We, as humans, know that a healthy diet is crucial for our well-being, and the same is true for cats. Too much processed or low-nutrient food can lead to a variety of health problems, and as loving owners, we only want the best for our feline companions. However, choosing the right diet for your cat can be difficult and exhausting if you don’t know what to look for due to the sheer volume of available pet products. Pet food labels can also be confusing and misleading, sometimes on purpose, so it’s useful to know how to tell apart high- and low-quality cat food.
What makes good pet food?
The short answer – the ingredients. Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they require meat, or more specifically animal protein, to survive. For example, taurine is an amino acid (a building block of proteins) found almost exclusively in meat and fish and is essential for the cat’s eyesight and heart health. Taurine deficiency can lead to severe health problems, so always make sure to use pet food with quality meat or fish cuts. Unfortunately, in the pet food industry, meat generally has a very loose definition that can include any animal product such as feathers, bones, hooves and entrails. Low-quality pet food labels often have “meat and meat derivatives” listed as the main ingredient, without stating what exactly goes into it. Additionally, you will often see a long list of additives that are meant to add nutrients and/or extend shelf life, but they are best avoided as they can lead to health problems. Another ingredient in low-quality cat food are carbohydrates, most commonly in the form of grain, which is commonly added as a cheap way to increase caloric value. Cats have very little nutritional need for carbohydrates (no more than 10% of their diet) and too much can be detrimental to their health. It’s best to use natural cat food without additives and with clearly listed ingredients. You should also make sure that it contains nutrients that are essential for your cat’s health, such as taurine, vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, omega fatty acids etc. A factor that is often overlooked is the cat’s water intake. While they can get some of their water requirements through wet food, it is important to always provide your kitty with a readily accessible bowl of fresh water.
What you feed your cat is only one part of the equation, you also have to consider when and how often they get their meal. Obesity is becoming an increasingly common problem in cats, and over 50% of all domestic cats can be classified as overweight or obese. While you may be tempted to just fill their food bowl once a day and let them eat whenever they want to, this is a bad idea since they don’t really practice restraint and will overeat if given the chance. This is leftover behavior from their cousins in the wild who don’t always have access to food (big cats only catch their prey 20 to 50% of the time) so they would gorge themselves on as much as they could when their hunt was successful. Ration your cat’s meals into 2-4 small portions a day depending on your cat’s activity level (indoor cats need less food than outdoor cats) and it will stay in a healthy weight range. Another factor to consider is age – kittens need a specific diet for their growing bodies while senior cats need less food and sometimes have trouble chewing, so tough food is unsuitable for them. If you have a Siberian, Persian or any other breed with a long coat, you may want to increase their fish intake since they need more omega fatty acids to maintain their coats. Additionally, if the cat is suffering from any health problems, its diet may need to be adjusted accordingly.
Don’t overthink it
While this may seem complicated and overwhelming, there’s no reason to drive yourself crazy or spend hours browsing through the pet food aisle. Just keep an eye out for cat food with a high content of meat and no additives and you should be fine. And if you are in doubt, the world is filled with cat lovers who will always be happy to share advice how to keep our kitties healthy and happy.
Guest post by Zara Lewis
Zara Lewis is a regular contributor at Highstylife.com a full time animal lover. Passionate about creating a better world for the generations to come, she is a mum of two, raising them inseparably from their furry family members.