. This rule applies to pet foods that are primarily composed of one ingredient, and that ingredient is named in the product title. For instance, if a product is named “Chicken for Cats,” then the product must contain at least 95% chicken, not counting the water added for processing. When counting this added water, the named ingredient must still comprise 70% of the product. This rule is crucial as it prevents pet food manufacturers from misleading consumers with product names that suggest a high content of a desirable ingredient when the actual content is low.

The standards cover all life stages of a cat, from kitten to adult to senior, and specify the minimum amounts of essential nutrients like proteins, fats, vitamins, and minerals that should be present in the cat food. They also specify the maximum amounts of certain nutrients, like sodium and magnesium, to prevent health problems associated with excess intake.

Cat foods that meet AAFCO’s standards are considered “complete and balanced,” meaning they provide all the necessary nutrients for a cat in the right proportions.

Laboratory Analysis of Dry Food products

Laboratory analysis of cat food is a crucial part of ensuring the quality and safety of the food. These analyses are conducted by independent labs.

The lab will test the food to ensure that the minimum levels of nutrients like protein and fat are met and that the maximum levels of nutrients like fiber and moisture are not exceeded. This helps ensure that the food meets the nutritional claims made on the pet food label.

The lab analyses also test for contaminants like heavy metals, mycotoxins, and bacteria. This is an essential part of ensuring the safety of the food.

Ideal Percentages: A Balanced Approach

When it comes to the ideal percentages of protein, fat, and fiber in cat food, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The ideal nutrient profile for your cat depends on a variety of factors, including their age, activity level, and health status.

Kittens, for instance, need a diet high in protein to support their rapid growth and development. Adult cats, on the other hand, require a balanced diet that maintains their health and supports their energy levels. Senior cats may have different nutritional needs depending on their health status.

However, a general guideline is that adult cat food should contain at least 26% protein and 9% fat on a dry matter basis. This provides a baseline to ensure that your cat is getting the necessary nutrients for their health. Fiber content should be moderate, as too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients.

Summary

Understanding the guaranteed analysis on cat food labels can greatly help you ensure your cat’s nutritional needs are met. It allows you to compare different cat foods based on their nutritional content and choose the one that best fits your cat’s unique needs.

In Cat Food Central – every dry cat food has a guaranteed analysis table so you can easily check it:

Guaranteed Analysis table in Cat Food Central

Remember, the best diet for your cat is one that meets their unique nutritional needs, and this can vary based on their age, activity level, and health status. Always consult with your vet if you’re unsure about the best diet for your cat.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the guaranteed analysis on cat food labels?

The guaranteed analysis on a cat food label provides the minimum or maximum levels of certain nutrients in the cat food. These nutrients typically include protein, fat, fiber, and moisture. It’s a tool that helps you compare different cat foods on a nutritional basis.

How is the guaranteed analysis different from the ‘as fed’ basis?

The guaranteed analysis is calculated on an “as fed” basis, which means that the percentages given take into account the moisture amount in the food. This is different from the dry matter basis often used in scientific studies, which excludes moisture. Both provide valuable information about the food’s nutritional content, but they do so in different ways.

What is the 95% rule for cat food?

The 95% rule is a labeling rule established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). It applies to pet foods that are primarily composed of one ingredient, and that ingredient is named in the product title. For instance, if a product is named “Chicken for Cats,” then the product must contain at least 95% chicken, not counting the water added for processing.

How do I read cat food labels?

The product name can give you a hint about the food’s ingredients. The ingredient list, which is arranged in descending order by weight, tells you what the food is made of. The guaranteed analysis provides minimum or maximum levels of certain nutrients. The nutritional adequacy statement indicates whether the food provides complete and balanced nutrition for a specific life stage.

What are the ideal percentages of nutrients in cat food?

The ideal nutrient profile for your cat depends on a variety of factors, including their age, activity level, and health status. However, a general guideline is that adult cat food should contain at least 26% protein and 9% fat on a dry matter basis. Fiber content should be moderate, as too much fiber can interfere with the absorption of other nutrients.

How the score is calculated?

The actual calculation of the score is based on sophisticated and advanced algorithm that takes into account multiple parameters.

To simplify the explanation, the calculation is based on three main criteria:

(1) Amount of protein (more is better)

(2) Amount of carbohydrates (less is better)

(3) Quality and source of ingredients.

Based on that 3 main criteria, 9 score calculation rules are used to compare the different foods.

One major assumption is that the closer an ingredient is to the top of the ingredient list, the greater its relative weight and contribution to the food.

In general, cat food is composed of protein, fats, carbohydrates, fibers, vitamins, and minerals.

Protein is the most important component in a cat’s diet, and cats primarily get their protein from animal meat.

Fat is a primary source of energy and essential fatty acids.

Carbohydrates are controversial in a cat’s diet, as cats are obligate carnivores and typically consume very few carbohydrates.

Fibers play an important role in digestion and food absorption, and vitamins and minerals are essential for different organism functions.

Dry matter values are used to compare the amount of nutrients in different cat foods.
This means that moisture is excluded from the equation to provide a more accurate comparison.

Putting all of these and more into a formula results in a product score.

The maximum score a cat food can receive is 100.
Points are added or removed based on the score calculation rules.