Best Foods For Cats
I have a 10-year-old cat, and I'm always trying to figure out how to keep her happy and healthy. Choosing the right meal is a crucial component of that equation, and it may be surprisingly challenging when navigating a sea of marketing claims.
If you're like me and feeling confused by the options available, which range from grain-free and raw to human-grade and freeze-dried, Brennen McKenzie, a veterinarian who writes about science-based pet care at SkeptVet, may help you relax:
The majority of cats can live on a wide range of accessible diets, he claims, and there is no one “perfect” food. “Our pets enjoy a good supply of nutrition in traditional commercial cat diets,” reads. “This contrasts the haphazard diet of whatever prey and scavenged dead objects that feral cats can find.”
The best cat food brands should be easy to distinguish from the rest in theory, but it may require some research. Your cat's needs, which may be established by their life stage, activity level, digestive health, and general well-being, should be considered when choosing pet food, in addition to satisfying industry and veterinary standards (more on that below).
You probably ought to seek food that your cat enjoys eating. Cat meals don't come in one size fits all, as Aimee Simpson, VMD, medical director of the VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia, tells SELF. You can, however, be well on your way to discovering the best cat food brand for your feline friend with some expert advice and research.
What Qualities Should I Check When Buying Cat Food?
Like dog food, cat food must meet specific criteria established by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) to be considered nutritionally complete. The AAFCO is not a regulating entity, as SELF has previously reported.
Instead, it establishes industry standards for a wholesome, balanced diet. AAFCO recommends that commercial cat food have at least 30% protein on a dry matter basis for kittens and 26% for adults; looking for an AAFCO statement on the food's label is a smart first step in identifying a high-quality cat food, according to Dr. Simpson.
She continues, saying that the amino acid taurine is another crucial nutrient for cats and that some foods contain much higher amounts of protein and other nutrients than is healthy and can cause illnesses: “Excess levels of protein, phosphorus, and sodium can aggravate chronic kidney disease, while too much calcium may cause the development of urinary tract crystals and stones.”
Dr. Simpson also cites international dietary recommendations from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which expressly address the calibre of pet food producers and the AAFCO. These recommendations incorporate numerous crucial inquiries you have to make regarding cat food:
- Do they have at least one full-time veterinary nutritionist on staff who is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition or holds a Ph.D. in veterinary nutrition?
- Do they operate their own factories?
- To continuously enhance their meals, do they do and publish nutritional research?
- Do they adhere to tight quality control procedures and guidelines?
Again, these are rather generic suggestions, but they help distinguish between high-quality cat food and cat food that simply fulfills the bare minimum requirements. You may always contact a company's customer care team for further information if you aren't completely certain about the calibre of a particular brand or ask your veterinarian about it.
What Should I Watch Out For On An Ingredient List For Cat Food?
According to Dr. Simpson, it can be difficult to read pet food labels, and the sequence in which ingredients are stated can be deceptive. She illustrates the following: “Items like chicken meat are mentioned before dehydrated ingredients like the chicken meal that may supply more nutrients because they retain more moisture and consequently weigh more.”
You might notice grains on your food's ingredient list, superior protein sources, and nutritious animal protein by-products like liver and other organ meats; this is entirely fine for your cat's diet., says Dr. Simpson. Although cats are obligate carnivores, she says, they can digest the carbohydrates found in typical cat meals. “Grains and corn are typically portrayed as pet food fillers; nevertheless, these components are rich providers of vitamins, minerals, vital fatty acids, and fiber,” she says.
How Can I Select The Best Cat Food Among The Various Options?
When choosing the proper food consistency for your cat, Dr. Simpson adds that factors including age, breed, and health, as well as their tastes, can all be important.
Dry cat food, such as kibble, is available in various shapes and textures and can aid in dental issues, including tartar control. Additionally, pet owners with limited time and money may appreciate that dry food is typically more convenient to feed and more affordable than wet cat food.
On the other hand, wet food has a higher moisture content, which, according to Dr. Simpson, can be advantageous for cats that require more hydration in their meals, such as those with diabetes, chronic kidney illness, and lower urinary tract disease.
She adds that cats with fewer teeth find it easier to eat wet food because of its consistency, ranging from pates to stews. If your cat doesn't seem to like the texture of just one type of food, you can even combine a little dry and a little wet food.
What Should Your Cat NOT Eat?
Alcohol, coffee, citrus fruit, dairy, grapes, raisins, chocolate, and nuts are among the toxic foods for cats.
Dr. Simpson advises cat owners against giving their cats entirely raw or homemade diets in addition to the normal dry, moist, and wet cat foods. She notes that the former has no nutritional advantages over typical commercial cat food and may even cause nutritional deficits and food-borne infections.
The latter, however, also increases the chance of deficits in cats. Dr. Simpson advises contacting a veterinary nutritionist through the American College of Veterinary Nutrition if you're thinking of creating your cat's food at home.
Speaking of consulting a professional, this is the ideal course of action if you have no idea about, for instance, the best canned or dry cat food for your cat.
