We adore our cat’s personalities and characters, but many of us don’t understand how to feed our feline friends best. There is a wide selection of cat food available and deciding which of these can provide our cat with the right nutrition is a challenge. Factors such as breed, age, activity levels and sensitivities or allergies are essential considerations. Here is everything you need to know about cat food.
Cat nutrition is very different to human or dog nutrition; this is because humans and dogs are omnivores while cats are strict carnivores. Therefore for your cat to be healthy, its diet needs to consist primarily of meat and fish. To aid your understanding here is an explanation of the basic three nutrients and how essential they are for cats.
Protein for Cats
Protein is the most critical part of a cats diet and should be at the core of its nutrition. It is vital for a cats growth and development throughout its life. Cats immune systems need protein to be healthy and additional protein is not wasted as it can be burned immediately as calories or converted into fat for storage.
Carbohydrates for Cats
Carbohydrates are not necessary for a cats nutrition and in high quantities can have serious adverse effects on a cat. Cats in their natural environments consume less than 5% carbohydrates, yet some cat foods contain up to 50% carbohydrates. Furthermore, high carbohydrate diets can cause dehydration and liver or kidney problems in cats, so it is vital to ensure that a cat is not over-consuming carbohydrates.
Fats for Cats
Fats provide a highly concentrated form of energy for a cat and is naturally present in meat and fish. They are packed with more than double the calories per gram than proteins or carbohydrates. Dietary fats are also crucial for the maintenance and development of your cat’s cells, muscles, and tissues.
Cat food labeling has seen significant advancement, and all reputable brands now have a full nutritional analysis displayed on their packaging. You can use this analysis to examine its nutritional values. Here are some of the nutritional values you should be looking out for within this analysis.
- Protein (Min)
- Fat (Min)
- Fiber (Max)
- Moisture (Max)
- Taurine (Min)
Some cat food brands choose to include additional nutritional information including some of the following:
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids
- Omega 6 Fatty Acids
Ash is a misunderstood part of cat food and is best described as the inorganic componenets of pet food. You can read more about Ash in the Pet Food Association of Canada’s FAQ page.
For those wanting to better understand how to read a pet food label, you should check out WSAVA’s Interpreting Food Labels, North America graphic or the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association’s How To Read A Pet Food Label.
Cat Food Ingredients
Cat food labeling should contain an exact breakdown of its ingredients in descending order. This will allow you to gather details such as what meats or grains it contains. You should pay particular attention to this and try to spot any ingredients that are considered bad for your cat’s health.
Named Meat or Fish such as Chicken, Beef, Tuna, Salmon, Pork, Turkey, Lamb, etc
Named Meat or Fish Meal such as Chicken Meal, Salmon Meal, Lamb Meal, etc
Named Organ Meat or Giblets such as Kidneys, Heart, Liver, etc
Corn, Wheat, Soy, Oats, Quinoa, Rice
Garlic or Onion
Artificial Colors, Sweeteners or Preservatives
Potentially Dangerous / Harmful Ingredients
Types of Cat Food
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food also known as kibble is a popular form of cat food. Kibble has a much longer storage life than wet food and also tends to be cheaper to produce. However dry cat food can cause chronic dehydration in cats. This can have serious health consequences, and so we do not recommend a cats diet consist of entirely dry cat food.
At the very least you should feed your cat a mix of wet food and dry food. In addition to a lack of moisture dry food tends to contain higher quantities of unnecessary carbohydrates and fillers. Despite this, some high-quality dry cat foods have relatively good nutrition. WSAVA discusses why canned cat food can be better for cats than dry food in their FAQ.
For more information about dry cat food and our recommendations, check out our Dry Cat Food section.
Wet Cat Food
Wet cat food is commonly stored within a can and contains a much higher percentage of moisture than dry cat food. It tends to provide a better balance of nutrients for your cat’s diet than dry food which can prevent the need for supplementary feed.
Furthermore, wet food tends to contain fewer fillers and processed ingredients. Despite this, some wet foods do contain fillers, and processed ingredients so always check the packaging to see its ingredient list.
For more information about wet cat food and our recommendations, check out our Wet Cat Food section.
Kitten foods contain different ratios of nutrients and vitamins. This is because kittens have different dietary needs to adult cats. Protein and Fat content tend to be higher in kitten food. Moreover, the number of specific vitamins and minerals are increased. Some kitten food has a different consistency to make it easier to digest.
For more information about kitten food and our recommendations, check out our Kitten Food section
Senior Cat Food
Senior cats require different ratios of nutrients and vitamins just as kittens do. Preventing health problems such as joint or kidney problems is also an essential consideration in senior cat food. Generally speaking, senior cat food is not hugely different from traditional adult food, but it can have some benefits.
For more information about senior cat food and our recommendations, check out our Senior Cat Food section.