May 24, 2017

Find Out Which Food Is Best for Your Cat

Cat owners are becoming as finicky about cat food as the cats themselves. Since a pet’s diet has great bearing on their overall health, longevity and quality of life, that’s a good thing.

Attention is increasingly paid to ingredients, quality, and vet recommendation instead of price, which has led to a search for the right food in previously uncharted territory. However, even veterinarians disagree from time to time on what’s best for cats, so choosing the right food can be a challenge.

Choices include wet, dry and freeze-dried raw foods. Within each of those categories, there are dozens of special formulas that address stage of life, weight control, stomach sensitivity, and other issues your cat might face. Educating yourself will ensure that you find just what your cat needs to thrive.

The Best Brands and Products

Before you hit the cat food aisle and start digging into ingredients, do your homework on brands. Reputable manufacturers strive for quality, transparency and tight control over processing facilities. They willingly recall potentially dangerous batches and they’re typically happy to answer questions.

Top-quality products should contain named meat sources and be free of artificial ingredients and preservatives. Fillers such as corn, wheat and soy can trigger allergic reactions. Flavorings, even if they’re said to be natural, have no nutritional value and are certainly no substitute for real meat.

A detailed comparison will be provided, but here’s a rundown of products that earn especially high marks in quality:

  • Blue Buffalo Wild Delights Canned Chicken and Turkey
  • Halo Spot’s Stew
  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned Chicken Formula
  • Orijen Dry Adult Cat and Kitten Food
  • Wellness CORE Original Dry

Exploring the Options

Just as there is debate about which foods are best for humans, opinions change all the time about what’s best for cats. Weigh the pros and cons below:

  • Wet food

Many experts insist that the moisture in canned food makes it healthier than dry food. By nature, cats have a low thirst drive. This can lead to problems in the kidneys and urinary tract, and wet food might be the solution. Another advantage of canned food is that it typically contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates than dry food.

On the downside, wet food is less convenient and significantly more expensive. It will easily spoil if it’s left out too long.

Wet food should be portioned for light eaters, as it’s best for cat owners who are at home often enough to maintain a regular feeding schedule. Most vets recommended allowing your cat 30 minutes to eat and removing uneaten food.

  • Dry food

If you stick to reputable brands, today’s dry formulas are healthier and more nutritious than in the past. We recommend choosing products with the highest amount of protein.

Dry food can be left out all day for convenience, but this sometimes encourages overeating. You’ll have to monitor your cat’s weight more closely if you choose the dry option.

  • Freeze-dried raw food

These products mimic cats’ natural preferences in the wild, and they’re becoming more common. The freezing process kills almost all harmful bacteria. Recipes abound for making your own raw cat food, but vets and human health experts advise against that; the risk of salmonella and other diseases is too great.

Fans of raw commercial products say that their cats have improved digestion, healthier coats, better dental health, and increased energy.

Rehydrated food must be used or refrigerated right away to prevent spoilage. Another downside of raw food is its high price.

  • Food for stages of life

What’s good for kittens is not necessarily good for mature cats. Be sure to check labels for nutritional adequacy statements. These specify whether the product is suitable for all stages of life, intended for growth and reproductive health or geared toward adult maintenance.

Quality Is Worth Paying For

Quality products with natural ingredients cost more, but you’ll save money on vet bills if you make room for them in your budget.

Cats require special nutrients and amino acids, such as taurine, that are only found in animal sources. Chicken, fish, turkey, and other protein-rich ingredients should be prominently featured. If they’re listed among the first five ingredients, that’s a promising start, as the food will be protein-heavy.

Watch out for cheap ingredients, like corn and broken rice, that add nothing of value. Indeed, they’re sugary and difficult to digest. It goes without saying that chemical preservatives are terrible for both cats and people.

As for byproducts, they can be helpful or harmful depending on what they are. A byproduct like liver would be good for your cat. Manufacturers aren’t required to specify byproducts, though, so steer clear of foods with only vague label descriptions.

Grain-free foods

Whether or not grain-free foods are preferable is heavily debated. Cats can metabolize carbohydrates in reasonable doses, but some experts advise sticking to meats and fats. Certain grains have been linked to allergies in cats, and a high-grain diet can lead to obesity.

If you decide to go with a low-carbohydrate or grain-free diet, make sure that the manufacturer didn’t slip in potatoes as a substitute.

Here is the promised comparison of highly-rated products:

  • Blue Buffalo Wild Delights Canned Chicken and Turkey

Blue Buffalo sticks as closely as possible to cats’ natural diets in the wild. This formula is grain-free and contains no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives. The first five ingredients listed are chicken, chicken broth, water, turkey and chicken liver.

Price: $25 to $30 for 24 3-ounce cans

Availability: Petco, PetSmart and some feed stores

  • Halo Spot’s Stew

Chicken, salmon, crab, and lamb are popular varieties of Spot’s Stew. Halo doesn’t use meal, grains or byproducts, and its cans are free of harmful chemicals.

Price: $25 for 12 5.5-ounce cans

Availability: Chewy, Petco, Pet360 and the Halo website

  • Nature’s Variety Instinct Canned Chicken Formula

Unlike most other wet cat foods, this one doesn’t contain carrageenan, a potentially harmful thickening agent. You may be puzzled to see montmorillonite clay on the ingredient list, but it’s a natural mineral that keeps the food moist. This formula packs a whopping 95 percent chicken and liver combination. Cat owners consistently rate it well. Other varieties include duck, salmon, lamb, and venison. Instinct also offers a line of freeze-dried raw foods.

Price: $25 for 12 5.5-ounce cans

Availability: Amazon and most pet stores

  • Orijen Dry Adult Cat and Kitten Food

Orijen is admired for maintaining a high ratio of meats to other ingredients. Meats are sourced locally. This dry formula contains no grains or potatoes. The chicken, turkey, eggs, chicken liver, and wild-caught flounder are guaranteed to be fresh. Although Orijen products are widely available, the company recommends buying from authorized dealers. You can locate them on the Orijen website.

Price: $60 for a 12-pound bag

Availability: Orijen-authorized dealers

  • Wellness CORE Original Dry

Many cat owners consider this the best food on the market. Wellness adds probiotics and essential fatty acids, including flaxseed and salmon oil, to aid digestion. CORE Original dry contains turkey, chicken, herring, and whitefish.

Price: $35 to $40 for a 12-pound bag

Availability: Amazon, Chewy, Petco and PetSmart

Ask the Vet

Every animal is unique, and nobody knows your cat’s dietary requirements better than its vet. Discuss your options with the expert before you buy. Your cat will thank you.

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