Jargon Buster: A Guide to Understanding Packaging

In today’s world of increased awareness of what we are eating, it's important to be just as vigilant with our pets' food, to ensure they're getting only the very best. Throughout the next section we’ll use the Pets at Home Complete label as a reference point to highlight what you should be looking out for on your pet food label. Remember that the ingredients listed on pet food labels are always in quantity order, with the most first.

Click on one of the links below to view each section:

Important nutrients at a glance

Nutrient Good For: Look on the Packaging For:
Proteins Developing keen eyes; healthy coat, skin and nails; building muscle and a strong immune system. Animal protein such as egg, chicken, lamb and fish.
Try to include Taurine, which occurs naturally in animal protein.
Fats Fats give your cat plenty of energy and make food taste great. Omega fatty acids promote healthy skin, coat and immune system. Animal fat, chicken fat, corn oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil, fish meal and fish oils.
Carbohydrates Carbohydrates are made up of starch, sugar and fibre. Starch provides energy for body tissue, while certain fibres aid digestive health. Starches: cereals and grains such as barley, maize and rice.
Fibres: sugar beet pulp and rice bran.
Vitamins Vitamins convert food to energy and repair cells. In particular, Vitamin A promotes keen night vision while Vitamin D3 builds strong bones. Vitamins A,C, D3 and E.
Minerals Strong teeth and bones. Calcium and phosphorus.
Water The most critical nutrient for survival. Without it, your cat’s body cannot transport nutrients, digest nutrients for energy, regulate temperature or eliminate waste. From the tap will do! Clean water should accompany your pet’s meal and be available at all times.

Why is animal protein important to my cat's diet?

Cats require much more protein in their diet than humans, and animal proteins from meat, fish and eggs are the best form of proteins available - not to mention the tastiest! As the most digestible of proteins, they are the most ‘usable’ for your cat, promoting healthy muscle growth, as well as skin and coat condition.

Animal protein can be split into several label definitions. To see what level of meat is contained in your pet’s food, look out for these on the label:

Fresh Meat or Fish: Fresh meat or fish is from sources deemed suitable for human food. There are a number of advantages of fresh meat, including higher digestibility, palatability and nutritional value.

Rendered Meat or Fish: Rendered meats are commonly listed as ‘meat meal’ or ‘poultry meal’ on the ingredient label. They are the cooked and processed remains of the leftovers in meat, fish and poultry processing. This isn’t to say they are poor quality, as legally the source animal must have been deemed suitable for human consumption, but it's worth remembering that every time you process meat you run the risk of destroying essential nutrients.

Animal Derivatives: This is the broad category name which encompasses all animal ingredients. The broadness of the category means that these may be products left over after most of the meat has been used, such as feather, hoof, hair, bone, blood and fatty tissue.

Animal proteins also naturally provide essential amino acids to keep your cat strong and active, one of the most important being Taurine, which is necessary for a healthy heart and keen eyesight. You will only see the word Taurine on the ingredients list of a food if it has been added as a separate addition. Foods with high levels of meat, fish or egg do not need to supplement the recipe, as it occurs naturally in these proteins.

Always check the label to see what level of meat is contained in your pet’s food.

Why is it important for cat food to contain animal fat?

Found in meat, fish and plant oils, fats are packed with twice the energy of protein or carbohydrates and are what provide your cat with boundless energy. They supply all the important omega fatty acids to promote healthy skin, coat and immune system, and they improve food’s palatability, making them an essential ingredient for any fussy eater.

To see which fats are contained in your cat’s food, look on the ingredients panel for animal fat, corn oil, vegetable oil, sunflower oil and fish oils.

Why are carbohydrates so useful?

Carbohydrates are included in a pet’s diet as a source of quick energy from the starch, and as a source of fibre. Cats are primarily carnivores, and may find foods with high cereal content less palatable and digestible, so a good balance is essential.

Certain fibres promote a healthy digestive system by assisting movement through the intestine, preventing the build-up of hairballs. Look out for fibres such as beet pulp and cellulose, as these help to support optimum intestinal health.

Why are vitamins and minerals important to my cat's health?

Vitamins are required to convert food into energy, and for growth and repair of cells. Vitamin A performs a vital function for any midnight prowler by promoting good night vision, while vitamin D3 teams up with calcium and phosphorus to build strong bones.

All our Advanced Nutrition and natural diets contain the necessary balance of essential vitamins and minerals your cat needs, but where they occur as natural parts of other ingredients they are not found separately on the ingredients panel.

Why is water important?

Cats have a fairly low requirement for water yet it is vital, and a supply must be available at all times. Cats fed on tinned food aren’t often seen drinking, but that is due to the water content in these foods fulfilling their needs. Cats fed on dry food must quench their thirst from elsewhere. It's important to ensure there is a bowl of fresh water available for cats at all times.

Why is it beneficial to have no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives in my cat’s food?

Artificial colours, flavours, and preservatives are added to foods to improve characteristics or appearance of the food, yet provide no nutritional value. If you’re looking for a more natural option, food that contains no artificial additives will say so on the label.