As cat people, I think any of us need to keep your cutie as healthy as possible. To do that, aside from a suitable exercise, food also plays an important role as well.
However, to find out the best cat food might be time consuming and make you feel confused oftentimes because there is an avalanche of brands and options. They say “Too many choices to know which one to go to”, and it’s true!
If you are going to have a new cat in your house or want them to have a better life, this article is worth spending time to read and equip yourself some more useful knowledge about cat as well as about which type of cat food is the best for yours.
Which kind of nutrition does a cat need?
I have seen many cat people feed their cat with lots of rice or foods that are rich in carbohydrates, thinking that they will life a healthy life. But, sorry to break your thought, cats in reality don’t need carbohydrates even though in both dry or canned cat foods, you will see that carbohydrate ingredients like rice, corn or wheat are utilized as fillers.
Actually, four vital nutritional needs of cats are water, protein (from fish, poultry source, and meat), taurine and vitamin (minerals, fatty acids and enzymes).
If reading any cat canned food, you will see aside from such nutritional groups, there are other ingredients such as coloring, binders and flavoring. They, in fact, do not give any nutritional value to your feline but just to satisfy our aesthetic needs.
I understand that it’s nearly impossible to eliminate preservatives out of canned food, however, still highly recommend to using the freshest types for your cats.
Don’t have your cat’s diet stick to canned food in a too long time.
Appropriate diets by age
Usually, there are three main stages of a cat progression: kitten, maintenance/adult years and senior.
And cat’s diet depends mostly in this factor. It’s essential to formulate your cat’s food to ensure to provide enough nutritional requirements of your cat’s age of stage. Besides, he or she gets any health issues, don’t forget to consult an animal doctor for the best advice.
In generally, you should provide a diet that is rich in fat and protein for a kitten to develop their bones, muscles and teeth in the best way. As a basic rule of thumb, kittens tend to be more dynamic and active than an older cat, which means their calories will be converted more rapidly into energy.
Now, with an adult cat, as their characteristics will be more pleased and peaceful. It’s synonymous to less energy needed. From that point, you should choose a diet with lower calories to control their weight because such like human beings, overweight cat is risky to catch many diseases like heart disease, arthritis and diabetes.
An adult cat who needs a high protein diet with high calorie content is pregnant or nursing.
Lastly, with a senior cat, their kidney function tends to be weaker from time to time, and of course, they are even less active than an adult one, which means a low-fat diet with highly digestible proteins is my high recommendation.
Tips to choose the best cat food
If you are living in America or intend to buy American cat food, it’s much easier to control the amount of each ingredient in the product. This is mostly thankful to AAFCO (which stands for The Association of American Feed Control Officials) who has suggested a full guideline of regulators to the government.
From that point, each cat food label must be included the ingredients in there while the food manufacturer can claim what is legitimate for them to add and not add to the products.
Due to that, any ingredient advertised on the pet food, there must be at least 95 percent of it with no water added.
Besides, with any descriptive phrases such as entrée, dinner or platter in the pert food label, there must be at least 15 percent. Lastly, any specific ingredient in food name should be only maximumly 3%.
In terms of flavor, with any specific one, it should be controlled in a detectable amount.
Move on to the next step, let’s check the animal protein ingredients of the product. You should put those pet foods that list ingredients in weights as priority. Poultry, fish, beef, chicken or any ingredients that contain a huge amount of moisture inside should be at the top of the list.
About the rest, the further down they are in the list, the more key nutrients they will be.
For example, protein might come in less weight than other ingredients as its moisture has been already moved off for dry pet food.
And, it’s essential to add-in this nutrition in your cat’s diet because felines are obviously obligate carnivores who ask for many vital nutrients for examples arachidonic and taurine that only exist in animal source, not the plant-based ones.
From that point, you need to consider the poultry, turkey, chicken, beef, fish and other meats for your cutie’s diet.
In case your cat is overweight and he/she is in weight controlling, you can cut off the animal protein and fat in their meal and implement in by-product meals or by-products.
