The quality of food you feed your pets undoubtedly has an enormous impact on their health and overall wellbeing. Therefore, choosing the right pet food should be a carefully well-researched process and not just a random pick.
If you are a cat owner, you might want to know your furry little friend is a bit different from other domestic animals when it comes to nutritional needs. Therefore, alongside its Veterinary needs, feeding is by far your most important duty.
That’s because the right food will not only make sure your cat enjoys a tasty meal from every bite, but it will also promote an all-around healthy living that’ll circumvent many medical issues now and in the long run.
Perhaps, you just became a domestic feline owner or are planning to adopt one soon? If s, why not follow these well-researched tips for choosing cat food so your four-legged furry friend can have the best.
Important Nutritional Ingredients to Look Out For
Yes, your cats are domestic animals, but they are not like every other household pets. Because they are technically carnivores like their bigger counterparts in the wild, their need for some nutrients isn’t as high as some people assume.
For example, carbs can be part of your cat’s daily nutrition, but the truth is, they only require and can tolerate them in minute quantities. So, what should essentially be in your cat’s food? What are the crucial ingredients your feline friend needs to grow well and remain in good health?
The following are what you should look out for whenever you take a trip to the cat food market.
Many cat owners don’t like to imagine their sweet, beloved pet and the cats in the wild in the picture. Well, the fact is, they are similar in many ways. Like the big cats in the safari, your domestic cats need protein from animal sources like beef, chicken, duck, fish, pork, etc. Ten essential amino acids are in dietary proteins, and your domestic cat can’t make them on its own.
These amino acids are so vital their deficiency could spell serious health problems for your cat. For example, arginine is one of such amino acids that participate in ammonia removal from the body.
Now imagine, this amino acid isn’t present in your cat’s body. That could result in a toxic level of ammonia buildup in the blood. Again, Taurine is another amino acid whose deficiency could lead to blindness, deafness, inadequate immune response, or even heart failure.
Most proteins, including taurine, are absent or present only in trace amounts in plants but are abundant in fishes, poultry, etc. A protein from a high-quality source will ideally have all the essential amino acids.
Thanks to the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), cat foods have labels that’ll guide you when you want to make a choice, so check things like cat food expiration dates and protein source. Your cat’s food should be a balanced one and mimic what is obtainable in the wild.
According to AAFCO, whether you want a dry or wet (canned) food, manufacturers must name the protein source, which should be about 95% (including water) of the total food weight. The remaining 5% are for the vitamins, minerals, and other additional ingredients.
Some manufacturers may have a slight deviation from this requirement depending on the state.
– Fats & Fatty acids
Fats provide twice the amount of energy when compared to protein and carbs; hence, their importance in a cat’s diet. Dietary fats are majorly from animal sources, while plants (seed oils) can also be a good source.
Dietary fats contain fatty acids, and like proteins, your cants body cannot synthesize them. Fatty acids are important for cell structure and cell function. Essential fatty acids such as the omega 3 series play a vital tola in keeping your pet’s skin and fur healthy.
If your cat is deficient in them, apart from not having a rich and full protective coat, your cat may also be at risk of vision impairment and nervous system breakdown. Depending on the age of the cat, daily fat requirements are different.
Kittens require 4g, adults, 5.5g, while nursing cats need around 11g. You may find cat foods that the manufacture didn’t label the nutrient amount in gram but percentage. Multiply the percentage by the weight of your cat’s daily food to know your cat’s fat daily consumption. For example, a manufacturer labels the pack with 5% fat. 0.05 X 160g (a canned food weight) = 8g
Vitamins are compounds that participate in metabolic activities and defend your cat’s against myriads of health issues. They are organic compounds required in small doses. Cat’s do not have the ability to synthesize many vitamins on their own, so their source must come from the food they eat.
Many cat foods are deficient in essential vitamins such as vitamin A and E. You’ll do well to look out for them when you want to make a purchase. You’ll be safer to look out for the “natural” tag so you can avoid manufacturers who use synthetic or artificial vitamins. They may cause allergies for your pet.
Another set of nutrients that must be in your cat’s diet are minerals. They also partake in metabolic activities, and 12 of them are essential for your cat. Some of them are calcium, sodium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, molybdenum, chloride, iron, etc.
They are all crucial to your cat’s well being. For example, chloride helps maintain proper alkali balance and production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is essential for healthy digestion.
As crucial as minerals are, too much can pose health challenges to your cat. E.g., too much magnesium and phosphorus may cause the formation of bladder stones, blocking your cat’s urinary tract. When it comes to minerals, manufacturers may not do justice. So, it might be best to visit your vet to recommend mineral supplement so that your cat can get sufficient amounts and stay healthy.
By evolution and adaptation, cats naturally want to obtain their water needs from the food they eat. So, it’s not uncommon if your feline friend isn’t too psyched about drinking water from a bowl.
