How We Review Products
At Simply Cat Care we aim to offer fair and balanced reviews.
We’ve designed our own review system methodology for product testing. This continues to evolve with more ideas and feedback about what the information people want.
Current Review Practices
Here’s what we use to create content on this website:
We look to the advice of expert led organisations in feline health.
- The Association of American Field Control Officials (AAFCO): A non-profit organisation that provides label standards, ingredient definitions and nutrient recommendations for cat feed regulators (learn more).
- American Animal Hospital Association (AAHI): Companion veterinary hospital accreditation organisation. Provide lifestage based guidelines for cat care (learn more).
- American Association of Feline Practioners (AAFP): An organisation 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 manufactered properly using AAFCO’s guidelines. List pet food recalls (learn more).
Hands on Testing
Where possible, we try to get our hands on all products for testing.
This allows us to fact check claims. For example, we’re currently testing cat litter using an air quality monitor to look at dust.
A hands on look allows for novel findings and fill gaps in product knowledge.
If we can’t get our hands on products, we use research guidelines for analysis and comparison.
We use algorithms to grade products based on customer reviews, and star ratings.
This forms our criteria of ‘trust’. That’s a score which helps us know how likely customers will enjoy using the product, and whether it’s a good choice to recommend.
However, this is only one criteria of many used in reviews. Some customer reviews have drawbacks (e.g. shipping damage, not using the product as intended).
So whilst it’s an important thing to consider – it’s only one piece of the pie.
We consider feedback from customers via email or comments on our articles. This helps us find new products to consider and research to help us with future content updates.
Our current testing methodology used for reviews and comparisons.
Future updates to methodology will get reported here, as well as dates implemented.
Cat Food Testing
We use a combination of five key criteria to grade cat food and give them a star rating (out of five).
Here’s what we use:
I thought about comparing cat food based on a purely cost per ounce basis on their best offering I could find. Then I’d use percentile ranking to sort each option in a fair way.
However, I thought this isn’t fair to high quality products.
Think about it like this – let’s say I have a cat food that’s $0.50 per ounce and I compare to a cat food that’s $0.30 per ounce. To save money, the $0.30 is better obviously.
But that disregards quality. You might spend more in the long run due to the food quality being so poor it all ends up in the litter tray.
Instead, I decided to adjust the pricing for protein quality using the Protein Digestibility Corrected Amino Acid Score (PDCAAS). This rates protein from 1 to 0.
1 = all essential amino acids and completely digestible.
0 = no essential amino acids and/or undigestible.
This is a measure how digestible different protein sources. Whilst it’s based on humans, I felt it offered the best available option to sort options for quality from my research.
It goes without saying that you want as close to 1 as possible because that means easy to digest high quality protein.
If you look up a PDCAAS table on Google, you’ll see how most protein sources rank.
Meat and eggs are up the top. Foods like lentils and peas are mid-tier quality and grain based proteins are poor quality (corn cereal has a paltry score of 0.08).
Collagen protein is a big fat zero quality score. It doesn’t offer any benefit as far as providing essential amino acids (the food might offer other benefits though).
To bolster these numbers, I also found information on the quality of meat meals (heat treated meat used in dry cat food), which is about 80% quality compared to meat used in wet cat food.
Meat by-products can include a lot of collagen (which we know gives cats no essential amino acids). Again, I’ve factored this into play.
So what am I getting at?
In short, if you have a cat food pumped up with corn cereal protein, peas and a little bit a meat meals then the quality isn’t going to stand up to a cat food using only meat.
Some companies like to load up on those weaker proteins and slap a fancy label on top (e.g. premium). To create this system of comparing and finding the best cat foods, that should be factored in.
But there’s another issue – ingredient weighting.
A brand can say ‘real meat’ on the bag but if that’s only 10% of the ingredients and wheat gluten (crappy protein) is a robust 40% of the bag then you’d think the overall quality isn’t that great.
For that reason, I’ve used the labelling laws guidelines from the FDA to create estimates on ingredient weight depending on the position on the ingredient label.
I plugged that in and felt that gave a more reasonable estimate of quality. Finally, for uniformity and simplicity, I converted the percentile rank of products into a score out of five stars for easier comparison.
- Customer score: We use online review star rating aggregated from merchants online. The rating is averaged across sites and weighted for reviews on each site. This is updated quarterly in line with changes in products and review scores.
- Nutrition: We reviewed the AAFCO nutrition and AAHI senior cat nutrition guidelines to penalize cat food that doesn’t meet best practices for cat nutrition. A perfect score is given to a high protein (>40% dry basis) and low carbohydrate (<5% dry basis) cat food that offers a positive calcium to phosphate ratio and suits either growth and/or all life stages. Some brands use a lot of lower quality protein sources (e.g. wheat gluten meal). Due to this, we adjust for quality based on protein digestibility and levels of essential amino acids (e.g. wheat gluten is about 25% quality compared to egg protein).
- Flavor: Where possible we offer cat food to our cats and kittens for taste testing. If they complete their meal, it’s a perfect score. Whatever is leftover is tallied as a percentage and deducted from the score. Then, we combine the recommended rating from customers online to create a balanced score on how tasty the cat food is (if unable to test, we simply account for online reviews).
- Ingredient quality: We look at ingredients and the approximate weighting. This uses a calculation based on the descriptor used (e.g. chicken nuggets) which gives a clue to the relative weighting of ingredients. Meat based products score highly, whilst ingredients that do not offer any benefit to cats (e.g. rice) score lowly.
- Total score: All criteria are averaged for a final rating out of five stars.
Cat Litter Testing Methodology 1.0
Here’s how we’ve tested cat litter:
- Sizing: Cat litter measured with a ruler
- Dust: Air quality monitor set to 15cm away from tray. 500g of cat litter poured in from 10cm height. Air quality index (AQI) and PM2.5 recorded at 15 second intervals for 3 minutes. Repeat testing at 15cm with a pat test (10 slaps of the litter) and 30cm.
- Softness: Litter graded on how painful it is to slap from 10cm away (10 = gentle, 5 = mid range, 0 = painful).
- Tracking: Hand placed on black paper after ‘slap test’ and a photo taken of residue (10 = no residue, 5 = small amount, 0 = heavy residue)
- Absorption: 30ml of water added to 2 inches height cat litter on 4 paper towels. Wait 10 minutes and attempt to scoop the litter. Remove the towels and weigh the amount absorbed (i.e. more in paper = less effective absorption and vice versa). Note that temperature and humidity also effect results (recorded as well). Absorbency rate = amount absorbed vs initial volume.
- Clumping: Does the litter form a clump (yes/no)?
- Cat enjoyment: Give cat/s a chance to use the litter in a 43 x 32 cm litter tray filled to 2 inch height for 1 day. Record whether the cats used the litter, the amount deposited and any issues noted. Follow up with a 2 day comparison with a control litter (clay litter) swapping sides each day using the same litter depth and tray sizing. Same location used as per usual litter use. Record deposits in each tray twice a day and any other notes (e.g. abnormal behavior, toileting outside the litter box). Compare the use ratio between the control and test litter.
Results are tabulated and compared with other products to score the litter (i.e. 10/10 = best litter in that criteria). Everything is scored relative to the best product.
All scores are averaged and scored out of 100. I round the score to the nearest 5 and give a simple score out of 10 (e.g. 8.5).
In general, this is a quick way to compare products for overall quality and satisfaction.