If you’re one of many people who made ‘eating healthier’ a New Year resolution for 2023, have you thought lately about what you’re feeding your pets?
The pet food industry is huge, and with shelves and shelves of colourful bags and tins to choose from, all screaming out their particular selling points, picking out the best food for your cat can be confusing. It can be tempting just to pick one at random and hope you don’t have a particularly fussy feline! However, not all pet foods are created equal. There are some important points to watch for when choosing the right diet to suit your pet.
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Why is nutrition important?
A cat’s diet is hugely important for their health and wellbeing. Our food gives us energy to maintain everyday life, protein for growth and maintenance of essential functions such as our immune system, and essential vitamins and minerals to maintain our health.
Cats are obligate carnivores: they derive their dietary needs from meat and other animal products. There are certain nutrients that cats can’t make in their bodies, such as amino acids called taurine and arginine. These are essential to make proteins, and without them cats can get very ill, suffering from deficiencies that can cause heart disease and blindness. Cats cannot make these nutrients themselves, and so they must be included in the diet.
What to look for in a cat food
Before delving into my top brand picks, let’s have a look at what features make for a good cat food.
Registration with UKPF
UK Pet Food – formerly the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) – is the trade body responsible for pet food in the U.K. Companies who make all sorts of types of pet food can join, and UKPF upholds them to certain standards of both nutritional balance and food safety.
Look for a cat food that is labelled as ‘complete’. This means that it contains everything your cat needs, nutritionally, to be healthy. Diets which are ‘complementary’ don’t contain the correct balance or type of nutrients, and should only be fed in small amounts alongside a main complete diet.
As well as being nutritionally complete for a cat, it’s important that the diet suits your pet’s lifestyle and exercise level. Kittens, for example, need markedly different amounts of energy and protein to an adult cat, and senior pets have differing requirements again.
Wet vs dry
Your cat can be perfectly healthy and happy fed either wet or dry food, or a combination of both. Wet food is bulkier and can help increase water intake. Whereas dry food is easier for ‘grazers’ and can help maintain oral hygiene.
The Five Best Foods
Despite carefully following our golden rules above, there are still a large range of cat food brands out there. So here are my top picks!
1) Hill’s Science Plan
Hill’s is a leader in the pet food market, and with good reason. With over 200 vets and nutritionists employed, their foods are made up with good scientific backing for their nutritional composition. Often recommended by vets, Hill’s Science Plan has a range of diets for different age groups, provide multiple flavours and textures and also cater to certain individual needs, such as weight balance and urinary health. Hill’s also do a prescription range, if your cat has a medical problem which would benefit from a veterinary-recommended specific diet.
2) Royal Canin
Royal Canin was founded by a veterinary surgeon and aims to prioritise pet health through peak nutrition. They also have a strong veterinary and professional nutrition team. Royal Canin has a range of diets focused on five key points: breed, size, age, lifestyle and sensitivities. This allows the food to be tailored to your cat’s needs. RC also produce prescription diets, such as their urinary and hypoallergenic ranges.
3) Purina Pro Plan
Purina’s nutritional philosophy states ‘every pet deserves excellent nutrition’ and they aim to produce a range of optimal diets for a range of needs. Another range which is backed by a strong scientific team, Purina has a good range of diets for different ages and lifestyles of cat. They have now introduced their ‘LIVECLEAR’ diet, which aims to reduce cat allergens produced in their hair and dander, to help owners dealing with cat allergies.
4) Waltham Perfect Fit
The Waltham team, with the ‘feed, move, play’ philosophy, do a nice range of cat foods for different life stages. Their nutritional approach is backed by science. Their products are always well labelled with clear ingredient lists and nutritional breakdowns.
5) James Wellbeloved
JWB offer a range of diets for cats of different ages. They have a broader range of protein sources than some other brands, with turkey and fish commonly used, which can be helpful for those cats who are sensitive to chicken. They focus very much on ‘natural’ ingredients but generally the quality and palatability are good, and a cheaper price tag than some of the premium brands.
If your cat is settled, happy and thriving on their current diet, there’s likely no need to change it, as long as it is nutritionally complete! If you do decide to switch foods, always do so gradually over the course of a few days to avoid stomach upsets. Confused as to what you should be feeding your pet? Always speak to a veterinary professional if you’re concerned about nutrition.
Cat food: Summing up
We all know that good nutrition is one of the founding blocks for good health. We have a responsibility to our pets to provide them with the correct dietary needs. Pet food can be a real minefield to navigate, with large numbers of manufacturers all making loud claims about their diets. Follow our tips to choose a suitable diet, and check out our ‘top 5’ list – do you agree? Let us know your kitty’s preferred food!