Domestic cats are known for their finicky behavior, and this is especially true when it comes to food. While there are a lot of cat food options out there, there is a great deal of controversy surrounding which foods are best, what time of day a cat should eat, and, of course, how much you should be feeding your cat. This cat feeding guide will break down the do’s and do not’s of feeding cats, as well as provide some guidance as to which foods are the healthiest, and the tastiest, for your feline family members.
The Ultimate Cat Feeding Guide
With so much information it can be hard to know where to start. For this cat feeding guide, we’ll be starting with the differences between wet food and dry food, the best options for each, and an explanation of why one is probably better for your cat than the other.
Wet Food VS Dry Food
Most cat owners want to purchase the healthiest and most nutritious cat food for their feline companion, but between all the controversial opinions, arguments, and faulty advertising, it can be hard to determine just which food that is. According to Preventative Vet, wet food is significantly better for cats than dry food.
The main reason for the difference in food quality is hydration. Generally, cats don’t drink enough water on their own and are often dehydrated, which is why they are at a heightened risk for developing bladder inflammation, urethral obstruction, and urinary obstruction. Cats use water to help flush toxins out of their system, which makes it imperative that they get enough of it. Wet food, as the name implies, contains significantly more water than dry food, and therefore helps your cat intake enough water to keep their body healthy.
Furthermore, wet food replicates a cat’s ideal diet far better than dry food. Since the housecats we know and love evolved from large, ferocious tigers and lions, they do best on a high protein, high fat, and relatively low carb diet. Dry foods are filled with carbohydrates, and while they aren’t necessarily bad for your kitty, you don’t want your cat’s diet composed of a large number of carbs. Think of the prey your cat might like to hunt: is eating a mouse more similar to eating wet food, or dry food? The answer is wet.
This is not to say that your cat can’t eat dry food! In the past, it was thought that dry food should be the cat’s main meal, and wet food should be used as a snack. In fact, the opposite is true. Dry food can be used as a treat or incentive, but the majority of a cat’s daily caloric intake should be wet.
Best Wet Foods
Now that we’ve established that wet food is healthier for your cat than dry food, here are some of the best wet food cat brands that you can purchase.
It’s important to note that every cat has different preferences and, if you’ve owned a cat, you’ll know that there are just some foods certain kitties will refuse to eat. That said, the foods listed below are generally well-liked by many cats and healthy. Nutritious and delicious, you might say.
- One of the top choices for wet cat food is Feline Natural Canned Cat Food. With a variety of flavors and ingredients and a very low carbohydrate content, this cat food is well-loved among cat owners and veterinarians alike. While a little on the expensive side, can you really put a price on your cat’s health and happiness?
- Another great choice for wet food is Hound & Gatos Cat food. Their food uses simple ingredients and, once again, contains very low levels of carbohydrates. With a favorite of animal proteins and flavors to choose from, it’s hard to go wrong with Hounds & Gatos.
- If you’re not afraid of paying a little extra for your cat food, Nom Nom Cat Food Meal Delivery might be a good choice for you and your feline! Their product is shipped directly to your door for your convenience, and is portioned out to your cat’s specific caloric needs! Plus, the food’s ingredients feature highly-digestible animal proteins.
- On the other hand, if you’re unable to fork out a small fortune for your cat food, the best budget value on wet food is WholeHearted Canned Cat Food. Their food is rich in animal protein, low in carbohydrate content, and free of animal by-products.
- Finally, if your cat is a picky eater (as so many of them are), the best product for you might be Instinct by Nature’s Variety Cat Food. This food is considered one of the tastiest on the market, is low in carbohydrate content, and rich in proteins!
Best Dry Foods
Of course, as mentioned above, cats can have dry food too, as long as it’s in moderation. There are mixed opinions regarding whether your cat’s dry food should be grain-free or not. Previously, the general consensus was that grain-free dry food was healthier for your cat, but recent studies have shown that “grain-free” food has been linked to many health issues, including heart disease. Regardless of this, as long as you only feed your cat dry food as a treat, you shouldn’t worry too much about which one you choose. Below are the top choices for your cat’s dry food.
- Considered the best choice for dry food, BLUE Wilderness Indoor Cat Food is a beloved brand that is delicious, grain-free, and contains relatively high levels of protein. The ingredients are clearly listed and their food is “cold formed”, meaning they avoid excess heat during production so their food doesn’t lose its nutritional value
- Purina Cat Chow Naturals Dry Cat Food is the most popular dry cat food, and it’s also relatively healthy, featuring a good amount of natural fiber and no artificial preservatives or flavors. At 358 kcal/per, it can also be used as weight control food given the right portions.
Tips On Changing Foods
Since cats can be very picky, oftentimes they detest switching from one food to another. If possible, it’s best to avoid changing foods, but if your cat needs to switch to control their weight or a medical issue, there are a few things you can do to entice them to eat.
