When it comes to eating, cats are all over the spectrum. You have your nose-in-the-air finicky eaters, and then you have your scarf-anything-down eaters. If you’re lucky, you have a cat that falls somewhere in the middle. No matter what kind of eater you have on your hands, it’s important to choose a quality dry food that will satisfy your cat’s nutritional needs as well as her unique palette.
The most healthy and nutritious food does your cat no good if she won’t go near it. A great dry cat food has a perfect balance of nutritional value and appetizing taste. Quality foods will help build a strong high immune system and prevent Cat Dandruff.
Like humans, not all cats like the same foods. A one-feeds-all food, like the ones you find at your local supermarket, just doesn’t cut it. Choosing the right dry cat food can be quite the task. Let’s make a bit simpler by knowing what nutrients your cat requires to maintain optimum health. Additionally, it’s helpful to know what to avoid when choosing a cat food. Finally, there are three brands we recommend the most.
Three Recommended Brands
Based on all the criteria below, we have 3 brands that we recommend most.
There are a wide range of foods within the Blue Buffalo line, including “Wilderness”, which is a protein-rich and grain-free formula. They also offer “Basics” for cats with sensitive digestive systems, and “Freedom” that is gluten-free.
All-natural ingredients comprise Wellness foods. Real meat, veggies, and fruits are at the core of every formula offered. They also offer a grain-free variety.
For a more economical choice that still strives for excellent quality, check out PetSmart’s proprietary brand of foods called “Authority”. They offer complete nutrition and a variety of formulas for your cat’s specific needs and life stages.
So, What Should It Include?
In general, your cat needs a healthy balance of fat and protein. There could be a limited amount of carbohydrates (this mimics the stomach contents of prey), but plenty of protein and healthy fats are essential. Your cat is a carnivore by nature. Therefore, her system is built to efficiently convert protein and fats to energy.
A limited amount of carbohydrates has been found to assist energy production in cats. This is because they have been domesticated for so long that their bodies are adapting to their environment, and the foods available to them.
However, some breeds that are closer to their wild ancestors—like Bengals or Savanahs, for example—may actually present allergies to grains, corn and/or other forms of carbohydrates. American Short Hairs (previously called Domestic Short Hairs) have the least trouble digesting carbohydrates. No matter what breed of kitty you have, she will definitely thrive on a diet rich in protein and fats. Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking for a quality dry cat food.
Determine Your Cat’s Life Stage
Kittens and lactating mothers have different nutritional needs than healthy adult cats. In America, cat food labels are generally marked with one of the two classifications from the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO): “All Life Stages” or “Adult Maintenance”. “All Life Stages” means the food is formulated to meet the needs of a growing kitten or a lactating mother.
These foods are higher in calories, calcium, and phosphorous. “Adult Maintenance” foods are lower in fats and lower in the above nutrients in order to maintain the health of an adult cat. An adult cat eating food formulated for kittens will gain weight due to the high amount of fats, and her health will begin to decline.
As a rule, look for indicators such as “Kitten”, “Adult”, or “Senior” on the packaging. There are many variables that indicate transitions from one life stage to another. Always check with your veterinarian to be sure what stage of life your cat is in. In general, kittens are 0-1 year, adults are 1-10 years, and seniors are 10+.
Check the first three ingredients
Manufacturers list ingredients by order of weight, beginning with the heaviest. Meaning, the first three ingredients are what mostly comprises the food. Therefore, it’s important to identify proteins as the first three ingredients.
As mentioned earlier, cats are carnivores. Protein from animal sources are ideal. Look for whole ingredients like chicken, turkey, fish, beef, or lamb as the first ingredient. They should comprise the bulk of the food. The second or third ingredient may include the word “meal”, as in “chicken meal”. This is simply a dehydrated form of animal protein. It’s a concentrated and condensed protein and should not be avoided as long as it isn’t the first ingredient.
Fruits and Vegetables
The remaining ingredients should be small amounts of vegetables and fruits. This is where the majority of carbohydrates come from in a quality cat food.
If you’ve opted to feed your cat a diet that incorporates more carbohydrates, they should come from whole grains such as brown rice, not corn or corn meal.
This is the list on most packages of cat food that is difficult to interpret. It may look something like this:
Crude Protein……………36.0% min
Crude Fat………………………16.0% min
Crude Fiber…………………5.0% max
These are measurements of the food in its current state. Protein should always comprise the majority of the food, followed by fat, fiber, and water.
What to Look Out For
Now that you know what should be in your cat’s food, let’s look at what to avoid when choosing a quality food.
Avoid corn in any form. It has absolutely no nutritional value for your cat. In fact, it is a common allergen in cats. It tends to be added to low-end cat food because it’s a cheap filler.
Avoid any food that contains soy in any form. Soy is estrogenic and therefore can seriously disturb your cat’s endocrine system.
Meat by-products include parts of an animal that are not nutritionally sound, and have been ground up into the mix of meat. These parts include: feet, hooves, hair, feathers, beaks, and even tumors that were present in the animal source. Organ meats do provide good nutrition. However, in dry cat food, they are always mixed in with these other less favorable parts. Your kitty would much rather have fresh liver or giblets prepared for her as a special treat.
Artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives.
Check the label for statements like, “NO artificial preservatives.” Opt for foods that are preserved with vitamin E and C instead. These natural preservatives often appear on labels as “tocopherols”.
No matter which quality food you choose for your cat, the most vital nutrient for your cat, and all life, is water. Always make sure your cat has clean, fresh water available to her.