Interesting Facts on Cat Food
Cats were first domesticated around 9,000 years ago in the Near East, when they found that cozying up to human camps meant a delicious bounty of rats. It didn’t take long for humans to welcome cats into our homes and hearts, giving them food and shelter in exchange for their irreplaceable affection. Whether you’re a new kitten owner, or a seasoned cat lady, this guide to cat food will help you choose the best cat food for your feline friend.
Types of Cat Food
Cats’ Natural Diet
In the wild, cats kill birds, rodents, insects, and most anything else they can tackle. As a result, their natural diet mostly consists of protein. Cats with access to the outdoors still heartily enjoy this fare as a supplement to whatever they’re getting inside the house. Cats should still eat as if they roam free, even if they’re kicking it on the 28th floor of your Manhattan high-rise. Indoor-only cats are totally reliant on their owners to make the proper choices for their complete nutrition.
Cat Food Shopping Advice
Cats are carnivores so the main ingredients should be meats, not grains and carbohydrates. Read the ingredient list closely and look for meat in the top five ingredients. Avoid grains, chemicals, and weird byproducts wherever possible. Always make sure the food contains taurine (also known as 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid)--a very important amino acid for cats as it aids in digestion and is important for proper heart, brain, sight, and nervous system function. Cats cannot produce enough taurine on their own which is why a diet of only homecooked food isn’t nutritious enough for cats. Most dry and wet foods contain taurine, but always check to be sure.
It’s important to note that manufacturers can use words like “natural” and “premium” without any backing behind them. Pet-food regulation and labeling are still lacking, so read the labels with care and consult with your vet if you have questions. Generally, you can make a healthy choice by following these guidelines.
Know Before You Shop
- Chicken, turkey, and rabbit are the best sources of protein for cats
- Look for “grain-free” on the package
- Absolutely avoid a food if 3 of the first 5 ingredients are grains
- Avoid corn, wheat, rye, or soy of any kind
- Avoid artificial colors and preservatives such as BHT, BHA and ethoxyquin
- Avoid byproducts
- Watch out for vague-sounding ingredients
- Avoid tapioca and potatoes (except sweet potatoes). They are high-glycemic.
The Best Nutrition For Cats
With endless options of commercial cat food available, it’s tough for cat owners to know where to begin. The cheaper foods consist largely of grain, byproducts, and fillers that are unhealthy for cats and do not supply enough nutrients. Consistently buying the absolute cheapest cat food you can find can cause serious health issues for your cat. The best food on the market is very low in grain, or grain-free, and high in quality proteins. Wellness Cat Food, for example does not use corn, wheat, soy products, artificial flavors or colors. It also includes high levels of protein from meat. A combination of high-protein dry food, wet food, treats, and plenty of fresh water is the best option for cats.
Different Cats, Different Needs
One size doesn’t fit all when it comes to cat food. You need to consider the cat’s age, weight, health status, taste preference, if it lives indoors or outdoors, and your own budget. Talk to your veterinarian about the best way to balance these factors and your cat will be on her way to a nutritious lifestyle. Some cats are susceptible to a build–up of crystals in their urine and may need a urinary cat food while other cats may benefit from a hairball control formula. Cats with very special needs require a prescription formula food. You can find foods designed for the kidney, liver, heart, urinary tract and more. Check with your vet if you suspect your cat needs a special food.
Best Protein For Cats
Dry Cat Food
While dry food costs less than wet food and can also be more convenient, it’s important to supplement dry food with some wet food. Cats have a drinking problem—in that they don’t drink enough water. In the wild, cats got a lot of their water from fresh kills. In your apartment, they don’t get super excited about the water bowl on the ground. They naturally have a low-thirst drive, yet their bodies need water. To help Mr. Muffins lap up more liquid, see that your water bowl is always very clean and full of fresh water—cats are picky about this! The lack of water in your cat’s diet can lead to painful and often deadly urinary problems. Keep in mind that dry food does not last forever—even if it appears to look and smell fine to you. Bags open more than 4 to 6 weeks are losing vitamins and the fat can become rancid—even in seal containers.
