For your cat to stay active and energized, the right nutrition is key. High-quality ingredients provide essential nutrients for an energetic cat. While homemade cat food is optimal, premium commercial food is a good option if you’re not ready to make your own. However, don’t just grab the cheapest bag. Here are 12 tips for choosing high-quality cat food.
Understanding Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand your cat’s nutritional needs:
A. Overview of the nutritional requirements for cats
Cats require certain nutrients to thrive, including high-quality protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. As obligate carnivores, cats have some specific nutritional needs that differ from other animals. A balanced diet for all life stages will support your cat to be healthy, active and enjoy a good quality of life.
B. Importance of protein in a cat’s diet
Protein provides the amino acids essential for tissue growth, maintenance and energy for cats. Animal-based proteins provide the best nutritional value for cats due to their high bioavailability and complete amino acid profiles.
Plant-based proteins lack certain amino acids and should not be relied upon as the primary protein source.
C. Other essential nutrients for cats
•Fat: Provides a concentrated source of energy and aids vitamin absorption. Fat can provide fatty acids for skin and coat health.
•Vitamins: Especially important are Vitamins A, D, E and B Vitamins. These support vital functions like vision, bone health, metabolism and cell health.
•Minerals: Including calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium chloride and magnesium. Important for bone health, circulation, digestion and many metabolic functions.
•Water: Essential for organ function, digestion, nutrient absorption and flow of nutrients in the body. Cats fed a dry food diet require plenty of fresh water every day.
Tips for Choosing the Best Cat Dry Food
Consider Your Cat’s Age, Size and Activity Level
Select a formula that matches your cat’s life stage and activity level. Senior, overweight or indoor cats need less calorie-dense food. High-energy formulas are best for kittens, nursing mothers and working cats. Limited ingredient diets suit cats with food sensitivities.
Read the Order of Ingredient Listing
When choosing cat food, don’t be dazzled by fancy branding or big names. The most important factor is what’s listed on the ingredients label, not claims on the packaging. Ingredients are listed by weight, so the first few items make up most of the formula. For the best nutrition, look for a couple of high-quality animal proteins like meat meals in the first five spots.
Look for High-Quality, Named Sources of Animal Protein
Animal-based proteins should make up at least 50-70% of a cat’s diet. Cats are obligate carnivores, so meat-based meals provide essential amino acids they need. Chicken meal, fish meal, and lamb meal have had excess moisture removed so they contain concentrated protein. Fresh meats like chicken, beef or fish appear heavier on the label due to water content but may provide slightly less protein per volume.
“Animal fat” or “meat meal” from unnamed sources may come from euthanized cats and dogs or diseased livestock. Reputable brands will specify the source of fats and meals.
Limit Plant Matter and Fillers
Plant proteins and grains should not be primary ingredients, as cats get little nutritional value from them. However, limited whole grains like oatmeal or barley and nutrient-dense veggies like carrots and spinach can provide fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. For overweight or indoor cats, more protein and fewer carbohydrates are ideal. Sensitive kitties may need a grain-free formula with fewer additives.
Avoid Artificial Additives and Byproducts
- Artificial colors, monosodium glutamate, chemical preservatives such as BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and any meat by-products, poultry by-products or animal digests.
- Lack of specification for animal source of protein or fat.
- Added sugar, such as corn syrup, cane molasses, sorbitol.
Also, skip “gourmet” brands that rely more on marketing than quality. Premium cat food does cost more, but your cat will be healthier with a higher-quality diet. You’ll also save on vet bills!
Research Cat Food and Brands
Compare reviews and recall notices to find reputable brands using high-quality, natural ingredients and stringent safety standards. Your cat relies on you to choose a diet that will support their health and happiness for life.
Check the Production and Expiration Dates
High-quality cat food will list an easy-to-read production date, not just a “best by” date. Natural preservatives allow premium food to last 12-18 months from the production date. Freshness means higher nutritional quality and less nutrient loss.
Review the Guaranteed Analysis
The more details listed the better. Regulations only require crude protein, fat, fiber and moisture but premium brands also provide info on other nutrients. This helps you better understand the food’s nutritional makeup.
Look for the Calorie Content
Knowing the calorie amount, in addition to the nutritional analysis, helps you choose an appropriate formula for your cat’s needs and determine proper portion sizes.
Find Detailed Contact Information
Look for a phone number, address, website and other info to contact the manufacturer. Reputable companies are transparent and willing to answer questions about their products.
Check for an AAFCO Statement
Premium cat food is tested using feeding trials to ensure it’s complete and balanced. You’ll see a statement such as “Animal feeding trials have substantiated this food provides complete nutrition”. Feeding trials are the best assessment, while some foods meet AAFCO standards via laboratory testing alone.
Consider Organic and U.S.-Sourced Ingredients
Organic cat food contains no toxic pesticides, hormones or chemicals. U.S.-sourced ingredients, especially those from U.S. farmers and producers, must meet higher safety standards and quality controls. Look for statements about organic certification and/or where ingredients and products are made.
With some guidance, you can choose a diet that will satisfy even the pickiest feline. Your cat will reward you with sweet purrs, less shedding, and better breath—because you cared enough to feed them the best.
Always look for named meat like fish, chicken, or beef in the first ingredients, not byproducts. Grains should be secondary. And do consider your cat’s needs and preferences. An indoor or less active cat may need more protein and fewer fillers. Sensitive tummies also need specialized formulas with few additives.
At last, while price, convenience, and brand loyalty are factors for you, your cat cares most about taste and nutrition. Do research on the best cat foods for health and longevity. Rotating between a couple of high-quality brands and formulas is good too, so your cat gets diversity.