Our cats are our beloved family members, so it’s our responsibility to ensure that they live a long, healthy, and happy life. Making sure we make the right nutritional choices for them is an essential part of being a 21st-century' pet parent.
What nutrition do cats need?
The two most important components of the diet for a healthy cat are protein and fat.
Cats belong to a category of mammals known as 'obligate carnivores'. This means they fulfill their nutritional needs exclusively from animal tissues. (Dogs, on the other hand, are omnivores, which means that, basically, they can eat and digest almost anything).
Although most cat foods contain are around 25-30% protein, levels between 30%-45% are considered to be optimal, and kitten food should contain even higher levels.
Whatever cat food you choose, ensure that it contains taurine, an amino acid that cats require to keep their hearts healthy. It is also needed to maintain their eyesight and for good digestion. Although all mammals synthesize taurine within their bodies, cats are not able to create enough, so it has to be added to their diet in the form of animal products. It is especially vital for kitten health.
Fat is another essential as it provides energy, protects organs, and supports hormone production. It's also vital to keep your cat's coat and skin shiny and healthy. Ensure your cat has a diet containing a minimum of 15-20% healthy fats.
As obligate carnivores, cats do not have any need for carbohydrates to supply part of their nutritional needs. To avoid your cat becoming overweight and experiencing all the health issues that come with obesity, it’s important to keep this in mind when selecting your cat food.
What are the issues with regular cat food?
Regular, mass-produced cat food brands may contain meat that has been treated with antibiotics, hormones, and other undesirable additives. Just as we are becoming more conscious of the detrimental effects of additives on human health, so we should consider how they affect our pets, especially when consumed day in and day out, over years.
When buying wet cat food, look at the label and notice how the main ingredient is water, and assess the actual amount of protein it contains. When buying dry cat food, check the label to see the percentage of grain products compared to that of animal protein
Any foods made with meat that has been treated with hormones or antibiotics should be avoided. Look out for chemical preservatives on the ingredients list, as well as meat by-products, sweeteners (yes!), rendered fats, artificial colors and flavors.
What is ‘organic’ cat food?
Once you've decided that your cat deserves a more natural diet, based on organic ingredients, it's good to understand exactly what the labeling means. There are three main varieties of ‘natural foods’ available:
100% Organic: every ingredient is 100% guaranteed to come from organic sources
Organic: at least 95% of the ingredients must be certified as organic
Made with Organic Ingredients: will contain a minimum of 70% certified organic ingredients
Is natural and organic cat food more expensive?
The short answer is – probably- in the short term. This is due to better quality ingredients, often from more sustainable and traceable sources, and fewer cheap ‘fillers’.
However, the flipside of this is that, as natural food is more nutritionally dense, your cat will require smaller portions, while remaining healthy and well-fed. So the food will last longer. Also, over the long term, optimum nutrition will help prevent health problems and therefore reduce the cost of trips to the vet, expensive medications, and even surgeries.
Where can I buy natural cat food?
These days, it’s available in pet stores, veterinarian clinics, and online. It's more cost-effective to buy larger quantities, but if you don't want to be hauling large sacks, or worry about running out, cat food delivery is provided by most manufacturers and online suppliers, for example, Chewy or PetSmart.
What are the best organic brands?
There are plenty of natural and organic brands to choose from, and each one has pluses and minuses. It’s best to start by buying a small quantity of each to see which one your cat responds to best, and of course to find one which suits your budget.
Taste of the Wild, Castor and Pollux, Blue Buffalo, Halo Holistic, and many more can all provide a more balanced and nutritionally appropriate diet, so search online and start to experiment. Your cat will be perfectly able to let you know which one they love the most!