When you pick up a bag of cat food, how much of the information on it do you actually understand? The name of the product seems simple enough to interpret, but what makes one chicken recipe different from another? How do you know which one is the best cat food for your cat?
The truth is that pet nutrition can be a little complicated. Your cat has specific nutrient requirements to keep him healthy and happy. Most commercial cat foods are formulated to provide for his minimum nutritional needs, but not all cat foods are created equal. One cat food might meet those requirements using low-quality ingredients and by-products while another uses real meat and fresh vegetables. Learning to decipher the information on a pet food label will help you choose a good recipe for your cat.[INSERT_ELEMENTOR id=”15657″]
In this article, we’ll cover everything you wanted to know about more about your cat’s nutritional needs. We’ll also delve a little deeper into the commercial pet food industry to help you learn how it is regulated and what determines the information that appears on pet food labels. From there, we’ll show you what to look for in a good cat food and provide you with our top picks to get you started.
|Our 2021 Picks: Best Cat Foods in 2021|
|NomNomNow Fresh Cat Food Delivery
|Taste Of The Wild Canyon River
|American Journey Minced Turkey
|Instinct By Nature’s Variety Limited Ingredient
|Instinct by Nature’s Variety Original
|Wellness Complete Health Deboned Chicken & Chicken Meal
|Halo Holistic Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe
|Solid Gold Indigo Moon with Chicken & Eggs
|Nutro Wholesome Essentials Weight Management
|Ziwi Peak Lamb Recipe Canned Cat Food
|The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken Recipe
|Stella & Chewy’s Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey Dinner
|Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Morsels
Understanding Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
When you picture a lion in the wild, you might picture him chasing down a gazelle. Wild cats are carnivores – meat eaters – and they get most of their nutrition from eating other animals. Wild dogs are largely carnivorous as well, though they are also scavengers by nature which means that they can subsist on plant foods when times are tough.
Wild cats are what animal nutritionists call “obligate carnivores.” This means that they rely on nutrients found primarily in animal products – their bodies simply aren’t evolved to effectively digest and absorb nutrition from plants. What does this mean for your cat? It’s simple – your cat needs a diet high in protein, largely from animal sources like meat, poultry, and fish.
When it comes to how much protein your cat needs, 26% is the minimum for adult cats while kittens need 30% or more. We’ll talk later about AAFCO and how they establish these nutrient requirements, but for now just know that you need to find a cat food that contains at least 26% crude protein, though more protein is almost always better.
After protein, the next most important nutrient for your cat is fat. Fat provides a concentrated source of calories for your cat – about 9 calories per gram compared to 4 calories per gram for protein. Essential fats help your cat absorb fat-soluble vitamins while also supporting his skin and coat health as well as his immunity. Like protein, fat is most biologically valuable for your cat when it comes from animal sources. So, things like chicken fat and fish oil are better for your cat than canola oil or sunflower oil. Certain plant oils are beneficial, however, when they provide sources of omega-6 fatty acids to help balance out the omega-3s from animal sources.
What about carbohydrates? The short answer is that cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates. So why do most commercial cat foods contain carbohydrates?
The truth is that animal ingredients are more expensive, so adding some carbohydrates helps cut costs. For your cat, certain carbohydrates can provide energy and fiber as well as essential nutrients. The most digestible and nutritious carbohydrates for cats are whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Just make sure the fiber content isn’t too high (about 3% is good) and the carb content doesn’t outweigh the protein content. And avoid grains like corn, wheat, and soy which provide limited nutritional value.
The rest of your cat’s nutrition comes from vitamins and minerals. Your cat has specific requirements for different nutrients, so most commercial cat foods contain synthetic supplements to meet those minimum levels. This is unavoidable in most cat foods but know that chelated minerals are the best option. These are mineral molecules that have been chemically bound to protein molecules which helps increase their absorption.
Knowing your cat’s basic nutritional needs is important but you also need to know how to determine whether a cat food product will meet those needs. Read on to learn what you need to know about commercial cat food and how to evaluate its quality.
What You Need to Know About Commercial Cat Food
When you walk down the pet food aisle at your local pet food store, you’ll notice dozens of different brands and hundreds of different recipes. How do you know if any of them will actually meet your cat’s nutritional requirements? How can you tell if the product is any good?
