Searching for all the answers to cat nutrition? Well, you’re in luck! Fluffy Kitty is doing the complete run down on cat nutrition for you so you don’t have to waste time searching for all the answers all in different places. Hence the snazzy title, “Ultimate Guide to Cat Nutrition”, we are going to do our best to provide you with the answers to the most frequently asked questions about cat nutrition.
To optimize the information you will find here on this post, we have broken it down into the following sections:
CAT NUTRITION: INTRODUCTION
Believe it or not, the number one factor that determines your cat’s health and well-being is your cat’s diet. What they eat, when, and how often, are very important questions that should not be taken lightly.
The brands of cat food you can easily get for a cheap price should raise a red flag.
When you look at a bag of cat food that sits on the shelves in your local Wal-Mart, it may come as a surprise but – you are being manipulated without even knowing it. Those brands market to the customer ($human$) and not the consumer (cat). When you think of it simply, you’re being tricked into handing over you hard-earned dollars.
Meow Mix (for example) is (in our humble opinion) one of the cheapest brands of cat food, and for a good reason. It’s completely comprised of a diet that your cat does not require. Carbohydrates? No thank you. Corn (as the first two ingredients) should also raise a giant red flag. Meat by-product should definitely not be third ingredient; as this tells you exactly what is not in your cat’s food: Everything that a cat needs!
With a low quality food such as Meow Mix, you can only expect that the meat by-product is low in quality in itself (probably 90% chicken feet). Read more about our investigation into meat by-products and if they are bad for your cat in our article here.
A CAT’S NATURAL DIET
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they require a biologically-appropriate diet: a diet that satisfies all of their nutritional needs.
This is why many cats develop health issues after years (months, or even weeks) spent eating only dry, low-quality, massively-produced cat food like Meow Mix.
Luckily, there are healthy cat food options and brands that truly care about your cats well-being available out there, you just have to sort through all the rubbish first! Otherwise, feeding your cat a bio-appropriate cat food diet can also be provided by you – yes you! Learn how to make your own homemade cat food.
It is extremely important to make smart choices regarding the diet you choose for your cat. Our fluffy friends can’t make the conscious effort to choose between healthy or not-healthy food options like humans can. The choice you make for them will indeed have a lasting impact on their overall health and well-being. No pressure! 😉
Many cat parents often use a mixture of feeding methods. For example, we realize the importance of providing our Yoda with a balanced and nutritious diet. Dry kibble often lacks in providing a quality raw diet, in addition to providing sufficient water/moisture. Unless you choose the healthiest brands of cat food (which often comes at a price), you can be sure your cat isn’t getting all of the necessary nutritional requirements just from the dry kibble diet.
We provide Yoda a quality dry and wet cat food mix. Sometimes dry food, sometimes wet food, and sometimes human food. Check out our pawesome article on safe human foods that cats can eat and our FAQ about what cats can eat.
Yoda never misses an opportunity to give us extra love and cuddles when he knows we’re cooking chicken for dinner. We always save some for him on the side that is cooked separately without any seasonings, salt, or oil (so basically plain). We then give it to him when it’s mildly warm in order to mimic the same temperature as freshly killed mouse (a quite typical prey food).
Side note: We found a really cool pre-made frozen raw diet for pets that contains ground chicken bones, meat, organs, etc. in the local supermarket here in Kathmandu. Feel free to ask us questions or read about mine and Yoda’s adventure flying to Nepal!
Make the smart choice and opt to provide your cat with a healthy, balanced and nutritious diet.
TIP: The money you spend on providing your cat a healthy, nutritious diet can actually save you tons of money by avoiding costly vet bills. Feeding your cat a bio-appropriate diet will impact your cat’s health – tremendously, and positively!
Now let’s hone down and dig into cat food feeding guidelines.
CAT FOOD FEEDING GUIDELINES
It’s important to note that all cats will have various needs when it comes to their diet. Meaning, not every cat should be fed the same amount and type of food at the same hour each day. They are all unique in their own requirements, so therefore feeding guidelines will vary depending on age and amount of activity.
However, there are some basic feeding guidelines to consider to help ensure your cat receives a healthy, balanced diet.
1. Consult with the cat food brand’s specific feeding guidelines
Not all cat foods are the same. Therefore, to know exactly what amount of food to give depending on health, age, activity, environment, etc., a great first step is to find out that specific brand of cat food’s feeding guidelines. Most brands will indicate this on the bag of food, however, if not, they most likely have it displayed on their websites.