However, water is an essential part of a cat’s nutrition. Water helps maintain temperature, distribute nutrients, eliminate excess mineral/toxins, and aid in metabolizing nutrients. Therefore, you might have to get creative if your cat isn’t a fan of drinking plenty of water. Some owners build fountains or allow water to trickle very slow from taps to attract their cats to make them drink more.
Wet cat food is another way of hydrating your cat’s system. You can use it as a topper if your cat is a kibble feeder. You may also adopt an alternating between dry and wet foods. Altogether, encourage your cat with a water bowl.
Ingredients to Avoid
Why would anyone put ingredients cat owners may want to avoid in cat foods? Well, the ingredients aren’t technically illegal. Some of these ingredients function as preservatives, while others are a mere cheaper substitute for a better or ideal ingredient.
As a cat owner, you are the one that needs to pay extra attention to your cat’s needs to know if some of these ingredients are safe for your pet. While some ingredients may fall under the “best to avoid” canopy, some are not just safe for specific cats.
– Chemical or artificial preservatives.
Most pet food manufacturers are already on the natural preservatives lane. However, it’s not uncommon to still find some cat foods with ethoxyquin, butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA), and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) as preservatives. There are reports that BHT and BHA are cancer-inducing agents while ethoxyquin is altogether illegal in human foods. Check the pack to ensure there are no artificial flavors or preservatives.
– Meat by-products
Remember we mentioned earlier that a high-quality animal contains more of the essential amino acids? On the other hand, meat by-products are a form of inferior meat source as animal species is not specific. The processing approach and the meat itself are altogether not ideal for cats. The nutrient content is often lesser, and they have a higher potential to expose pets to a higher risk of developing allergic reactions.
– Corn, wheat, gluten, and Carbohydrate Fillers.
It’s common practice among cat food manufacturers to use carbohydrate fillers. The thumb rule is, fillers are not suitable for your cat. Cats are canine at the end of the day, so carbohydrates shouldn’t be a big part of their meal.
If you have a senior cat, a grain-free diet is the best way to go. Wheat, corn, and gluten are also potential allergy triggers. So it best to avoid cat foods that contain them, especially if your cat show symptoms of an allergic reaction.
Dry foods vs. wet food.
Many cat owners have one time or another thought about which of these two cat foods is better.
Many believe dry foods are synonymous with snacks or something owners use when they are away for some time. While the latter might be right, dry foods or kibbles are as nutritious as wet foods and should not be put in a class of lesser or inferior food type. Let’s look at both food options under the following subheadings.
One of the advantages of feeding your cat dry food is the convenience that comes with it. Apart from the ease of pouring it into a bowl, cat owners who want to be away for a long time can easily do so. Yes, it’s not a good practice to load your cat bowl with excess food since you won’t be there to control the eating frequency.
However, it can save you the hassle of taking your cat along with you or hiring a cat sitter. If your cat is strictly on wet foods, it’s impossible to load the bowl with excess food since it will become stale and unfit for the cat’s consumption.
Let’s look away from the convenience for a minute. Many manufacturers of kibbles or dry food usually fill them with lots of carbs. Chances are your cat may be overweight if it feeds strictly on dry food because of the higher carbs content, that’s why cat foods for overweight cats are often recommended rather than other products.
– Risk of dehydration and stone development
One of the advantages wet food has over dry is the high moisture content. It is particularly a great option for cats that don’t fancy drinking water in a bowl. They are usually stomach-friendly and don’t contribute to urinary issues.
On the other hand, cats that feed strictly on kibbles and don’t consume much water have a greater risk of dehydration or bladder stones since the urine is more concentrated due to less moisture.
– Senior cats.
As cats become older, it common to experience a change in metabolism. Some senior cats tolerate wet food as it is friendlier with the stomach. Kibbles might be difficult for some seniors to digest.
Ultimately, the decision to go for wet or dry food is up to the owner and, of course, the cat’s need.
Canned food vs. kibble.
The significant difference between canned cat foods and kibble is the moisture content in the former. The moisture content makes canned food an excellent option for animals with urinary tract issues. Not only does the water content help in diluting the concentration of the urine, but cats also digest them easily. What’s more, if you have a cat with a sensitive stomach, you might want to opt a canned food.
That’s not to say kibbles are hard to digest. They are equally stomach-friendly; however, cats with special needs may find kibbles challenging. The convenience that comes with kibbles is undeniable. As a cat owner, you can easily make your cat’s food available in excess if you will be away for a day or more.
That may be impossible with canned food. Altogether, cats are finicky; alternating their food type might be an excellent way to circumvent being bored with one kind of food.
Choosing Cat Foods Summary
Cats are unique. Unlike dogs, they don’t munch just about anything you put in their bowl. With their distinct taste, it might take some effort to find the right food that’ll not only satisfy but also keep them healthy. As you visit the cat food market, keep in mind all these tips so you and your feline friend can share many years together in health and vitality.