You know that look. With a sidelong glance and flick of his tail, your cat sniffs his food, turns up his nose and saunters away. You wonder why your cat is so fussy, but then the thoughts turn to worry. Is he sick or on the wrong diet? Choosing the right cat food can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, local pet experts share how to choose the correct food for your cat, what to look for regarding ingredients and nutrients as well as debunk common myths.
Content of cat food choices
There are many philosophies surrounding different types of cat food, but it’s important to understand the biology of your cat so you know how to feed it throughout it’s entire life, explains Vickie Pagan, co-owner of Nature’s Pet Market. “Cats are obligated to eat meat because their bodies don’t produce essential amino acids as other carnivores do,” she says, adding a cat’s body is not set up to process a lot of dry matter. In the wild, cats get moisture from their kill, and the only time they need water is if they can’t get it from their prey, she explains.
In the late 1950s and 1960s, Pagan says the creation of dry cat food revealed more about how cats process food. “Many cats started dying, and researchers realized it was because of a taurine deficiency, an amino acid found in meat,” she explains.
When picking the right cat food, pet owners should look for key terms on the packaging, according to Dr. Nile McGhie, a veterinarian with Bear Creek Animal Clinic in Ashland. “You want to see the phrase ‘complete and balanced’ on the package, because it means the product is intended to be the cat’s entire diet, without needing any other foods,” she says. For a pet food product to meet the standards of “complete and balanced,” she explains it must either meet the nutritional standards set by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (through formulation or chemical analysis) or it must be proven adequate by going through a feeding test. A food labeled “complete and balanced for all life stages” is appropriate for kittens as well as adult cats, she adds.
Finicky Felines a Myth?
Often, pet parents believe their cat is “fussy” about their food and what they will eat. “About 80% of cats are picky, and the remainder will eat anything,” according to Pagan.
McGhie agrees. “I think this is true and false,” she says. A cat can be fussy, but pickiness may also be a symptom of another problem, she explains. “If your cat has been a good eater and is suddenly picky, that’s concerning, and you should go to the vet.”
A Proper Diet
“If your cat has been a good eater and is suddenly picky, that’s concerning, and you should go to the vet.” – Dr. Nile McGhie, a veterinarian with Bear Creek Animal Clinic in Ashland.
Cat owners also sometimes struggle with how much to feed their cat. Aim for a golf ball-sized portion per serving of wet or dry food, says McGhie. Additionally, she advises going slowly if you’re changing foods in order to avoid stomach problems. “You can also use toys where the cat has to work for their food, which helps reduce stress eating.”
Feeding our cats is one of the ways we bond with them, says McGhie. She advises pet parents to talk to a vet or other expert for guidance if they have questions on what to feed their cat and how often.
Pagan agrees. “When you understand the tenets of proper nutrition and how to choose the right food for your cat, you can help support them through a healthy diet.”