Here are a few samples of feeding guidelines from some of our favorite cat food brands.
Blue Buffalo is a pet food brand we trust in. Here is an example of their feeding guidelines for dry food for adult indoor cats. Please note this is just an example taken from Blue Buffalo’s website. Be aware that the feeding guidelines may also vary depending on the type of food you select within a certain brand (indoor cat food / kitten formula / weight management / healthy digestion, are all examples of possible choices).
Orijen pet food is a beyond exceptional pet food brand. This biologically appropriate all-natural cat food is one of the best you can get. With this being said, they have their own feeding guidelines depending on which type of food you select. Below is an example taken from their website, which displays recommended feeding guidelines for their formulas “Cat & Kitten” and “Six Fish Cat“.
Purina Beyond does not disappoint, but it certainly doesn’t compete with the two listed above. Nonetheless, it’s among our top 3 on our list of healthiest cat food brands because of real protein as the number one ingredient. See our full review of Purine One cat food here. Also, below is an example of their feeding guidelines (find the complete details of this recommended feeding guideline in addition to type of food in question here).
Please note that again, these are just examples taken from these three specific pet food brands and should not be used as a general guideline. Remember number 1. – consider your current pet food’s specific feeding guidelines for accurate information.
2. Consider your cat’s unique needs
It is quite possible that you are correctly following the feeding guidelines provided by your pet food brand, but you notice your cat is losing weight.
This situation would thus require additional small feeding amounts in order for your cat to maintain a healthy, balanced weight. This is a great example to show how you can adjust the recommended feeding guidelines in order to adapt to your cat’s specific dietary needs.
Check out our guide on how to fatten up a cat.
3. Always provide clean, fresh drinking water every day
Cat nutrition does not limit itself to your cat’s food. Providing a healthy, nutritious and balanced diet for your cat also means providing fresh, clean drinking water every day.
It’s important to not just “top up” the drinking water with fresh water. Make sure to rinse out your cat’s bowl as needed and provide a clean, cool, fresh bowl of water. This is just as important as providing your cat with a healthy, nutritionally-rich meal.
> DRY CAT FOOD FEEDING GUIDELINES
As just mentioned, it’s most likely that the feeding guidelines will be provided on the back of the bag of cat food. It’s important to be aware of these feeding guidelines recommended for providing dry cat food. However, again consider your cat’s unique needs. Every cat is different. Nonetheless, here are 5 basic rules you can start with if you really have no idea what to do.
1. Provide a quality dry cat food (see our list of healthiest brands in table format below for details).
2. Usually cats are fed twice a day, but this can vary. Try starting your cat off with some food in the morning and then again sometime in the evening. Monitor your cats level of play, hunger, thirst, etc. as you start this routine.
3. Cat’s like to have a routine so be consistent with the feeding times. Feeding time should ideally be between 8-12 hours apart. For example, Yoda knows exactly at around 8:30 or 9:00 am he should be getting breakfast and around 6:30 pm he should be receiving dinner. Trust us, your cat won’t let you forget.
4. Provide lots of fresh water. The problem with dry kibble is that it greatly lacks in essential moisture/water content. So make sure your cat is not getting dehydrated from not receiving enough water content. For example, a prey food such as a mouse has 70% more water content than typical dry cat kibble.
5. Switch it up! Don’t feed your cat only dry kibble for the rest of their lives. Especially if it is a lower quality cat food. Consider using a mixture of methods like sometimes dry, sometimes wet food (again make sure it’s quality), or you can also make your own raw cat food.
> WET CAT FOOD FEEDING GUIDELINES
The guidelines for wet cat food doesn’t vary much between the above basic rules of thumb for providing your cat with dry cat food. However, I stumbled upon an interesting dry vs. wet cat food analysis by experts at Pets WebMD that I thought would be nice to share (source). Here’s what they say about dry vs. wet cat food:
Dry adult cat food:
- Dry food is more economical
- It is convenient because it doesn’t spoil as easily
- Is energy dense, meaning a cat can consume lots of calories quickly
- Has about 10% moisture content
- Tends to have more carbohydrates and less protein than wet food
- May be only slightly better than canned food at preventing dental disease
Canned adult cat food:
- Is more expensive
- Can spoil more easily and requires refrigeration after opening
- Is less energy dense than dry food
- Has up to 78% moisture content
- Tends to have more fat and protein – especially animal protein – and fewer carbohydrates than dry food
Interesting, don’t you think?