By the way, speaking of by-products, as they are maligned by a variety of sources. Some of them are nutritious and others are not. The key here to pick a high-quality by-product for your cat is choosing reputable brands.
Now, talking about grains or carbohydrate ingredients, this is actually a controversial subject because many cat people think it’s essential to have this ingredient in a cat’s diet while others don’t.
In fact, some cat expects advise to increase the amount of protein while decreasing the carbohydrate to ensure a better health for cat. However, as cat’s digestion still metabolize them to use as energy source, why not?
No matter what, there’s one thing that any cat person should bear in mind: grain-free diets doesn’t be necessarily low carbohydrate diets. Sometimes, it’s just used to altered potatoes or other carbohydrate source.
Canned and Dry Food – Which is better?
Speaking of canned and dry food, there are a lot of streams of thoughts. Many cat experts believe that both of them are good for cat, it’s just the cat people choosing which one is the most suitable for their pets, while others argue that only canned food can work better on cats than the dry ones.
It’s not something unfounded entirely because there are many studies have shown that dry cat foods don’t deliver as much moisture content as the dry product. However, this weakness can overcome by using devices to encourage felines to drink such as dripping faucets and water fountains.
On the side of nutritionists, they advise to let your cat try both canned and dry food because they offset against each other. We all know that cats don’t like to drink water often and from that point, canned food will help significantly to compensate for the lack of water.
On the other hand, dry food is way more convenient for pet owner to feed their cats, which is usually called “free feeding”.
I myself think that you should combine these two kinds of cat food to give enough amount of nutrients as well as make your cat more interesting in their meal.
Opposite to dogs who will never give up eating just because that kinds of food aren’t their favorite, cats will. It’s understandable that if we ate noodles three meals per day, for years, would you get sick of it? Not saying that, eating the same old type of food will lead to the lack of some certain nutrients, which is synonymous to your health would suffer as well.
And the next benefit, (this might sound weird but eating a blend of dry and canned food help you find out some possible allergies in your cat to some specific ingredients to avoid or have some suitable treatment.
And, have you ever heard of “food addictions” in cat? This is a true symptom that had been studied by The Whole Cat Journal in their issue in October 2001. If feeding a cat day by day one and only flavor of a certain brand, a cat might be addicted.
Some people don’t find this kind of addiction is a matter at all, however, it should be if you are feeding your cat the limited products, or who knows, if they stop producing that kind product line?
However, it’s quite easy to avoid that addiction just by letting your feline eat various foods at the beginning. It’s not kind that you have to feed them different foods day by day, but the mix of different dry foods, supplemented with canned products for cats. But be aware that whichever food you are going for, choose the high-quality product only.
How about raw foodist felines and vegan cats?
Yeah, I think you might guess what I’m going to say about vegan cats.
As mentioned above, felines are obligate carnivores that compulsorily have protein ingredients from fish, meat and poultry sources in their diet to survive. From that point, I don’t encourage a vegetarian or vegan diet for your cat. It’s absolutely not a healthy choice!
On the contrary, I support raw foodist cats because it’s not only way healthier for them, but also saves much time for you if choosing the raw pet food from a reliable company like Raw kitty or Nature’s Variety Instinct.
These two brands are well-known for high-quality raw food for cats that are AAFCO approved. If you have more free time and also want to take the best care of your cat, you can learn and prepare raw food on your own.
There are a lot of ways for this, be flexible.
What if a cat eats dog foods?
I find that many pet owners get this problem at least one in their life if they grow both cats and dogs in their house. And my answer for that question is just worry free. It’s okay if your cat accidentally eats dog foods. Assuming that the dogs are agreeable for that, feline won’t get hurt, die or kind of “being bedridden”.
However, thinking of using dog foods to feed cats is a no-no as in reality, the needs of nutrient of cats and dogs are quite different. In comparison, a cat’s nutritional requirements will have more protein proportion than dog’s. Besides, the supplements ò vitamin and mineral in cat food is in particular formula and proportion to ensure the most balance diet.
