Let’s be honest. Reading cat food cans are a pain. Cat food nutrition information is NOT easy to digest. But, the good news is that you can always go to their official website and look up the information of the brand if you’re really curious.
Don’t go crazy reading these labels though- just do the best you can. If you’ve gotten this far into the rabbit hole, you’re already doing so much better than most other cat owners! I’d like to delve a little bit further for those that are interested… Let’s start off in the most important part of the label (besides the ingredients), the guaranteed analysis.
Reading the Guaranteed Analysis
This is also known as the “As Fed Percentage.” All cat food labels, good or bad, will have these printed on the cans. Crude protein, fat, fiber, moisture, and ash are usually always listed followed by phosphorous and taurine. Note that these labels NEVER list the carbohydrate’s percentage which is a huge pain considering that’s one of the most important aspects of cat nutrition. Usually, the websites will list them. Just remember, you’re trying to stay low carb (lower than 10%). The ingredients label can also help you track down common carbs like peas and starchy potatoes(if you’re getting holistic food, these usually aren’t in ingredients in the can, so be wary of your choices.)- they just won’t list the exact percentage. So again, use judgment.
Tip: Crude just means the way it’s tested. It’s the chemical analysis, not the quality of the nutrient.
- Crude Protein: This basically means it’s a chemical analysis of the nitrogen present in the food to estimate the protein. Remember, proteins are made up of amino acids and amino acids contain nitrogen. So, what this also means is that the crude protein can be made up of veggies and grains which also contain nitrogen.
See what I mean about labels being vague? They aren’t required to break it down. Again, refer to the ingredients label to make the judgment on what makes up the crude protein % in the food.
- Crude Fat: The amount of fat in the can. Often followed by a “minimum” abbreviation, there’s no way to 100% tell how much fat is in the can just by reading it because of this loophole. Depending on the size of the can, I’ve seen averages of 1.1% to 3.5% in the smaller 3.0 oz cans. I would say generally go lower on the fat if you can.
- Crude Fiber: This is just the amount of carbs that are resistant to digestive enzymes. Cats don’t really have any need for fibers, it’s more of a recent trend to add fiber into cat food. They can benefit from fiber, but it’s not needed.
- Moisture: Cats need a lot of moisture in their food. But that’s another place where canned foods will rip you off- when there’s just too much water content in the food and you’re mostly paying for water! I would stick to lower than 80% moisture. Anymore than that and it’s questionable how much you’re really getting out of the can.
ALWAYS have fresh water alongside your cat’s food. They still need a reliable water source that doesn’t come from their food.
- Ash: Ash is just what’s left over in the cremation process when everything is burned out. It’s also not a super big deal and not really worth going into. It’s part of the dry matter part of the nutrition list, which is just the portion of the food when all the moisture has been removed.
The important thing to know about Ash content is that the less Ash content in the food, the more calories and actual food are in the can.
The process of looking at a can
Let’s look at a 3.0 oz can of Soulistic’s Good Karma Chicken dinner in gravy. The words chicken and gravy stick out to me the most. Chicken is good because poultry is the most favorable meat a cat can get- fish tends to have a high allergy potential. Shadow seems to be sensitive to fish so I won’t be purchasing any food with fish anymore.
They can also be contaminated with mercury but companies claim to get smaller fish with fewer levels of mercury, so there’s that.
Gravy can be a delicate word. It is often high in carbohydrates but again, you can further research the carb percentage on the website. I would stick to foods in Pate form if you can.
Let’s look at the Guaranteed analysis next.
Crude Protein (min) 10%, Crude Fat (min) 1.1%, Crude Fiber (max) 0.5%, Moisture (max) 84%, Ash (max) 2.0%, Calcium (max) 0.25%, Phosphorus (max) 0.25%, Magnesium (max) 0.03%, Taurine (min) 0.05%
The protein content is high, good. The moisture does ring a few bells as it’s 84%, a little higher than I’d like. That’s probably because the first ingredient is “Water Sufficient For Processing” and THEN Chicken.
I’ve noticed that all of their canned foods have water as the first ingredient and that is really disappointing. Looking online specifically at the carb percentage, I see that it is generally high in all charts. In the Calories and Metabolizable (ME) chart, it’s at 16.52% of their daily intake. That’s already higher than we want.
Also in the As Fed Percentage chart, it’s at 3.75% a can. If you feed your cat three to four 3.0 oz cans in a day, that’s around 11.25% or 15%. Still, higher than we want.
Looking at ingredients, Soulistic actually specifies what goes into their “Chicken” label. It’s Boneless and Skinless breast, which is great news here. Oh, and after chicken comes Tapioca Starch, probably one of the culprits making the carb count higher. Use your detective work!
Also note that there is a total of 23 ingredients in this can, and this one actually says what the bigger words are actually, like Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1.)
All in all, they have other flavors and pates with fewer carbs, like their Chicken and Turkey dinner Pate that has 1.07% carbs in their As Fed Percentage chart.
This is still a really good brand to get into holistic food. Just watch out for that moisture content and get the best bang for your buck while giving your cat the best diet you can afford!
Use Your Judgment
Probably the most important thing for you and your cat. There is a lot of trial and error and there really isn’t the perfect canned food out there for your cat. Soulistic is great generally, but the high moisture content and the fact that water is the first ingredient in most of their foods is a turnoff for me. I still believe because of their excellent price point, you are getting a great deal.
More on that HERE if you’re interested in reading a review of Soulistic wet cat food.
I have found in my struggles to find a good wet cat food there’s always that ONE aspect of the food that I don’t like. Whether it be a lower protein count, the moisture is too high, or there are too many veggies, there will usually be a con. This is OK though as nothing is ever perfect.
Unless you start making your own food for your cat for complete control over their diet, this is the best that you can do.
You have to get used to outweighing pros and cons when looking for a great canned food. Just remember this if you ever get frustrated: the fact that you’re even buying canned food/wet food for your cat is such an important step. Your cat will thank you in the long run!
Feel free to share your experiences with cat food labels! I’d love to hear other owner’s struggles in deciding on the right food 🙂