Cats are notoriously picky eaters, and that can be stressful for cat owners trying to find the right cat food. What makes the search more confusing is that cats don’t eat like we do. Humans and dogs eat both plants and meat, but cats are decidedly carnivorous and need a large amount of meat in their diets. Finding a food with the right mix of meat and other ingredients is the key to finding the healthiest cat food brand.
There are two kinds of cat food to consider. Dry food is your classic kibble, able to be stored for a long time after the bag has been opened. Dry food is usually slightly cheaper than the other kind: wet food. Wet food is stored in cans and, as its name suggests, is a wet mixture. This means that after it’s been opened it needs to be refrigerated and goes bad quickly. Wet food usually has higher protein content compared to dry food, and it provides your cat with some hydration since it doesn’t have to be stored dry.
Another thing to note when shopping for the healthiest cat food is your budget. Cat foods run from dirt-cheap to extremely expensive. While it’s probably not the best choice for your cat’s health to buy the cheapest food you can find, it’s also not necessary to spend a fortune on food to keep your cat healthy. You should be able to comfortably afford your cat’s food, and there are healthy options at nearly all price points.
The ingredients that go into your cat’s food are important in determining whether it’s healthy or not. The first thing you should look for is a statement on the label that says the food meets the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) profiles for a complete and balanced diet. This statement means the food can serve as your cat’s only food and meet their nutritional needs. It differentiates pet food from treats and other supplements that don’t provide nutritional value.
You should also look at the ingredients list to ensure that they’re high-quality. Not all mysterious ingredients need to be avoided. For example, meat meal is a rendered and ground form of meat with reduced water and fat content, meaning the ingredient actually contains more protein and minerals by weight than whole meat. Animal by-products are what is left after human-consumable meat is removed from an animal, meaning parts like organs, bones and blood but excluding hooves, hair, horns and teeth. The inclusion of these ingredients high on the ingredient list indicates that the food has higher protein content and good quality ingredients compared to foods that use fillers or grain products.
Next you should look at the government-required guaranteed analysis, which lists out minimums of nutrients like crude protein and crude fat and maximums of crude fiber that the pet food contains. These are kind of like the pet food equivalent of a nutrition facts label, and often look like one. For cats, you’ll want to aim for foods that are higher in protein and lower in fiber, since cats are carnivores.
Finally, you need to take into account your cat’s age, what breed they are and any dietary restrictions they may have. You can consult your veterinarian about when your cat should switch to adult cat food and also any allergies or other dietary restrictions your cat may have. You also have to listen to your cat! There’s no point in buying a food again if it gives your cat trouble, so try a comparable food until you find something that both you and your cat can agree on.
Considering these factors, some of the best cat food brands are Canada Fresh for wet food and Acana Regionals for dry food. These brands are high in protein, use high-quality ingredients, and aren’t the most expensive for their quality level. But there are tons of healthy options for you to choose from. Simply considering the factors above can give you the tools to find quality cat food at a variety of price levels. But getting the right food isn’t the only challenge in owning a cat, so you’ll need these 30 life hacks that every cat owner should know.