There is a wide choice of cat food available. You can find many options, from dry to wet foods, which target different life stages, and even specific diseases. Cats are obligate carnivores. This means that they must consume certain nutrients only naturally found in meat for their bodies to function properly so that they can live a full and healthy life. So how can we meet these specialised requirements?
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While it might seem a logical first step, in reality, homemade foods are the most complicated way to feed your cat. It is very difficult to provide a well-balanced diet that is also safe. This is why most people use commercially formulated diets for their cats; often “topped up” with some judicious hunting by the more discerning feline! Kittens and adult cats have different nutritional needs. Cats that have a medical condition also have nutritional needs different from healthy cats. So your choice of food can have a tremendous impact on your cat’s health!
Why is there such a huge price difference between cat foods?
You can find many options of cat’s food at supermarkets, pet shops and from your vet, all at different prices.
One of the most important things you should look out for when choosing your cat’s food is that it is a “complete” food. This means that it was developed to meet all your cat’s nutritional needs. This is usually stated on the food packaging.
As cats are obligate carnivores, another thing that you should look out for when choosing a cat’s diet is if it is formulated with actual meat. In some countries, the cheapest cat foods are made with inferior quality components and there is little actual meat. So, even though they may be cheap foods, if they’re labelled as complete they should contain all the essential nutrients your cat needs.
On the other hand, premium quality cat food has a good quantity of actual meat in it. Therefore you can expect to pay quite a bit more. However, in a really well balanced diet as opposed to a cheaper borderline one, you will often find that you feed your cat less food than you would with a cheaper diet. So in the end, you will spend less.
What is the difference between commercial and homemade diets?
Good quality commercial diets are formulated with all the nutrients a cat needs to live a healthy life. These foods can be dry or wet, and both types are considered to have benefits.
Dry foods, for example, has been claimed to help improve the cat’s oral health. On the other hand, wet food has a higher water content than dry food. This can help ensure adequate water intake for cats that drink less water, or in some medical conditions in which it is important to maximise the cat’s water intake.
Some people prefer to feed their cats homemade food which they prepare by themselves using raw or cooked meat or fish. However, cats have unique dietary requirements. So it is extremely difficult to provide them with a well-balanced diet with homemade food. This is because it will lack many nutrients the cat needs, therefore, it is best avoided. In addition, there is an increased risk of infections with bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, or Campylobacter if you feed your cat raw food. While most cats will not develop significant disease, in dogs this is a major source of infection to the people living in the house as the pet sheds the bacteria into the environment. However careful you are with the raw meat, it’s likely that cats pose the same risk to human health.
Will a cat food that targets a particular life stage or disease make a difference?
Kittens grow at a very fast rate, so they have higher nutritional demands than adult cats. They also have rather different nutrient requirements to adults – e.g. higher calcium for bone growth. Thus, it is very important to feed good quality kitten or growth foods to kittens, as they are formulated with a higher calorie percentage and all the important nutrients for growth that a kitten needs to fully grow into a healthy adult cat.
Cats with specific diseases also have different nutritional demands than healthy cats. Disease-specific diets are formulated for clinical management of the disease, which a normal cat food could not help to manage.
How can my choice influence my cat’s health?
A bad diet can lead to many health problems. This includes poor growth and development, obesity, and maybe even kidney or bladder problems. To avoid these issues, it is very important to feed your cat a good quality diet, specific to its life stage.
If your cat already has a health condition and your vet recommended a diet that could help manage the disease, this is because that food can make a difference in your cat’s health. These diets alongside possible medications that your cat may need, can help your pet’s disease to stabilise or even improve, and keep it with you for longer with a good quality of life!
Some people are curious about vegetarian or vegan diets for cats. Always remember that cats are obligate carnivores. The jury is still out on whether the synthetic (lab-made) ingredients in these diets are safe in the long term.
If you are struggling to find a good diet for your cat, your vet can help you find a healthy option within your budget!