Cats are finicky eaters, yet there are tons of brands out there to choose from. So, how do you know what is best to keep kitty happy and healthy?
Text: Tarek Abu Sham
There's an old saying, "You are what you eat," and that is mostly true. If you consume empty calories or excessive carbohydrates, the chances are good that you are going to be heavier than your ideal weight. The same is true for your furry friends.
Cat health and nutrition
Providing high-quality sources of nutrients is very important to help minimise the possibility of health issues in cats as they grow and develop. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that cats get their nutrients from animal products. Feeding your cat a vegetarian or vegan diet is generally frowned upon by the veterinary community because your cat is not likely to get all of the essential nutrients that they need. A cat's ideal diet includes high protein from an animal source, moderate fat, and minimal carbohydrates.
Specific vitamins and minerals are also necessary to keep your cat healthy. The amino acid taurine is one example. Many years ago, there was an epidemic of cats developing a cardiac condition known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, and it was eventually linked to the fact that many cat foods did not have adequate levels of taurine in them. The good news nowadays is that most cat foods that are considered "complete and balanced" have appropriate levels of taurine. It is essential to read the bag or can of food that you are considering and ensure that it has that phrase on the label.
"A cat's ideal diet includes high protein from an animal source, moderate fat, and minimal carbohydrates."
Selecting a cat food
When combing through the options of cat food, you need to consider your cat's age. Cat foods are typically formulated for specific life stages, such as for a kitten or a senior cat. These diets contain specific nutrient levels to foster the proper growth and development or maintain the health of your cat. For example, many senior cat foods are restricted in protein and phosphorus, to help lessen the impact on potential kidney disease.
It would be best if you also keep your cat's activity levels and lifestyle in mind. For example, some foods are designed for indoor cats to help them lose weight, while other diets support the caloric needs for a more active pet. Some companies have specific breed diets, which may contain certain nutrients to help prevent health conditions or help them eat easier, like the kibble shape for a short-nosed or brachycephalic Persian.
Picking the right cat food can depend on several factors, including the cost and your cat's taste preferences. Typically dry cat food is less expensive and may be easier to keep, while canned food goes off quickly when opened and can be more costly to feed your cat an appropriate amount. Cost and convenience aren't the only things that matter, however. If your cat is prone to urinary issues, they may need to be kept mostly or solely on a canned food diet to ensure they get the appropriate level of moisture from their meals.
Food sensitivities and other health issues may also be a factor. Some cats are sensitive to specific protein or grain sources, and they may even need a "hypoallergenic" diet, such as Hill's z/d. Your veterinarian may recommend a gastrointestinal diet if your cat has intestinal issues, such as chronic constipation.
It can be challenging to find the right cat food for your kitty, and sometimes it takes a little trial and error, offering them different flavours until you find the one that they like that doesn't upset their stomach or coat. Your veterinarian can also work with you to find the right option if your cat has any health conditions, such as joint disease or being overweight, so that you can feed an appropriate amount of the right food for your furry family member.