What is High Quality Cat Food?
The quality of cat food depends on the ingredients that have been used to prepare the food. All cat food brands try to project an image of a premium pet food brand but many of them are not. This is because some of them use low-quality ingredients and cheap fillers in their products. They are able to offer them at lower prices because the low-grade ingredients they use are byproducts of animals and much cheaper than high-quality ingredients. Low-cost foods will use unnamed sources of proteins like grains and meat. They will not mention the name of the specific meat source like chicken meat or fish meat but will just mention ‘animal meat.’ They also add unnecessarily high amounts of carbohydrates in their formula.
A high quality cat food will contain all the ingredients that are considered essential for the cats. They will be rich in proteins, taurine and have low carbohydrate content and will be under 10% moisture. The specific sources of the meat and other nutrients should be mentioned first in the ingredients.
Why Feed High Quality Cat Food to Your Cats?
There are many benefits to providing high quality cat food to your pet.
Promotes Good Health and Skin
Certain ingredients in your cat’s food can help them maintain good health. Amino acids are an important part of food that are required for a cat’s healthy body. The amino acids help their body perform several functions like maintaining blood sugar, heart muscle function and promoting good eyesight. They also help boost muscle and tissue strength. Amino acids are not produced naturally in a cat’s body and are a required part of their diet. Feeding them high-quality cat foods that use fish and other quality meats as ingredients will help them keep in good health. This is because quality meats are rich in these essential amino acids.
Cats also need proteins, fatty acids, zinc, copper and vitamins in their diet to promote healthy skin. Their skin helps them protect against the environment and infectious diseases. Feeding them a high-quality food rich in these nutrients will help keep their skin in good shape.
Weight gain is a problem with many cat breeds. Cat foods that have a lot of carbohydrates and lower quality fats can cause your pet to gain weight. Cats only need a limited amount of fats and carbohydrates. High-quality cat foods will keep your cat’s weight in control by using a formula that is rich in proteins and low in carbs and fats.
Feeding your cats high-quality cat food will let them stay active for longer. This is because high-quality cat food takes longer for the food to be digested and absorbed into their body, giving them more energy for longer. Low-quality cat foods will use low-grade ingredients that will be digested very quickly, leaving your cats hungry sooner, and without as much energy.
How to Identify High Quality Cat Food?
The Best Protein Sources
High-quality cat foods should have at least 30% protein. Anything less is considered low quality. They should also name the source of protein in the ingredients. The source of protein in cat food can be many types of meat, vegetables or grains. Since cats are carnivores the main source of protein should be animal based.
High-quality cat foods will mention the specific source of meat like chicken meat, fish meat, beef meat, lamb meat, salmon or turkey meat. Some high-quality brands will also mention the specific organ like the chicken heart or chicken liver. If the food does not name the specific animal meat or most of the food’s protein is from grains or vegetables then it is considered low-quality.
Cat food should not be made from meat by-products. Meat byproducts use leftover sources of slaughtered animals like lungs, spleen, brain, bone, and intestines. These contain an inferior grade of proteins that are not recommended for cats. Always buy cat food that mentions rich sources of protein.
Any of the following types of protein will be an indication that it’s a high quality cat food:
- Turkey (turkey meal)
- Chicken (chicken meal, chicken liver)
- Lamb (deboned lamb)
- Duck (duck meal)
- Fish (deboned salmon, salmon meal, fish meal, Whitefish, herring meal, menhaden fish meal)
- Pork (pork meal)
Here are the types of protein to avoid:
- Poultry (or Chicken) By-Product Meal
- Meat and Bone Meal
- Meat By-Products
- Animal Digest
The food should also be low in carbohydrates. Cats’ liver cannot digest carbs well and their body cannot utilize carbs as efficiently as proteins. Most low-quality cat foods will use a lot of carbohydrates because they are cheaper. This is the main reason why lower quality cat food brands sell their products at lower prices. So look for good quality cat food that will have a small amount of carbohydrates in them.
