Many pet owners wonder whether high ash content in cat food is bad for cats. Over the years the level of ash in cat food has been a source of concern, however cat food ingredients have come a long way and ash content must be considered in conjunction with the ingredients list of your cat food. It’s not correct to say a higher ash content means a cat food is bad or lower quality and in this article we will explain why.
What is ash content in cat food?
When you look at a cat food online or in a shop, next to the ingredients there should be a section called Analytical Constituents. Here you'll see the percentage of protein, carbohydrate, moisture etc. in your cat food and you will also find the percentage of crude ash.
Ash content in cat food refers to the mineral content left behind after the food is burned at high temperatures. It primarily consists of minerals such as calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and trace elements like zinc and iron. These minerals are essential for maintaining various bodily functions in cats, including bone health, muscle contraction, and overall metabolic processes.
Why do people think ash in cat food is bad?
Concern about ash in cat food is mainly for two reasons: what it may say about the ingredients in the cat food and its potential to contribute to urinary tract issues, particularly in cats prone to developing urinary crystals or stones. We’ll look at each of these separately.
Does high ask content mean a cat food is made with poor quality ingredients?
No, this is not the case. Historically before we had standardised and regulated pet food industry standards defined by bodies such as AAFCO, FEDIAF and UK Pet Food, some pet food manufacturers would make cat food with parts of animals such as bones, cartilage and when cat food (and dog food). When this poor quality food was burned, generally these cat foods would have a much higher ash content. Ash content was therefore used as an indicator that poor quality ingredients were included in food.
However, nowadays most reputable cat food companies will be a member of a regulatory body such as UK Pet Food and will have adhered to only including ingredients that are fit for human consumption in their pet food. Even with the best of the best cat foods, you’ll see a 3-10% ash content because they’ve added vitamins and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium and calcium which also don’t burn off when doing these tests. The foods are of excellent quality and the ash content has nothing to do with the quality of ingredients included in the food.
Does ash contribute to urinary tract issues?
High levels of certain minerals, notably magnesium and phosphorus, have been associated with the formation of urinary stones in cats. However, it's essential to clarify that not all types of ash in cat food are problematic. There are two main sources of ash in cat food:
Inorganic ash: This is the mineral content derived from ingredients like bone meal, eggshells, and supplements. Inorganic ash is typically necessary for maintaining a cat's health and is not inherently harmful.
Organic ash: This type of ash is the result of the burning process itself and is present in all cat foods to some extent. It consists of carbonates and other compounds that are not harmful when consumed in moderation.
The concern lies with excessive inorganic ash, which can lead to mineral imbalances in a cat's diet and contribute to urinary tract issues. Therefore, the focus should be on managing the right balance of minerals rather than eliminating all ash from cat food. A high quality food such as Tippaws Delicious Dry Food is developed to provide a complete and balanced diet for cats including the right amount of vitamins and minerals.
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