An angry gray cat

Everyone loves spoiling their fur babies. Of course, this includes feeding kitty the most nourishing food. Sometimes, though, it can be a little tricky deciding which cat food is good for pets and which isn’t so great. Relying on big brand names alone won’t always help, either.

For example, even if the brand is well known, it doesn’t necessarily mean that every single one of their products is going to be high quality. Sometimes a company provides higher-quality but more expensive food products while also offering cheaper but lower-quality options. The best way to determine if a food product will provide proper nutrition for your furry friend is to either consult a veterinarian or check the ingredients label.

What to Look For

Cat food should have meat-based proteins listed at the top of the ingredients label. This is because cats are obligate carnivores. What this means is that cats have evolved to digest meat efficiently. Felines can, of course, consume some plants. They are healthiest when their diets are rich in protein coming from animal sources, though.

Deciphering the Ingredients List

But how does one read this label exactly? It seems straightforward enough: the listed ingredients indicate what all makes up the whole product. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. This means that components used more appear first on the label. Say, for example, that a label lists two products, chicken and turkey. Since chicken comes first, this means that this food contains more chicken by weight than turkey.

Easy, right?

Unfortunately, deciphering an ingredients list is not always an easy task. Deliberately misleading wording and complicated food titles all help to make this process a bit confusing.

Unpacking Kit & Kaboodle Original Medley Cat Food

To illustrate this point, we’ve selected a product from a reputable company: Purina’s Kit & Kaboodle Original Medley dry food formula for adult cats. Purina certainly offers quality products. However, this particular one is a textbook example of clever marketing and misleading labels attempting to make this food look more appealing than it really is. We’re going to break down the ingredients list, step by step:

Ground yellow corn

This is pretty much what the name implies: yellow corn that is ground up. It’s listed first on the label. Remember this means that it is used more (by weight) than anything else in this product. While ground yellow corn is common in pet food products, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good.

This ingredient is a filler, plain and simple. What this means is that companies will often use cheap ingredients to bulk up a product. These fillers are oftentimes not nutrient dense. Why do companies do this then? Simple. So they can cut costs.

While ground yellow corn won’t automatically make kitty sick—exempting any food allergies—it won’t really do much good either. It’s high in calories and carbohydrates. It offers little else as far as nutrition goes.[1] Eating too many carb fillers can make a cat feel tired or even gain a little weight.

Corn gluten meal

This corn by-product is another common grain-based filler pet parents may find in their fur baby’s food. While companies may claim to use this by-product as a source of protein, it often doesn’t provide as much protein as most animal-based ingredients would. Don’t be fooled: seeing this item likely means the company decided to cut costs in the production process.

(To clarify: this gluten probably isn’t the gluten most people think of when they hear the word. True gluten comes from other types of cereal, but not corn.)

Meat and bone meal

We’ve finally made it to a meat-based component on this list at Number 3. Too bad the wording of this item is not exactly helpful. There’s no mention of exactly what animal this comes from.

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides guidelines for what companies should label their food ingredients. According to these guidelines, if a company lists an item simply as “meat” or “meat by-product,” this means it came from either “cattle, pigs, sheep or goats.”[2] However, meat meal can come from other animals besides these without any sort of further explanation. So any guess for which animal(s?) this meat and bone meal came from is as good as ours.

Soybean meal

Fourth item down, and it isn’t even a meat-based one. Most people would think a product that claims to be “100% complete and balanced” food for carnivores would use more meat-based ingredients. 🐸☕

That isn’t to say that soybean meal is completely valueless. Soybeans are a common plant-based protein used in all types of food products, even for people. It’s a little disappointing, though, that three of the first four ingredients in a cat food are all what many would describe as plant-based fillers.

Animal fat preserved with mixed-tocopherols (form of vitamin E)

Animal fat preserved with what now? Yeah, this item is a mouthful. Let’s break it down, bit by bit:

Animal fat. Firstly, the type of animal this fat comes from isn’t clear. So that’s deliberately vague and unhelpful.

Secondly, it’s common for companies to add fat so their food tastes better. Animal fat in a cat’s food isn’t necessarily a bad thing. After all, some meat-based fat in your kitty’s diet is necessary. However, this item is high up on the label, which means there is more of it weight-wise than several other components. Considering most of what’s listed so far is plant-based filler, this is a bit concerning.

Mixed-tocopherols (try saying that five times fast). Quick chemistry lesson: tocopherols are chemical compounds. There are four types of them that help make up vitamin E. “Mixed-tocopherols” simply means that there is a combination of them present.

