Fish, milk ... and zinc? Questions arise over possibly toxic cat foods

You've probably heard the old saying; "Get the lead out," used on soldiers or teenagers. But did you ever hear the saying; "Get the zinc out," relative to cats and their food?

Independent testing has revealed the startling truth that cat fanciers may be legally and unwittingly feeding toxic doses of zinc to their cats. Although the Association of American Feed Control Officials maintains standards for such things, it has become increasingly clear that AAFCO's testing protocols and standards may be falling short of their mark.

According to a report published by Susan Thixton at, pet food manufacturers are being allowed to market cat food which may contain zinc in amounts that could be toxic to cats. Zinc toxicity in cats can result in symptoms ranging from discolored urine to failure of the liver or kidneys.
Susan Thixton's report provides a nice visual comparison between the amount of zinc recommended by the National Research Council (non-profit institution providing science, technology and health policy), and the AAFCO's threshhold minimum and maximum zinc levels. It's a bit astonishing to see the wide variations. The report also provides links to NRC nutritional information for cats and dogs.

Pet owning consumers may wish to further research the nutritional analysis of their chosen pet foods, to make sure that they fully understand what their pet is consuming. I myself recommend that pet owners refer to the nutritional guidelines suggested by the National Research Council, rather than those suggested by AAFCO.

As always, if your pet develops any troubling symptoms associated with its food or digestion, please consult an animal care professional as soon as you possibly can.

Gary E. Sattler is a former state certified Humane Officer and a former retailer of animal feed products.
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