This does not mean that you won’t find vegetables in cat food. You will often find a few specific vegetables that will provide good amounts of fiber and vitamins for your cat that can’t be found in the proteins. You just want to make sure that any vegetables used are not just used to add bulk to the food. We have a list of the best vegetables you’ll find in higher quality cat foods:
- Pumpkin (Winter Squash)
- Green Beans
- Sweet Potatoes (only in small quantities because it is very high in carbohydrates)
Taurine is Essential
Another important ingredient in a cat’s food is taurine. It is an amino acid that is required by cats. Taurine nourishes the brain, eyes, and also helps with heart muscle function. Foods that do not have taurine should be avoided. A taurine deficiency can cause heart problems in cats and all high-quality cat foods will have taurine as an ingredient.
Taurine in cat food comes mostly from the animal proteins in cat food. Taurine is the reason why higher quality meats are important. A lower quality by-product meat will not be as rich of a source as a better quality meat will be. This is also why cat food with vegetables as the main ingredients are not good, because they will lack the taurine that your cat will need.
Check for Artificial Ingredients
Avoid cat foods that have any harmful ingredients present in them. Some low-cost brands will add artificial preservatives like BHT, BHA and sodium nitrite in their pet food products. These are efficient at preserving the food but are known to cause cancer. Foods containing these preservatives should not be fed to your cats.
To make the food taste and look good, some brands may also add artificial flavors like corn syrup, artificial dyes or colors. These have no nutritional value and can cause health problems. Good quality cat foods will not contain any of these ingredients while low-quality food can have a few to all of them on their list.
Check for Common Allergens
Like humans and other mammals, cats can be allergic to certain ingredients. The most common food allergy cats have is from protein sources like grains, beef, chicken, eggs, fish and dairy. Signs of your cat having food allergies include vomiting, loss of appetite, itchy skin, hair loss or diarrhea.
It can be difficult to identify which ingredient is causing your cat to have an allergic reaction but you can try switching your cat food. Different brands use different formulas to make cat food. You can try a cat food that uses a different meat source than your existing brand.
There are also some brands that make hypoallergenic cat foods. These are specially created for cats with food allergies. Hypoallergenic foods are those that have already broken down the protein so that the cat’s body can directly absorb the protein. If hypoallergenic foods are not available then you buy cat food that uses a less commonly used protein source like duck.
After you’ve eliminated the protein source as the allergen, make a note of common food allergens in the different foods you’ve tried. Look for similar ingredients used across the different foods and try to see if there is one used across the different foods that could be the cause. Then look for a food that does not contain this ingredient. The only other option would be to make your own cat food.
Wet Cat Food or Dry Cat Food for My Cat?
One important question that arises when deciding about cat food is whether to give wet or dry food. The opinion on this is divided among vets as well as animal experts.
Dry cat food is considered better for your cat’s dental hygiene and is also more convenient for pet owners to feed to their cats. On the other hand, wet food helps regulate the kidneys and the urinary tract by providing more moisture. They also help keep the cats hydrated.
The important thing to know is there is no scientific evidence to suggest that dry cat food is better than wet cat food or vice versa. So, you can buy either of them. Both will provide the same nutrition and calories. The only difference is that the moisture content of wet canned food is higher than the moisture content of dry cat food.
In nature cats will consume most of their liquids from eating meat because meat is about 75% water. This is why it is not uncommon for some cats eating dry food to become dehydrated and have urinary problems. A simple fix for this is to pour a small amount of water in their food bowl when you feed them, or clam juice if they don’t like the water with their food. The extra water or clam juice should give them most of the hydration they’re missing.
What are Fillers in Cat Food?
Fillers are ingredients that are added to the pet food that add bulk to them. They do not contain anything of real nutritional value but are widely used to reduce the cost of manufacturing cat food. Fillers allow the manufacturer to offer their cat food at lower prices than high-quality cat foods. Grains, carbohydrates and generic fats are common fillers used in cat food. While small amounts of fats are required in your cat’s diet for healthy reproductive function and healthy skin, high amounts of fats can cause obesity.
Low-cost cat foods will also substitute muscle meat protein with fillers like wheat gluten and grains. In addition to not providing the necessary nutrients to your cat’s body, these ingredients can also eventually cause kidney failure. This is because fillers like wheat gluten have nitrogen elements in them. Some dry cat food brands can have up to 50 percent grains. Always buy cat foods that contain very few fillers and have a high meat protein content.
Common lower grade fillers used to bulk up food include:
- Corn (Any mention of Corn)
- Wheat (Wheat Flour)
- Wheat Middlings
- Soybean Meal
- Animal Fat (look for specific named fats, not generic Animal Fat)