Shopping for human food is easy. You can rest assured that most of the products on grocery store shelves are approved by the FDA as safe for human consumption. In order for products to become FDA-approved, they need to meet certain requirements for safety and quality in their production, packaging, and storage. But what about pet food?
- How is Pet Food Regulated? The FDA plays a role in regulating certain aspects of pet food production. Under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed in 2011, there are requirements and mandatory product safety standards that now apply to all U.S. human food and pet food manufacturers. Previously, the FDA and other regulatory bodies focused on reacting to and correcting safety issues that arose but the FSMA represents a shift toward the prevention of safety issues. Under the FSMA, pet food makers are required to implement current good manufacturing practices, identify and evaluate hazards associated with the products, develop and implement food safety plans, and comply with foreign supplier requirements. But who is actually responsible for monitoring these regulations and for keeping pet food manufacturers accountable for the safety of their products? That’s the Association of American Feed Control Officials also known as AAFCO.
- What Does AAFCO Do? AAFCO is the organization that creates ingredient definitions and sets requirements for pet food labels and related product claims. This organization also maintains food nutrient profiles for pets, dictating the minimum nutritional requirements for different life stages that commercial pet foods should meet. In other words, AAFCO is the watch dog for the pet food industry. When it comes to regulating the quality of pet food, AAFCO’s primary job is to ensure that the products that hit pet store shelves are complete and balanced. This means that the product is formulated to provide balanced nutrition for the specific animal. Basically, if a product carries the complete and balanced designation, you know that it provides the basic nutrition your pet needs. Unfortunately, there are no rules attached to the designation about the quality of ingredients or manufacturing processes.
- Problems with Commercial Pet Food – Though AAFCO exists to help ensure the quality of pet food products that are sold in stores, they don’t actually “approve” pet foods – they simply create guidelines that most pet food manufacturers follow. Regulations vary from state to state and not all of them follow AAFCO standards. AAFCO determines what pet food manufacturers are required and allowed to put on their packaging. Because AAFCO is such a big influencer in the industry, most pet food manufacturers formulate their products in accordance with AAFCO standards and adhere to their nutrient profiles. Just remember that these regulations determine the maximum and/or minimum levels required to support pet health, they don’t determine the quality or type of ingredients used to achieve those levels. A pet food could be loaded with by-products and fillers but still meet minimum requirements. That’s what you need to remember when shopping for pet food. You also need to remember that pet food manufacturers are in it for the money. Higher quality ingredients cost more, so most companies try to find ways to make their products look as appealing as possible while minimizing costs. A key example in the pet food industry is the use of animal proteins. Dogs and cats have high biological requirements for protein in their diets. While dogs are able to obtain some measure of nutrition from plant products, cats are evolved to process animal ingredients better than plants. Plant proteins (like pea protein and potato protein) are cheaper than animal proteins (like meat, poultry, and fish) and many pet food manufacturers use them to increase the total protein content of the recipe while keeping costs down. This is a good example of why pet owners shouldn’t take the task of choosing a pet food lightly. You can’t just assume that because a cat food has 35% protein that it all comes from animal sources your cat will be able to effectively utilize. You need to know how to interpret the information on the label.
- Tips for Reading Pet Food Labels – You don’t necessarily need to be a nutrition expert to understand the information on a pet food label. There are two parts you really need to pay attention to: the guaranteed analysis and list of ingredients. The guaranteed analysis is the portion of the label that shows you how much protein, fat, fiber, and moisture the product contains. It may also contain percentages of key nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, omega-6 fatty acids, and important vitamins or minerals. Using this section of the label, you can make a direct comparison between similar products. The ingredients list shows all of the ingredients used in the product ordered from the highest volume to the least. In other words, the ingredients at the top of the list make up the biggest percentage of the product according to weight. Keep in mind, however, that this measurement includes moisture – when the overall product is cooked and that moisture is lost, the percentage by weight might go down. For example, if you have a cat food that lists fresh chicken as the first ingredient followed by turkey meal and pea protein, you would assume that fresh chicken is the main ingredient. What the label doesn’t tell you is that fresh meat contains about 70% moisture and once the product is cooked, its final weight is only about 30% of the total. Meat meals, on the other hand, are already cooked to remove moisture, so their final weight doesn’t change much. The biggest problem with this example is that once the water is removed, chicken might move down the list, so the pea protein (a plant-based protein) might actually make up more of the total protein content than the chicken. Every industry has its issues and the pet food industry is not perfect. That being said, we don’t want to leave you thinking that all commercial pet food is bad – we simply want to educate you on the shortcomings of the industry so you have the information you need to make a better choice for your cat.
