Are natural ingredients the most important component in a commercial cat food?

The answer to this question really depends upon how you look at the overall food, because in natural foods, a high-quality protein is always the most important component, and it should be recognizable meat.

The claim for “all natural” is that the ingredients are always derived from whole foods and they include no preservatives or additives. Extra supplementation, vitamins and minerals are often used to increase the nutrient value.

However, in commercial cat food, protein is often, but not always, the most important component and, even when it is, that protein source may not be from known meat. It could be a plant-based protein or a by-product. It could be heavily laden with carbohydrates, which cats really do not need and cannot digest. Commercial foods often contain fillers and sometimes additives, sweeteners and chemical preservatives are used. Sometimes what’s not included in cat food is just as important as what is included.

To confuse matters even more, you do need to be careful when something is labeled “holistic” or “all natural.” Those are not legal definitions but, rather, marketing terms. On the other hand, whole foods are always best for humans, so maybe they are for pets, too. They also include key enhancements like glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, dental care formula to reduce tartar buildup, L-carnitine to help metabolize fat, and higher levels of antioxidants to support a healthy immune system.

Some other things you may want to look for:

• Taurine, an essential amino acid found only in meat and fish, a deficiency can create immune, heart and eye problems.
• Fiber to promote a healthy digestive tract. Some cat foods now include two, beet pulp and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) on the ingredient list of cat food.
• Antioxidants to help prevent oxidation, which forms “free radicals, rogue oxygen molecules that can dangerously react with other molecules, leading to health problems.
• Glucosamine and Chondroitin, important in nourishing and supporting joint health.
• L-carnitine, a naturally occurring vitamin-like compound that plays a vital role in the metabolism of fat.

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