Chicken by-product meal

All right, another cost-saving by-product! 🙄 AAFCO defines poultry by-products as “most parts of the bird that would not be part of a raw, dressed whole carcass.” (Translation: what many people would consider throw-away parts). Poultry by-product meal is similar to poultry by-products, but with water and fat removed.

Turkey by-product meal

This item is similar to the previously listed “chicken by-product meal,” except this obviously comes from a different animal.

Animal liver flavor

What animal? How is this flavor created? 🤔 We simply don’t know based on the information here.

Phosphoric acid

This chemical compound is often added to both human and pet food. It can, among other things, help boost flavor.[3]

Fish meal

Listed individually as: salmon meal and tuna meal.

Okay, so it’s clear from which types of fish these two ingredients come. Great! But what does the “meal” part mean? This term simply means fish tissue. Delicious, highly processed fish tissues. 😤🔥🔥👌


Just like humans, kitty cats need a certain amount of salt in their diets, too. Also like humans, it’s also important that they don’t go over their recommended daily amounts.

Some vitamins and minerals

Listed individually as: potassium chloride, calcium carbonate, choline chloride, and taurine.

These terms might all sound scary, but they’re just technical names. They are all commonly found in pet food and animal feed.

Let’s focus a bit more on taurine. It’s an extremely important part of any cat’s diet; it’s necessary for several chemical processes. Taurine-deficient cats might experience problems with their sight and heart and reproductive systems. Cats cannot produce it on their own, so they need to ingest it as part of their diets.

Added color (red 40, yellow 5, blue 2)

Nothing like food dye to make food look more exciting. . . except when research has linked some of these food dyes to increased risk of cancer and “hypersensitivity reactions.”[4] 🙅


AAFCO states that this is an additive that companies often use to include more amino acids in their products.

More vitamins and minerals

Listed individually as: zinc sulfate, ferrous sulfate, manganese sulfate, vitamin E supplement, niacin, vitamin A supplement, calcium pantothenate, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin supplement, vitamin B-12 supplement, pyridoxine hydrochloride, folic acid, vitamin D-3 supplement, calcium iodate, biotin, menadione sodium bisulfite complex (source of vitamin K activity), and sodium selenite.

The supplements listed on this label are typically stable forms of their respective vitamins. This stability makes it easier for manufacturers to use them in pet food. Supplements aren’t necessarily bad and can even help provide nutrients that may otherwise be missing from a diet. That being said, many experts agree that getting nutrients from food sources before adding supplements is best.[5] The same applies with pets as it does humans.

What’s “vitamin K activity” mean, though? Simply put, vitamin K does a lot. It helps create special proteins while also helping the body to absorb calcium.

The Whole Kit and Caboodle on Kit & Kaboodle

Wow, that was a lot of information. Let’s put all of that in a larger context.

Remember: cats are obligate carnivores. Cat food should have meat products listed high on their labels. Three of the first four ingredients on this list are grain-based fillers and by-products. These items are placed here not to provide high-quality nutrition, but to cut costs for the company. The animal-based items that are used are furthermore not whole products, but instead by-products or meal. Added dye and animal fat can only do so much to make this food seem more appealing than it would be otherwise. User reviews often reflect this sentiment, as they tend to place this food below several other Purina products.[6]

To be fair, this food won’t immediately pose any serious health consequences to a beloved fur baby. (Unless said cat has an allergic reaction, which can occur with any food product. If any pet experiences a severe negative reaction to a food product, contact a veterinarian.) Long term, though, this food might not be the most nutritious option for a kitty. Digestive issues, fatigue, weight gain, and a duller coat might result from less-than-healthy foods.

Kit & Kaboodle Original Medley might look fun with its funky-shaped kibble, dyed with eye-catching colors. But when all is said and done, its “fun factor” and low price are its best features, not its nutritional value.


[1] “Get The Facts: What’s Really in Pet Food.” Born Free USA United with Animal Protection, Born Free USA United with Animal Protection Institute, updated May 2007,

[2] “What Is in Pet Food.” Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), Accessed 30 Oct. 2018.

[3] Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “Phosphoric Acid,” Encyclopaedia Britannica, updated Apr 2007,

[4] Kobylewaki, S, and M F Jacobson. “Toxicology of Food Dyes.” International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, vol. 18, no. 3, Jul.-Sep. 2012, pp. 220–246., doi:10.1179/1077352512Z.00000000034.

[5] “Should you get your nutrients from food or from supplements?” Harvard Health Letter, Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School, May 2015,

[6], Accessed 30 Oct. 2018.