One of the most important decisions to make when it comes to owning a cat is picking the right cat food. After all, the right diet can be key to keeping your kitty happy and healthy! But it can be downright intimidating with the amount of options there are on the market.
Let’s break down some of the most important factors in picking your kitty’s new diet!
Cats are, by nature, carnivorous - meaning they rely on animal products to survive. Our favourite felines have a long history as top-notch hunters that consume prey that contain high levels of protein and fat, with minimal carbohydrates.
The right kitty diet should generally follow these proportions, although house cats enjoy the benefits of an even more nutritional diet as many cat food options contain vitamins, minerals, fatty acids and amino acids that keep your cat happy and healthy.
Types of Cat Food
When it comes to commercial cat food, there can be many available options - the main types of cat food include kibble, air-dried, freeze dried, wet and raw/fresh.
The biggest difference between these products tends to be the level of water content and palatability but it can also affect how digestible a particular diet is or how much you would need to feed your cat every day.
One of the most common types of cat diets, dry food generally contains the least amount of water - around 6-10%.
These diets are generally created by mixing up various nutritional ingredients and drying them into bite-sized kibble. In many cases, these pellets are then coated with flavour enhancers like animal fat to make them more appetising.
-Does not dry out, allow for free feeding if necessary
- May be less digestible depending on quality of ingredients
- Can be purchased in bulk and stored for longer periods
Tasty dry food options like Wellness’s Digestive Health Recipe Cat Food balance out the pros and cons by being specially formulated for improved digestion. They also provide additional nutritional support and can definitely be a good meal option for any cat.
Air Dried and Freeze Dried
To understand these types, let's first talk about the process. To process freeze dried food, frozen raw ingredients are put in a vacuum, which causes water to change from ice directly into vapour. This results the moisture getting as low as 3%, which is why most freeze dried foods need to be rehydrated before serving. The Honest Kitchen's Dehydrated Grain Free Prowl Chicken cat food is a great example of a freeze-dried food that is a complete nutritional package for your cat.
To create air dried food, the raw ingredients are placed in a drying chamber. Air is circulated continuously until the moisture reaches around 14%. Absolute Holistic has a great range of air-dried food, like this air dried chicken and hoki flavored one.
-Great for preserving nutrients
-Can be expensive
-Stable shelf life
-May not be hydrating enough for cats
-Convenient to serve and store
-Kitties can be impatient while rehydrating freeze dried
One note about hydration. Some cats don't have a big thirst drive so keeping them hydrated can be difficult if they don't like to drink water. You can combat this by adding broth or cat safe pet milk to their diets to rehydrate. Check out our range of pet milk here!
With a moisture level of at least 75%, canned cat food is a great way to provide additional hydration for your cat. It is also generally an expensive feline diet option, but the best wet cat food can be extra tasty for picky cats.
It is, however, important to note that some brands of wet/canned food can be nutritionally incomplete. As such, it’s important to read the labels carefully and adjust accordingly by either selecting a wet cat food option that is well-rounded and complete or giving your cat additional supplements and nutrition boosters!
-High moisture level, can be a good source of water
-Costs more than dry food
-Longest shelf life unopened
-May be nutritionally incomplete, depending on brand
-Unused portions can be refrigerated to maintain quality
- Highly palatable
Home made meals for your cat have a great possibility of being the best for them nutritionally, but if not done properly can be missing vital ingredients and nutrients necessary for them to thrive.
Some benefits of creating meals at home include being able to suit the meal to your cats individual preferences, eliminating fillers while providing tons of vitamins and minerals and ensuring they get the hydration they need.
On the downside, it can be time consuming to prepare meals, the shelf life is short, it could be more expensive than other options and there is the possibility of malnutrition if your diet can't meed their daily needs.
We advise if you are considering this, work closely with your vet or pet nutritionist to find the right diet.
A great alternative to homemade food is raw frozen food, which preserves nutrients better than most other options, is well balanced, and is convenient for serving - just thaw and serve. Some aspects to consider is it can be expensive, must be kept frozen and not every owner likes handling raw meat. If you're interested in learning more about frozen raw food, check out our collection from The Grateful Pet
Important Factors to Consider
Now that you understand the different types of cat food on the market, it’s important to look at the factors that should affect which particular diet you select. These factors generally relate to your cat’s specific needs and preferences.
#1 Your Cat’s Age
Cats at different life stages require different proportions of nutrition. Hence, to ensure your cat is getting the right diet, make sure to select an appropriate diet option for their age.
Keep your kitten on specially formulated kitten food like Schesir’s Kitten Tuna Wet Cat Food until they are at least one year old, unless a veterinarian informs you otherwise. The best kitten food is formulated to boost your kitten’s growth and development!
From the ages of one to seven, your cat should continue consuming adult cat diets.
Your cat’s daily activity level should also affect the diet you select for them. If your cat is active, healthy and doesn’t tend to put on weight easily, a typical adult formula diet will work perfectly. However, indoor cats that may not have as much physical activity may require a special indoor cat food that contains less calories such as Wellness’ RawRev Indoor Turkey Freeze Dried Cat Food.
#3 Pre-existing Health Issues
If your cat suffers from any specific health conditions, you should consider selecting one of the many cat diet formulas that address any number of health conditions your cat may have. Make sure you understand what exactly is causing your cat’s health issues before investing in a special diet! If in doubt, check with a licensed veterinarian. Some popular special formula diets include weight-loss formula options, options for cats with sensitive stomachs or food allergies, urinary tract health formulas or hairball formulas. Check out our range of Wellness products for a wide selection of the best cat food for specific health conditions.
If you don’t already read the labels on your cat’s food, it’s a good time to start familiarising yourself with the ingredient list. This can help you distinguish between good and bad diet options for your cat. Keep in mind that the first three to five ingredients listed in an ingredient list is the most important as it makes up the largest percentage of the food itself.
Key things to look out for include:
Should contain real protein/meat as the first or second ingredient
Beneficial ingredients like rice, eggs, natural fat sources, probiotics, fiber, added vitamins and minerals, yucca, fruits and vegetables, locally sourced meats and ingredients
Human-grade ingredients are always a plus
Avoid ingredients that contain “by-products”
Avoid food that contains artificial flavors, colors or preservatives
Avoid corn, wheat and other inexpensive fillers
Outside of the nutritional benefits of your feline’s diet, it’s also important to consider your budget. As mentioned earlier, different types of food can come at different price points - kibble tends to be much cheaper than other options.
Food with higher quality ingredients and natural preservatives also tend to be more costly. Make sure to find a balance between good quality and good pricing like Sparkles’ Wet Cat Food.
In short, when it comes to purchasing food for your feline, buy the best quality food made with real ingredients that suit your cat's needs and falls within your budget. Most of all, make sure to observe your cat whenever you switch to a new diet to ensure their needs are being sufficiently met!
Tammi is an avid writer, but especially loves learning and writing about animals! She spends her free time visiting cat cafes, playing video games and having plenty of cuddle time with her pup.