- Don’t leave new food out for more than an hour
- Offer new food in a familiar bowl next to a bowl of the old food
- Once your cat is eating the new food, decrease the amount of old food available by 25% each day
How Much Should I Feed My Cat?
Now that you know exactly which type of cat food you’re going to purchase for your cat, the next step is determining how much you should feed them. As is the trend with most questions regarding your cat, the answer depends on many factors.
The biggest mistake a cat owner can make is feeding their cat too much food. Obesity among cats is very common, and although round cats are very cute, it can lead to severe health problems including diabetes, urinary tract disease, and even arthritis.
In general, a cat needs between 24 and 35 calories a day per pound. So if your cat is six pounds, they need somewhere between 144 and 210 calories per day. While that might seem like a large range, staying somewhere between these numbers usually ensures that your cat will keep a normal, healthy weight. If you think your cat has gained too much weight, ask your veterinarian for their opinion, They will determine if your kitty is getting a little too hefty, and recommend some tips for getting your cat to shed the extra pounds.
Tips On Shedding Those Extra Pounds
If you haven’t noticed your cat looking a bit thicker around the middle than normal, there is a sure fire way to help them lose weight that doesn’t involve dieting.
Just like humans, cats need daily exercise in order to maintain a healthy weight and body. This can be achieved a number of ways, from human prompted play, wrestling with other cats in the household, and making sure your cat has vertical space to climb and explore. If your cat allows, you can even put a harness on them and take them outside for a walk. While you might feel silly, there are plenty of cats who enjoy going outside on a leash and seeing all the flora and fauna the neighborhood has to offer.
When To Feed Your Cat
Besides what to feed your cat, and how much you should be feeding your cat, the next most important aspect of cat ownership is when you should feed your cat. This may seem obsolete, but studies have shown that when a cat eats has a distinct effect on that cat’s health.
Unlike humans, cats are solitary hunters, and most would prefer to eat alone rather than surrounded by other felines. Some cats tolerate eating around other cats, and others may not, so it’s important to consider your cats’ usual temperament around one another. Generally, it’s preferred if you have separate feeding areas for cats in a multi-cat home. If one of your cats is sick or injured, it’s almost always recommended that they are fed by themselves, as well.
Temperature also matters! Cats prefer food that is close to their own body temperature, so if you’re taking canned food from the fridge you might want to try warming it in the microwave or adding a splash of hot water.
Free Feeding VS Meal Feeding
Some cats can regulate their food intake, but many will overindulge and eat too much, most times leading to overweight and obese cats. Therefore, it’s recommended that meals be provided at specific times (2-4 times a day). With free feeding, it’s hard to monitor how much a cat is eating, and it can make it more difficult to tell if you can’t is refusing to eat, which can be a sign of illness.
Through planned meal feedings, cats can get all the nutrients they need at mealtime, and not have the option to overindulge during other times of the day. If you have are in a multi-cat household, this can also help make sure one cat is not stealing food from another, and that all cats are getting the nutrients they need.
Tips For Setting Up Your Feeding Stations
If you have multiple cats that don’t like eating next to one another, the best way to feed them is through the use of feeding stations. Using this technique, each cat will be fed in a separate room with the door closed and given around 20-30 minutes to eat their meal. During this time, water should be freely available in every room where a cat is eating. If a cat doesn’t eat all their food during this time, have no fear! As long as you’re keeping track of calories, a bit of extra food can be added to a cat’s bowl at the next mealtime.
For those of us who have more cats than rooms, feeding stations can be fashioned out of cardboard or plastic boxes. Or, if you’re not up to the task of building them, commercial feeding stations are also available!
Cats are hunters through and through, and they demonstrate it through their play. From cat wands to toy mice and even that dreadful red laser pointer, if a cat has its eye on the prize, there’s nothing stopping it from achieving its goal.
Considering this, isn’t it strange how cats eat out of bowls rather than hunting for their food. Others have thought so too, which has led to the emergence of interactive feeders.
Rather than just handing your cat his or her food in a bowl, these interactive food dispensers can be filled with your cat’s dry food snack. Through play with these toys, the dry food will begin to fall out of a small opening, allowing the cats to tire themselves out while earning a rewarding meal!
These interactive feeders are not only great for your average kitty. In fact, they’re even more useful for overweight cats who are trying to lose weight. Generally, overweight cats are extremely food-motivated, so if you can trick your cat into losing weight by playing, and give them a tasty treat while doing so, why wouldn’t you?
Clearly, there is a lot to consider when feeding a cat. Between what they’re eating and how much of it they’re eating, will you even have time to think about when they’re eating it? Although it might seem like a lot upon the first read, feeding a cat is not as difficult as it seems, and the more you do it, the easier it will become. As long as you stick to your plan, and don’t get too frustrated when your kitty steals some treats off the counter, your cats will live long, happy, and healthy lives.