Most veterinarians don’t see a problem with dry food as long as it is high in protein and low in grain. When you see “rice” included in cat foods, know that these brands are appealing to what humans find healthy in their own diets. Grains don’t belong in cat food, yet you will find that corn or “maize” figures in prominently in many cat foods. Avoid these and be sure to supplement your cat’s dry food with some wet food each day. Equal parts of dry food and wet food is a good way to go, but as always, check with your veterinarian.
Taste of the Wild Feline Formula is a top-rate dry food that is also affordable. It has top-shelf ingredients, high-quality protein and is grain free.
Wet Cat Food
Again, the best canned cat foods are high in protein and low in grain, chemicals, sugars, and fillers. A great affordable canned cat food that is also grain-free is Sheba pate. Trader Joe's Premium Canned Cat Food , Merrick, Eukanuba, Nutro Natural Choice, and Wellness are also great cat food brands for their grain-free/high protein content. A balanced diet of both wet and dry food can be the most cost-effective option for many cat owners…and also adds variety to your cat’s meal time.
Cat Food Price Spectrum
With cat food, you typically get what you pay for. The cheapest foods can be found in grocery stores and often contain lower quality ingredients. Mid-tier foods can be found dedicated pet stores such as PetCo and Petsmart. There is plenty of good and average food alike at these stores, so read labels carefully. These cat food brands are typically found in pet stores and specialty pet stores. Make sure the price is justified by the quality. Higher-end stores such as MudBay offer a large selection of premium food and have a great return policy—if your cat is the type to change her mind a lot. Buying in bulk may keep cost down, but unless you have an army of cats, the food may spoil before you can use it. Also, kitty’s taste may change halfway through the bag. If you must buy in bulk, shop by the price per unit, not the price per bag.
Raw Cat Food
Cat owners’ views on raw food tends to vary widely, so do your homework and use your best judgement. Raw meat, bone and organs do mimic what your cat would find in the wild, but look for hormone and antibiotic-free, raw foods and above all, be very careful with the handling and placement of raw food in your home—humans and animals alike can get very sick from raw food left out too long.
Homemade Cat Food
If you’re the DIY type you may prefer to cook your own cat food—though it’s important to supplement homemade food with some regular cat food containing taurine and essential vitamins to make sure your cat is getting a balanced diet. Baking or boiling chicken, shrimp, turkey or salmon—without seasoning or overcooking it—can be a great healthy option. When baking or boiling, be sure to keep the consistency juicy enough so it doesn’t dry out. You can also incorporate a little squash (a natural hairball remedy), or vitamin-packed broccoli or carrots. Keep in mind that table scraps are not a good idea–they contain seasoning that is not good for cats and also lack taurine, which cats definitely need.
Organic Cat Food
To be sure your cat is getting the most nutrition and the least amount of chemicals; you may want to opt for an organic cat food such as Newman’s Own Cat Food Organics. Organic cat foods are free of pesticides, antibiotics, synthetic fertilizers, growth hormones, GMOs, and other toxins, that some traditional cat foods may otherwise contain. Check out cat food reviews online to dig deeper into organic brands that might be right for your cat.
Introduce New Foods To Your Cat Gradually
Cats are creatures of habit and generally have a very conservative outlook on life—they prefer to know what to expect. Given this, and cats’ delicate digestion system, it’s always a good idea to introduce new foods gradually to keep your cat from getting sick. Assuming you feed your cat twice a day, a good transition plan is as follows:
Day 1: Breakfast: 3/4 old food with 1/4 new food, Dinner: 2/3 old food with 1/3 new food
Day 2: Breakfast: 1/2 old food with 1/2 new food, Dinner: 1/3 old food with 2/3 new food
Day 3: All new food
How Long Should Wet Cat Food Be Left Out?
It’s important to be very careful with raw food as stated above, but regular wet food also poses risks if left out too long Firstly, your risk your cat being grossed out by the dried out, nasty sludge that wet food turns into after five hours or so. Give your cat smaller portions of wet food several times a day if you can. Two to three hours is god cut off for leaving wet food out. This also helps you avoid unwanted ants marching through your kitchen.
If you are gone most of the day, feed your cat at breakfast and dinner times. Dry food in the morning and wet food at dinner time is a smart way to go. And don’t forget to hide some healthy treats around the house for Mr. Muffins to stalk while you’re at work all day.