When it comes to feeding your cat, keep in mind that nutrition is one of the most important keys to keeping your cat healthy. When choosing a diet for your cat, look at your cat’s activity level and overall coat condition while eating said diet. Keep in mind that the food that you feed your cat should give them energy and a glossy coat. It is especially important that food is formulated to meet your cat’s nutritional requirements and maintain a healthy urine pH. It’s important to understand what is essential to a cat’s diet and why.
The veterinarians at Cat Care in Rochester Hills are frequently asked questions regarding the best diet for cats. There are a lot of myths about the best diet for you cat and also myths about what is “bad” for your cat’s overall health. Below are some things to keep in mind when considering the best diet for your cat and some food myths that have been busted.
What type of food should I feed my cat? There are many opinions, not to mention tons of different brands to choose from. Dry commercial diets offer low-cost feeding and convenience to free feeding. The downside to dry food is it’s typically less palatable for your cat. On the other hand, canned diets are highly palatable, offer a good dietary source for water and come in a wide variety. The downside is that it can be very expensive and not all canned diets are nutritionally complete so it is important to read labels carefully.
When choosing a commercial diet for your cat, you want to look for the AAFCO statement on the bag. AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials) ensures that food labeled with their seal are considered to be balanced and complete. There are two different methods in which commercial diets can receive a AAFCO statement. One method is by formulation in which the food company uses a computer to calculate nutritional standards in compliance with AAFCO’s published standards. The formulation is the cheaper method for gaining the AAFCO seal. The second method is by a food trial in which the food company tests the diet by a feeding trial over a specified period of time and determines how well that animal does on the diet exclusively. Food trials are considered the superior method or the “gold standard.”
What about by-products in my cat’s food? By-products are not made up of hooves and beaks. By-products are “secondary products produced in addition to the principle product.” For instance, when chicken breast is trimmed for packaging for human consumption, those trimmings are considered “by-products.” Some other common by-products that are found in pet food is fat (a key nutrient) and liver (an excellent source of iron) from meat processing. Other typical by-products are vitamin E (a natural preservative) from soybeans and vegetable oil (for flavor and fatty acids) from either flax, soybeans or corn.
What’s the difference between ingredients and nutrients? AAFO describes nutrients as “a substance that must be consumed as part of the diet to provide a source of energy, material for growth, or substances to regulate growth or energy production.” In other words, nutrients are what the body needs. Ingredients are the means to provide nutrients in a palatable form.
Are organic, natural and holistic foods more nutritious? No! Though there are legal requirements to label pet food with some of these labels, nutrition is not one of requirements. None of these labels indicate the quality of nutrients in the food.
Organic refers to the product’s processing method. Organic indicates that “the food or agricultural product has been approved for methods that integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster recycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.”
“Natural” means the food only consists of natural ingredients without chemical alterations. In other words, there are no “man-made” or synthetic products or additives.
“Holistic” doesn’t have a legal definition that can be applied to any food with any ingredients. In fact, I could legally sell you a bag of rocks and label it “Holistic.”
Is homemade food better than store-bought foods? No, in fact, homemade foods can be dangerous for both you and your cat. On study published in the Small Animal Clinical Nutrition, 4th ed., found that 90% of homemade diets were nutritionally imbalanced and incomplete. Unfortunately, many people believe that cats and dogs have the same nutritional requirements as people…they don’t.
Since cats are obligate carnivores, their nutritional needs are very different from ours and even dogs. In fact, they need 200% more protein than dogs!
Obligate carnivore indicates that cats are strict carnivores that rely on nutrients found in animal tissue to meet their specific nutritional requirements. Remember, cats are hunters and in their natural habit they would consume prey high in protein with moderate amounts of fat and minimum amounts of carbohydrates. Cats also require a dozen different nutrients, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. These nutrients are the building blocks of various structural body tissues, essential for chemical reactions (metabolism) that transport substances into, around and out of the body, supply energy for growth and provide palatability.
Homemade diets often have an imbalance in calcium and phosphorous, which can cause significant health issues. These diets also expose both cats and people to dangerous bacteria like Salmonella and Listeria.
Another thing to consider is cost. When homemade diets are formulated correctly, they actually cost more than their store-bought counterpart.
Lastly, don’t think about what you would like to eat if you were cat, think about what your cat needs nutritionally to keep them happy and healthy for many years to come. Consider your cat’s age when selecting a diet and activity level. Make sure to look for the AAFCO statement on the bag and if you ever feel lost about which diet is best for your kitty, give one of our Licensed Veterinary Technicians at Cat Care a call and they will be more than happy to help you find the best diet for your cat.