Food and nutrition play a big part in an adult cat’s health. This article covers how to read a cat food label, whether you should have dry or wet food and how to maintain a healthy weight and that slim waist line.
Reading A Cat Food Label
Learning what the label on the outside of your cat food can or bag means can help you understand what is in the food and how it is different from other brands. The first thing you might notice is the list of ingredients. It’s not so important that the list looks like what you would want in your food. Your diet requirements are not the same as your cat’s. The best quality food has meat as the primary ingredient (cats are carnivores). A recognizable meat source (beef, liver, salmon) in the top three listed items is ideal. Also, make sure the chosen diet matches the appropriate life stage of your cat.
Next, look to see that the food is complete and balanced. If the label states “for intermittent or supplemental use,” it is not meant to be a long term diet. It is also important to ensure the diet has been approved by the AAFCO (Association of American Feed Control Officials). This government organization is charged with ensuring complete and balanced nutrition of pet diets.
Also look to see who makes the food. Well known names are usually, but not always, higher quality. Companies like Purina, Science Diet and Eukanuba among others do the majority of nutrition research and tend to produce higher quality foods.
Wet or Dry? That is the Question
The real answer is that there is no right answer. There are pros and cons to both and it depends on your cat’s health and your life style.
Benefits to Wet Food
Wet food has a higher water content (about 75%) and is generally higher in protein because it does not need the carbohydrate to create a pellet. Wet diets can be necessary for certain health conditions like cats prone to urinary issues. Another group of cats with a medical condition that benefit from a wet diet are diabetics. With fewer carbohydrates there is less sugar in wet food.
Doesn’t Dry Food Help with Dental Health?
Research has been unable to show hard and fast proof that dry food decreases dental disease. Genetics and hygiene are the two contributing factors to the development of dental disease. Some veterinarians worry that the higher carbohydrate content and starch may contribute to plaque.
Convenience and Obesity
Lots of cat owners like dry food because it is convenient. You can put it down and leave it down all day and not worry about it going bad. The problem is that dry food is also more calorie dense than wet food, but not as filling. Therefore, cats that munch on dry food all day tend to exceed their calorie needs and gain weight. Obesity in cats is a significant health risk. Diseases like Diabetes, Constipation and Lower Urinary Tract disease are all more common in overweight cats.
If you do choose to feed dry food we suggest feeding measured meals so you know exactly how much your cat is eating.
For more information on the basics of feline nutrition, read “Feeding Your Cat: The Basics of Feline Nutrition” from catinfo.org.