Thursday, June 4, 2009 3:33 PM

Guaranteed Nutrition?

Continuing on with our research project, let us once again take a look at that "guaranteed analysis" section of our canned cat food label. Next on the hit list is "crude fiber", listed at 1% of wet or 1/22=4.5% of the product's dry weight. That doesn't sound too bad. Do cats need fiber? Well, not really. Research indicates that both dogs and cats do very well on homemade diets with less than 1.5% fiber content. Fiber, in the form of inexpensive grain and cereal products, does bulk up the product for consumer purchase. For very little expense, the manufacturer makes more profit than if that percentage was made up of protein. Cats do ingest their prey's stomach contents in the wild, including any vegetation they have consumed, so this ingredient causes no harm. Again, note the word "crude" prefacing fiber; it's anyone's guess exactly how refined this ingredient is. My guess: not very!

The next item listed is the infamous "ash", or mineral content. Ash is primarily made up of magnesium and phosphate. This food lists a wet 1.9% or 1.9/22=8.6% dry ash content. What does this mean? As it turns out, not much. For years, cat food makers have been producing "low ash" foods in response to an increase in Feline Urological Syndrome (FUS). This is a serious disorder in cats (particularly male cats) which can lead to death from kidney failure and blood poisoning if not promptly treated. Its increased incidence in cats is directly attributable to feeding commercial diets, but not because of the ash content. Diet affects the cat's urinary ph, which is meant to be acidic. An acidic urine will dissolve any calculi (stones) before blockage of the urethra can occur. Poor quality dietary ingredients, particularly proteins, contribute directly to the alkalinization of urine, leading to FUS. Therefore, the actual ash content is immaterial. I will talk about this issue more thoroughly when I discuss common feline health problems.

The last ingredient listed is taurine, an amino acid very important to a cat's health. Unlike other animals, cats cannot produce taurine from other amino acids. Muscle meat contains quite a bit of this amino acid, but will leach out into cooking juices and is completely destroyed by high heat, such as the commercial food industry uses in making its product. In the 1960s, when people began feeding these new store-bought diets to their cats, a problem developed whereby cats were going blind and developing heart problems. Symptoms were reversed, if not too far gone, by supplementing taurine. Now, all commercial food manufacturers add it to the finished product and the eye and heart problems no longer occur. The label states a .05% or .23% dry weight percentage of taurine in this particular product. Thirty to 50 mg. a day for an adult cat is considered adequate.

Next time we'll take a look at the actual ingredients listed on this food label. Yum!

So Cute: Here's our little pal Chickie, placed in the chicken coop by his "mom" Miss P. so that he can get used to the outdoor life. Just to make sure he doesn't get "disappeared" while she's at work, he's still in his Chickie condo for protection. I'm not sure he looks all that happy with this change of scenery. What do you think?
Chat later!

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Amanda has worked with animals for many years and has always had cats in her life. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two excellent cats.
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