Low Ash Cat Food

Low Ash Cat Food

by Michael

Hey! is this low ash...?

Hey! is this low ash...?

Before looking for that elusive low ash cat food I think we need to try and figure out what ash actually is in the context of cat food because it cannot be simple ash as in the ash that is at the bottom of a fireplace, which begs the question, by the way, as to why the cat food manufacturers label it as “ash” because it seems very strange to have this (the waste products of a fire) in cat food. The so called “ash” in cat food must contain something useful, I would have thought otherwise it wouldn’t be there or am I being naive! And if it does contain something useful what is it and why don’t the manufacturers label the ingredients of the ash (the supposed useful bits) rather than ash as a whole? Lots of questions and why not because, as I said, concerned cat keepers think about what they are feeding their cats and ash doesn’t look right on the face of it.

We will have to start at the bottom and work up, I think. A definition of ash is:

the residue that remains when something is burned(src: http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=ash)

Let me say right away that there is, in my opinion, some confusion on the internet as to how ash finds its way into cat food. Some people say that it is cat food that has been burnt for analysis. This can’t be true because the ash is actually in the food. It is difficult to find out a clean, accurate answer in one place or even several places on the internet and the best book anywhere on cat food , Your Cat by Elizabeth Hodgkins DVM, has no reference to ash in the index (although this might be an indexing problem, I don’t know).

Low ash cat food is searched for on the internet so people are concerned. And I have read that ash or some of the constituents of ash can promote kidney infections by causing the cat to develop struvite crystals. One mineral, magnesium comes readily to mind and it is possible to buy low magnesium cat food as a preventative to urinary infections (FLUTDand lots more).

As it is hard to discover the actual process of cat food production (the cat food industries code of silence: omerta), my assessment of ash in cat food is as follows (I am happy to be corrected – please leave a comment and I will amend this):

  1. Although the raw ingredients of cat food contains the basic constituents of cat food and which can be turned into it (e.g. protein and vitamins), it is not edible or any where near it. It is probably quite foul.
  2. the raw ingredients such as road kill or even euthanised feral cats are “rendered” (mashed up)  and cooked at very high temperatures to turn it into a product that although no longer poisonous (by killing bacteria for example) is wholly without appeal or smell (a vital factor as to whether a cat is attracted to the food).
  3. the high temperatures used destroys some of the vitamins and minerals etc. Some vitamins such as Vitamin B3 (Niacin, Nicotinamide) are stable to heat but some are not, such as Vitamin A.
  4. the high temperatures utilised also creates some ash, the inorganic by product of cooking organic material.
  5. this ash cannot be extracted from the now healthy but tasteless “food”(a kind of paste that is formed into various shapes) as it contains some useful minerals and perhaps because of technical difficulties and/or commercial reasons (it would be too expensive).
  6. the shaped “cardboard food” (my term) is made palatable by adding that most commercial of ingredients: cat food jelly. Have you noticed that the jelly goes first and the tasteless cardboard last and a lot of cardboard is left?

Ash can constitute quite a high percentage of the total at for example 2.5% in Whiskas wet food pouches in the UK.

I suspect that low ash cat food should be mandatory but it would cost more so would be marketed as a separate item. Where is it?

Well, there is no cat food deliberately manufactured as low ash cat food (as far as I can see – wrong? please leave a comment) because the presence of ash in the first place is, I suspect, an bit embarrassing to the manufacturers. After all, as mentioned, it looks odd and why not say what it is made up off?

Anyway, low magnesium cat food is available, a sort of compromise. The answer must be to buy the best canned cat food, which I discuss on this page. If a visitor can recommend some low ash cat food please help…..!