A typical example for this is the amino acid taurine. While cats really need this chemical, dog food doesn’t have it due to a canine’s system release an ample supply.
Don’t forget to consider the lifestage
As mentioned above, each stage of a cat’s progress will require a particular diet with different kinds of nutrition. From that point, you need to take lifestage into account. Read the nutritional adequacy statement of pet food label to understand which lifestage of cat is suitable for it.
Some are produced to fit all life stages while others are just for a specific one. About me, I still highly recommend you to choose the foods that are produced specifically for each stage of a cat’s life.
You should learn to read the number as well as the rate of each ingredients in pet foods to understand whether it’s good for your feline or not. In generally, the nutrient analysis on the packaging of the product shows the maximum amount of moisture and fiber and the minimum amount of fat and protein by percentage.
If you want to make a comparison between two different products, it’s best to convert to a dry matter basis because the moisture content might skew significantly the comparison.
But keep in mind that no matter how guaranteed the analysis is, it just gives you the rate and proportion of each ingredient contained in the product, not the related information to their quality or how digestible they are.
That’s why I highly recommend you to choose high-quality from reliable, well-known pet food brands. Or, spending time to analyze reviews of previous customers.
How to find out the most suitable feeding protocol for your cat?
To do this accordingly, it’s essential to have your vet’s help.
There’s a basic rule of thumb, the guideline printed on the food label won’t be precise to all cats. Can’t deny that to provide the most convenience to the pet owners, pet foods are produced to fit almost of them. But meanwhile, some felines don’t.
Different cats will ask for specific amounts of food, which is the most basic thing any cat people should equip themselves to find out the most suitable feeding protocol for their cat.
To do that, when you take your cat an examination in the vet, ask your veterinarian to perform his/her condition analysis as well as show you how to perform it.
By learning this, you will know whether your feline is underweight, overweight or luckily, at his/her ideal weight.
My tip is when petting your cat, if you’re able to feel his/her ribs, that’s good news. If you can’t, that’s a sign of your cat being overweight. On the contrary, if their ribs are exposed too clearly, they might be underweight.
To read accurately any food label, here are some of my tips:
- Check the expiration date firstly to know whether that pet food product is fresh or not
- With canned food, check if the protein elements are listed firstly or not
- Named protein sources, put “turkey, beef, chicken, or lamb” in priority over “meat”
- Check if it’s complied with AAFCO’s requirements or not
If that product is printed “complete and balanced”, you should know that it has been through at least the following criteria:
That pet food’s composition exceeds or meets nutrient levels regulated by AAFCO
The product has been passed the feeding tests for the recommended life stage on its food label
All ingredients relating to preservatives contained in pet food is at the regulated level and aren’t scientifically demonstrated to cause any health’s problems in cats or humans at less than 100 times the level founded in these pet foods.
Besides, currently, the policy for cat food producers is aiming to utilizing natural preservatives such as vitamin E and C.
However, if you find it’s too hard to read the label guidelines, let’s consult your veterinarian’s advice. Particularly, if your cat has some health’s problems and also needs to gain or lose weight.
Now, how to know whether that food brand is good or not?
It’s only by researching!
Two things you should consider are quality control and sourcing of the pet food’s ingredients. Unfortunately, as I said, such these information sources aren’t included in the food label. So, how to know it?
Well, you need to spend some more time finding them on the official website of the pet food company. Or, a phone call to their consumer relations department isn’t a bad idea.
Don’t worry, any well-known brands will be very pleasure to give you the most detail answer for these questions to engage a good trust from their potential customers.
Yeah, that’s all of my own experience on how to choose the best cat food. These tips and guidelines are grouped based on my 7-year growing and living with 3 dear felines. Also, some of them are the resulted from what I’ve learnt from my veterinarian and through researching. I hope that with less than 10 minutes to read this article, you will gain more useful advice to feed yours healthily.
If you want more useful article diving more deeply in each particular type of cat food, don’t hesitate to take a look here:
- Top Canned Cat Foods on the Market
- Top Dry Cat Foods You Should Consider