- Canned food is essential for cats. Cats obtain much of their moisture from food. Consuming canned food helps cats get the fluids necessary for internal organs to function properly, which can help to prevent serious health problems, such as diabetes and kidney failure, from occurring in the future. Dry food absorbs moisture in order to be digested, which dehydrates the cat’s system.
- Look for protein. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their digestive system is designed to primarily accommodate meat and other proteins. Therefore, the primary (first five) ingredients in the food that they eat should include fowl, beef or fish. Some cats do best on a properly balanced raw diet (see the Nature’s Variety link below for a balanced raw diet available in pet stores). It is necessary to do research to make sure that a raw diet contains all of the necessary vitamins, etc. Do not just feed your cat raw meat from the grocery store and assume that it will be a balanced diet, as this may eventually cause serious health problems.
- Choose foods without artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. Some cats have allergies to dyes and preservatives, and they can also be hard on your cat’s internal organs. Premium foods do not contain these ingredients, but many supermarket brands do.
- Read the labels! Given the absence of rigorous comparison testing, a food’s nutritional data is the best guide to quality. If cost, availability, or your cat’s preferences are an issue, find foods high in protein and low in carbohydrates that are in your price range that your cat likes. Make sure your cat’s diet includes canned food and there is always fresh water available.
- Pet food safety remains a concern. Past recalls of cat foods because of tainted wheat and rice glutens have spotlighted some major issues regarding pet foods and their ingredients. All of the foods listed in the Consumer Search Best Reviewed section have been deemed to be safe, but this is an ongoing issue. It is a good idea to keep a watchful eye on pet foods for the foreseeable future. The FDA and ASPCA websites are excellent resources.
- Re-evaluate food labels periodically. Even if you’ve found a brand or two that you like, consider re-evaluating the label every few months. Formulas can change, and pet food manufacturers aren’t required to change the name of the product or otherwise declare that the formula has been altered.
Websites for research: