On a cat food label, what is the definition of holistic?
There is no official definition for holistic pet food. It’s only a marketing term. In general, look for a brand that contains meat, a minimum of fillers and additives and a little fruit and vegetable. It’s important to remember that cats are strict meat-eaters and, in fact, cannot properly digest carbohydrates. Therefore, they really aren’t needed, but some premium pet food manufacturers will add vegetables or fruit to increase the nutrient content. It’s also critical to be mindful of your cat’s need for the essential amino acid, taurine—and that is only found in meat and fish.
You’ll need to read labels and use your judgment when determining the quality of a holistic pet food.
Holistic cat food usually contains more protein than commercial cat food, often listing meat as the largest component. Holistic foods will use named meat—not something generic, and not a by-product. Holistic food often contains fewer chemical preservatives, and claims to use fewer animal by-products that may be tainted with pentobarbital, a chemical used to euthanize animals.
Generally, little or no preservatives or artificial colors have been added and that natural preservatives, such as vitamin C or vitamin E, have been used. In addition, although these products may not contain added artificial preservatives, they can still include preservatives that are already in some items, such as meats.
While a holistic food, or even a raw diet, can be absolutely healthy, please be sure to check with your veterinarian or pet nutrition expert to be sure she’s getting a completely balanced diet.
At minimum, check for these things:
• The pet food label should have the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) label, showing that the food is “complete and balanced.”
• Read the ingredient list carefully: Adult cats need 15 to 25 percent protein and kittens need 30 percent. Kitten need 20 percent fat, while adult cats require 15 to 20 percent. Many proponents of holistic pet foods feel that meat should be the top ingredient.
• Some preservatives are very harmful. Avoid BHA, BHT and ethoxyquin, chemical antioxidants often used to preserve dog food. According to some, both BHA and BHT and known to cause liver and kidney dysfunction. Ethoxyquin is a chemical preservative not allowed in human food but used in many dog food brands.