How to choose the best cat food for your feline friend
A good diet is one of the most important factors to ensuring your cat is healthy and happy.
But which is the best cat food?
There are so many choices available, with so many brands promising so many things, making the right selection can be a bit of a headache.
What your cat needs
Owners will often choose cat food using two basic criteria: How much it costs and whether their cat seems to enjoy it.
This, however, doesn’t necessarily mean your cat is benefiting from a healthy diet.
Nicole Paley, of the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association said: “Good nutrition is the pillar to good health and the right diet from the onset can reduce the risk of problems down the line.
“Cats have a high requirement for amino acids and more recent research has shown that adding antioxidants to a cat’s diet from an early age can be beneficial to help support various body systems as they age.
In fact, cats need 41 essential nutrients, varying depending on the breed, age and lifestyle.
Generally speaking, kittens need a high-protein and fat-rich diet to help them develop strong muscles, bones and teeth.
Because they are playful and energetic, they will burn through calories more readily than older cats.
Adult cats will need fewer calories, so that they do not gain too much weight, while senior cats will need a low-fat diet, with easily digestible proteins to ease the strain on their liver and kidneys.
The most important nutrients will be supplied by good-quality foods. Here’s what to look out for:
- Protein: To help the building of body tissues (including muscle), form for enzymes needed for body function and prevent diseases.
- Amino Acids: The parts that make up a protein. Cats have higher requirements for proteins and amino acids than dogs. Cats breakdown protein very rapidly and are unable to adapt when dietary supplies are low.
- Arachoadonic acid: A fatty acid that cats produce themselves thanks to their diet. Produced in animal fat and the reason cats cannot be vegetarian.
- Vitamin A: Unlike most animals, cats cannot make their own vitamin A, so it must be provided in their diet.
- Nicacin: A B-complex vitamin that cats struggle to make enough of naturally, so require plenty of it in their diet.
Types of cat food
Good pet food will provide a balanced diet that allows your cat to grow healthily.
Complete cat foods have all the nutrients a cat needs, while complementary foods are used only as part of a cat’s diet – usually served as treats.
Both types of food will be clearly labeled, so you know what you’re getting.
Within these categories, there are several types of foods available:
- Wet foods: Food with high moisture content, usually stored in cans or pouches. The food is usually a meat with gravy or jelly.
- Dry foods: Packed in bags or boxes, this food comes in the form of pellets, flakes or biscuits. Dry food contains meat that has been added fresh or dried.
- Semi-moist: Similar to dry food but with a more chewy texture. These are often regarded as treats.
- Frozen food: Some brands offer frozen raw products that can be either complete or complementary.
If your cat eats only dry food, then he or she will need regular access to drinking water to prevent dehydration.
Many owners choose to mix and match wet and dry foods, to help keep their cat hydrated.
Whichever you chose, always follow the feeding guidelines on the packet, or instructions from your vet if your cat has special dietary requirements.
- Adjust the amount you feed to keep your cat’s body in good shape – don’t overfeed or underfeed.
- Avoid giving out too many treats or feeding cat human foods.
- Cats cannot eat dog food, and vice-versa.
- Clean, fresh water should always be available.
- Keep water and food bowls clean. Wash and store them away from human kitchen supplies.
- Replace plastic bowls intermittently.
Some foods are toxic to cats, and should not be fed to your pet. The best bet is to stick only to cat food.
Never give a cat chocolate, alcohol, coffee or tea, grapes, yeast, eggs or licorice.
Cats should not drink the milk humans enjoy, you can buy specialist milk for cats.
For a healthy, happy pet, you need to ensure his or her weight stays at the appropriate level.
Being overweight, obese or underweight, can lead to serious health risks. It is good to get into the habit of checking your pet on a regular basis.
As always, if you’re not sure or have any concerns, then contact your vet.
Cat food manufacturers are required by law to include a list of information on packaging.
All reputable brands comply with this, so if something’s missing, steer clear.
Labels should include:
- Direction and description, including whether the food is complete or complementary, the species the food is for and feeding instructions.
- Analysis of constituents, listing percentage of protein, fats, fibre, etc.
- A list of additives such as preservatives, antioxidants or colouring.
- Vitamins – if vitamins A, D or E are added, this must be declared.
- Best before date and batch number.
- Net weight.
- Name and address of manufacturer.