Review Practices

AKA: How I Review Products: The No-BS Guide

Welcome to my world of brutally honest, no-frills product reviews.

Here’s the lowdown:

Cat Food Testing: The Real Deal

My scoring system:

I rate cat food out of 10 where 10 is the bees knees – or cat’s meow.


Because your cat deserves more than just ‘meh’ food.

This system gives cat food a fair rating based on things that matter most.

The scores are dished out based on the following:

Our weighting for grading cat food.

Here’s more information about the criteria for each grading area.

Ingredients (30%)

I dive into the ingredients list of cat food.

Then, armed with my trust cat food calculator, I grade like a professor on finals week.

Cats are carnivores.

Basically, the more meat, the better.

Ingredients are important because there’s more to food that nutrition. The types of food impact on how digestible nutrients are and the taste.

Better ingredients helps improve results across the board, which is why I weight this highly compared to everything else.

Sub-criteria and grading below:

Descriptor10 points = Cat food label declares an animal-based content over 90%.
8 points = Cat food label declares an animal-based content over 60%.
6 points = Cat food label uses the 25 – 94.9% label descriptor (e.g. recipe, dinner, nuggets).
4 points = Cat food label uses the with rule (3 – 24.9%) label descriptor.
2 points = Cat food label uses the flavor label descriptor.
0 points = Cat food doesn’t have a label descriptor or listed amount.
Ingredient scoreScore graded using the ingredient calculator.*60%

*The cat food calculator is my own system for grading cat food (see below).

My calculator is a semi-automated way of assigning scores based on estimated weighting of ingredients (using the first 10 ingredients).

It’s a way of trying to fairly grade and compare different brands on cat food. Higher scores are given to animal based foods with high protein content.

Cat food ingredient calculator.

Nutrition (25%)

I scour cat food labels, websites, and sometimes even slide into the company’s DM’s for more nutrition info.

Everything is assessed from life stage suitability to protein quality.

I’m talking a serious deep dive – the kind that would make your nutritionist proud.

Why is nutrition important?

Nutrition is what keeps us healthy and happy (cats included). Without good nutrition our quality of life suffers and we’re at risk of disease.

Here’s the low-down on scoring:

Lifestage10 points = Complete meal for growth or all life stages.
5 points = Complete meal for adult cats (1 – 7 years) only.
2.5 points = Only for supplemental feeding.
Information10 points = All micro and macronutrients listed (through any means).
7.5 points = All macronutrients available.
5 points = One missing macronutrient.
2.5 points = Two missing macronutrients.
0 points = Three or more missing macronutrients.
Protein Quality10 points = Adjusted protein content is above 40%*
8 points = Adjusted protein content is between 37.5 – 39.9%
6 points = Adjusted protein content is between 35 – 37.4%
4 points = Adjusted protein content is between 32.5 – 34.9%
2 points = Adjusted protein content is between 30 – 32.4%
1 points = Adjusted protein content is between 26 – 29.%
0 points = Adjusted protein content is less than 25.9%
Carbohydrate10 points = Carbohydrate content is below 5%
8 points = Carbohydrate content is between 5.1 – 10%
6 points = Carbohydrate content is between 10.1 – 15%
4 points = Carbohydrate content is between 15.1 – 20%
2 points = Carbohydrate content is between 20.1 – 25%
0 points = Carbohydrate content is over 25.1%
Kidney10 points = Calcium to phosphate ratio above 1.
0 points = Calcium to phosphate ratio below 1.
Water10 points = Wet cat food.
0 points = Dry cat food.
The weighting for each grading sub-criteria for nutrition in cat food.

Taste (20%)

I serve, observe, and take meticulous notes on how cat food is enjoyed.

This criteria is important for obvious reasons – everyone wants to give their cat food that they’ll eat!

Here’s the general method I use*:

Waiting 4 hours between meals.

  1. Weigh 50 kcal of cat food.
  2. Set down for one cat to eat
  3. Allow two hours to finish and record data.
  4. Weight the remaining protein
  5. Repeat for up to three attempts per cat.

