Everything You Need to Know About Cat Food

On the surface, cat food may seem straightforward: simply buy food and give it to your cat. Simple, right?

The truth is that it can be a little more complicated. You have to figure out how much to feed your cat based on its breed and weight, what the healthiest option is (and every brand claims to be healthy), and how often to feed them.

This article covers the basics and if we’ve done our job well it will answer your most pressing questions.

How Much Food Should I Feed My Cat?

One of the first questions many pet owners have is how much to feed a cat. According to the ASPCA, it depends on the weight, age, and type of cat you have. It’ll also depend on their overall health. For example, a cat with specific health issues (e.g. diabetes) may have different nutritional needs than other cats.

Cute Overweight Cat

When you buy cat food it will have a label on it that tells you how much should be fed to a cat. For example, it may say that a cat that weighs five pounds needs 1/4 – 1/3 cup per day while a cat that weighs 15 pounds needs 1/2 – 3/4 cup per day.

While these are good guides to go by, remember that the posted amount must be adjusted based on your cat’s energy level. If your cat is about average as far as activity goes then you can follow this amount. If they’re less active they’ll need about 10% less food and if they’re very active they may need 40% more.

The weather can also play a role in how much you feed your cat. During hot months, your cat won’t need as much and during cooler months they’ll need more.

How Often to Feed a Cat

One of the biggest mistakes people make is to give their cats unlimited access to food. In the wild, cats are hunters. They don’t have unlimited food available to them. The goal is to give them a few small meals per day. If you’re at home a lot, ideally they’d be fed 3 – 4 very small meals per day.

Finding the Healthiest Cat Food

Cats are obligate carnivores and need animal protein to survive. As a result, the first thing to know about the healthiest cat food is that it should have quality protein sources in it. In particular, cats require a chemical called taurine which can only be found in meat, so it’s crucial they are given enough of this each day to thrive.

There are many different categories of cat food including:

Some pet owners choose to buy grain-free cat food because they believe there are benefits to removing grain from their cat’s diet. Studies have shown that grain-free cat food can improve the digestive system of cats and there may be other benefits too.

Don˙t Forget, Cats are Carnivors

High fiber cat food is likely not the healthiest cat food for your cat if it is already relatively healthy. It’s generally recommended by vets for cats who are constipated or have other digestive issues. Giving high fiber cat food to a cat that doesn’t need it can actually make their health worse.

High protein cat food can have a lot of benefits including:

  • Lowering a cat’s risk of getting diabetes.
  • Reducing a cat’s chance of becoming obese.
  • It’s a natural diet.

Remember that cats prefer protein so high protein can food is likely to be a choice they’ll love. However, cats with certain issues – namely kidney disease – should not be fed a high protein diet. Talk to your vet if you’re not sure what the healthiest cat food is for your cat.

Cat Food Brands

There are literally thousands of cat food brands on the market. While you may eventually find a cat food brand you really enjoy, the key is not to pay so much attention to the brand as it is to pay attention to the ingredient list. Look especially at the first five ingredients and skip it if any of these are listed:

  • Animal or plant byproducts
  • Corn proteins including corn gluten meal and corn meal
  • Soy proteins including soy flour, soybean meal, and soy meal
  • Grains like wheat and white rice
  • Rye
  • Potatoes – with the exception of sweet potatoes
  • Tapioca
  • Artificial colors, flavors, or colorants

You should also take a look at the type of protein used. You want healthy, high-protein options like fish, poultry, or turkey. Avoid generic meats or meat byproducts.

Blue Buffalo Brand

Some of the top-selling natural cat food brands include:

The Age Old Question: Dry Food vs Wet Food

There are pros and cons to both dry food and wet food but many cat owners feel strongly about one over the other. We’ll give you both sides of the story so you can make your own decision.

Dry Food for CatsWhat We Like About Dry Food:

  • It’s convenient for both feeding and storing.
  • It can be left out without worrying that it’ll spoil.
  • Several days of dry food can be left out at a time for pet owners going out of town.
  • It’s generally more affordable to use dry food.
  • Dry cat food can also double as a training treat.

What We Don’t Like About Dry Food:

    • Many cats don’t get enough water and eating exclusively dry food can reduce their water even further.
    • Dry food doesn’t have the same high-quality proteins you’ll find in wet food.
    • Some cats simply don’t like it.

Wet Food for CatsWhat We like About Wet Food:

    • Wet food can be a good source of moisture for cats that don’t get enough water.
    • Older cats are more likely to eat wet food because it has a richer scent and softer texture.
    • Wet food is often palatable to sick cats in a way that dry food isn’t.

What We Don’t Like About Wet Food:

    • It can be much messier than dry food.
    • After being opened, wet food has virtually no shelf life.
    • It’s more expensive than dry food.
    • Wet food generally must be bought in smaller amounts than dry food.

Don’t See a Food You Like? Consider Homemade Cat Food

There are many reasons people decide to make homemade cat food. They may want to save money, they may have a cat with health issues and want to assure it gets exactly the nutrition it needs, or they may simply like the process.

To start with, you must understand what cats need to eat:

Proteins are Needed in Cat Diet

  • High-quality protein from fish or meat
  • Amino acids – especially arginine and taurine (these are found in meat / fish)
  • Fatty acids
  • Minerals
  • Vitamins
  • Water

There are a few human ingredients that won’t agree with your cat. Be sure to avoid:

  • Onions
  • Raw egg whites
  • Grapes
  • Garlic
  • Raisins
  • Tomatoes

Be sure you’re not serving your cat raw meat or fish. According to the FDA, raw meat isn’t any safer for your cat than it is for you. You still run the risk of e. coli, salmonella, and a number of other potential deadly issues. The general rule of thumb is that if you wouldn’t eat it you shouldn’t feed it to your cat.

Homemade Cat Food Recipes

Try these homemade cat food recipes to give your cat a special treat or as their daily sustenance.

 

Quick and Easy Sardine Dinner

Ingredients:

  • Can of sardines (in oil)
  • 2 T cooked carrot
  • 1/3 cup oatmeal

Sardines are Favorite Cats Choice of Fish

Directions:

  1. Mash carrots.
  2. Cook oatmeal.
  3. Mix all ingredients.
  4. Serve!

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to three days.

Chicken and Veggies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of boiled or baked chicken
  • 1/4 cup cooked broccoli
  • 1/4 cup cooked carrots
  • 2 T chicken broth

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into a food processor.
  2. Puree until it resembles cat food.
  3. Add more broth if necessary.
  4. Wait for the food to get to room temperature before serving.

Beef and Rice Brunch

Cute Chef Cat

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup cooked ground beef
  • 1/2 cup cooked brown rice
  • 6 T alfalfa sprouts
  • 3/4 cup cottage cheese

Directions:

  1. Wait for all ingredients to cool.
  2. Mix together everything in a medium-sized bowl.
  3. Serve!

Any leftovers can be refrigerated for up to three days.

Salad for Cats

Plenty of cats like greens. You may have seen outdoor cats eating leaves or grass. However, indoor cats rarely if ever have access to greens. This cat salad shouldn’t be a part of your cat’s daily diet but it can make a great treat that’s sure to leave them purring in appreciation.

Cats Loves Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup zucchini
  • 1/2 alfalfa sprouts
  • 1/8 cup stock (chicken or fish is fine)
  • 1/8 t minced catnip

Directions:

  1. Grate the zucchini.
  2. Chop the alfalfa sprouts.
  3. Combined everything but the catnip in a bowl.
  4. Toss it.
  5. Sprinkle catnip on top for garnish.

Leftovers can be refrigerated and stored for up to three days.

Last update on 2017-09-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API