What to Look for in a Good Cat Food
If you’re not sure what the best cat food is for your cat, you might spend some time looking over cat food ratings online. You’ll soon discover, however, that every website that provides cat food ratings has their own criteria. This makes it a little confusing to make a smart choice. Rather than relying on what others have to say about top cat food brands on the market, do your own research and make your own assessments. Take what you’ve learned about your cat’s nutritional requirements and the information you’ve discovered about commercial cat food to make a smart and healthy choice.
Though we encourage you to make your own decisions, we’re not going to leave you high and dry. Here are some general things to look for in a good cat food:
- Real animal protein as the first ingredient. Animal protein should be the first ingredient in your cat’s food and it should be a whole source, not a by-product. Generally speaking, the higher the protein content the better, just make sure most of it comes from animal sources.
- Healthy animal-based fats. Fats provide a concentrated source of calories for your cat to use as energy. They also support your cat’s skin and coat while helping him absorb certain nutrients. Animal-based fats like chicken fat and salmon oil are best, but certain plant oils can be used to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content of the recipe.
- Limited carbohydrate and plant-based protein content. Cats have a limited ability to digest plant foods, so make sure the product is rich in protein with low carb content. The best carbohydrates for cats to digest are whole grains, vegetables, and fruits. Limit the amount of plant protein in your cat’s diet as well to ensure bioavailability.
- Digestible natural ingredients. Unprocessed whole-food ingredients are more nutritious and easily digestible for your cat – they are also a more biologically valuable source of nutrients than vitamin and mineral supplements. Supplements are usually necessary to ensure complete and balanced nutrition, but fresh fruits and vegetables are good natural sources.
- No artificial additives, fillers, or by-products. Simply put, there is no need for artificial ingredients and by-products in your cat’s diet. They provide little nutritional value, if any, and come with a risk of triggering negative reactions.
How Do We Make Our Recommendations?
By now you understand your cat’s basic nutritional requirements and you know what to look for in a good cat food. But what do WE look for? The same things! We would never recommend a cat food to you that we wouldn’t be happy feeding our own cats. All cats deserve healthy and high-quality nutrition, so we’re here to help you find it. Our cat food recommendations are founded on the fact that cats are obligate carnivores which means that they have a biological requirement for a high-protein diet. Every recipe we recommend starts with a real animal-based protein as the main ingredient and may contain several supplemental proteins as well. We look for animal-based fats with a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids as well as limited content of digestible carbohydrates. On top of all that, it also has to be complete and balanced with the help of vitamin and mineral supplements.
Here are some of the general requirements for a cat food to receive our recommendation:
- A source of high-quality animal protein as the first ingredient
- At least 30% crude protein for kittens and at least 26% for adults
- A minimum of 9% crude fat for kittens and adults
- A balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, primarily from animal sources
- A rich blend of nutrients from natural sources and supplements, as needed
- Limited carbohydrate content from digestible sources (like whole grains and veggies)
- No low-quality fillers, by-products, or artificial additives (preservatives, dyes, or flavors)
The 13 Best Cat Foods
What is the best cat food? There’s no hard and fast answer. The best cat food is one that will provide for your cat’s nutritional needs while accommodating his unique dietary requirements and preferences. The best cat food for your cat might not be the same as the best option for another cat. But that’s the beauty of it! There are so many choices out there that it’s possible to be selective – to want more for your cat and to go out there and find it.
If you need a little help picking the right cat food, we’ve got your back. There are many different cat food brands out there and we love a lot of them. We’ve done our best, however, to give you some options in different categories to help make shopping easier. Here are some of our top picks!
