How to Choose Cat Food

Nutritional needs vary for kittens, adult cats and pregnant and lactating cats. Veterinarians and experts differ on whether dry or wet cat food is best, but whatever food you give your cat, be sure your cat gets the right type and amount of protein and fat.


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    Feed kittens food containing least 30 percent protein and 20 percent fat. Pregnant or lactating cats may also need kitten food to provide enough nutrition to feed their offspring. Feed adult cats food with 25 to 30 percent protein and 15 to 20 percent fat.
    • Give your cat food with enough high-quality protein, as cats derive essential amino acids from protein.
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    Assess the ingredients label on a can or bag of cat food. Give food formulated for your cat's age--kitten, adult, senior or older cats. For adult cats, provide food that is formulated for adult cats of any age.
    • Digestibility of high quality foods is 70 to 80 percent, but in low quality foods, digestibility can drop as low as 60 percent. Manufacturers list ingredients by weight, with heavier ingredients listed first. If you see egg, chicken or lamb as the first ingredient, the food is a good source of protein. If you see Chicken by-product or meat by-product listed as the first 5 ingredients, put it back on the shelf. Meat (If listed as Meat or meat by-products instead of the meat source i.e chicken or lamb), bone meal, and grain are the worst sources of protein.
    • Grains provides a poor source of protein. It is therefore recommended to get foods listed with eggs, chicken or lamb as a protein source. Some manufacturers will list the meats first and then three types of grain, but the grain product in total will weigh more than the meat protein. This type of food is a terrible source of protein for a cat.
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    Read the label for carbohydrate information. Make sure the cat food is high in animal protein and low in carbohydrates (Unless informed otherwise by your vet). Carbohydrates should make up no more than 5% of your cats diet.
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    Give your cat food with fiber to help her digest her food. Cats that are constipated, have diarrhea or are obese can also be helped by fiber.
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    Know your cat’s preference.
    Every cat has its own preferences or favorites related to food just like humane. Some cats like dry food, whereas others like canned food. You can understand the preference of the cat food by purchasing the trial pack of different food and give it to your feline friend. If your cat shows liking of any of these foods, you should provide her the same food. Further, you can make the cat food more delicious by adding different flavors available in the market.


  • Some foods are targeted for cats with specific conditions. There are cat foods for indoor cats, cats with excessive hairballs, cats with digestive problems, obese cats and other formulations.
  • Buy food with a label that says, "complete and balanced," as cat food manufacturers must follow certain governmental regulations and guidelines to make this proclamation. Food with this, or a similar comment, means you are providing healthy food to your cat.
  • Most members of the American Veterinary Medical Association recommend that cats be fed wet, canned food, as amounts of water and carbohydrates are closer to amounts found in nature.


  • Cat food with too much protein fed over too long a period may overburden your cat's kidneys.
  • Cats on dry cat food may become dehydrated. If you feed a cat dry food, be sure to place plenty of fresh water around the house. Change the water every day and clean the bowls frequently.
  • Opinions on benefits versus risks of carbohydrates in cat food are mixed. Some experts say carbs are okay, but others say you should feed cats canned food because canned food has only 3 to 5 percent carbs--about what a wild cat gets in nature.
  • Not all pet food ingredients are made equal. Some less expensive brands do not have enough high-quality protein. Buying cheaper food may not save money because cats will eat more lower quality food to get enough nutrition.

Sources and Citations

  • "Your Cat: Simple New Secrets to a Longer, Stronger Life," Elizabeth M. Hodgkins; Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin's Press

Article Info

Categories: Feeding Cats