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    6 Things Your Vet Wants You to Know About Cat Food

    By Amanda MacMillan
    WebMD Feature
    Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM

    Your cat is just like any other member of your family. You want to be sure you’re making the best choices for her health, including the food you buy. But with so many pet-food brands and ingredients on store shelves, pet parents can easily get confused.

    A nutritious diet for your feline isn’t as hard to serve as it may seem. Some tips from the pros can help you avoid some common mistakes.

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    1. There’s not one best kind of protein.

    Cats need animal protein, fat, and other vitamins and minerals -- and they can get these nutrients from many different sources. The protein in commercial cat foods can come from chicken, poultry, beef, lamb, fish, liver, or meat or chicken “by-products,” also called “meal.”

    For a healthy cat without food allergies, any of these ingredients (in either wet or dry form) are fine choices, says Joseph Wakshlag, DVM, associate professor at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

    Instead of worrying about specific ingredients, look for a food’s nutritional guarantee. Its label should say that tests by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) have shown that the product “provides complete and balanced nutrition,” or that it “is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles.” Foods (or treats) that don’t have one of these statements shouldn’t be your cat’s main meal.

    2. By-products aren’t bad.

    Some brands claim their food is better because it doesn’t have animal by-products or by-product meals. These ingredients are ground-up parts of animal carcasses, and can include necks, feet, intestine, and bone.

    “But I’m actually a big fan of using by-products,” Wakshlag says. “They have way more nutrients than straight meat. In chicken by-product, for example, you’ll get things like vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and copper -- instead of just the protein in a chicken breast.”

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