Source for info about damage to vitamins: http://www.paho.org/English/CFNI/cfni-caj37No304-art-3.pdf

Comments for
Low Ash Cat Food

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Mar 19, 2011 you are ignorant
by: Anonymous

20 years ago, I worked as a QA/QC lab tech at a major cat and dog food plant. Ash is not an ingredient; they don't put ashes in cat food, duh. This is an analytical test during which a pre-measured sample of ground up cat food is placed into a dessicated (dehydrated) crucible, weighed for tare weight, and then burned in a kiln at abou 1800 degrees F, placed into a sealed jar with a dessicant to cool, then weighed again. The point of the dessicant is to keep the crucible and the ash from absorbing moisture. The ash content is the percentage of the cat food that's left after burning - the non-organic parts of the food, the minerals. Read the chemist's explanation - that person is correct. This whole "article" needs to be burned into ash and re-written with some actual facts instead of silly guesses. I suggest consulting AAFCO (the feed and cereal producers' industry standards).

Jan 18, 2011 what catfood is good for my kitties?
by: Athena

how do I know which catfood is good for my cats?
I been using Friskies dry food does that have ash?
Please help!!

Jan 18, 2011 Cat food
by: Anonymous

I have fed my cats Meow Mix for years because it has less ash count in it. My cats love Meow Mix, and have lived to a very old age. I do not feed my cats canned cat food, for one reason, they do not like it. Once a month I give them a bit of Bumblebee tuna.

Dec 20, 2010 Orijen cat food is low ash
by: Justice


I use Orijen cat food. The label on their fish formula states:

"Orijen uses specifically prepared low ash, ethoxyquin-free fish ingredients."

It is also no grain, no gluten, no canola, no GMO, low carb.

The fish are wild caught Canadian fish, never frozen.

They make a chicken formula that uses free range chickens.

Sep 13, 2010 Addition
by: Anonymous

Too much ash in cat food is indeed bad for them. Too much as in a cats diet can lead to a urinary tract infection as well as crystals. Male cats are more prone to urinary tract infections so it is especially important for them. Many foods offered at the vet's are more nutrially balanced and have lower ash because they usually have higher quality of meat. Some people believe that vet food is more expensive but when figured out it actually isn't that much different. Examples of a vet food with low as is Urinary SO's. Other foods that are of good nutrition and that are avaliable in pet stores are Science Diet, Royal Canyon, and Eukanuba.

Mar 20, 2010 ash paranoia?
by: Anonymous

You're right about ash being the residue left when something is burnt, but I think you're panicking about the ash content of cat food unnecessarily.
Ashing of samples is routinely done as a measure of the mineral (i.e. naturally occurring non-volatiles) content of a substance.
Almost all organic matter contains elements that do not form volatile (gaseous) compounds when burnt in air. All the carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, sulfur etc end up as CO2, N2 and/or NOx, H2O, SO2 gases respectively, which escape from the sample. Animal protein food sources like prime steak from an organically-fed free-range cow contains lots of iron (in haemoglobin, ferritin and other vitally necessary metalloproteins) sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium and other metal ions in the cellular fluid, and a host of other minerals in smaller amounts (e.g. cobalt in vitamin B12). All of these will end up as their oxides (Fe2O3, Na2O, K2O, CaO, MgO, Co2O3 etc.) if/when the steak is burnt in a very hot oven or in a crucible over a bunsen burner. Without further analysis of the ash no-one can know the breakdown of the mineral contained.
It is highly unlikely that a cat food manufacturer is adding combustion ash to cat food.
You could think of the ash analysis as a crude measure of salt (NaCl) content, as saltier samples will leave more Na2O in the ash ... the Cl is lost as volatile HCl.
How do I know this? - PhD in inorganic chemistry and 18 years subsequent experience.


Low Ash Cat Food — 2 Comments

  1. Years ago every bag of cat food contained some percentage of ash and I would find the ones with the lowest amounts to purchase. Today you will be hard pressed to find any cat food with any ash at all in it. It looks like they figured out how to eliminate it.

    • The very fact that “ash” was in food sounded strange to me. I am still not sure what it is. Is it genuine ash from the heat treatment the manufacturers apply to diseased ingredients to kill the bugs? Or does it refer to minerals?

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