Tips for Choosing the Healthiest Cat Foods
Follow Your Veterinarian’s Recommendations for Your Cat
Just as your body needs proper nutrition to stay strong and thrive, so does your cat’s. But cats’ diets are very different from yours and even different from other pets you may own.
A healthy diet, along with cat health insurance, helps you to ensure you’re taking the very best care of your beloved feline. Follow these five tips so you can make a smart decision when it comes to buying food for your kitty.
Choose a Cat Food Made of Animal Products
Dogs require nutrients from vegetables and grains, because they’re technically omnivores. Cats, however, are obligate carnivores, which means they get their nutrition solely from animal products.
Healthy cats enjoy food with high protein, moderate fat, and minimal carbohydrates. They also need lots of other nutrients, like vitamins and minerals and fatty and amino acids. Read the ingredient list carefully. Items listed are in order of decreasing proportional weight. Look for foods in which meat, meat byproducts, and seafood are listed among the first few ingredients.
Along with fresh, clean water, nutritious cat food will keep your furry friend quite happy and healthy.
Opt for Food that Encourages Hydration
Your pet cat should consume about four ounces of water for every five pounds of lean body weight every day. For example, a 10-pound cat should drink about a cup of water each day, or more if he eats only dry kibble.
Cats can be prone to becoming dehydrated because they don’t have the urge to drink water like other animals do. And because they’re naturally carnivorous, their bodies derive most of the moisture they consume directly from the food they eat.
Because of this, many veterinarians and cat rescue groups highly recommend feeding a canned food diet. Canned cat food has a moisture content of at least 75 percent, so it’s a great dietary source of water. If you must feed dry food, make sure your cat has access to fresh water - offering multiple bowls in different locations for multi-pet households - and consider using a water fountain to encourage him or her to drink more.
Ensure Your Cat’s Food Meets Minimum Nutrition Requirements
Commercially-prepared cat foods were created with the right balance of nutrients to meet minimum nutritional requirements for the average pet cat. The Feline Nutrition Expert (FNE) Subcommittee of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) established these minimum nutritional requirements.
The same group established labeling regulations, in collaboration with the Food and Drug Administration, so that pet owners are aware of what they’re feeding their cats. As a result, every bag, box, or can of commercial cat food contains a nutrition label. Those that meet AAFCO standards include the boilerplate AAFCO statement. Look for this statement when choosing a food for your cat.
Consider Your Cat’s Life Stage When Selecting a Food
As your cat ages, he or she will have different nutritional requirements. Young kittens, for example, burn more calories than a more mellow older cat, so their nutrition needs are different. Pregnant or lactating cats also have different needs.
Think about your cat’s age, their habits, and lifestyle when choosing cat food. Kittens should eat kitten food, and older “senior” cats may do well on a food specially formulated for them, too. Certain commercial foods are formulated for all ages and stages, which is handy if you have a multi-cat household and want to keep feeding as simple as possible.
Resist the Urge to Cook for Your Cat
Making nutritionally-balanced cat food is difficult and time-consuming and requires the oversight of a specialized veterinarian certified in animal nutrition.
Although you may like the idea of your cat eating homemade food, it’s actually better for your feline friend to eat a balanced commercial diet - unless your veterinarian recommends a home recipe for medical reasons.
If you attempt to cook a homemade food for your cat, it may not contain essential amino acids, like taurine, which is found in animal-based proteins and is vital for cats for vision, digestion, and heart muscle and immune system functions.
It may take months before you notice the irreversible signs of a taurine deficiency in your cat: vision impairment caused by feline taurine retinopathy or feline central retinal degeneration (FCRD); weakened muscle cells in the heart, causing dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM); and digestive disturbances from a deficiency of bile salts. These are serious medical conditions that require expensive veterinary care. You’ll need the best pet health insurance to help cover the cost.
A Final Word About TreatsFood-motivated cats might appreciate a treat or two on occasion, but don’t over-do it. Too many added calories can cause your cat to become overweight, which puts stress on his or her bones and organs.
Commercial cat treats are ideal for your pet. Avoid giving your cat canned tuna, cow’s milk, or other human foods, which can upset their digestive system or worse.
Now that you understand the most important factors to consider when selecting your cat’s food, you’re ready to visit the pet supply store to learn more about what’s in your cat’s next meal.