Finding the right food for your cat can help keep them healthy and happy for years to come. However, cats can be picky eaters, so finding one they like is a serious task. Here’s what to consider when shopping for cat food.
There are many types of cat food out there, and most fall under one of two categories: dry and wet food.
Dry cat food is the pellet-like food sold in bags. It’s generally the more affordable option and it stays fresh longer. "If a young cat will eat dry food, it’s a better economical choice for the cat owner,” says Cullen Dauchy, DVM, veterinarian at and former owner of Katy Veterinary Clinic in Katy, Texas. Just make sure your cat drinks plenty of water with their dry food.
Wet cat food is soft, wet in texture, and comes in a can. Cats often like wet food better than dry food. Wet food also has a higher water content, so if your cat issues with consuming water, wet food helps with hydration. This can also be a good option for seniors who have kidney issues, since wet food delivers more liquid to help flush out their system.
When you feed your cat, you have to make sure they get all of the essential nutrients they need to stay healthy. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the best diet for your cat should include:
Water: Water keeps a cat's body hydrated. Like in humans, dehydration in cats can lead to illness or even death.
Protein: Proteins help keep your cat’s cells, muscles, tissues, and organs, healthy. Most cat foods have protein in them.
Amino acids: One particularly essential amino acid tolook for in your cat’s food is taurine. High-quality cat foods have taurine in them, says Dr. Dauchy. "Taurine-deficient diets can possibly cause a cat to develop cardiomyopathy, a very serious heart condition of cats."
Fat: An essential energy source for cats, fats like omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids play an important role in reducing inflammation and ensuring skin, joint, intestinal, and kidney health.
Carbohydrates: Another essential energy source for cats, foods high in fiber can help cats with digestion.
Vitamins and minerals: They can help ensure proper metabolic functioning and optimal bone and oral health. Just keep in mind that most cat food has what your cat needs — unless your vet says otherwise, your cat likely does not need supplements.
Most cat foods are specifically formulated to be safe and well-balanced for cats. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, cats should stay away from ingredients like avocado, chocolate, grapes, onions, and xylitol. If you’re not sure about the particular cat food you picked, ask your vet. They can make sure your cat’s food doesn’t have any dangerous ingredients.
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You’ve probably seen a cat gently lapping up milk from a saucer in movies or cartoons. However, you should never feed your cat milk. Milk from sources like cows or goats can hurt your cat's stomach and cause diarrhea. What’s more, milk doesn't contain the necessary nutrients that keep a cat healthy. “If cats really like milk, they will consume a lot of milk in lieu of eating a balanced, high-quality cat food," adds Dauchy. So focus on feeding your furry friend cat food.
"As cats get older, owners should strongly consider feeding a 'senior-citizen' diet that is low in protein and mineral content (salt), and a little higher in fiber,” says Dauchy.
Your vet may recommend kidney-friendly food, since kidney disease is common in senior cats, and regular cat food can be hard on the kidneys. Your vets may also recommend vitamin and nutritional supplements, since senior cats with a diminished appetite or digestive issues may have a hard time getting and storing adequate amounts of nutrients.
Feeding your cat correctly is not as simple as choosing a cat food then putting it in their bowl. You need to find a food that agrees with your cat's digestive system; one that gives them the proper nutrients; and one that they like. Getting it right may take work, but with a little effort, you can learn to feed your cat properly and make sure that they stay healthy and happy.