What Makes a Healthy Cat Food?

Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
By Karina Carbo-Johnson, MS
Updated: 5/15/20242-4 minutes
Cat at the bowl

You want the best for your cat, but how do you decide which cat food is healthiest for her?

Healthy cat food starts with healthy ingredients. Knowing which ingredients to look for on the food label will help you better evaluate the benefits of a particular food. Learn what makes a healthy cat food below.

Healthy Cat Food Meets AAFCO Nutrient Profile Standards

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) set standards for the nutrient profiles for pet foods for a particular lifestage.

Pet foods must meet these standards to be 100 percent complete and balanced for the lifestage of the dog or cat, as shown on the package.

An easy way to tell if a food meets these standards is to check the bag or can for the “AAFCO Statement.”

You can typically find this on a side panel or on the back of the package, often beneath the list of ingredients. The AAFCO Statement will read one of two ways:

  • {Name of Product} is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO cat nutrient profiles for {cat lifestage}.
  • Animal feeding tests using AAFCO procedures substantiate that {Name of Product} provides complete and balanced nutrition for {cat lifestage}.

Essential Nutrients in a Healthy Cat Food

A healthy cat food will list several essential nutrients on its label.

  • Protein: Cats need protein to support their developing bodies as kittens and to support the maintenance of their lean body mass as adults.
  • Dietary Fats: We live in a fat-fearing society, but healthy fats are good for your cat. High-quality dietary fats support the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins like A, E, D and K. These vitamins play an important role in maintaining healthy skin and coat, supporting bone health and more.
  • Omega Fatty Acids: Omega 3 and Omega 6 are essential in supporting your cat’s immune system and other important biological functions. Although most often associated with fish, omega fatty acids are also found in other protein sources like chicken and some plant-based ingredients.
  • Vitamins & Minerals: Your cat’s food should include a robust list of vitamins and minerals. These contribute to a complete and balanced diet, support a healthy immune system and also promote a shiny, healthy coat. In addition to the fat-soluble vitamins listed above, you also want to look for water-soluble vitamins like B12 and C, plus minerals like calcium, iron and zinc.

Evaluating Your Cat’s Food Label

Looking at your cat’s food label can get overwhelming with all the information it includes. You don’t have to feel stressed out or confused, though.

Just remember the ingredients are listed in order of amount from greatest to least. When it comes to the long and confusing names, a quick internet search can tell you most of those are just the official names for vitamins and minerals.

See our article on how to read cat food labels for more information.

Find the Healthiest Food for Your Cat

Purina offers an extensive range of cat foods in variety of formulas to meet your kitty’s needs. All our cat foods are complete and balanced for the lifestage indicated on the package and you can explore them here.

Find out whether your cat should eat wet or dry food in our article, Wet vs. Dry Cat Food: Which is Better?

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