Unlike dogs, cats don’t have a digestive system which can cope with a very wide range of food; instead for optimal health they need a well-balanced diet with particular kinds of food in the right quantities. However, knowing this is the case doesn’t make choosing what to feed your cat from amongst the many types of both wet and dry food available on store shelves any easier; instead, you need to know what ingredients to look for so the choices are narrowed down.
The information included here refers to the diet of an average age cat in good health and what to check for to make sure you purchase high quality cat food.. If your pet is very young, senior, pregnant, or has a serious health condition it’s best to ask a vet for advice.
Essential elements cats need in their diet
This should be the first item listed on the list of ingredients, and be at least 25% of the total advised serving. If possible choose food which names the protein directly, e.g. chicken, not just ’meat product’. Cats get essential amino acids from protein sources, so focus on making meat, chicken and other poultry, fish and eggs the largest part of their daily food intake.
To stay healthy your cat’s diet should have between 20 – 24 % of fat in each serving. (A mouse is made up of around 56% protein and 24% fat – so no wonder cats love to eat them!) Fat is needed for energy and as a source of vital omega-3 fatty acids which cats need to extract the most possible nutrition from their food, build strong cells, and maintain a healthy metabolism. Overweight cats won’t shed pounds on a low-fat diet, so it’s not a good idea to reduce the fat in their food intake as a weight loss method.
Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements
A good quality prepared cat food will contain the essential nutrients your cat needs, including taurine (essential for good vision and heart health), fat-soluble vitamins including A, D, and E, and C and B complex vitamins which are water-soluble.
As cats do not need carbs to survive they struggle to digest them, so you must seriously limit how many they have a day. Dry cat food does tend to use grains as fillers and binders, and you may find your cat suffers stomach cramp as a result. Ideally look for low or no-grain dry food, or brands which use carbs like potato instead of grains, or switch to wet food and feed limited amounts of high-quality protein rich dry food.
Your pet cat may not drink a lot of fresh water from a bowl because they are biologically programmed to derive much of their water needs from food, which is why wet food is better for them. Of course it should always be available though, and preferably from a source without fluoride. You should always keep in mind their need to have food which will help meet their water needs, and preferably avoid feeding your cat on a 100% dry food diet.