One of the most common questions we receive is, “What should I be feeding my cat?” There is a short answer and a long answer to this question. The short answer is a high-quality food specifically formulated for cats that meets the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) recommendations that includes grains. For recommendations specific to kittens, please click here. Below we have outlined the main aspects of feline nutrition to consider for your cat. For more specific recommendations, please contact your veterinarian.
What to look for in a food
There is a lot of information and misinformation surrounding cat food. As your pet’s veterinarian, we want to provide pet parents with the most up-to-date and accurate information. When selecting a food for your cat, there are important factors to consider. You should select a food that is appropriate for your pets age, size, and activity level. If your cat has known food sensitivities, be sure to select a food that does not contain these ingredients. Pets with specific health conditions have additional considerations that should be discussed with your veterinarian.
Controversial Diets and Ingredients
- Grains: Grains are a common source of confusion when it comes to cat food. Many pet food brands will use clever marketing tools to steer owners towards buying grain-free food. While your cat did once descend from wild carnivorous felines, they have been domesticated animals for thousands of years and their nutritional requirements have changed as a result of evolution. Grains provide valuable vitamins, minerals, and an additional protein source in your cat’s food. Unless your cat has a proven allergy to grains, they should be on a grain-inclusive diet. Additionally, a recent study by the FDA has linked grain-free diets to Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM) in dogs, and it is likely the same effects are possible for cats to experience. DCM is a serious heart condition in which the left ventricle of the heart becomes weakened and is less able to pump blood properly. DCM is a form of heart disease that we seek to prevent by any means possible.
Bottom line: Grains are an important part of complete nutrition for your cat. Foods that are grain-inclusive are recommended here at Yorkshire Veterinary Hospital.
- By-products: By-products by name sounds intimidating. By-products are the parts of an animal that are not considered ‘meat’ but are edible and nutritious including organs such as the liver or heart. By-products do not include inedible products like hair, feathers, hooves, or horns. By-products are considered safe and nutritious for cats.
- Raw Diets: Our veterinarians respect that every owner will have a preferred diet for their pets. At this time, there is no evidence to support raw diets are better for domestic cats over traditional diets. Raw diets can also lead to an increased likelihood of foodborne illnesses stemming from bacteria or other pathogens that are not removed during a cooking process. Furthermore, raw diets do not offer complete nutrition as outlined by AAFCO. Without scientific evidence promoting the benefits of a raw diet, we cannot recommend it. If you feel a raw diet is right for your cat, please be sure to use safe handling techniques as defined by the FDA to protect you and your cat from potential illness.
- Homemade Diets: Homemade diets have the potential to be excellent for your cat; however, they must be carefully crafted to ensure your cat is receiving the complete nutrition it needs. If you are considering a homemade diet, please keep in mind the time and cost investment that you will be committing to. We recommend a consultation with a board-certified veterinary nutritionist prior to starting a homemade diet to ensure you have the best recipe for your cat's specific needs. Your primary veterinarian can provide additional guidance on creating a well-balanced food at home as well. If you are interested in learning more about a balanced homemade diet, please visit balanceit.com for more information.
For more information on nationally recognized pet nutrition, please visit the AAFCO website. With questions regarding what food is best for your pet, please ask your veterinarian. If you are searching for brand recommendations, please shop our online store as we only sell products we stand behind.