Overall Best Fresh Cat Food: When it comes to commercial cat food, most companies produce their foods in mass quantities and subject the ingredients to high heat processes. Pet nutrition experts say that fresh food is a much healthier option. NomNomNow is our favorite fresh pet food company and we highly recommend it for your cat. Generally speaking, fresh food is a better option because the ingredients retain more of their nutritional value because they aren’t being cooked to death. The texture and flavor of fresh food is better as well and the whole food ingredients are more nutritious and digestible.
NomNomNow sends packages of fresh cat food right to your door on a customizable schedule. Simply provide some information about your cat’s age, breed, weight, and activity level and NomNomNow will calculate his calorie needs. From there, they’ll send you pre-portioned packages of fresh cat food to meet your cat’s needs – simply open the package and pour it into your cat’s bowl. Choose from two different protein options, knowing that each recipe contains whole-food ingredients with no artificial additives or by-products. It’s a little pricey but you won’t find better quality out there.
- Pros: Fresh cat food delivered to your door, real animal proteins first ingredient, fresh whole food ingredients, prepared in small batches, high nutritional quality and digestibility
- Cons: Only two protein options to choose from, significantly more expensive than traditional kibble
Most Popular Cat Food: Cat food brands are a dime a dozen, so it can be difficult to choose from among the crowd. If you’re not sure where to start, consider a popular brand like Taste of the Wild. Pet parents everywhere love this brand because they use premium roasted meats and other whole food ingredients in all of their recipes. Choose from two wet food or two dry food options like this Canyon River Grain-Free Dry Food. It features fresh trout as the main ingredient with ocean fish meal as a secondary, concentrated source of animal protein. This recipe does contain some pea and potato protein, but these ingredients don’t appear until fifth and sixth on the list. You’ll see fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources of key nutrients with chelated minerals and vitamin supplements for nutritional balance. Plus, this recipe contains probiotics and natural enzymes to ensure digestibility and optimal nutrient absorption and it happens to also be one of our top picks for the best grain free cat food.
- Pros: Real trout first ingredient, whole food ingredients, digestible grain-free carbohydrates, fresh fruits and vegetables, chelated mineral supplements, probiotics for digestion
- Cons: Could be higher in protein, contains some plant protein, main fat is plant-based
Most Affordable Cat Food: You should feed your cat the highest quality cat food you can consistently afford but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to empty your wallet in the pet store each month. If you’re looking for the best quality affordable wet cat food, consider this American Journey Minced Turkey Recipe in Gravy Grain-Free Wet Food. American Journey is a highly affordable brand that uses real animal proteins and other whole-food ingredients. This particular recipe features fresh turkey as the main ingredient with turkey and chicken broths for moisture-rich flavor. It contains flaxseed, sunflower oil, and fish oil to provide a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for healthy skin and coat with chelated minerals for optimal nutrient absorption. This recipe also contains cranberries for urinary health, blueberries for antioxidants, and dried peas for fiber.
- Pros: Affordable for quality, real turkey first ingredient, rich in moisture and flavor, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, cranberries for urinary health, rich in antioxidants, chelated minerals
- Cons: Plant-based fat comes first (sunflower oil), may be too high in fiber for some cats
Best Cat Food for Sensitive Stomach: Cats can be picky eaters and the situation becomes complicated when your cat also has a sensitive stomach. Cats can develop allergies and sensitivities to many different ingredients, but common proteins like chicken and beef are the main culprits. If your cat has food allergies or a sensitive stomach, a limited ingredient diet made with a single source of novel protein could be the best option. By limiting the number of ingredients, you’re reducing the risk of triggering a reaction. This salmon recipe limited ingredient diet from Instinct by Nature’s Variety is a great choice. It features salmon meal as a single source of concentrated animal protein with fresh salmon as well. It contains canola oil to provide omega-6s to balance out the omega-3s from the salmon with coconut oil for support. This recipe is complete and balanced with the help of vitamin and chelated mineral supplements and also contains a freeze-dried cod coating for a boost of fish flavor.
