Cat food is sold everywhere and the brands are screaming how well they are for cats. How will you find out what to feed a cat in the sea of cat food? In this article we will try to make it more clear to you what to feed a cat.
Cats are solely carnivores and get all their nutrients out of the proteins and fats of an animal. In nature they tend to hunt for rodent prey and birds. They eat these prey whole.
A cat living solely inside does not have access to these same meaty animals and so they need some well balanced diet that you can provide to them.
What is a well balanced diet?
The commercial foods that are made for cats that have a statement of the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) on them. But if you happen to live outside the US, you might never come across this type of label.
So to know what to feed a cat, you should learn about what is important for a cat and learn to read the ingredient labels on the different cat food products on offer.
Prey vs Cat Food
In nature, cats would eat their prey whole. In other words, bones, fur, flesh, muscles, joints, arms, legs, well just EVERYTHING.
The whole prey gives them all they need. Not just the meat, but also the other parts of the prey’s body gives a cat important nutrients.
Cat food doesn’t have everything that a whole mouse or bird has, so they have to add the nutrients to the food.
When a cat captures a prey to consume, they kill it and then eat it immediately, so it doesn’t start to rot and gets infected with bacteria.
The meat that is used to create cat food is usually stored in freezers or in fridges and will contain surface bacteria. So for cat food production they have to heat the meat up (bake, fry, cook etc) to kill the bacteria and stop the meat from going off.
Well Balanced Diet Creation
So the creation of well balanced cat food is as follows. First of all they need a certain type of meat. Most often you will find that fish or chicken or turkey is used. Fish is cheapest with chicken and turkey following up. You can also find beef related meat, but this is generally seen as more expensive cat food.
They grind the meat of either whole. They might pluck feathers of the chicken or turkey, but otherwise they will grind the chicken with bones and eyes and everything whole. This is than called meat by-product meal. In case of chicken this will be called chicken by-product meal. The meal is than heated and made to a safe pudding.
A lot of products than list up the so called fillers. There has been a lot of discussion about whether the fillers are good for a cat or not. The fillers are there for one reason: they bind the several ingredients together. That’s also why there is so much of it. It makes kibble kibble and wet food with gravy, gravy-like. This is often things like grains or potatoes.
The binding products are not per se bad for a cat as long as they are in there in okay amounts. It gives the kibble also the crunch that a cat loves.
Apart from the binding property, these added fillers are also very cheap. It makes food sellable to us end-users and it makes them a good profit. So it is a good idea to take a close look at the ingredients label and see what has more of what listed.
After the meat and the fillers there might be some sugars listed.
Sugars are added for two reasons:
- binding glue element
You will have to consider how much of this ingredient is listed and whether it will be healthy for a cat or not. Sugars end up in -sirup or -kose, such as sukrose, glukose etc.
Than follows a list of added vitamins, minerals and an important ingredient named Taurine. Taurine comes natural in their prey, but is non-existing in the meat by-products that we produce. Vitamins and minerals are either added as is “vitamin x” or come in the form of fish oil and liver.
Now that we got everything in the right amounts in our big bucket, we stir everything together and make kibble or portions of gravy wet cat food.
Read The Ingredients Label
When reading product ingredient labels there is one thing to consider. The first ingredient listed is the ingredient that there is most of within the product. Then comes the second ingredient with the next highest amount and so on. So the first ingredient listed should be a meat type or meat product. Vitamins and minerals are usually a bit more down the list, because you don’t need as much of them (microns) per feeding.
So, to choose what to feed a cat, it is best to read the ingredient label of every cat food product that is out there. To summarise, this are the most important things for a cat in the right order:
- Meat product
- Oils, livers, taste
- Vitamins, Taurine and Minerals
We are currently using Pro Plan for our adult cat food (dry food) and we use Royal Canin for our kittens (both wet and dry food).
What is your experience with cat food? What do you feed your cats with? Please share in the comments below.