There is an enormous range of cat food available and it can be very confusing to the new pet owner deciding what to feed. There's opinion on every type. I was recently at a veterinarian's office and the nurse there was scrunching her nose up at tinned cat food, saying it's nothing more than "junk food" for cats. While I don't claim to be an expert on feline nutrition, I did disagree with her. There are benefits to feeding canned, such as increasing water consumption (some cats just aren't big drinkers), but it can all get a bit technical going into the reasons behind different feeding regimes and that is for another article. I personally am a fan of feeding a variety of types of food.
- Canned because they like it and it gets water into them (I should note I have one cat who I have NEVER seen drink water).
- Dry because it's better for their teeth than canned, and I can leave it out for them all day to graze on.
- Raw, they sometimes get chopped up chunks of human grade steak which help with teeth and jaw health.
I also worry that cats may become a bit fussy if they are fed one type of food all the time and there may be a need to switch diets at a later stage in their life, such as if they need to go on a prescription diet or their chosen brand is discontinued.
Pet food labels can tell you a lot. Cheaper brands can bulk up the food with "fillers", these are usually corn or wheat and are of little nutritional benefit to cats. The main ingredient is always listed first, followed by the next main ingredient etc. You want to be looking for food which lists meat first or as close to first as possible.
This is usually bought from the supermarket. Cans come in a variety of sizes from the standard 400g to teeny little super premium "gourmet" ones. Canned food is typically made up of 70-80% water.
Dry food (or kibble) is very popular among cat owners. It is made up of around 10% water. Cheaper brands, in particular, can contain too many fillers. These are made up of carbohydrates which cats don't need in large quantities. Think about the make-up of your wild cat's typical prey (say a mouse), it would not be high in carbs, but would be predominantly made up of water, protein, fat and a few carbs. So, always read the ingredients panel carefully to make sure that the brand you are selecting is not high in fillers, and the leading ingredient is meat and not corn or wheat.
Dry food can be purchased from the supermarket, pet store or your veterinarian. Supermarket brands tend to be of poorer quality than brands available from your veterinarian or pet store.
Prescription diets may be necessary if your cat develops a medical condition such as kidney disease, urinary tract disorders, food allergies, weight loss. Prescription diets come in dry and canned but you can only purchase them from your veterinarian.
Raw diets can be purchased commercially or made at home. Many people are happy to purchase commercial raw foods for their cats, I'm personally not one of them, but maybe I'm too fussy. If you are making your cat's own food, it is VITAL you spend a huge amount of time researching the nutritional requirements of cats. If the diet is not nutritionally sound it can have a devastating effect on your cat. This is why I choose not to make my own food for the cats, but just "supplement" their diet with beef chunks. But if you know what you are doing, it's a great option. You are guaranteeing that your cat is eating the best quality ingredients and know exactly what is going into their food.
What I feed my cats:
I have one 1 year old and one 7 years old, neither have any health problems which need to be managed with diet nor are they overweight or underweight. I feed canned morning and night, dry is left out all the time and once or twice a week they are given cheap cuts of beef (usually when I'm making something for us, I will buy a little bit more to give to the cats).
Remember that fresh, clean water should be left out for your cat at all times.