- Pros: Single source of animal protein, rich in omega-3s, highly digestible natural ingredients, limited list of ingredients, chelated mineral supplements, freeze-dried coating for flavor
- Cons: Very expensive compared to average kibble
Best Cat Food for Kittens: Starting your kitten off right with a high-quality recipe is essential. Growing kittens need high levels of protein in a calorie-rich diet to support their growth and development. If you’re looking for a natural recipe for your kitten, consider this Original Kitten Grain-Free Recipe with Real Chicken from Instinct by Nature’s Variety. Nature’s Variety is a premium cat food brand dedicated to using high-quality, natural ingredients so you can be sure that their kitten recipe is good. It features 81% real animal ingredients and healthy oils with 19% vegetables, fruits, and other wholesome ingredients. Cage-free chicken is the first ingredient and it is supplemented with several other sources of protein including turkey meal, menhaden fish meal, chicken meal, and white fish meal. This recipe is rich in healthy fats from chicken fat, providing a rich blend of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat as well as strong immunity. Overall, this recipe provides 42.5% crude protein with 22.5% fat at 557 calories per cup.
- Pros: Rich in real animal protein, concentrated calorie content, healthy animal fats, fresh fruits and vegetables, digestible whole-food ingredients, freeze-dried chicken organs, chelated minerals
- Cons: Fairly expensive compared to average kibble
Healthiest Dry Cat Food 2021 for Senior Cats: As your cat gets older, his metabolism will slow down and he might not be as active as he once was. Even if his calorie needs decline, however, he still needs a protein-rich diet that provides for his nutritional needs. This Wellness Complete Health recipe is formulated for senior cats and features fresh chicken and chicken meal as the top two ingredients. It includes the Wellness WellFlex system with added glucosamine and chondroitin for joint and hip health as well as plenty of fiber and L-carnitine to support a healthy metabolism. As our top pick for the best dry food for senior cats, you can be sure that this recipe is protein-rich in addition to being loaded with healthy fats for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content. Overall, this recipe contains 39% protein and 11% fat which will help your senior cat maintain lean muscle mass. It is also supplemented with probiotics for healthy digestion.
- Pros: Rich in lean animal protein, blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, digestible whole food ingredients, fresh fruits and veggies, probiotics for healthy digestion, chelated mineral supplements
- Cons: May be too high in fiber for some cats, some cats may be sensitive to chicken ingredients
Best Dry Cat Food for Indoor Cats: All cats have the same basic nutritional requirements, but indoor cats can benefit from specialized nutrition. They are less active than outdoor cats and are more likely to develop hairballs, so increased fiber content is important as well as controlled calorie intake. This Halo Holistic Chicken & Chicken Liver Recipe is our top pick for the best dry cat food for indoor cats because it ticks all of these boxes and more. This formula features whole chicken and non-GMO vegetables in a complete and balanced formula designed to support healthy weight and lean muscle mass. It contains fresh chicken and chicken liver, so you can be sure it is loaded with natural poultry flavor. It also contains chicken fat and salmon oil to provide plenty of omega fatty acids for healthy skin and coat. Overall, this recipe provides 32% protein and 13% fat with 5% fiber and 397 calories per cup.
- Pros: Healthy and holistic nutrition, controlled fat and calorie content, rich in lean animal protein, whole-food ingredients, highly digestible, helps control hairballs and supports digestion
- Cons: Contains some soy protein, could be higher in protein
6 More Top-Rated Cat Foods
When it comes to choosing the best cat food, we have as much trouble as you do making our choices. The truth is that any number of cat foods could be qualified as the “best” cat food in certain categories, so it largely comes down to a matter of choice. If none of the cat foods from the previous section seem quite right, check out our 6 additional picks below:
Best High-Protein Cat Food: All cats deserve a high-protein diet, but some cat foods contain more protein than others. This Solid Gold Indigo Moon with Chicken & Eggs recipe contains a full 42% protein, primarily from animal ingredients. This recipe starts off strong with chicken meal as a concentrated source of animal protein. Because it’s chicken meal and the water has already been removed, you know the weight won’t change significantly during cooking. Fresh chicken, dried egg, and ocean fish meal provide supplemental sources of animal protein as well. This recipe contains a rich blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids plus fresh fruits and vegetables as natural sources for key nutrients. You’ll find chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption as well as probiotics to support healthy digestion. It’s also another one of our top picks for the best grain free cat food.
