A cat’s diet can affect his general health and behavior, including mood and ability to learn. Food made with poor ingredients, and switching food often, can cause upset stomach, diarrhea, and excess gas. Food made with high quality ingredients promotes good overall health, good breath and a shiny coat. Cats need to eat meat and this should be the first and second ingredient in a good cat food
Cat food labels can be difficult to read. Like human food labels, the ingredients are listed in descending order. The first three ingredients make up a majority of the contents, and reflect the food’s quality. Since cats must eat meat, a healthy food should include clearly defined protein sources like beef, chicken, or lamb (not vague descriptions like “meat” or “poultry”). Ingredients can include meal (which is meat after removing all the water) or meal by-products, though meal is far superior. Avoid foods high in grains, like corn, because they’re common allergens and because cats don’t need a lot of grain in their diet.
Dry food isn’t as nutritious as wet food and should be fed in moderation. Vegetables are unnecessary but may help with digestive issues. Food high in preservatives, artificial flavor and colorings are usually lower quality.
Cat food quality varies widely and can be divided in three categories: commercial, premium, and super premium. Commercial brands are found in supermarkets and are the lowest quality. Premium brands are sold in large chain and independent pet stores. Super premium foods, found in independent pet stores and online, are the best quality and usually contain the most meat and no artificial ingredients. Though price rises with quality, you can feed your cat smaller portions. Few fillers and better quality ingredients means your cat can get what he needs with less food, and your cat will be healthier. This means that veterinary expenses may be less in the long run. Organic and free-range foods are usually super premium brands.
To determine whether your cat is eating a well balanced diet, simply take a quick look at him. If you switch food, do it gradually to help prevent upsetting your cat’s digestive system.
Cat Food Terms
Animal by-product meal: Rendered animal tissues that don’t fit any other ingredient definition.
By-products: Non-human grade proteins from animal carcasses. They vary widely in digestibility.
Meat: Clean flesh of cattle, swine, sheep, or goats.
Meat and bone meal: Rendered from mammal tissues including bone.
Meat by-products: Excludes meat, but can include lungs, blood, bones, fat, and stomachs.
Meat meal: Rendered meal made from animal tissues. Can’t contain more than 14% indigestible materials.
Poultry by-product meal: Rendered poultry parts including necks, feet, and undeveloped eggs.
Poultry by-products: Same as above but non-rendered
Rendering: The process by which animal parts are heated slowly so the fat can be liquefied and removed. What remains is dry protein called “meal.”
Cat Food Examples
Friskies, 9 Lives, Fancy Feast
Wysong, Royal Canin, Evolve, Nutro, Natural Balance, Avoderm, Blue, Pet Authority, Triumph, Precise
Super Premium Brands:
Felidae, Innova, Wellness, EVO, Merrick, Nature’s Variety Prairie