According to Dr. Simpson, choosing the ideal diet for your cat can be perplexing and irritating because there are hundreds of different brands and possibly deceptive advertising and online information. “Asking your veterinarian for advice on a suitable diet is the best method to make a decision.”
The Top Cat Food Recommended By Veterinarians
Given this, there's no way we could list every brand of protein- and health-rich cat food available today. Nevertheless, using Dr. Simpson's recommendations (along with some assistance from the internet's most ardent reviewers), we've highlighted some of the top cat food companies for you to try below.
Foods from Hill's Science Diet and Hill's Prescription Diet, the company's division that targets health issues like sensitive stomachs, urinary tract problems, and maintaining a healthy weight, frequently appear on the shelves at veterinary clinics. This is not a coincidence. At its Global Pet Nutrition Center, this company, which sets the bar high for AAFCO and WSAVA-compliant foods, employs over 200 scientists.
Another favorite among veterinarians is Royal Canin's internal team of nutritionists and veterinarians undergo a rigorous development process before offering any of its meals to customers. Its unique products include meals prepared especially for elderly and senior cats, meals made especially for kittens, and recipes rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for shinier fur.
Purina Pro Plan is a great option if you want meals supported by research and full of nutritious proteins and carbs without breaking the bank. This brand's selection has a product that will keep your cat well-fed and healthy, whether they are indoor cats, senior cats, or cats who are prone to hairballs. Although there are fewer health-specific recipes in Purina One, a less expensive alternative from the same brand, it still offers a balanced diet for cats.
Because of its staff of nutritional specialists, company-run canneries and factories, and its steadfast commitment to producing foods free of artificial flavours, preservatives, or fillers, Merrick stands apart among pet food brands. All the essential vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber a happy, healthy cat requires are included in its Purrfect Bistro line of cat foods. Additionally, the range offers chicken, beef, and salmon recipes that support good skin and coats and the prevention of hairballs.
Although this brand doesn't have the same name recognition as Purina, its nutritional prowess nonetheless puts it on the map. Farmina's Vet Research team collaborates with independent veterinarians to create its recipes in the interest of advancing pet nutrition moving forward. You can be sure your cat is eating nutritious, high-quality food because the components in these recipes come from carefully screened farms and producers.
VetDiet's goal is to produce meals that promote the health and well-being of your cat, and it does this by using premium ingredients and a growing internal Health and Nutrition Advisory Board.
Delicious foods are available from this 25-year-old, family-run business for all life phases (from kittens to senior cats) and for particular requirements like immune system support and weight management. Even healthy cat snacks are made for those times when your cat has been very good.
All the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients your cat needs are found in meats, vegetables, and nutritious carbohydrates because Nature's Logic was created on the principle of whole-food nutrition. As a result, none of its products contain any additional synthetic substances. The brand personally purchases or authorizes all of its ingredient sources for quality control and contamination prevention, and it tests every batch of food that leaves its U.S.-based manufacturing facilities.
The cat feeds made by Earthborn Holistic are produced in the United States in family-run kitchens and facilities operating for nearly a century. It provides grain- and gluten-free wet cat food with substantial proteins like chicken liver and whole-grain and grain-free dry cat food. Animal protein sources like fish, chicken, duck, and beef are always the first ingredient in all dishes.
Some Additional Foods For Your Kitty
There are hundreds of cat food formulations to select from, even with that reassuring advice, so I asked McKenzie and 11 other experts to walk me through the possibilities and explain why a cat owner might choose one brand or type of food over another.
As detailed in the criteria below, some of the determining elements will depend on your cat's particular demands (typically determined by their age), while others are more arbitrary.
What to look for Life stage: According to Martha G. Cline, a certified veterinary nutritionist at Red Bank Veterinary Hospital in New Jersey, “the most important part when you're buying food for your pet is looking for the nutritional-adequacy statement and making sure it's for the appropriate life stage for your pet.”
The Association of American Feed Control Officials shall certify the nutritional adequacy of all pet foods, indicating whether the food is suitable for growth (ideal for kittens), adult maintenance (for keeping a healthy weight), or all life phases.
Nutrition breakdown: Unlike human food, the amount of carbs, fat, and protein in your cat's diet is typically not listed on the nutrition label. McKenzie says that's generally alright because all food that complies with AAFCO requirements will offer enough of each macronutrient.
According to him, “almost all commercial diets fall within these parameters,” adding that “individual cats all have somewhat varied demands within the range within which cats can flourish.”
Some veterinarians, however, offer more detailed advice. “More protein than fat, and then very little of any form of carbohydrate is what we feel is probably optimum,” says Jennifer Berg, founder of Tribeca Veterinary Wellness.
Cats require more protein than many other species, according to Jennifer Coates, a veterinarian with the online pet supply retailer Chewy, who also emphasizes that the protein “should be sourced from animals.”