CAT FOOD QUANTITY CHART
I personally like visual aid tools to help me learn, so I thought it’d be neat to share this fun cat food quantity chart taken from Nature’s Logic, another healthy provider of natural cat food.
Below’s image just shows the “feeding calculator” they use. If you’d like to give the feeding calculator a try visit their page here or click on the image itself.
IDEAL/BALANCED DIET FOR CATS
So what exactly is an “ideal” diet for cats? Well, first of all as aforementioned above, cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they cannot survive on a vegetarian diet.
They need lots of healthy protein (animal tissue / essential amino acids) and fat (fatty acids) coupled with lots of essential vitamins and minerals.
Cats should have little to no carbs in their diet as they have trouble producing the enzymes required to properly digest a high-carb diet (according to some studies). However, carbohydrates (though not essential) can offer your kitty an additional source of energy (in addition to proteins and fats).
You can cut out unnecessary ingredients in your cats food by analyzing the ingredients label carefully (read above under “cat nutrition” about the example I gave with Meow Mix – a low-quality pet food brand).
VITAMINS & MINERALS CATS NEED
Let’s do a run down of the essential vitamins/minerals cats need in their diet. Please note the images below are taken from the Division on Earth and Life Studies report on cat nutrition. This is to be used only as a reference – any concerns or questions should first be consulted with your local vet.
Should include both fat and water-soluble vitamins.
Fat-soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E, and K while water-soluble vitamins consist primarily of the C and B complex. Additional vitamins are listed in the chart below.
Cats also need a wide range of minerals for various reasons like pH balance, nutrient utilization, enzyme creation, etc.
Some examples of minerals are: calcium, cobalt, copper, fluorine, iodine, iron, magnesium, chloride, chromium, zinc, etc. See the image chart below from DELS report for a complete list of minerals and their specific functions/recommended daily amounts.
As you can see, our furry family needs quite the amount of diverse vitamins and minerals in order to sustain a healthy and balanced lifestyle. Not all cats will require these recommended allowances, and some cats may even require vitamin supplements. In any case, the health of your cat should always be thoroughly determined by a veterinary professional.
HEALTHIEST CAT FOOD BRANDS
As promised, I wanted to create a little chart displaying what we consider to be the best and most healthiest cat food brands available on the market.
You will see in any of our breed-specific nutritional guides such as for the Ragdoll, Sphynx, Siamese, or Maine Coon, that we consistently recommend only high-quality pet food brands. Let’s take a peek at these tables for a closer look.
|Orijen ||$$$$||15 lbs||Fresh meats, organs, and cartilage in ratios that mirror the natural diet
Rich source of amino acids such as Taurine (essential for his heart)
Source of DHA and EPA (Reinforcing your cat’s immune and nervous systems)
|Taste of the Wild ||$$$||15 lbs||Real roasted Venison & Smoked Salmon / Grain free
Unique nutrients & antioxidants
Strong bones and healthy coat
|Blue Buffalo Wilderness ||$$$||12 lbs||Protein-rich Chicken, healthy complex carbohydrates, natural antioxydants
Weight Management and Lean Muscle Development
Healthy Heart, Digestion, Immune System
|Wellness CORE ||$$$||12 lbs||Real turkey, chicken, whitefish, herring, salmon oil and cranberries
Fish and flax omega blend for healthy skin and coat, Taurine for heart health
Enhanced with nutrients, antioxidants and probiotics
|Goodlife||$$||16 lbs||Real meat #1 ingredient, no soy, corn, or wheat
The best for your buck
|Purina ONE ||$-$$||16 lbs||Real turkey meat
Natural fiber blend
INGREDIENTS IN CAT FOOD – Low vs. High Quality
The ingredients in your cat food will vary by brand – obviously, right? Let’s do a comparison. I’m going to compare the cheapest vs. most expensive brand of cat food I can find so we can see just exactly which ingredients are used in cheap, low-quality cat food compared to high-quality, more expensive cat food.
