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Choosing Cat Food


Cat_Food.jpgSelecting the proper cat food for your cat is one of the more important decisions you will make. But heading into the store unprepared can be an overwhelming experience. There are more colors, brands and options than you could ever hope to comprehend, but with a few easy to follow tips you can make your cat food shopping experience a much more enjoyable one.

Look for the Best Ingredients

The first thing to look for when narrowing down your choices are bags that say they are complete and balanced, or natural balance, premium natural, or any combination of the words. These often have been approved by the AAFCO and that is the next thing you will look for. Any bags that do not have a statement on them from the AAFCO should be ignored. Here is a sample AAFCO statement:

"OwnerBrand Cat Food is formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Cat Food Nutrient Profile for all life stages."

Be sure you pick bags that specify a stage of life your cat is in such as kitten or senior, or say all life stages. Also, ignore store brands, generics, or brands that you don't recognize. Though they are cheap, these cat foods are often full of unhealthy fillers that can cause any number of problems such as diabetes or urinary tract infections. Stick to popular brands or those you have experience with. Now that your selection is narrowed down, flip the bags over and look at the ingredients. The first ingredient should always be an animal protein, not a by product, and preferably not a meal. If the very first ingredient is not Chicken, Beef, Liver, or Fish move on. Next, move to the Guaranteed Analysis. This is often a second little section near or beneath the ingredients. The Dry weight or crude protein should be at least 26%. Also be sure the contact information for the company is visible.

You also want to avoid any food that have a corn product listed in the first five ingredients. Though some manufacturers may claim this is a healthy staple of the feline diet, it is linked to allergies and gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea. It is also a good idea to avoid foods high in wheats and grains. High-carb foods have been link to problems such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Cats are not meant to process plants and therefore eat more of the food to get the nutrition they need. 

Cat Food Example

Below is a sample of the ingredients and guaranteed analysis from a package of Orijen Natural Cat food:

Ingredients: Fresh boneless chicken*, chicken meal, fresh boneless salmon*, turkey meal, fresh chicken liver*, herring meal, russet potato, chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols), sweet potato, peas, fresh boneless walleye*, fresh whole eggs*, fresh boneless turkey*, fresh boneless lake whitefish*, sun-cured alfalfa, pea fiber, fresh boneless herring*, organic kelp, pumpkin, chicory root, carrots, spinach, turnip greens, apples, cranberries, blueberries, licorice root, angelica root, fenugreek, marigold flowers, sweet fennel, peppermint leaf, chamomile, dandelion, summer savory, rosemary, vitamin A, vitamin D3, vitamin E, niacin, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, d-calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine, folic acid, biotin, vitamin B12, zinc proteinate, iron proteinate, manganese proteinate, copper proteinate, selenium yeast, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Enterococcus faecium.

Crude protein (min.) 42 %
Crude fat (min.) 20 %
Crude fiber (max.) 2.5 %
Moisture (max.) 10 %
Calcium (min./max.) 1.5 % / 1.7 %
Phosphorus (min./max.) 1.2 % / 1.4 %
Ash (max.)7%
Omega-6 (min.) 3.5 %
Omega-3 (min.) 1.2 %
             DHA (min.) 0.7 %
             EPA (min.) 0.4 %
             AA (min.) 0.16 %
Taurine (min.) 0.5 %
Magnesium (max.) 0.09 %
pH 5

Notice that the first ingredient is chicken and the crude protein is over 26%. Avoid foods with additives such as ethoxyquin, BHA, and BHT at all costs. Be sure to feed your cat according to the instructions and give treats sparingly.
 When choosing a canned cat food these same things should be kept in mind. Canned cat food is excellent for older cats, cats who have recently been ill, and cats who have digestive problems. Most Veterinarians recommend a dry cat food be served to younger cats as the kibble helps to keep teeth cleaner. Dry foods also contain less fat than wet food and fewer additives. They also usually contain a larger amount of dietary fiber.

Vegetarian and Vegan Diets

If you are considering changing your cats diet to a vegetarian or vegan diet, please reconsider and discuss this option carefully with your Vet. Remember that felines are obligate (strict) carnivores. Their bodies are made to digest meat, not plants. They need animal-based proteins in order to meet their nutritional needs. They lack the metabolic pathways necessary to utilize plant proteins effectively. Plant based proteins are not bioavailable for your cat. By missing out on important nutrients such as Vitamin A, Taurine, and some fatty acids you are opening your cat up to all sorts of future medical problems. Taurine is the most important amino acid found in meat and a deficiency can lead to blindness, heart failure and other problems.

Raw Food Diet

Those considering a raw food diet should have no problems. It is recommended that you make the food yourself at home as there is an increased risk of bacteria if you buy it at the store and you can better control what things are added to your food if you make it yourself. Investigate recipes for making your food at home and avoid any recipe that adds things like onion or garlic, salt, any dairy, grapes or raisins. It is important to research what goes in to making a balanced cat food for your cat so that all their nutritional needs are met.



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