Healthy Cat, Happy Home: Choosing Quality Cat Food with Reputable Certifications


  1. Introduction
  2. Major Cat Food Regulatory Bodies
  3. Types of Claims and Certifications
  4. Where to Verify Certifications
  5. Conclusion


Selecting the right food is one of the most important decisions a cat owner can make. Proper nutrition is essential for your cat's health and well-being. With so many options lining pet store shelves, all boasting different claims and certifications, it can be tricky to determine which foods are truly high-quality.

Category Regulatory Body / Certification What It Does What It Doesn't Do Where to Verify
Regulatory Bodies FDA Regulates safety, ingredients, processing, recalls, and labeling Doesn't evaluate nutritional adequacy or quality FDA website
USDA Accredits organic cat foods, verifying adherence to organic standards Doesn't focus on nutritional adequacy USDA Organic Integrity Database
AAFCO Develops nutritional standards, conducts feeding trials Doesn't enforce food safety or organic qualifications AAFCO website
Claims / Certifications Organic Ensures 95-100% organic ingredients Doesn't address overall nutritional adequacy USDA Organic Integrity Database
Natural - No legal definition, doesn't indicate quality or nutritional value -
Grain-Free Formulated without grains Doesn't imply healthier, may contain other carbs -
Veterinarian Recommended - Not an official certification, usually a paid endorsement -
Byproduct-Free Guarantees no animal byproducts used Doesn't assess full nutritional profile -
Made in the USA Indicates manufacturing location Doesn't indicate overall quality or ingredient sourcing -
MSC Certifies sustainable wild-caught seafood Doesn't evaluate other ingredients MSC database
Vegan No animal-derived ingredients May lack essential nutrients for cats -

Major Cat Food Regulatory Bodies

In the United States, several organizations play a role in overseeing and regulating cat food production, each with a different focus and domain:

  • FDA : The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for enforcing standards related to the safety and labeling of cat foods. The FDA regulates ingredients, ensures food is processed properly, oversees recall procedures, and monitors labeling compliance. However, the FDA does not evaluate nutritional adequacy or quality.
  • USDA : The U.S. Department of Agriculture runs the National Organic Program which accredits organic certifying bodies. Cat foods labeled "organic" must contain 95-100% organic ingredients and receive USDA organic certification. This verifies adherence to organic crop and livestock production standards.
  • AAFCO : The Association of American Feed Control Officials is a non-governmental group that develops model regulations and nutritional standards for cat foods. AAFCO conducts feeding trials to determine if a food provides complete and balanced nutrition for cats in all life stages per established nutrient profiles.

While the FDA and USDA focus on food safety and organic qualifications respectively, AAFCO standards specifically ensure the nutritional adequacy of cat foods making many claims. Understanding each agency's role is key to evaluating cat food quality.


Choosing Quality Cat Food with Reputable Certifications


Types of Claims and Certifications

With an entire pet store aisle dedicated to cat food, the numerous claims and certifications on packaging can be confusing. Here are some common cat food labels and what they do and don't guarantee:

  • Organic : Ensures 95-100% organic ingredients per USDA standards. Does not address overall nutritional adequacy.
  • Natural : No legal definition; does not necessarily indicate higher quality or nutritional value.
  • Grain-Free : Formulated without grains but may still contain carbs like potatoes. Does not imply healthier.
  • Veterinarian Recommended - Usually a paid endorsement, not an official certification.
  • Byproduct-Free : Guarantees no animal byproducts used. Does not assess full nutritional profile.
  • Made in the USA : Indicates where manufactured but not overall quality or ingredients sourced.
  • Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) : Certifies sustainable wild-caught seafood. Does not evaluate other ingredients.
  • Vegan : No animal-derived ingredients, but may lack essential nutrients for cats.

While terms like "natural" may appeal to consumers, they are largely marketing lingo without much oversight or meaning. Certifications like MSC and vegan promote certain formulations but do not evaluate the complete diet.

Where to Verify Certifications

When evaluating claims and certifications, it's important to verify their validity from the source:

  • For USDA Organic certification, check the USDA Organic Integrity Database to confirm accredited status.
  • For AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements, check the AAFCO website, which lists approved foods meeting feeding trials.
  • For the Marine Stewardship Council blue checkmark, validate the MSC certification number on their database.
  • There is no official database for verifying marketing terms like "natural" or "veterinarian recommended" which have no oversight.

Checking certification databases like the USDA and MSC validates that reputable third-party standards were met. This extra step helps substantiate food claims to ensure your cat's diet is safe and nutritious.


Choosing Quality Cat Food with Reputable Certifications



With so many options and claims touting health benefits, choosing a high-quality cat food can seem daunting. Look for foods backed by certifications like USDA Organic, AAFCO nutritional adequacy statements, and MSC sustainable fishing to ensure safety and nutritional standards are met. Verify legitimate certifications through official databases.

Consider your cat's unique needs in terms of age, activity level, and health issues to select an appropriate diet. Aim for a balance of quality wet and dry foods and resist oversupplementing with unnecessary mix-ins. Consulting your veterinarian can provide tailored guidance.

Read More