With so many cat foods on the market, it can be a little confusing to find the one that's best for your picky feline. Fortunately, with a little detective work and some trial and error, you'll be able to determine which type of food is most nutritious and, more importantly, delicious. Depending on your cat's age and taste preferences, you can find a high-quality food that will meet all of your cat's nutritional needs. Keep reading to find out what factors to consider when choosing the perfect food for your cat.
Where's the Beef?
Unlike people, cats can't be vegetarians – they are obligate carnivores, meaning that they need a food that contains an animal protein as the primary ingredient. This is because meat-based proteins have all of the important nutrients that your kitty needs to stay healthy. These nutrients include important amino acids like taurine (which helps prevent eye and heart disease) and essential fatty acids like arachidonic acid (which helps promote skin, coat and kidney health), according to the ASPCA. Meats also contain fats needed for healthy skin and a shiny coat. This is why the best cat foods contain meat, poultry, fish or eggs as the primary ingredients.
Up to Standard
The Association of American Feed Control Officials has performed scientific food trials with cats to establish guidelines for pet food manufacturers. These guidelines ensure that the food will meet all of your cat's minimal nutritional needs. Check the food's label to ensure that it contains a statement from AAFCO saying the food is "complete and balanced." This means the food contains all the ingredients your cat needs to stay healthy.
Some cats enjoy crunching on dry food while others enjoy the soft or chewy texture of canned food. Each has its own advantages. For instance, dry food helps keep your cat's teeth clean when he crunches on the nuggets, while wet food provides him with plenty of moisture due to the high water content.
Whichever type of food you choose will depend on your cat's preference and your lifestyle. You can leave dry food out during the day when you aren't around, but canned food shouldn't stay out for more than two hours at a time to prevent spoilage. Some foods, like contain a combination of crunchy kibble and tender, meaty shreds, providing two textures to satisfy your cat's cravings.
Passing the Taste Test
One of the most important factors in choosing the best food for your cat is the taste. Basically, if your cat won't eat the food that you give to him, it negates the food's nutritional value and he could become very ill in just a few days. Therefore, choose a food that your cat really likes. Try offering him a few types of food, both wet and dry in texture. He'll eat the most of whichever one he likes best, so you can continue to feed him that particular food.
Not All Ages are Created Equally
Cats have different nutritional needs for different life stages. Many types of cat foods are classified by life stage, so pick one that is designed to meet your particular feline's needs. Food labels should list the age range that is appropriate for your cat.
The Skinny on Feeding
When changing your kitty's diet, always do so over a period of seven to 10 days to avoid any tummy upset that could occur during the transition. Also, remember to feed any food to your cat according to the feeding guidelines on the packaging so your kitty won't overeat. Keep in mind that if your kitty has specific dietary needs, like a food allergy, consult with your vet before choosing a food appropriate for him.