Cat Food – a Basic Essential to Keep Your Cat Happy & Healthy
Cats are the second-most popular pets in America even though they are notoriously independent, they’re wanderers and seemingly unaffectionate. They are private creatures. There are many cat lovers who would beg to differ and say that cats make loyal, devoted companions.
Cats played an important part in the lives of the ancient Egyptians and they were pampered and worshiped. In fact, thousands of mummified cats have been found in Egypt, some so well preserved, they have contributed to us knowing something of the earliest domesticated cats.
The concept of different breeds began in the mid 19th century, and by the end of the century, pedigree breeds were exhibited at the first cat shows. Today there are many different breeds:
All these breeds display different colors, coat patterns, and coat lengths. In general, shape and size have remained much the same over the centuries. The cat’s frame allows for graceful movements, leaping effortlessly and soundlessly from floor to table and into a tree.
The Domestic Cat Relies on Food from Humans
Smell is the most important of the cat’s senses and a cat is stimulated to eat by scent and not only by hunger. A cat also produces identifiable sounds and body language as well to let you know it wants a treat. Yawning expresses contentment, like when it’s had it’s favorite bowl of food. But how do we find the best cat food for our feline friends to keep them content and healthy? Wild cats kill prey but the domestic cat relies on food provided by humans. Cats are fussy eaters. They rely on us for fresh food and water. The food and water dishes for your cat must be washable. Plastic bowls for dry food and water are ideal once a kitchen has learned to use them. It is important to clean them regularly.
The domestic cat requires a diet that is properly balanced and which contains all the essential nutrients and in the correct quantities. Talk to your veterinarian if your cat shows any health problems from the diet its on.
Wild cats are carnivores, consuming all of the animals they kill, including the internal organs such as the liver and intestines. They get everything they require from this animal protein.
Domestic cats also require a diet of animal protein. Certainly, a trip to the supermarket will reveal packaged, canned and frozen options from a host of manufacturers. These are for kittens, adults, and senior cats.
special needs cat foods
There are some cat foods for those with health problems too, and pregnant queens and geriatrics, for instance, will have special dietary needs. Most cat owners love the convenience of being able to feed their cats commercial diets which they believe are complete and balanced. They imagine what their cats would like and pick beef, lamb, tuna, chicken or sardine foods.
Commercial cat diets are either:
- Dry foods – they have a moisture content of about 10%. They contain preservatives
- Semi-moist foods – they have a moisture content of about 30% and contain preservatives
- Canned or moist foods – these don’t require preservatives as canning prevents contamination
A Balanced Diet
You may be tempted to base your choice of cat food on price, but make sure the food is fully balanced. You’ll find some statement on the package which says ‘complete and balanced’, while other foods will say something to the effect that they have been ‘tested and approved’.
Manufacturers also list the calorie value of the food and will indicate the amount of food to feed to your cat, going according to its body weight, its stage of growth and age.
How Do we Find the Best Cat Food?
How do we choose the best food for your cat when there is so much disagreement surrounding how to best feed cats. The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides guidelines on what is to be included on a pet food label. Always look at the brand of the pet food. AAFCO requires that if the food advertises a certain ingredient, it needs to contain at least 95% of that ingredient, not including added water.
We recommended ten of our favorite cat foods in this article using the guidelines provided by AAFCO. Do check them out below!
What are the Top Ingredients found in Cat Food?
- Fats and Oils – these contain substances known as fatty acids – this is important for maintaining internal body functions. Fats and oils also act as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamins.
- Protein – contains a combination of amino acids – important for growth and repair of all body tissues.
- Carbohydrate – cow’s milk contains the milk sugar lactose, but many adult cats aren’t able to digest lactose properly. Specially formulated lactose-reduced or lactose-free cat food and milk is available . A useful source of dietary carbohydrate for a cat is rice.
- Vitamins – Vitamins A, D, E and K are soluble in fat, and fats provide a good dietary source. These vitamins play an important role in bone growth and muscle function.
- Fiber – comes from plant materials and plays an important role in the cat’s digestion. Increases the rate of passage of food through the gut.