Nutro Wholesome Essentials Weight Management Adult Farm-Raised Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Cat Food
Best Weight Management Cat Food: Whether your cat is getting up in years or prone to obesity, a weight management formula might be what you’re looking for. This Nutro Wholesome Essentials Weight Management Adult recipe features real chicken as the first ingredient, a lean form of protein to help your cat maintain lean muscle mass and healthy body weight. This formula contains 28% less fat and 13% fewer calories than the original adult formula but is still loaded with nutrients and packed with flavor. It contains no GMOs or artificial additives and includes whole brown rice as a wholesome source of digestible carbohydrates. This recipe also contains plenty of fiber to help maintain healthy metabolism and boost your cat’s digestion. Overall, it contains 33% protein and 9% fat with just 283 calories per cup.
Best Wet Cat Food: When it comes to the best wet cat food, Ziwi Peak is by far one of our favorite brands. Though it isn’t made in the United States, it IS made in New Zealand where quality and safety standards are similar or higher to those in the U.S. This Lamb Recipe Canned Food features 92% meat, organs, and green mussels, making it an ultra-low-carbohydrate formula. Free-range, grass-fed lamb is 100% single-sourced, inclusive of fresh lamb and several lamb organs. Overall, this recipe is packed with real meat flavor and provides a delicious source of balanced nutrition with the help of vitamin and chelated mineral supplements. Your cat is sure to love it.
Best Dehydrated Cat Food: Traditional kibble is cooked at extremely high temperatures which can compromise the nutritional integrity of the raw ingredients. Dehydrated cat food is a more nutritious option that still offers the convenience of a long shelf-life. It may be more expensive than kibble, but it is highly nutritious. We recommend The Honest Kitchen Grain-Free Chicken Recipe because it is packed with lean protein and wholesome fruits and vegetables in a highly nutritious formula. Each 4-pound box yields 12 pounds of rehydrated food – you simply add water to the food in your cat’s bowl to prepare it fresh with each meal. This recipe contains cranberries for urinary support, flaxseed for healthy omega fatty acids, and both potatoes and sweet potatoes as digestible sources of grain-free carbohydrate.
Best Freeze-Dried Cat Food: If you want to feed your cat the best of the best, a raw food diet is the closest thing to your cat’s natural evolutionary diet. The problem with raw food is that it’s very expensive and difficult to keep fresh, not to mention the risk of contamination with food-borne pathogens. To provide your cat with the nutritional benefits of raw food without compromising on safety or convenience, consider freeze-dried food. This Stella & Chewy’s Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey Dinner freeze-dried raw food is our top pick because it comes from one of the top producers of freeze-dried and raw cat food. This formula features a single source of animal protein (turkey) which is novel for many cats. It contains 98% cage-free turkey, organs, and bone along with 100% certified organic fruits and vegetables. This recipe is completely free from grains, fillers, by-products, and artificial additives so, in short, is it a healthy and high-quality raw food diet any cat would be lucky to enjoy.
Best Cat Food Topper: Whether you’re trying to boost your cat’s nutrition or increase his moisture intake, wet food toppers are a great option. We like this Merrick Backcountry Grain-Free Morsels in Gravy Real Duck recipe because it is packed with protein-rich nutrition in a flavorful gravy your cat will love. We also appreciate that it’s complete and balanced, just in case you want to use it as your cat’s primary diet. This recipe features real duck as the first ingredient, supplemented with turkey liver, fresh turkey, and egg whites as additional sources of protein. It contains salmon oil as a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids as well as chelated minerals to ensure optimal nutrient absorption. Loaded with moisture, this recipe is highly palatable for even the pickiest of cats and the tear-open pouch makes it easy to feed. Try it out!