If you'd want to see the nutritional breakdown of a specific formula, veterinarian Lisa Pierson has created a complete, publicly accessible Google spreadsheet with the nutrient profile for hundreds of cat food tastes. But it's best to find out from your doctor whether they suggest a particular mixture for your cat's requirements.
Additionally, certain cat meals may be branded as “grain free.” Still, veterinarians are suspicious of this marketing claim because it doesn't provide much information about the nutritional value of the food.
According to McKenzie, the nutritional quality of grain-free foods can be great or awful, and whether they contain grains at all has little bearing on how the diet will affect one's health. According to solid science, concerns regarding grains and carbohydrates in cat meals are unfounded and shouldn't be used as the foundation for choosing cat food.
There are two primary cat food types: wet and dry food. Before deciding on one over the other, find out what your vet suggests for your cat's specific requirements. Cats don't often drink a lot of water.
Therefore, some veterinarians favour wet food because it contains more moisture and keeps cats hydrated, which may help them avoid renal problems. Other veterinarians disagree, claiming that there is little scientific evidence to support the claim that wet food leads to better kidneys and that dry food promotes cats to drink more water.
Some veterinarians might advise wet food if your cat is having trouble maintaining a healthy weight because it is also lower in calories. Dry food, often known as kibble, has the benefit of being fresh longer, which may make it a smart choice if your cat prefers to graze throughout the day.
Some dry food is freeze-dried, a technique producers use to preserve components without danger of bacterial contamination (particularly with raw food). The wet-food category includes pâtés (a homogeneous, loaf-style dish), shredded meat formulae, and meat-in-gravies. You might need to test a few different kinds of food because picky cats frequently have a preferred style.
The price of cat food varies based on the brand and formula you select, and more costly food isn't always better for your cat. We've provided the approximate cost per ounce for each food based on the manufacturer's suggested retail price because you'll be purchasing a lot of food throughout your cat's lifetime.
Cats typically need 200 to 250 calories per day, though this quantity varies depending on the cat's size, activity level, and whether or not they need to lose or gain weight. You must read the feeding directions on the label because calorie counts per ounce of food can vary.
To determine whether your cat is underweight or overweight, Megan Shepherd, a veterinary nutritionist at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech, suggests speaking with your veterinarian for more detailed advice and using this body-condition score chart.
The Best Cat Food Overall
As previously said, there isn't a single “best” cat food. Still, this Purina Pro Plan formula should meet the nutritional needs of most adult cats without any particular requirements, according to the vets I spoke with.
Veterinarians like Valerie Parker, an associate professor of small-animal internal medicine and nutrition at the Ohio State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, and Cori Blair of Feline Health favour Purina because it employs full-time veterinary nutritionists and makes significant investments in research and development.
Purina Pro Plan is popular with veterinarian Chyrle Bonk of the pet health website Doggie Designer since it is a premium meal that is nevertheless reasonably priced and simple to find. Purina offers high protein, moderate fat, and lots of healthful fiber and uses actual, whole meat as its first ingredient, according to the author.
Berg claims that this Weruva chicken-in-gravy flavour is suitable for cats who love meat-in-gravy formulas because of its high protein and low carbohydrate content.
Susan Lauten, a pet nutrition professional, also endorses the product. If you're looking for anything without grains, it has that, but as was already mentioned, “grain free” is more of a marketing buzzword than a trustworthy measure of health.
You can also consider the below options:
Best (Cheaper) Meat-In-Gravy Cat Food Is Fancy Feast Gravy Lovers Poultry & Beef Feast Variety Pack Canned Cat Food.
Saving money on cat food is OK if you choose a nutritionally sound product. Many individuals may claim that Fancy Feast is similar to McDonald's for cats, but this is untrue, according to Berg.
Many fancy feasts are quite low in carbs and surprisingly high in protein. This assortment of meat-in-gravy flavours high in protein checks all of her requirements and would be a wonderful choice for cats who prefer to switch up their diets.
Tiki Cat Puka Puka Luau Grain-Free Canned Cat Food With Succulent Chicken
If you look at Pierson's chart, you'll find that Tiki Cat has a lot of options that are rich in protein and low in carbohydrates, and Lauten enjoys both the wet and dry food products from the company. Numerous brands of Tiki Cat food have a fish flavour, which cats love because of its salty taste.
However, some veterinarians, including Berg, advise against giving cats fish because the flavour has been linked to hyperthyroidism. You can get advice from your vet on whether you ought to restrict the amount of fish your cat eats. Cats who want their food a little chunkier should like this type, which includes shredded chicken.
Dr. Jamie Freyer, a veterinarian, suggests this Royal Canin food has been particularly developed for cats with sensitive stomachs or gastrointestinal problems.
Prebiotics, easily absorbed proteins, and fibre-rich psyllium seed husks are some components that support healthy intestinal function. Due to the science behind its food and the rigorous testing it conducts, the brand was mentioned by several vets.
The list above covers a wide range of foods for your cat, so there’s a high chance that you can pick a suitable one and test it for your cat. What do you use as cat food? Feel free to share it in the comments below if it’s not covered in the list.
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