When it comes to how to raise a kitten, choosing high-quality cat food is one of the most important things you can do for your cat’s health. Great cat food will help their overall health, appearance, coat and skin health, energy levels, and help prevent many diet-related concerns, including urinary issues.
But what do you need to know about adult cat nutrition, and how can you begin to sort through all of the many labels, brands, and ingredients?
Here, our experts at PrettyLitter want to help you understand nutrition for adult cats and provide tips and tricks to help you find the best food for your feline friend. Let’s look at the importance of good feline nutrition and some tips to help you find the right adult cat food.
The Importance of Adult Cat Nutrition
The first thing to understand when talking about adult cat nutrition is how our cats eat. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning that their diet needs to consist mainly of animal protein sources. Even though your cuddly kitten might look cute basking in the sun or taking up the whole bed, they still have some of the same characteristics as their big cat relatives, including their nutritional needs.
Many commercial brands on the market today fill their cat food with artificial ingredients, fillers, grains, and other ingredients that can be hard for your kitty to digest. This is why it’s important to look for a protein-first option made with quality ingredients.
In addition to being good for your cat’s overall health and well being, a balanced diet will also improve their:
- Energy levels
- Coat (including less shedding and fewer hairballs)
- Kidney health
- Heart health
- Urinary health
When choosing cat food, there are both wet and dry options. Some pet owners prefer one or the other, but most cat parents use a mix of the two. For example, they might feed their kitty wet cat food twice a day and have some dry food out for free-feeding throughout the day. Whether you feed wet food, dry food, or a combination of both will depend on what your pet prefers, what works for you, and what your vet recommends.
Just like us, your kitty will look and feel their best when they are enjoying a diet made from protein-rich whole foods like chicken, fish, and beef. Now, let’s look at some tips to make sure you are feeding them the best diet possible.
Adult Cat Nutrition Tips
There are so many cat food options on the market today that it can be hard to sort through them all. These tips will help you find the right cat food for your feline friend.
Read the Label
Look for cat food that clearly lists the ingredients. On our food, the ingredients are listed in descending proportional weight, meaning that the first few ingredients are what you will find the most of in the food.
Because of this, it’s important to look for cat food that lists an animal protein source or animal by-products as the first ingredient. This protein is the most important thing for your cat’s diet. If the first few ingredients are crazy fillers that you can’t even pronounce, move on to the next choice. The general rule of thumb is “if we wouldn’t eat it, neither should your cat.”
In addition to examining the ingredients on the cat food label, you should also make sure that the cat food complies with the AAFCO's requirements for "Complete and Balanced.” These requirements mean that the food contains the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients that your cat needs. Just because a food is “healthy” does mean that it’s completely balanced or a good choice. Read the ingredients and look for the certification on the label.
We can’t stress this enough — protein, protein, protein! While whole protein sources are best, animal by-products are also good. If possible, look for cat food that has a high-quality protein source, such as organic chicken.
One of the reasons why protein is so important in your older cat’s diet is because animal protein can help lower your kitty’s urinary pH, making urinary issues such as crystals, kidney stones, and UTIs less common. Protein is also easy on their digestive systems. Foods that are high in grains and carbohydrates will be harder to digest and may increase the pH levels in your kitty’s urine. Overall, protein agrees with your cat’s body. You’ll be thankful for this both as you are learning how to litter train a kitten and later in adult your cat’s life.
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Beware of Fillers & Preservatives
Cat food manufacturers have gotten tricky with complicated names and complex fillers to cut their manufacturing costs. This is why high-quality cat food is more expensive (but totally worth it). You might spend more money initially on better quality food, but you will save money in the long run when your cat’s high-quality diet helps prevent serious health concerns.
Here is a short (but not exhaustive) list of fillers and preservatives to avoid if possible:
- Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
- Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)
- Food dyes (Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6)
- Rendered fat
- PG (Propylene Glycol)
- Corn and wheat gluten
Feed the Right Amount
In addition to choosing healthy cat food, you should also consider how much food your cat should eat a day to avoid under or over-feeding them. You may want to consult your vet on the appropriate amount of food because it will depend on their activity levels, genetics, and age. A general rule of thumb is 24-35 calories a day per pound of bodyweight. This includes both wet and dry cat food.
How do you know if your cat is underweight, overweight, or just right? When you feel their ribs and stomach, there should be a thin layer of skin and fat over the ribs but you should be able to feel their rib cage by gently pushing down. If you can visibly see their ribs and/or spine, your cat may be underweight. If you can’t feel their ribs or there is excess fat hanging down from their belly or back, your cat may be overweight. Just like for humans, maintaining a healthy weight is optimal for your cat’s health because overweight cats may develop health conditions due to their weight (ex: diabetes, heart conditions, etc.).
How to Choose High-Quality Cat Food
There’s a lot to learn about cat food (even more than we could mention here) but we want to make it easy for you to confidently pick out healthy food for your cat. Here are some of the steps we mentioned:
- Read the label. Choose cat food that has an animal protein source as the first ingredient.
- Check the rest of the ingredients to make sure the food doesn’t have any unhealthy preservatives, grains, or other add-ins.
- Make sure that the food is AAFCO certified as a complete and balanced food.
In addition to choosing the right cat food, here are some nutritional tips to keep your cat happy and healthy:
- Make sure you are feeding your cat the correct amount to avoid over or under-feeding. If you notice your cat is overweight, consider not leaving food out all day and instead limit their portions of both wet and dry food.
- Mix it up! Just because you choose the perfect pet food doesn’t mean your cat will want the same food forever. If you stick with one brand, you can easily switch out different flavors to keep things interesting. If you are introducing a completely new food, introduce it slowly in case your kitty has issues with the new food. You can start by substituting 25% of the new food, then 50%, then 75%, then completely.
- Make sure your cat always has enough fresh drinking water nearby. It’s hard to get cats to drink enough water, but supplementing their diet with high-quality wet food can help. Also, invest in multiple water bowls throughout the house and a drinking fountain for cats interested in drinking moving water.
Our dry cat food, PrettyPlease, makes it easy to pick ultra-premium food for your cat.
PrettyPlease contains 24 essential vitamins and nutrients, pro and prebiotics for healthy digestion, biotin, top choice chicken, kelp, rosemary, a plethora of delectable vegetables, and a host of feline nutritionist-designed ingredients formulated to keep cats optimally healthy, energetic, strong, and living longer. The ingredient list is easy to read and is full of things you know (no hidden fillers or preservatives here!). Investing in your cat’s health and nutrition is worth it because they deserve the best of the best.