I volunteer in a cat shelter, and one of the more common enquiries from visitors is for a cat food advisor.
A lot of people adopting cats from a shelter have never owned a cat before. Or maybe they want to know if there is anything they should be aware of.
Either way, it’s always a hot topic. We all want the best for our pets. Seeing as we are responsible for feeding them, it’s a huge responsibility.
I’m always happy to discuss all the foods on the market. A cat’s particular dietary needs, and anything else that is currently working or not.
At the cat shelter we always keep a record of what food brands we are feeding the cats. This helps new owners keep the same foods.
I understand how difficult it is for a new owner however. There are just so many different brands and types on the market now. But it doesn’t need to be complicated.
Some cats require a grain free diet. I covered the best grain free cat food in this article. If you know you need to feed your cat grain free food, take a look at that article.
Other than that, let’s take a look at some of the other diets and foods that are available for different cats.
Pet Food Advice
You will have seen foods on the shelf at your local pet store marketed towards cats at different ages. Typically they are separated into three different age groups:
Cats do require a different balance of nutrition at different stages in their lives. This isn’t just a marketing ploy, there is some science behind this, as we will look at a little closer:
Kittens require protein rich diets and good healthy fats. Protein and fats are important in developing and growing up strong.
Bones, teeth, and muscles all require this nutrition to turn the calories into energy as they lead their hectic and energetic lives.
As a cat enters adulthood they need to draw back on the calorie intake a little. Cats slow down a lot and stop burning as many calories, so their weight needs to become a concern.
Being obese, or overweight can be very detrimental to a cat’s health. It leads to diabetes, heart problems, and arthritis problems.
Adult cat require a boost in calories if they are pregnant, or if they are malnourished for any reason. But outside of those reasons, they should never be overfed.
As cats reach their senior years they really take a step back on the calorie burning. Often spending up to 20 hours a day sleeping and lounging around the house.
This means they need way less calorie intake to maintain a healthy and normal weight. Senior foods are lower in fat, and higher in nutrition.
Making the food easier to digest. Older cats can have stomach upset from rich foods, so a brand of senior food is much more stable.
Get to Know the Labels and Meanings
Cat’s nutritional requirements are not that complicated. A good brand will usually deliver all the necessary ingredients, and with you keeping an eye on the portion size you should have it covered.
You should still become knowledgeable about what you are feeding your cat. This means taking a look at the food labels. The basic ingredients should be listed first, and these are:
This should come from a meat source, such as poultry, beef, fish etc. Not just the generic ‘meat’ term, so you know the source and quality of the protein.
This is an important amino acid that supports the development of a cat. Helping to regulate the minerals and water in a cat’s body.
Minerals, Vitamins, Fatty Acids and Enzymes
These are all essential ingredients. You should cast your eye over the label to make sure they are all listed. All important ingredients and vital to a cat’s healthy development.
It’s normal to have preservatives in cat food. They help to keep the food fresh and adds to the shelf life. Ingredients such as wheat, rice, corn, colorings, and added flavors are all preservatives.
More expensive brands will have less preservatives. Some are surplus to requirements, but they bulk out the food and keep the prices down. So it’s a good consumer choice.
Ingredients to Avoid in Cat Food
- Meat and bone meal.
- Animal digest.
- Corn meal.
- High levels of grain filler.
- Chemicals such as BHT and BHA.
Providing a Varied and Interesting Diet
Keeping the same staple food for years on end isn’t advisable, regardless of how good it is for your cat. You wouldn’t like to eat the same meals every day, right?
Dry food is the easy option. You can leave it out in their bowls and it will not ruin throughout the day. Allowing a cat to come and go and graze on the food as they wish.
Canned food is wet food. Meaning it cannot be left out, but this is usually not as issue as cats eat this stuff up pretty quick.
Wet food is a good source of water too. Cats don’t drink a lot, so this is a great way to keep them hydrated.
Providing a mix of dry and wet food forms a good balance. I tend to give my cat’s wet food every 3-4 days in rotation.
The Importance of Meat in a Cat’s Diet
Cats need protein from meat. They cannot live without it, in the wild it makes up a large percentage of their diet.
There are some raw food brands on the market. It’s a more expensive option, but does replicate more of the kind of diet a cat would have in the wild.
But one way of looking at this is that you don’t have a wild cat. You have a domesticated cat, therefore it’s always made more sense to me to feed them a domesticated diet.
Can Cats Eat Dog Food?
If you have both cats and dogs in your home, they are going to eat some of each other’s food from time to time. I know that certainly happens in my home.
You don’t need to be overly concerned about your cat eating some dog food. You cannot feed your cat dog food on a regular basis without supplementing the diet with a lot of cat food however.
A cat’s required nutritional intake is a lot different to that of a dogs. A cat needs a lot more protein, and a more varied balance of minerals and vitamins.
Taurine as mentioned earlier, is not added to dog food. This is an essential amino acid for cats. Dogs naturally produce this mineral, and hence do not need it to be supplemented.
If a cat does eat dog solely dog food. They will become deficient in certain minerals and nutrients. Leading to complex medical issues. So never allow this to happen.
Can Cats Eat Human Food?
Co-existing with cats in our home usually means any food left out is at risk of being nibbled on. Cats are notoriously fussy, and will rarely eat human food. Especially if it makes them ill.
But it does happen. Some foods can taste great to a cat, but make them very ill. Even worse, some foods can be fatal or cause some long-term issues.
Some of the more common foods around the house that a cat might find access to and eat that can potentially be harmful include:
We have all given our cats a little tuna on occasion. It’s fine in small doses, but it’s not recommended on a regular basis. It can lead to malnutrition as it doesn’t include a good balance of nutrients.
Chives, Garlic and Onions
These are dangerous to cats in any form. They damage cat’s red blood cells, leading to more complex and serious health issues.
Contrary to popular belief, you should not put cow’s milk out for your cat. It’s true that they enjoy it, but cats cannot digest dairy products properly.
Raisins and Grapes
These cause kidney failure, avoid leaving them out at all costs.
Alcohol is very dangerous to cats, even in small doses.
Caffeine in any form, be it coffee, tea, or cola is very dangerous. In large quantities it can prove fatal.
Like a lot of pets, eating chocolate can prove fatal. It contains toxins that are harmful so never leave chocolate out where your kitty will find it.
This is not a complete list. But some of the more likely foods a cat will come across around the house.
If you think your cat has eaten something that could prove dangerous to their health always consult a veterinarian right away.