It sure can be overwhelming – you’re standing in the middle of the pet store, surrounded by every kind of cat food imaginable. Should you get the wet or dry food? Chicken or beef?
And would your darling cat prefer morsels in gravy, or Pâté? While there are a lot of options, you just need keep a few key things in mind when selecting a cat food.
What to look for
In a word, meat! Your cat is an obligate carnivore, meaning that she is a strict meat-eater who gets all the nutrients she needs from her prey.
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According to the Feline Nutrition Foundation, cats lack the ability to make many critical vitamins and amino acids inside their body and must get them from their diet. Cats cannot be vegetarians – they must have meat to survive.
Check the Ingredients
A recent study from Reviews.com consulted 97 veterinary professionals and concluded that the most important factor in choosing a cat food is whether meat is the first ingredient.
Cats thrive on a diet that is high in animal-based protein and contains as few carbohydrates and starches as possible. What you’re looking for, according to Laurie Goldstein from The Cat Site, is food that mimics your cat’s natural diet as closely as possible.
That means reading a lot of ingredients lists, but don’t worry – as this video explains, the top three or four ingredients are the most important:
What About By-Products?
Many commercial pet foods include ingredients like “by-products” or “by-product meal.” We pet owners are left wondering – is any of this actually good nutrition for our cats?
The answer is…yes and no. As Dr. Hofve explains, it’s hard to tell just what is included in these by-products, so the nutritional value could be very different depending on just which off-cuts are included.
Dr. Coates adds that cats in the wild consume almost all of their prey, so off-cuts can be considered a very natural part of the feline diet. The best bet is to make sure that the main part of your cat’s diet is a named meat like “chicken” or “turkey.”
Wet, Dry, or Raw
Wet or raw foods are definitely the most healthful for your feline friend. While dry food is often cheaper, it has a lot of disadvantages for your cat. Dry foods are more likely to include low-quality ingredients, have higher amounts of carbohydrates, and are processed at very high temperatures, resulting in less nutritious food.
Worst of all, according to Dr. Pierson, cats who don’t get enough moisture in their diet are prone to life-threatening urinary disorders. If you’re going to choose a dry food, look for one that includes lots of high-quality proteins, and be sure to provide your cat with plenty of fresh water.
Canned or wet food is an excellent choice. It has fewer carbs and a much higher moisture rate than dry food. Since it doesn’t need to be cooked down into pellets, it’s also much less processed than dry food.
Raw foods are somewhat controversial, but they have a number of advantages for your cat. Raw food closely mimics your cat’s natural diet and is highly digestible. Like wet food, raw food also has a high moisture content.
The 10 Best Cat Foods in 2016
10. Rad Cat Raw
With tons of meat and minimal processing, raw diets like Rad Cat’s are an excellent choice for your cat’s health. Raw food is ideal for cats who need to lose weight, and the lack of preservatives makes it the best pick for felines who suffer from allergies. Switching to a raw food diet can also improve your cat’s coat, skin, and teeth, and even reduce odors from the litter box!
9. Stella & Chewy’s Cat Food
Offers raw food with a convenient twist. Available in either freeze-dried morsels or frozen bites, Stella & Chewy’s formulas offer the nutritional benefits of raw food in an easy-to-use form. Just scoop out the amount you need and either thaw or add water to prepare.
8. ZiwiPeak Cat Food
Proudly advertising its New Zealand sourced ingredients, Ziwi Peak offers excellent nutrition for your feline with some exotic flavors. Liz from the Natural Cat Care blog points out that Ziwi Peak’s products are sourced only from fully traceable farms and manufactured in company-owned facilities in New Zealand.
Ziwi Peak offers high-protein dry food as well as canned, so if you’re going to feed dry food, this brand is worth considering.
7. Tiki Cat
Protein-packed recipes offer excellent nutrition, and are that rare kind of cat food that actually smells delicious to human noses, too! A great choice for finicky cats who need to be tempted with the best.
6. Natural Balance Cat Food
Produces several different lines of excellent food, but the high-protein Wild Pursuit varieties stand out. The ingredients lists are short and protein-packed – just what you’d want to see in a high-quality cat food.
5. Hound & Gatos
Provides straightforward recipes with both conventional proteins (chicken, beef) and some less common meats (lamb, rabbit). The unusual single-source meat varieties are an excellent choice for cats who need alternative protein sources due to allergies.
4. FirstMate Pet Foods
Is one of only a few manufacturers who owns and operates their own production plant. While they have a limited range of flavors (chicken, turkey, tuna, and salmon), all are grain-free and meaty. The single-protein offerings make this another solid choice for cats with food sensitivities.
3. Orijen Cat Food
Is one of the very best choices if you’re going to offer your cat dry food. Their chicken and turkey flavor has meat or eggs listed as their first 15 ingredients, adding up to one of the highest-protein dry foods on the market. Orijen also produces 100% freeze-dried meat treats to spoil your feline.
2. Wild Calling Cat Food
Knows how to do the basics, like their excellent grain-free chicken recipe…but has your cat ever tried lamb, buffalo, or alligator? If you’re looking for a balanced diet with flavors that will keep your cat running for her breakfast, give this one a try.
1. Weruva Cat Food
Offers a fantastic range of flavors from chicken to seafood, so this is a great choice if you have a finicky cat who turns her nose up on last week’s favorite food. Some varieties do include chunks of vegetables, so it’s worth checking the ingredients and sticking to those that focus on meat.
Which Cat Food Will You Buy?
Finding it hard to choose just one of these great foods? Try a few! As C. D. Watson from Petful points out, most cats enjoy a varied diet. Your cat will get a kick out of having something new to try, and variety means that they’ll be sure to get all the vitamins and minerals they need.
Best of all, if you need to change your cat’s diet down the line due to health needs or if a food becomes unavailable, it will be much easier to get your cat to accept a new food if they are already used to variety in their diet.