LOW QUALITY CAT FOOD: Meow Mix Example
Sorry Meow Mix, but I again have to use you as an example. After extensively researching online cat food brands, Meow Mix is by far one of the most popular, cheapest brands you can find, ranking as a #1 best seller in the dry cat food category. Let’s see what they include on their ingredients label*:
Ground Yellow Corn, Corn Gluten Meal, Chicken By-Product Meal, Soybean Meal, Beef Tallow (Preserved With Mixed Tocopherols), Animal Digest, Calcium Carbonate, Turkey By-Product Meal, Salmon Meal, Ocean Fish Meal, Phosphoric Acid, Choline Chloride, Salt, Potassium Chloride, Titanium Dioxide (Color), Vitamins [Vitamin E Supplement, Niacin Supplement, Vitamin A Supplement, D-Calcium Pantothenate, Thiamine Mononitrate (Source of Vitamin B1), Riboflavin Supplement (Source of Vitamin B2), Pyridoxine Hydrochloride (Source of Vitamin B6), Menadione Sodium Bisulfite Complex (Source of Vitamin K Activity), Vitamin D3 Supplement, Folic Acid, Biotin, Vitamin B12 Supplement], Minerals [Ferrous Sulfate (Source of Iron), Zinc Oxide, Manganous Oxide, Copper Sulfate, Calcium Iodate, Sodium Selenite], Taurine, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 2, Rosemary Extract.
*This information was taken directly from the product’s features as seen on Amazon.
Analysis: As you can see, the first 5 ingredients are not good signs. Protein (real meat!) should always be first or at least second. Ground yellow corn as the main ingredient is not healthy for your cat, especially over a period of time. Corn has no nutritional benefits, not for humans, not for cows, and not for our cats either. It’s cheap, that’s the only reason why they use it. Again, by-product meats shouldn’t be that low on the list as it means there is not a lot of content and the content is probably not high-quality as the commercial marketing suggests. Granted, there indeed is a good list of vitamins and minerals, but when you look at essentials (like Taurine) that are basically last on the list, you can be sure that the percentage of Taurine in the food is way below what your cat should be receiving.
Bottom line: If given to your cat over a period of time, there will surely be health consequences. A healthy, balanced cat nutrition is simply not going to be met from this food.
Price per unit is very low: If you analyze the price with the quantity of food given, you’ll see that the price per pound is low – even less than one dollar*. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
*Price as currently based on Amazon with the given quantity of a 16 lb bag of Meow Mix.
HIGH QUALITY CAT FOOD: Orijen Example
The highest quality food available and highest price we could find available results in Orijen dry cat food. Not only is it an award winning pet food, their ingredients are delivered fresh daily and are all naturally and locally grown and harvested. It’s even described as “fit for human consumption”. Let’s check the ingredients label**:
Boneless chicken,* chicken meal, chicken liver,* whole herring,* boneless turkey,* turkey meal, turkey liver,* whole eggs,* boneless walleye,* whole salmon,* chicken heart,* chicken cartilage,* herring meal, salmon meal, chicken liver oil, chicken fat, red lentils, green peas, green lentils, sun-cured alfalfa, kelp, pumpkin,* butternut squash,* spinach greens,* carrots,* apples,* pears,* cranberries,* mixed tocopherols (preservative), chicory root, dandelion root, chamomile, peppermint leaf, ginger root, caraway seeds, turmeric, rose hips, freeze-dried chicken liver, freeze-dried turkey liver, freeze-dried chicken, freeze-dried turkey, dried Enterococcus faecium fermentation product + vitamins and minerals
*delivered fresh and preservative-free
**See an awesome detailed guaranteed analysis of each vitamin, mineral, amino acid, protein, etc. on their website.
Analysis: Do I need to say more??? If I haven’t convinced you this is top quality cat food, then go check out their page for yourself!
Bottom line: Simply one of the healthiest and best cat food brands you can buy from. Locally and regionally grown in Canada.
Price per unit is very high: When you compare with Meow Mix who offers their product for less than $1/lb for very low quality, it’s not a surprise that Orijen charges $5/lb given the extremely high quality food they provide.
FINAL THOUGHTS: Ultimate Guide to Cat Nutrition
You made it to the bottom of this article, congratulations!! We sincerely hope you have benefited from this article as we worked pretty hard to put it together!
Please do not hesitate to let us know your thoughts/comments, we would be happy to hear what other pet owners think of cat nutrition. Thanks for reading and for following Fluffy Kitty!! Stay updated with new posts on our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram feeds.
For more tips on cat nutrition, visit this article from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).