*Where testing isn’t available, I default to an 80% weighted score from customer reviews.

Amount EatenAverage amount eaten of all tests (%).60%
Customer RatingCustomer recommended (%).*20%
Time to EatPercentile rank method (fastest eaten meal = highest score).10%
Finish Later10 points = Yes (allowed two hours to finish meal).
0 points = No.
The weighting for each grading sub-criteria for nutrition in cat food.

Brand (15%)

Can you trust the brand?

What is their recall history like?

How easy is it to find information about them on their websites?

Good brands should be accountable with recalls and transparent about their products. Of course, people should I also like their stuff too.

I’ve weighted this a little lower because customer reviews aren’t always reliable (e.g. dented package which isn’t related to the brand).

Whilst smaller and newer brands have less recalls than big brands with a huge range of products – does that necessarily mean they’re more reliable?

Website user experienceScored based on desktop and mobile usability scores.40%
RecallsAmount of recalls reported.40%
CustomerAggregated and weighted customer reviews from popular merchants.20%
The weighting for each grading sub-criteria for cat food brands.

Value (10%)

Price is important.

It’s all well and good having the best quality product, but can the average person afford it?

For some people, they want the best money can buy – so value is weighted accordingly.

I’ve adjusted value not just on price, but price per ounce. To take that even further I adjust value based on protein.

The score is a combination of percentile rank (lowest cost = highest rank) and scores based on standard deviation. Neither scoring method satisfied me so I combined them.



How we test:

  1. We compare products using the smallest available pack size.
  2. Prices are sourced online from major retailers in AUD (excluding specials).
  3. We standardize measurements by converting volume to grams and vice versa.
  4. We assess cost per kilogram and cost for filling a standard 5L cat litter tray.
  5. We calculate minimum, maximum, average, and standard deviation for all tested litters.

How we score:

  • V1: 0-5 points based on value compared to average (5 = better than average).
  • V2: 0-2.5 points if within 1 standard deviation below average.
  • V3: 0-2.5 points if within 1 standard deviation above average.
  • V4: Percentile rank based on cost per kilogram (higher rank = lower cost).
  • V5: Percentile rank based on cost per fill (higher rank = lower cost).
  • V6: All products receive a default score of 2.5.

Value For Money Score: = (((sum of V1 to V3 × 0.5) + (average of V4 and V5 × 0.5)) × 0.75 + V6)

This method balances cost and value, including a standard score to ensure fair assessment and prevent skewed results due to minor price differences.

This system aims to judge cat litter fairly on price and value per fill.


How we test:

  1. Pour cat litter from 15cm into tray at 0 – 30cm distance.
  2. Record dust with an air quality monitor (PM2.5 particle size).
  3. Repeat test with a ‘pat test’ (hitting the litter 10 times to mimic cat litter tray usage).

How we score:

  • D1: Average dust measured 90 seconds after pouring from 0cm and 15cm heights, using an air quality monitor to record PM2.5 dust levels.
  • D2: Subjective assessment of dust upon opening and pouring the bag. Scored as 2 for very little dust, 1 for moderate dust, and 0 for excessive dust. D3: All cat litter products automatically receive 1 point.
  • D3: All products receive a default score of 1.0.
  • DMIN: Minimum dust recorded from all cat litter products.
  • DMAX: Maximum dust recorded from all cat litter products.

Dust Control Score: = ((10 * (1 – (D1 – DMIN) / (DMAX – DMIN)) * 0.7)) + D2 + D3

This method combines objective measurements and subjective observations to rate dust production, with the majority of weighting towards objective measurement.


How we test:

  1. Measure 30ml of water.
  2. Fill tray of cat litter up to 4cm of depth with paper towel lining (weighed before placement).
  3. Weigh difference in paper towel weight before and after test (after 10 minutes).

How we score:

  • A1: Percent water absorbed by the cat litter.
  • A2: All products receive a default score of 5.0.
  • AMIN: Minimum absorption from all cat litter products.
  • AMAX: Maximum absorption recorded from all cat litter products.

