The foods you give to your cat will have a huge impact on his health, his life, and on his ability to learn and thrive. Not all cat foods are created equal, so it is important to know what to look for to ensure that you are providing the best cat food your money can buy. Here are five important things to look for in your cat’s pre-packaged foods.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that their bodies have evolved to process meat, meat … and more meat. Cats will eat some greenery on their own for fiber and vitamin/mineral content, but they don’t need to have veggies or carbohydrates on a daily basis. Choose cat foods that are made entirely of protein products and make sure that your cat gets a healthy serving of protein each day. Fish, chicken, turkey, egg, and beef are the best sources for protein, with foods containing muscle meat containing the highest protein content. But don’t try to substitute animal proteins for non-animal proteins. Cats require meat to survive, and forcing a cat to eat a vegetable or grain based diet will have a severe affect on its health.
While you may need to limit the amount of food your cat gets to protect against weight issues, the amount of water you make available to your cat should never be limited. Cats need to have a source of clean water at all times. While they may not lap it up by the bowl-full as dogs tend to do, they will become very ill very quickly if they are left without water. Feeding your cat high-quality foods with good moisture content (around 78 percent) is a great way to satisfy your cat’s dietary water needs, but there should always be a dependable source for fresh water — and it should not be the open toilet.
Try filling a large bowl with water to ensure that your cat will not run low, leave a faucet on slow drip, or invest in a water fountain designed for cats. If you are feeding your cat a combination of wet and dry foods, or only dry foods, you can add a little water to the dry food to make it a moist food.
The amino acid taurine is an essential part of your cat's diet. Your cat’s health and very life depend on getting taurine on a daily basis. One of the first symptoms of taurine deficiency is in vision. A deficiency in taurine can lead to decreased night vision, loss of vision, blindness, and even death due to heart failure in cats. The easiest source for taurine is meat, and most cat food manufacturers add taurine to the ingredients of their packaged foods, including dry cat foods. Make sure to read the labels on the cat food packages before you buy to make sure that you are choosing one with sufficiently high levels of taurine. If you are in doubt, and your doubt seems to be verified by vision problems in your cat, talk to your veterinarian to find out if your cat requires taurine supplements in his diet.
Dry vs. Wet
You may find some division in the cat community over which is the best cat food: dry or wet. Some people will argue strenuously that wet is the only way, and some will firmly insist that dry cat food is the best. Still others observe that their cats enjoy both wet foods and crunchy foods and will strive for a healthy balance in feeding some of both. Wet food is higher in meat proteins and low in carbohydrates – best for carnivores. Wet food has a short life once the food has been served (that is, you cannot leave it out for the day, it will go bad). Many dry cat foods have a long shelf life after opening, making it a practical choice, but they are also high in carbohydrate fillers. If dry food is all that your cat is getting, there may be an increased risk for urinary tract blockages and other illnesses.
We’re not referring to the guy at the pastry shop whose job it is to fill the pies. We refer here to the fillers (AKA by-products) that are used to add weight and substance to prepackaged cat foods. Fillers can be beneficial when the recipe is well thought out and the ingredients are added in sensible proportions. In fact even human foods often have fillers. The fillers used in pet foods can be anything from corn and other grains to feathers, weeds, cellulose and straw. The best cat foods are low in by-products and carbs and high in protein rich sources.
To make the most informed choice for the best cat food, consult your veterinarian or a veterinary nutritionist. Even if you can’t give your cat the best cat food that money can buy, you can still give him the best that you can buy.