The Healthiest Cat Food on the Market

By Dr. R.J. Peters

healthiest cat foodTo briefly answer the question as to which is the healthiest cat food, we must look at the quality of foods available, with an educated consideration for individual feline requirements, which can vary quite widely due to health and living conditions. An indoor-only senior cat with diabetes has different nutritional needs than a new kitten, for example.

In general, cats need certain nutrients, such as animal-source protein, along with a variety of vitamins and minerals, which all commercial cat foods are required to contain. The difference between brands, then, lies in the quality of those ingredients.

Start with the ingredient list.

The first five on the list constitute the greatest volume of what’s in the product. If you see grains listed first, such as corn, wheat or soy, the food will be harder for the cat to digest, and you will see a lot of vomiting and possibly large amounts of waste in the litter box. If the food is “just going right through them,” they are not getting sufficient nourishment, and they will eat more, and more often.

Cats have a short and very efficient digestive tract, making it possible to digest protein dense food efficiently. Adding fillers such as grains slows the process and denies the animal the full benefit of the nutrients in the dry food. It’s also worthwhile to note that many cats do not chew dry food, and instead, swallow it whole, further lowering any food value.

Canned or dry?

Because grains are used to help maintain the shape of the kibbles, less grains are needed for canned food, if any. Many people feel this is better for their cats. In many ways, it is. Less grain, better digestibility. However, some canned foods may be lower in overall protein if they contain too much water. It’s natural for a cat to obtain much of its moisture from eating fresh prey, but if the percentage is too high, say, over 80 percent as is found in some canned foods, they may not get what they need.

Another consideration is how the dry food was made. Typically, meat and meat byproducts, along with a certain amount of other “mystery ingredients,” are cooked at very high heat. This ruptures fat cells, making it necessary to prevent rancidity by adding chemical preservatives. These should be listed on the package, too, and may include BHA, BHT, potassium sorbate, calcium sorbate, propylene glycol or sorbic acid. If you can’t pronounce it, it’s probably not a natural ingredient. Once cooked, the “mash” is forced through small openings at high pressure to form the kibble shapes. Since all that heat and pressure can destroy most of the nutrients, vitamins and minerals are usually added in during the final stages of production to be sure legal requirements are met… not necessarily reaching the cat’s full nutritional requirements.

Consult with your veterinarian.

Cats are not all alike and their needs can be as unique as humans’ needs are. Dry food is much more convenient and generally less costly than canned, but they are not created equal. Ask your vet about your cat’s specific dietary needs and get some recommendations. Note: If your vet keeps an inventory of a specific brand, try to find out if they are just recommending that food because they have to in order to make a commission, or if your cat really will benefit.

Be sure the protein is from animal sources

Plant based proteins lack the amino acids that cats require to be healthy, often resulting in liver, heart and kidney disease that will shorten the cat’s life substantially. Remember, cats are carnivores, not “cornivores.” If you have the time and are willing, you may wish to shift your cat to a completely raw diet. But that’s another topic that requires more space to discuss.

One other requirement is to find something palatable to the cat!

Depending on the age of the cat, personal taste preferences could be well ingrained, making changes to a new brand difficult. If a kitten is given only one brand and flavor of food during growth, the adult cat it becomes will usually have one preference, for the only food it has ever known. Varying your cat’s diet can help them adapt to new foods when necessary. However, if your cat develops any allergies, providing an unfamiliar protein source can help prevent allergic reactions. In those cases, find foods from uncommon sources, such as duck, rabbit, turkey and other meats not usually incorporated in pet food.

In the end, just remember: The cheaper the food, the lower the quality of ingredients found in it, and you can count on your cat having one or more health problems during its shortened life. If you want your cat to enjoy a long and healthy life as your special companion, be sure to provide the best food you can find.

For more information about cats and their feeding requirements, visit   http://www.theproblemcat.com/catfood.html

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