An ongoing debate . . . what is the best food to feed my cat?
Cats are obligate carnivores – this means that they require a high amount of protein in their diet and that this protein ideally should come from meat. In the wild, felines catch prey like rodents, which are mostly protein, a small amount of fat, and an even smaller amount of carbohydrates – this usually comes from grain in the stomach of the prey animal. Canned food provides the closest amounts of nutrients and water as the prey they would naturally eat.
In addition, our pet kitties are a lot less active than their wild ancestors who had to hunt for their food. Our indoor companions often have food waiting at any time of day! This leads to overweight and obese kitties. Some studies show that 59% of our feline companions are overweight or obese.
Free feeding dry food can promote obesity. There are more calories per cup of dry food than wet food . Most 5.5-ounce cans of cat food provide all the calories a cat needs, PLUS the water makes your kitty feel full, so no more begging, stealing, or crying for food (well, this is not guaranteed). Obesity and too many carbohydrates can also predispose kitties to diabetes.
Canned food has TWICE the amount of water than dry food. Cats commonly have urinary and renal problems and increasing the amount of water a cat consumes helps prevent these problems.
The downsides of feeding canned food are related to expense and convenience. To be sure, canned food is more expensive than dry. BUT, canned food can help in avoiding expensive medical problems in the future. Canned food can also be cumbersome to feed. The pet must be meal-fed and if the they do not finish the full amount, it becomes dry and unappetizing. In addition, leftover canned food must be refrigerated and not all cats will eat cold food. So it it understandable that many people choose the dry food option.
If cost or convenience prevent feeding canned food, choose a dry food that has high meat-based protein. You can also mix the dry food with warm water or canned food to increase your cat’s water intake. Water fountains can also help increase water consumption. This doesn’t help increase protein, but many cats will drink more water if they have access to running water.
The marketplace is full of puzzle feeders and toys that challenge cats to get their food prize, providing enrichment and exercise.
Finally, no matter if you are in the dry food camp or the canned food camp, keep it varied! Keep your kitty familiar with all kinds of textures so that if they ever require a change, it will be easier to convince them. Give your dry food only kitty a wet food snack occasionally and vice versa.
Dr. Taia Lubitz
Manchaca Village Veterinary Care