As a human, you’ll have heard (and maybe adhered to) the saying, “you are what you eat.” But many of us don’t apply the same motto to what we’re feeding our four-legged friends.
However, next to veterinary care, what you feed your cat is one of the most important aspects of being a pet owner. It’s also important to be aware that proper nutrition can delay or even eliminate costly vet bills for a variety of medical conditions.
With that in mind, let’s find out what to look for on labels so you can find the best cat food for your moggy, seeking out the best cat food brands on the market.
What Nutrition Does Cat Food Need to Provide?
Your cat needs:
- Protein – which can be derived from poultry, fish, or meat sources
- Taurine – an amino acid that’s essential for their overall health and well-being
- Various other fatty acids, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins
Therefore, cats don’t need carbohydrates – even though rice, wheat, and corn are often used as filler for dry and canned cat food.
Other ingredients like coloring, flavoring, and binders are added to satisfy what owners are looking for – i.e. chewy cat food that they know their cat prefers to nibble on.
Equally, even though preservatives are essential for keeping cat food fresh, canned food shouldn’t be left out for long periods of time anyway.
Dry or Canned Cat Food?
A lot of nutritionists will recommend both canned and dry food for cats because:
- Dry food can be left for “free feeding,” offering a convenient solution
- Cats don’t drink a lot of water on a regular basis, and canned food has water in it
- It provides your cat with the precise amount of nutrients they need. Even though one food may offer everything, it may be giving them too much or too little of their required vitamins/minerals
- Your cat may get bored of eating the same food each day, perhaps even quitting eating altogether. Consider whether you’d like to eat porridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day – it’s highly like you’d get bored too!
- They can reduce allergies to various ingredients. Cats are similar to humans in this way as they can develop allergies with time. Even though this is rare, it’s sometimes worth being careful, especially if your cats have demonstrated signs of having allergies previously
- They help prevent “addictions to food.” Yes, cats can become addicted to particular brands and flavors of food and this can be hard to cope with when something goes out of stock or is discontinued. Try to introduce a variety right from the start, changing up their kitten food to prevent any addictions from occurring
Cheap Food Isn’t Always the Best
A lot of first-time pet owners will opt for the cheapest food available in a bid to keep pet ownership costs to a minimum. However, this creates a false economy in a number of ways.
First, cats will eat until they get all of the nutrients they need. Therefore, they might start overeating that food that’s loaded with carbohydrates in order to get the nutrients they could get from a healthier, premium food.
Second, over time, feeding your cat substandard food can contribute, or even lead to, complicated medical conditions that cost far more than their food!
What to Look for On the Label
When shopping for cat food, look to see if:
- The food is compliant with the requirements set out by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) in that it’s “complete and balanced” and this is substantiated on the label. The aforementioned words cannot be printed on a label unless the food meets or exceeds the nutrient levels the AAFCO stipulate, the food has passed various tests that meet the recommended life mentioned on the label, and any preservatives used have never caused problems in pets before
- There’s a named source of protein such as beef, lamb, turkey, or chicken. The term “meat” isn’t always a good sign! This should be the first ingredient that’s listed, especially on canned food
- It’s fresh – the expiration date will indicate this
And avoid products that have:
- Words like “animal digest,” “bone meal and/or meat,” and “by-products” as well anything that indicates added sugars or “digest.”
- Any chemical preservatives within them, e.g. propyl gallate, ethoxyquin, BHT, and BHA
- Excess carbohydrates that are acting as filers – dry food can contain as much as 50%
- Used cornmeal to fill it out
As obligate carnivores, cats aren’t able to survive on a diet of vegetables, even though veggies can be introduced to their diet by you or a cat food manufacturer.
By adhering to all of the above recommendations, you should be able to find a cat food that meets veterinary recommendations, while also keeping your pet (and your wallet) happy!
Feature image via AlleyCat