How to Pick a Cat Food

When it comes to picking a cat food how do you decide? Do you get the most expensive one? The freshest one? The most popular? Or the one your cat likes the best? The pet food industry is huge, and it keeps growing! With the overflow of information and marketing it’s no surprise you’re left going whaaaa???

To make matters even more complicated there’s no ONE perfect food. Many factors come in to play when considering nutrition — health, age, body condition, allergies, and eating habits.

This month we’ll be focusing on nutrition. We’ll discuss the new trends that are emerging, break down cat food labeling, and help you pick the right diet for your kitty.

Is Grain-Free Food Superior?

From a manufacturer’s point of view labeling their food ‘grain free’ is a quick and effective way to stand out in the crowded marketplace. Grain free has become popular in human consumption, and the trend has spread into the pet food sector. But is it really a superior diet? Grain free diets can provide excellent nutrition, but don’t necessarily provide superior nutrition. Here are some things you need to know before jumping on the grain-free wagon.

Grains Aren’t Empty Calories. Some manufacturers of grain free diets suggest grains are empty calories, “cheap filler” if you will, but that’s not the case. The truth is, grains actually contain protein and many important vitamins and minerals, which provide nutritional value for your cat. Manufacturers can say whatever they want, but you can’t argue with science.

Grain Free Doesn’t Mean Low Carb. Many grain free foods replace grains with other carbohydrates such a potatoes. And that’s okay! According to the American College of Veterinary Medicine (ACVIM) cats can effectively digest, absorb and utilize dietary carbohydrates.

Grains Do Not Lead To Obesity. The main cause of obesity in cats is excessive calories, regardless of the source (protein, grains, carbs) and we’ve found many of the highest calorie diets are grain free. It also should be noted, many diets that contain more meat and less grain tend to be much higher in fats (and fats contain two times the amount of calories!) If you’re going to be feeding high calorie formulas you’ll need to pay extra attention to portion control. Keep in mind, while the product may say “Grain-Free” & “Low-Carb” on the label they may be conveniently leaving out the ‘High In Fat’ piece of the pie.

Grain Intolerances Are Uncommon In Cats. The most commonly reported food allergies in cats are beef, dairy and fish. In the rare event your cat is allergic to grains it will only be from one specific kind of grain, not from grains in general. For example, in the uncommon situation where your cat has a wheat allergy, he or she should have no problem eating oats or rice.

Is Raw Food Safe?

The Raw Diet is based on what a cat would eat in the wild. Wild cats who catch and eat their prey eat muscle meat, organ meat, some bone, and the stomach contents of its prey. We agree that sounds natural and healthy, but we also know there are a lot of things we do in the modern world to improve our domesticated cat’s lives, and feeding a well balanced dry or wet food diet may be one of them. But if you’re going to feed a raw diet there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

Raw Food Can Contain Dangerous Microbes. E.coli, salmonella and a handful of other bacterias are commonly present in raw meat. These bacterias can make cats sick. Kittens, elder cats and cats with previous conditions are at highest risk. A raw diet must be stored and prepared in the correct way. Improper storage can lead to an increase in bacterial numbers, which can be dangerous for your pet, as most pathogens are dose-dependent. Humans are also at risk of contracting these disease causing organisms. Keep this in mind when preparing raw foods for your cat and when cleaning the litter box.

Raw Diets May Not Provide Cats With Complete Nutrition. Because raw diets are relatively new to the market the debate is still out whether raw diets provide complete nutrition for cats. Some cats on the raw diet come in with diarrhea and urinary issues because the raw diet isn’t providing them with the correct nutrition. If you are going to be feeding a raw diet, make sure you’re extra careful about getting wellness checkups and diagnostics to make sure your cat is getting balanced nutrition.

The Raw Diet Isn’t Necessarily Fresh. When a wild cat catches its prey it consumes the animal right away. This is different from the frozen raw food at the store. Frozen raw food is not necessarily fresh food. Plus freezing cannot be expected to have a significant impact of decreasing or eliminating bacterial contamination. For example, you would never pull a raw chicken breast out of the freezer and feel it was safe to consume.

Are Gourmet Foods Worth the Cost?

It’s tempting to want to feed your cat the best, most expensive brand out there. What do you think of ‘Tender Turkey Tuscany with Long Grain Rice and Garden Greens in a Savory Sauce?” MmMmmmm sounds delicious. But stay strong! Don’t get distracted by fancy names or beautifully designed packaging. When it comes to cat food the most important thing is not the entree name or even the ingredient list, it’s the nutrients within the food.

Specialty Gourmet Food Is Okay As a Treat. Gourmet food is a great treat for your kitty when used as a supplement, but not as an every day diet. Many gourmet canned foods are not nutritionally balanced and can lead to health problems if over fed.

Gourmet Foods Are Expensive. Over time high end specialty foods can add up. So take a look at your cat heath care budget. A well balanced diet is important, but make sure your cat’s gourmet diet isn’t taking funds away from checkups and diagnostics because those things are important!