Absorption Score: =((10*((A1-AMIN)/(AMAX-AMIN)))*0.5)+A2

This method is objective with a standard testing procedure. However there are inaccuracies with weighting and temperature conditions.

Most cat litter is decent enough at absorption (otherwise they wouldn’t sell), so by default I give a score of 5.


How we test:

  1. Clean out the litter tray twice daily.
  2. Record a score out of 10 for smell (subjective).

How we score:

Odor Control Score: Average score for smells.

For the time being my odor control score is subjective. In the future I’m hoping to find the best tool to measure odor and provide an objective number for stickiness.

Even then, odor control is still very subjective and depends on many factors (e.g. diet, litter tray, ventilation, cleaning habits). Results vary.


How we test:

  1. Measure 500g of litter for volume in ml.
  2. Use a ruler to determine litter size.
  3. Check for residue by pouring litter on black paper.
  4. Observe litter area post-use.

How we score:

  • T1: Compare litter size to the smallest and largest sizes tested.
  • T2: Assess density (g/ml) against the minimum and maximum densities tested.
  • T3: Subjectively rate residue and particles outside the tray.
  • TMIN Size: Smallest size among all tested litters.
  • TMAX Size: Largest size among all tested litters.
  • TMIN Density: Lowest density among all tested litters.
  • TMAX Density: Highest density among all tested litters.

Tracking Score: = (T1*0.1)+(T2*0.1)+(T3*0.8)

Note: More weight is given to subjective assessments due to the various factors influencing tracking, such as cleaning, litter tray type, and the litter mat.


How we test:

  1. Two equal sized cat litter trays (43 x 32cm) filled to 4cm depth with test litter and control (clay).
  2. Test litter left out first to acclimate cats for one day.
  3. For one day both cat litter trays left side-by-side for two kittens to use. Swapped after one day.
  4. Total deposits (pee and poo) recorded at least twice per day and tallied between the two.
  5. Customer reviews weighted and aggregated online.

How we score:

  • E1: Weighted customer score aggregate (star reviews).
  • E2: Percentile rank of cat preference (higher rank = more deposits in the cat litter).

Cat Enjoyment Score: = (E1 x 0.4) + (E2 x 0.6)

I combined my testing results with customer reviews to incorporate the results from most people.


Expert Opinions Matter

I tap into the brains of the following.

These guys know their stuff, and I’m all ears.

  • The Association of American Field Control Officials (AAFCO): A non-profit organization that provides label standards, ingredient definitions and nutrient recommendations for cat feed regulators (learn more).
  • American Animal Hospital Association (AAHI): Companion veterinary hospital accreditation organization. Provide lifestage based guidelines for cat care (learn more).
  • American Association of Feline Practitioners (AAFP): An organization founded and led by veterinary professionals. Provide guidelines for cat handling and care (learn more).
  • International Society of Feline Medicine (ISFM): A cat welfare charity group that offer guides for cat owners (learn more).
  • Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery (JFMS): An open access, international peer-reviewed journal that provides research and reviews to guide cat care (learn more).
  • The Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Provide laws on cat food to ensure they are safe, adequately labelled and manufactured properly using AAFCO’s guidelines. List pet food recalls (learn more).

Hands-On Testing

I get down and dirty with the products – literally.

Whether it’s testing cat litter with an air quality monitor or seeing how much dust kicks up, I’m on it.

In some cases I cannot test products due to logistics.

I do my best to provide a scoring system that isn’t just a copy paste of reviews online (e.g. analyzing nutrient data and labeling information).

Customer Reviews

Customer reviews form part of my recommendations.

At the end of the day, if people like stuff – it’s usually good.

Not always, but usually.

The problem is what people like isn’t always best for your cat.

Therefore, whilst the opinions and results of customers is important, it’s not the only factor in deciding if a product is worth recommending.

So there you have it – my method to the madness.

It’s part science, part art, and all about keeping it real. Because when it comes to your feline friend, only the best will do.