Have you wandered the cat food aisle, confused by all the choices?
Choosing the best cat food for your feline friend can be daunting, especially when the labels all look so appealing. The secret to finding good cat food is to create a wish list before you leave the house. That way, you’ll be targeting what you’re looking for and studying the labels to make a healthy, wholesome dinner for your cat.
Start your wish list by realizing the basics that the food has to deliver. For example, look at your cat’s needs.
- Life phase: Is the cat a kitten (which needs “growth food”), an adult (a “maintenance food for adults”) or is older than seven years (a “senior food”)?
- Body Condition: Is your cat underweight and requiring gaining, normal weight, or overweight and could be related to weight loss? There are foods that fill each of these niches. So don’t be afraid to get picky.
- History: Does your cat have medical problems such as dental disease or urinary problems? You might want to look for a food that has been shown to clean teeth or promote urinary tract health. To go a step further, there are also prescription diets (available through veterinarians) to help control kidney disease, thyroid problems, and the like.
- Preferences: Some cats depend on wet food, while others depend on dry food.
For example, if your furry friend is an overweight adult cat who is prone to cystitis and likes canned food, your wish list is as follows:
- Life phase for adult cats
- Reduced calories
- A food that is balanced for urinary tract health
- Wet food
Then address your needs in terms of:
- Storage (tins take up more space than dry snacks.)
So far so good, but maybe this hasn’t narrowed down the choices enough and you are still confused. Your next decision will therefore be based on the contents of the feed by reading the pet food label.
To better understand the label, it is helpful to know the basics of cat physiology.
Cats have to eat meat, in other words, they are “obligatory carnivores”. This is because cats cannot make certain vital amino acids the way humans or dogs can. The result is that a cat needs high quality protein and plenty of it, especially in the form of meat.
Guess what a good cat food should mainly contain? Yes meat!
This is where it helps to understand that not all proteins are created equal. Some proteins are easier to digest than others. Indeed, there is a scale for evaluating the digestibility of proteins called the “biological value” of food.
Take a look at how these foods are classified.
Egg 100% biological value.
(Eggs are the gold standard by which other proteins are measured.)
Meat meal 50%
Corn flour 45%
The eagle eyes among you will find that meat meal (a common ingredient in cat food) is lower than soy. This does not mean that you should choose soy instead of meat meal, but rather shows how difficult it can be to interpret a label.
In fact, instead of meat meal OR soy, you should look for a named meat (like beef, salmon, or chicken) listed in the first four ingredients listed.
OK, you take a bag of cat food and read the label, but you still don’t feel any smarter. What now? Let’s simplify things with some helpful pointers.
Leave indecision behind by deciphering the ingredient label. Here’s What To Look For … And To Avoid.
- First called meat: The ingredients are listed in order of their amount, with the main ingredient first. Look for a named meat in the list above. Ideally, look for meat or meat by-products under the first four items.
- Meat by-products are okay: These are the organs and innards and represent good biological value. These are preferred over meat meal, the quality and digestibility of which can vary.
- Avoid corn or soy fillers: Cats have difficulty digesting vegetable protein or fillers, which have also been linked to allergies in cats. Therefore cross them off the shopping list.
- AAFCO approved: Look for foods with the Association of American Food Control Officers’ stamp of approval as a sign that the food is nutritionally balanced to provide everything your cat needs.
And finally, when choosing the best cat food for your furry friend, take a moment to think about wet and dry food. A wet food can consist of 80% water, while a dry snack consists of only 6% water. This makes wet food an expensive way to keep your cat hydrated. However, wet food is believed to be better for the cat’s bladder and kidney health. In an ideal world, this is the better option.
However, modern dry nibbles are healthier than they were years ago. The recipes contain fewer minerals, which have given biscuits a bad rap for forming bladder stones. While the convenience of dry food that won’t spoil if left out all day means it has a place for healthy cats.
Finally, if your cat has a health problem, talk to your veterinarian about what to feed and what to avoid. As the saying goes “You are what you eat, ”And that goes for cats just as much as it does for humans.