The Best Pet Food for Cats and Kittens, According to a Vet
Whether you recently brought home a tiny kitten or have been a longtime cat parent, feeding your kitty a balanced and nutritional diet is vital. Not only does it impact your four-legged friend’s growth, but it also prevents cats from developing severe health issues like cancer, obesity, and diabetes. But just like dog food, there are sooo many options to choose from, making cat food shopping confusing and stressful. But it really doesn’t have to be!
“Just look for an AAFCO seal of approval on the bag, and you’re good to go,” says Dr. Carly Fox, Staff Doctor at NYC’s Animal Medical Center. For the unacquainted, an AAFCO certificate (Association of American Feed Control Officials) is an assurance that the food is nutritionally complete and balanced. “You’ll also want to do a little Google research and check to see if the company has conducted a feeding trial and analyzed cat reactions to that food, as well as check to see if they publish papers on nutrition,” she adds.
How to Shop for Cat Food
“Unlike dogs, cats are obligate carnivores,” warns Dr. Fox. “They really shouldn’t be on a vegan or vegetarian diet at all.” In order for your cat to live its best life, you’ll want to make sure that whatever diet you pick packs an adequate amount of protein to support its growth and developmental needs. “The way a cat’s GI tract functions is that it can only process and break down food that is meat,” says Dr. Fox. So you definitely don’t want to be giving your cat any plant-based food products.
Cats also require taurine, an essential amino acid that has important functions in the heart and brain, including supporting nerve growth. Since taurine can be found only in animal sources like chicken, beef, or seafood, that’s another reason your cat needs a primarily carnivorous diet.
Choosing Wet, Dry, or Fresh Food
Unlike dogs, which prefer both wet and dry foods, cats mostly prefer wet food. According to Dr. Fox, it helps keep them hydrated, since cats are prone to developing kidney issues. “I also advise patients to add some tuna water or chicken stock to their cat’s water bowls to ensure they drink enough water throughout the day,” she adds.
You can offer a rotation of wet and dry food, but make sure you introduce anything new gradually to cat’s diet. “Most people also leave out dry food throughout the day but serve wet food during meal times, and I generally don’t recommend this practice since your cat can quickly develop obesity issues,” says Dr. Fox. “Unlike dogs, cats are more agile and have easier access to things in the kitchen, so establishing healthy eating habits and setting rules is crucial.”
As for fresh food, Dr. Fox says it’s a huge no-no. Cats need very specific ingredients that support their healthy growth, and that’s not easily found in table food or food directly from the refrigerator. “You don’t need to give your cat human-grade food; cat-grade food is just fine,” she says. Unlike dog food subscription services, there are hardly any AAFCO-approved cat food subscriptions, so Dr. Fox recommends you stick with commercially available brands that are specifically vetted for cats.
Shopping for Cat vs. Kitten Food
“The only difference between adult cat food and kitten food is the difference between calcium and protein in these diets,” says Dr. Fox. “But having said that, it’s important to pick food that is meant for your cat’s correct life stage.” For instance, kitten food has nutrients and calcium that help with growth and provide the required proteins, whereas adult cat food is formulated to support joint growth and kidney health and tends to be more protein heavy.
Best Cat Food Brands
Best Kitten Food Brands
This post was originally published on Kitchn. Read it there: The Best Pet Food for Cats and Kittens, According to a Vet