Frequently Asked Questions
- How much should I feed my cat? When it comes to pet food recommendations, things are generally measured in cups or ounces. Dry cat food feeding recommendations are measured in cups and wet food comes in cans or tubs measured by ounce. So how do you know how much to feed your cat? The answer isn’t exactly straightforward – it all has to do with your cat’s calorie needs and the calorie content of his food. Every cat food is different in its nutritional makeup, not to mention the ingredients list. When it comes to determining how much to feed your cat, you’ll want to refer to the feeding instructions on the bag. Every recipe has a different caloric content, so check the feeding recommendations according to your cat’s age and weight. If your cat needs to lose weight, try feeding him the amount recommended for his goal weight. If he needs to gain weight, add an extra ¼ to ½ cup a day. If you’re not sure about your cat’s calorie needs, talk to your vet to determine your cat’s body condition to see whether he needs to maintain, lose, or gain weight.
- How often should I feed my cat? For the most part, cats do well with two meals per day. Most pet parents find it convenient to feed their cats once in the morning before work and again in the evening after work. If you have a kitten, these recommendations might change. Kittens require a steady influx of calories and high protein content to fuel their growth and development, so consider keeping your kitten’s food bowl full so he can eat as much as he needs to. Adults and senior cats are at a higher risk for obesity, so you may want to control their portions unless your cat is very active or tends to be on the skinny side.
- Do cats get bored of eating the same food? If you own a dog, you probably know that he’ll eat just about anything you put in front of him. Cats, on the other hand, have a reputation for being picky eaters. Some cats will take one sniff of a food and turn up their noses, even if it’s a high-quality product made with natural ingredients. You can’t tell your cat what food to like, so you’re at his mercy to find a recipe that meets your requirements as well as his. Even if you find a good food your cat will eat, he may not eat it for long. Cats can sometimes get bored when fed the same food every day, so consider mixing it up a little. Try adding different flavors of wet cat food or cat food toppers to your cat’s kibble or switch between two or three recipes from the same brand. Most brands use similar formulations among their recipes, so your cat should be able to tolerate the variety unless he suffers from specific food allergies or sensitivities.
- Are grain-free diets good for cats? Pet food manufacturers have created a bit of a frenzy about grains in pet food, leading many pet owners to believe that grains are inherently bad. While it’s true that the carbohydrate content of your cat’s diet needs to be low (with high levels of protein), grains are not inherently dangerous or unhealthy. In fact, whole grains provide a rich source of nutrition as long as your cat can tolerate them. The only real reason to feed your cat a grain-free diet is if he’s allergic or sensitive to grains, but this problem is actually less common than pet food manufacturers would have you believe. What about the grain-free dog food dilemma? Over the past year or two, the FDA has been investigating a potential link between grain-free dog food and an increased incidence of dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) in pets. The link is strongest in dogs rather than cats, but it’s still something to be concerned about if your cat already has heart issues. Again, however, a diet that includes wholesome grains is still nutritious for cats as long as the carbohydrate content remains low to moderate with an emphasis on high-quality animal proteins.
- Is wet cat food better than dry cat food? Many pet owners prefer dry food because it is more cost-effective and has a longer shelf life, but wet food tends to be higher in protein and moisture. Many wet foods are also much lower in carbohydrate content than dry foods, though that isn’t a hard and fast rule. So which option is better for cats? The simple answer is that there is no simple answer. Some cats prefer dry food while others prefer wet food. It’s also a matter of what you can afford and what’s convenient for you. It’s more important to make sure that your cat’s nutritional needs are being met than to argue about dry versus wet food.
By now it should be obvious to you that the list of cat foods out there goes on forever. We’ve done our best to give you a selection of best cat food brands 2021 in different categories so you can find the perfect fit for your cat. We recognize, however, that each cat is unique, so our top choice might not be the best fit for every cat. Keep in mind as well that there are plenty of other cat foods in each category that we recommend – just check out some of our other guides!
When it comes to keeping your cat healthy and happy, a nutritious diet is key. Be sure to feed your cat the highest quality food you can consistently afford. Not sure where to look? Try one of our top recommended brands above or in one of our other guides!
- Nutrition – General Feeding Guidelines for Cats – By Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM; Ernest Ward, DVM
- Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition – By Lisa A. Pierson, DVM
- Feline nutrition: Understanding how to feed cats for obesity prevention and weight management – By Debra L. Zoran, DVM, PhD, DACVIM
- FDA Investigation into Potential Link between Certain Diets and Canine Dilated Cardiomyopathy – By, FDA
- American Veterinary Medical Association – https://en.wikipedia.org/