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The Best Food for Cats

Cats aren't just finicky eaters -- there's science behind their sophisticated palate.
Petkeeping Television, January 2010

The pet food aisle can be an intimidating place for a cat owner. Should you choose dry food or canned, all-natural or processed? There are pros and cons to all varieties when it comes to price, convenience, nutritional value, and your pet's preference. 

But no matter what you choose, your cats are forced to eat what you buy, so it's important to know about their special dietary needs.  

A Meat-Based Diet 
When choosing a brand of cat food, it's important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores, which means they depend on nutrients found in animal flesh for their survival. A cat's diet must include taurine, an amino acid supplied by meat; a deficiency could result in blindness. 

When considering a particular brand at the supermarket, look at the label. If the first few ingredients listed are meat-based -- beef, chicken liver, chicken, etc. -- then it is probably a good nutrient-rich, satisfying, and easily digestible choice. All cat food -- even types that contain mostly rice, corn gluten, or animal by-products -- is required by law to contain a certain amount of nutritional value. So, while a rice- or by-product-based food might be healthy enough and the more affordable choice, know that meat is the way to your true carnivore's heart. 

Dry Food vs. Canned 
Dry food typically is made up of less meat than canned, since there needs to be a certain amount of grains for dry food to be processed into little pellets. Dry food is clearly the more convenient choice. Often times it comes in a multitude of appetizing colors and cute shapes. But cats don't care that their food is in the shape of little stars or fish, and they can't see the colors. It's made that way to attract the consumer. Don't be fooled -- read the ingredients before making your decision. 

Since there's a greater percentage of meat in canned food, most cats seem to prefer it. If your cat has a weight problem, you might want to consider switching to wet food. Some cats tend to overeat when offered an unlimited quantity of dry food. It's a less satisfying meal, so they're driven to eat more to reach the level of satisfaction that arrives with a more meat-based diet. If you decide to make the switch from dry to canned, allow your cat to eat until full. It might seem like a lot, but over time they will need less food to feel sufficiently full, and the weight will go down. 

Resources 
Learn more about reading pet food labels and the specific dietary needs of cats.