- Minerals – some minerals are required in large amounts while trace elements are only required in small quantities. The cat needs minerals to ensure its body processes function normally. Minerals play an important role in the repair of body tissues like the skin and muscles as well as for the formation of red and white blood cells.
- Energy – measured in kilo-calories, it’s not a nutrient but the cat requires sufficient kilo-calories to meet it’s energy needs.
Ingredients, preservatives or dyes that you should absolutely avoid
Nutritional problems will certainly arise if you persist on feeding your cat the wrong diet. Some ingredients to avoid are:
- Preservatives – manufacturers are beginning to add cheaper, more toxic preservatives to their formulas –
- Ethoxyquin – a pesticide which can gradually compromise your cat’s health
- BHA & BHT – cheap chemical additives which can cause organ damage and cancer
- Thickeners such as carrageenan – a cancer-causing substance known to produce intestinal ulcerations and tumors
- Food colorants – can cause hyperactivity
- Meat by-products – there is evidence that dead pets from shelters are added to pet food. The FDA has also found residues of a drug to euthanize animals in different samples of pet food, meaning that euthanized animals are being used to fill up cat food cans.
Brands that have a history of recalls
There are many:
- NUTRO Pet Products just shrug off consumer complaints about pets becoming ill and even dying after eating their food. The FDA announced a recall of more than 20 kinds of dry NUTRO cat food that has been sold in at least 11 countries and all over the USA. A press release was posted on the FDA Web site where NUTRO stressed that the recall was voluntary, pinning the blame on an unidentified supplier who allowed excessive levels of zinc and under-supplemented potassium in its pet food. Symptoms of illness include a reduction in appetite, weight loss, vomiting or diarrhea. Consumer Affairs.com has received many complaints about NUTRO products since 2007.
- Bravo Pet Foods of Manchester recalled select lots of Bravo Chicken pet foods for dogs and cats because of concerns about the presence of Salmonella. Routine testing by the New York State Department of Agriculture revealed the presence of Salmonella which can cause fever, nausea, stiffness, cramping, and diarrhea.
Petful researches U.S. cat food recalls and they have compiled a list of cat food recalls. Other brand names are Primal, Oma’s Pride, Stella & Chewy’s, Northwest Farm and more recently Rad Cat Raw Diet among others.
Brands that don’t have good Ingredients
- Whiskas Cat Food – although they advertise their cat food as a savory, meat feast for your cat, the food is loaded with bad ingredients – corn and chicken by-product meal, artificial colors, BHA preservations
- Cat Chow Complete Cat Food by Purina – Corn Meal, salt, tetrasodium, Added Color (Red 40) among many other ingredients. Colorants such as Citrus Red 2 are toxic to rodents at even modest levels, causing tumors to certain organs.
- Hill’s Science Diet – this cat food may well claim to be a scientific diet recommended by veterinarians, but the ingredient list will make you doubt this. As it is, when looking at the ingredient list on cat food containers, you need to pay attention to the first 5 ingredients on the list because these are what most of the food is actually made from. The first 5 ingredients on this particular food are chicken by-product meal, brewers rice, corn gluten meal, ground whole grain corn and animal fat. If you know your ingredients, you’ll know these are bad ingredients – particularly so if they are at the top of the list. Hill’s Science Diet is by no means cheap either.
Brands that contain questionable ingredients
Food intolerances from mystery-type ingredients in cat foods can result in diarrhea or vomiting. Fortunately, food intolerances can be eliminated by doing thorough research on cat foods and going with a brand free from offending agents. We’re talking about ingredients such as corn, soy, dairy products, wheat gluten, garlic, sugar, meat meal, soybean and others. Some of the culprit brands found to have these ‘bad-for-your-cat’ ingredients include:
The Importance of Digestibility
Most cats cleverly only eat enough to satisfy their energy needs which will depend on its activity and metabolic rate. If you are feeding your cat a commercial diet, ascertain its energy content from the label. Nutrition is important to your cat’s health and longevity. If it is alert and active with a healthy coat and good weight. No doubt, your pet is getting an adequate diet.
