By Nicky LaMarco.
There are always questions about what is best to feed a cat. Do you feed them dry food or wet? Perhaps you feed them both. Do you make food for them instead of feeding them commercial cat food? If you serve commercial cat food, how do you determine what really is the best food for them? Are the premium foods that you buy in a specialty pet store better than the brands you can buy in the grocery store?
All of these questions are legitimate for both new and experienced cat owners. In the past few years there have been some tragic situations with cat and dog foods and recalls of major brands. So what is safe for your cat to eat? It is very important that you don’t feed your adult cat the same thing you fed him as a kitten. The needs of an adult cat are very different from those of a kitten. After the first year of their life as a kitten, you need to move to adult food.
Dry and Wet Cat Food
Cats are carnivores and cannot survive without meat. Cats are true hunters who are often finicky. Contrary to what many of us have been told, cats do better nutritionally with canned or wet food than with dry or kibble food. There are several reasons for this. There is more water content in the wet food and not enough water content in kibble. Most canned cat food is much higher in animal protein, while dry food is often high in plant protein. Cats need meat every day. Finally, there are too many carbohydrates in the dry food; wet food has a much better balance between proteins and carbohydrates.
Many of us have been told not to feed wet food to our cats because it will destroy their teeth. There is some truth to this, but the potential harm is outweighed by the need for animal protein and more water content. There is an ingredient or nutrient found in animal protein that is not found in plant protein called taurine. Without taurine, a cat can go blind or develop heart disease.
Cats are notorious for not drinking enough water, so it is important that there is enough water in their food. This is particularly true for older cats that drink even less water. Also, canned food does not undergo the same harsh processing that dry food does. Be careful of all foods with respect to recalls, and try to avoid foods processed in China. There have been too many cats harmed by that food and too many recalls in recent years. For a list of recalls, please visit the Food and Drug Administration website.
The closer your adult cat’s diet is to a feral cat’s diet, the healthier your cat will be. This is better represented by wet food than by dry food. So are the premium brands better than the grocery store brands? For the most part they are. Whether wet or dry, the premium brands do a better job of meeting your cat’s real needs and limiting carbohydrates while increasing animal protein. This means when you read the label it has chicken first, and grain and vegetables later in the ingredients list.
Ask your veterinarian for his or her opinion. What does she recommend for brands of cat food and how does she feel about dry food and wet food? Sometimes determining what to feed your cat depends on your cat and needs to be customized alongside your vet.
Photo: Courtesy of Brian Leon via Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)