Good news. Your cat needs you. You also need the right cat food, not just a separate bowl of dog food. As with dog food, there are many options in the market when it comes to cat food. “Cats are often viewed and fed as smaller dogs,” says Tim Julien, DVM, chief physician at Paz Veterinary in Austin, Texas. “It turns out that cats are not small dogs. Cats are obligate or strict carnivores and have a decreased ability to digest and use carbohydrates. “
So what’s the best cat food for your must-have carnivore? We’ve consulted experts to find out which cat food is right for you and your cat and we’ve rounded up some of the best cat food options.
SKIP AHEAD Best cat food
How to Buy the Best Cat Food
You should consider buying cat food the same way you look at breakfast: start with a balanced diet. “You need a complete and balanced diet that is appropriate for your cat’s life stage,” says Bruce Kornreich, DVM, director of Cornell Feline Health Center in Ithaca, New York.
Kornreich recommends checking for a nutrition label with the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), a non-profit organization that evaluates what is in pet food and feed. Since cats are carnivores, meat is a key component of a balanced diet that emphasizes grain-rich.
“If meat and meat by-products are among the first ingredients listed, this indicates that the food probably has enough animal ingredients to provide essential amino acids and fatty acids,” says Kornreich. But cats cannot live on meat alone.
“Cats need nutrients like calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D from other ingredients,” said Shelly Ferris, DVM, regional director of Petco Veterinary Services.
She recommends looking for cat food with “natural whole ingredients such as fruit, vegetables and high-quality carbohydrates such as rice, oats or potatoes”.
What to Avoid, Julien from Paz Veterinary deals with ingredients that are more about mood and marketing than nutrition. He points to colorings that make food appear more attractive to humans (cats perceive colors differently), and to “exotic” ingredients such as kangaroo and lentils, which are “less well studied in cats”.
Types of cat food to consider
The corridor with cat food is huge and the shopping opportunities don’t end at the cash register. Subscription services and farm-to-bowl companies now deliver cat food straight to your home.
Dry cat food versus wet or canned cat food
Dry cat food is a popular choice, partly because it is more convenient than wet cat food. “Dry food is inexpensive, odorless and can be stored for long periods of time without spoiling,” says Ferris.
However, Julien notes that dry cat food can also contain more carbohydrates than wet cat food. Just as you think about all of the sourdough you have eaten while baking at home, you should also consider the amount of carbohydrates your cat is eating. “An active cat can absolutely use carbohydrates as a source of energy,” says Julien, adding that “a sedentary cat – also known as an indoor cat – stores extra carbohydrates as fat.”
Wet food takes a little more effort – it needs to be refrigerated once the can or bag is opened – and can be more expensive. However, it can also help cats add more water to their diet (and the smell can make a fussy cat eat). “Canned or wet food contains more protein and fat, which makes it a great option for cats of different lifestyles and ages,” says Kornreich.
Kitten, Adult or Senior?
Cats are broadly divided into three age groups when it comes to cat food – kittens, adults, and seniors.
While you may have a good idea of what bucket your cat will fall into, Julien recommends consulting your veterinarian regarding your cat’s specific nutritional needs in conjunction with age, and an expert on what needs or limitations your cat may have possibly has. “Kittens need more energy-producing nutrients – like protein and fats – and more vitamins, minerals and water than adult cats,” says Ferris. “Formulas made specifically for kittens deliver these nutrients in the right amounts.”
Most cats switch from kittens to adult foods on their first birthday. Ferris tells pet owners that it’s important to gradually work with new foods over a week so as not to upset your feline friend’s stomach. Adult cat foods are likely to be lower in calories than kitten foods, while senior foods (which are usually useful for cats around the age of ten) are likely to be geared towards your cat’s specific health – they may have problems chewing or decreased smell and taste.
Highly rated cat food for shopping
1. Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Probiotic Chicken and Rice Formula
Chicken and rice are the first two ingredients in this dry food, which is designed for healthy fur and digestion. Dried egg product, the sixth ingredient, is said to help reduce cat allergens.
2. Purina Cat Chow Complete dry cat food
Chicken by-product meal and ground yellow corn are the first two parts by weight of this 25-vitamin and mineral dry food mix.
3. Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care
A dry cat food for cats who are at least 12 months old, chicken, chicken by-product meal, and corn kernels are the first three ingredients.
4. Hill’s Prescription Diet k / d Kidney Care Chicken & Vegetable Stew
This wet food is designed to help your cat’s kidneys stay healthy. Chicken pieces are mixed in a stew with carrots, spinach and pea protein.
5. PetGuard Organic Chicken and Vegetable Formula
Organic chicken, water, organic turkey, and organic brown rice are the first four ingredients in this canned wet food. It’s also packed with fruits and vegetables: organic carrots, cranberries, and apples.
6. Fancy Feast sauce lovers Ocean Whitefish & Tuna Feast
Hydration is just as important for cats as it is for humans. The first ingredient for this wet food is fish broth, followed by white fish and wheat gluten. It can be used as a meal or as a topping for dry food.
7. Hill’s Science Diet Adult Indoor Chicken Recipe
Chicken is the first ingredient in this dry food, which is aimed at adult cats between the ages of one and six. Dried beet pulp provides fiber to keep your feline friend regular.
8. Friskies Classic Pate poultry platter
Paté is a smooth food that is soft and has an even texture. Friskies Tabs Turkey and poultry by-products are the first two ingredients in this wet food that provides more water for your cat’s nutrition.
9. Royal Canin Kitten Food
Small slices of chicken by-products, chicken, chicken liver, and pork liver are made for kittens under 12 months of age. “It’s important to find food that your kitten will enjoy,” notes Ferris. “Kitten food is highly digestible so that they do not suffer from discomfort as their digestive system is weaker.”
10. Open Farm Homestead Turkey Rustic Mix
The farm-to-bowl movement includes companies like Open Farm that combine human-grade ground turkey with cranberries and dandelion greens for this wet food. It can be used as a topper for dry food or as a dinner.
11. Smalls Fresh Beef Minced Meat
Part of the new trend in consumer subscription services, Smalls allows you to take a quiz to determine the best wet and dry food (or a combination of both) for your feline friend. The online cat food company will then send this wet food mix, such as lean ground beef (the first ingredient), beef liver, peas with green beans, and beef heart, straight to your home.
CORRECTION (Sep 10, 2020, 1:00 p.m. ET): In a previous version of this article, the Purina Pro Plan LiveClear Cat Food link was incorrectly stated about potential allergies. It helps relieve allergies in general, not just skin-related allergies.
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