Dry food, semi-moist food, and canned food – which food is the most digestible for your cat? Food that is highly digestible will produce normal firm stool volumes. The fecal matter won’t have pieces of food in them or have blood or mucous in them either.
Good digestion equals bowel movements which are consistent. Foods that are not highly digestible can cause your furry friend to have excessive gas and loose stools. The least digestible proteins are those contained in foods derived from plants such as vegetables. Cats are always going to get some plant material in because they are predators, and plant material will be found in the stomach of the birds or other prey that they catch. If you see your cat eating grass, it is most likely doing so to get some fiber in as an aid to digestion.
Pet food companies measure the digestibility of their products by putting them through a number of tests. The food is fed to cats for instance over a selected period of time, and the level of undigested matter excreted in the feces is measured. This is then used to calculate nutrient digestibility.
Certainly, pet food digestibility is increased by the inclusion of high-quality ingredients. Digestibility can be reduced by improper processing or excessive heat treatment which damages protein, resulting in decreased digestibility.
Selecting a Digestible Food for Your Pet
There are pet food companies who provide digestibility data on their website or through the company’s customer services. However, digestibility and even palatability aren’t always reported on pet food labels.
Always go for a brand known for their high-quality ingredients. When you are lucky and you get a brand where the digestibility information is available, select a food that has a dry matter digestibility of 80% or more. Make sure that your cat readily consumes his food and that you don’t have to coax him to eat the food by adding treats.
The Great Carb Debate: What Does Your Cat Really Need?
Cats, just like humans, require a balanced diet which is made up of water, proteins, carbs, fats, minerals and vitamins. Cats can get by with very few carbohydrates in their diet and they can digest it. When you think of a wild cat, it only takes in about 5% carbohydrates. When you research cat foods, you’ll see that the dry cat foods have a much higher carbohydrate content (30-70%). You’ve got to be careful with carbs as they can cause obesity, and some carbohydrates such as lactose are not well tolerated by adult cats. If you do give your cat some milk, make sure to use lactose-reduced or lactose-free milk.
Wonder Why Your Cat Food Didn’t Make the List?
Your cat’s age is an important factor in determining the best cat food. If your cat food of choice has never been recalled it meets the nutritional requirements of your cat. A healthy diet will ensure a long, healthy life. Read the labels on your food choice and make sure these ingredients are always included – protein, water, fatty acids, taurine and vitamins and minerals.
Yes, preservatives will nearly always be added in, but these are there to keep the food fresh. Better quality brands will have fewer artificial preservatives. Your cat food didn’t make the list of recalled cat food because it doesn’t have by-products, added sugars, BHA, BHT, excessive carbohydrate fillers and salmonella contamination.
A short summary of our top 10 favorite cat foods
Your cat will enjoy excellent digestive health with this grain free treat. With organic ingredients such as duck, sweet potatoes, rosemary, liver, thyme and taurine along with added vitamins and minerals, your cat will be energetic and bushy tailed regardless of the stage of life he’s at. No artificial flavors, colorants or preservatives have been added to this food. Nice to know that the Addiction company was started by a holistic veterinary surgeon and clinical nutritionist.
Pet lovers like knowing that the food they provide for their feline pets comes from a family-owned pet food company. This Chicken Meal & Field Pea Recipe is grain free, complete and nutritious and packed with flavor. Ingredients have been carefully selected so as to be easy to digest. Blackwood has the tradition of slow-cooking their pet foods which create a higher starch conversion. This contributes to your cat’s energy.
- 4% fiber, 18% fat and 40% protein
- no artificial colorants or flavors
- Made in the USA
- for all stages of a cat’s life
Earthborn Holistic Wild Sea Catch is a delightful treat for your cat with quality protein such as herring- and salmon meal. This means this grain-free food is rich in Omega fatty acids and therefore easily digestible. Free of gluten, this fishy-flavored treat with balanced levels of calcium and phosphorus and antioxidants such as Vitamin C and E is the ideal diet for both kittens and cats. Earthborn is a pet food company who makes use of the highest quality holistic ingredients. They want to make sure your pet will only experience health and wellness.
