How To Choose The Right Cat Food
When it comes to nutrition, this is something that is just as important for your cat as it is for you. Cats have very specific nutritional needs and without proper care and attention paid to their diet, they can experience health issues.
Taking time to understand what a good diet for your cat is and implementing the right diet can contribute to better health and longevity in your cat.
Not only does this mean more time with your beloved pet but it can also mean a significant reduction in vet visits and subsequent vet bills!
So what constitutes ‘good’ food for cats? How do you know what to choose? In this guide, we’ll cover exactly what to look for to ensure your cat is being fed properly for optimal health.
Cat Food - Key Considerations
When selecting appropriate food for your cat there are some key points you should consider.
One of the first key considerations is feeding an age-appropriate diet. Kittens need more calories for growth, while senior and adult cats need fewer calories to avoid weight gain.
As an aside, there is no single best food for cat weight management, but typically cat food for older cats will be lower in calories. Just as importantly, you’ll need to exercise better portion control for your kitty as he ages or if he becomes overweight.
No matter where you are purchasing your food from, always check that your cat's age corresponds with the type of food you are buying.
Another important thing to note is that cats are carnivores and cannot thrive on vegetarian diets. Your cat’s food should include:
- Appropriate amounts of protein. such as red meat, fish, or poultry. These all contain taurine, an essential amino acid.
- Vitamins. These are usually included through added vegetables which also provide essential fibre. Cat foods should contain the following vitamins
- Vitamin A: Supports healthy eyes, bone and tooth growth, reproduction, and maintenance of skin and mucous membranes
- Vitamin D: Boosts blood calcium and phosphorous levels for better growth and maintenance of healthy bones
- Vitamin E: An important antioxidant
- Vitamin K: Necessary for normal blood clotting
- Thiamin: For better metabolising of carbohydrates
- Riboflavin: Helps to release energy from carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Pantothenic Acid: Supports the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and some amino acids
- Niacin: Helps the body process fats, carbohydrates and proteins
- Pyridoxine: Helps cats to metabolise amino acids, glucose, and fatty acids
- Folic Acid: Needed for synthesis of DNA and the amino acid methionine
- Biotin: Helps make fatty acids, some amino acids, and DNA/RNA
- Vitamin B12: Required for fat and carbohydrate metabolism and nerve conduction
- Choline: Essential as a neurotransmitter and for healthy cell membranes
3. Minerals. The essential minerals you should expect to see in your cat's food include:
Calcium: Vital for the growth and maintenance of strong bones and teeth.
Phosphorus: Essential for the growth and maintenance of bones and teeth phosphorus also contributes to a healthy metabolism.
Potassium: An electrolyte, potassium contributes to healthy nerve function, muscular contraction, and heart rhythm.
Sodium and Chloride: These electrolytes help with hydration, balance, the transmission of nerve impulses, and muscle control.
Magnesium: Essential for enzyme function and the proper metabolism of carbohydrates, protein and fats.
Iron: Vital for proper transportation of oxygen throughout the body
Copper: Helps with iron absorption and transport, skin pigmentation and skeletal growth
Manganese: An antioxidant, manganese supports healthy metabolisation, better immune function and strong bone formation.
Zinc: Helps the body to properly metabolise carbohydrates, fats and protein
Iodine: Used in the production of thyroid hormones
Selenium: An important antioxidant that works together with vitamin E
4. Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids for a sleek coat, healthy skin and reduced inflammation in joints for older cats
5. Water. Cats will allow themselves to become moderately dehydrated before seeking out water. For this reason, you should seek to find food with a rich water content - this is part of why wet food is more commonly given to cats than dry food.
Watchpoint: Be mindful of checking that your chosen brand of cat food is not high in salt or sugar. Neither of these is beneficial to your cat's health and can be hazardous if consumed in the wrong amounts.
Types Of Cat Food
The different types of cat foods your vet may recommend could be dry (kibble), wet (canned/pouch), raw or prescription.
Dry food should be the bulk of their diet and the main source of protein. Additionally, dry food also helps to clean your cat's teeth of plaque build-up.
Cats who eat a diet primarily made up of dry food will need much more water than those consuming wet food. Wet food is a great source of water to help with hydration - particularly in cats that don’t or won’t drink enough water.
Most cats benefit from a combination of dry and wet food.
Raw food combines both the high protein of dry and the water of wet and is a good alternative to consider. Though this option can involve more preparation and can be less cost-effective than wet/dry food.
For cats with special needs like weight loss or gain and urinary or stomach problems, prescription foods are specially formulated to address these concerns. Note: Prescription diets require a prescription from your vet. As always, if you have any concerns, talk to your vet.
Can I Make My Own Cat Food?
Due to the very specific nutritional needs of cats, making your own food for them at home is not recommended.
Giving them the occasional piece of raw meat in addition to their usual store-bought food is fine, but you should not attempt to exclusively feed them homemade food.
What About Treats?
As cats live a primarily sedentary or inactive lifestyle additional treats on top of their daily meals should be given in moderation. Cats can quickly become overweight which then leads to health issues.
Treats should make up no more than 10% of your cat’s diet. If you are in the process of training your cat and using high-value treats as rewards, you should adjust their portions at mealtimes accordingly to ensure you are not overfeeding them.
Just as with buying their food, buying purpose-made, premium cat treats is the healthiest option.
Introducing Healthy Cat Food
Of course, cats can be fussy. Just because you spend valuable time and money researching and purchasing the ideal, balanced cat food, doesn't mean they’ll eat it!
If you are making changes to your cat's diet whether due to age or a change in their dietary needs, we recommend buying a small amount or sample of the food to trial with your cat first.
Choosing The Best Cat Food
Always look at your cat's size, weight and lifestyle when making a decision on the right food, by doing this you will be actively supporting better nutrition and therefore better health in your cat.
Vets can guide you on the best quality food for your cat, to ensure your pet gets a complete and balanced diet. The healthiest cat food is one that has been selected with your cat's specific needs in mind and in consultation with your vet.
You should always follow your vet's advice regarding your cat's food, especially if it is with regard to your cat's weight management or nutritional needs. If you find your cat is struggling to adjust to their food, speak to your vet. /p>