The family owned pet food company operates two dry food- and treat manufacturing facilities. The family has full control over the quality and safety of their pet foods. All their packaged pet foods are sampled and tested for pathogenic bacteria and comply with federal regulations. Delicious ingredients such as duck, chicken, liver and whole eggs, and enhanced with probiotics for digestion, your cat will lap this up. Fromm Gold Holistic Adult Dry Cat Food meets all the nutritional levels as laid down by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profiles. Other tantalizing ingredients include salmon meal, white rice, chicken liver, potatoes, salmon oil, flaxseed and taurine among others.
Lotus Natural Food for Pets offers cat owners holistic, oven-baked dry foods as well as stews in cans and raw foods too. All ingredients in Lotus pet foods are high quality – from the lamb and poultry to their whole fruits and vegetables. Included in the can are proteins as well as energy giving carbs.
- Made in the USA
- no guar gum or carrageenan
- all-stages adult cat food
This cat food by PetCurean is packed full of all the ingredients your cat will purr about. Salmon, duck, and turkey are ingredients your cat will relish. You won’t find any bad ingredients like grain or gluten in this dry cat food. It is recommended for adult cats and has important ingredients such as taurine which is excellent for heart and vision. Omega oils will ensure your pet’s coat is healthy and glossy.
Redbarn Pet Products – since 1996 they have been providing high-quality pet food with strict quality assurance specifications in their factories. Cats will just love the fresh cuts of salmon found in this highly digestible can of cat food. Because of ongoing requests from companies, in 2014 they added a line of Redbarn Grain Free Cat Foods. Their Quality Assurance department ensures only the safest and healthiest products are available.
- Made in the USA
- grain- and gluten-free
- premium protein
- no soy or carrageenan
The Wysong Pet Food company was established in 1979 and makes food and supplements for animals, including horses. Their cat foods includes dry, raw, and canned foods. This is a family-owned company making top of the line pet foods. Their Optimal Vitality Dry Cat Food is:
- made in the USA
- low glycemic
- 50% protein
- formulated for adult cats – all stages of their life
- contains a spectrum of nutraceuticals and micro-nutrients and a low level of carbohydrates
ZiwiPeak from New Zealand make air-dried dog food which is more like a raw diet than a dry kibble diet so as not to lose nutrients. There is a huge percentage of meat and fish content in this food while the remaining ingredients are minerals and vitamins.
- the venison is free-range and grass-fed
- 100% free of added hormones and fillers
- important ingredients like Omega 3 and 6 for a shiny, healthy coat
- hoki fish in the ingredients has been sustainably sourced
Spring Naturals Grain Free Chicken Dinner with a Medley of Garden Greens and Berries Dry Cat Food
Important Update: Spring Naturals Has Been Discontinued! They were bought out and the new owner discontinued the production line.
Spring Naturals believes that your pets deserve the most nutritionally balanced foods and treats so that they can enjoy wellbeing. Although this product is often unavailable, it’s worth buying if you can find it. This grain free recipe also has a combination of protein sources such as chickpeas and eggs. No chicken, turkey or fish meals of any kind. No wheat, gluten, corn, soy, by-products, artificial preservatives, flavors or colors.
- high in protein
- no wheat, soy or gluten
- balanced nutrition for every cat breed and size
- real chicken – chicken is more digestible than red meat
- no preservatives and artificial colorants
Most people associate a cat diet of being made of up just fish and milk. While fish contains high-quality protein, it wouldn’t be enough for your cat as it is deficient in calcium, iron, magnesium and sodium. You also need to be careful not to feed your cat too much raw fish as its contains thiaminase which can destroy the B vitamins.
A cat is a solitary hunter and doesn’t gulp down large amounts of food at a time. They enjoy small balanced meals throughout the day, with most cats tending to eat just enough to satisfy their energy needs. A kitten of 8 – 12 weeks needs to have at least 4 meals a day. There are a number of commercial brands of food specially formulated for kittens. These can be meat- or grain-based.
Cats don’t really have a care in the world and are quite happy to entrust their lives into your hands. Whether you choose a pedigree or non-pedigree cat, it is therefore up to you to be a caring and informed cat owner.
Own a dog? Check out the best dog food brands here!