QUESTION: My cat passed away recently, and I have just adopted another kitty. I was wondering what food you recommend to get him started right for a long and healthy life. My last cat was overweight and had urinary tract and other health issues. He ate what I considered to be a good quality dry food all his life, but I am hoping to find out if there’s a better alternative for my new kitten friend. Any suggestions?
ANSWER: The choice of what food is best for our feline companions has become a complicated issue in recent years. The pet food industry is a multi-million dollar business that produces an ever-increasing and changing number of products every year. Their marketing departments bombard us with advertising that promotes the benefits of this or that food. Dry foods, we have been told, are good for cats’ teeth. They are now made in formulations for kitten, adult, seniors, sensitive systems, urinary tract, healthy weight, hairball prevention, gluten-free, even for specific breeds like Siamese or Maine Coons. It can seem overwhelmingly complex to feed a cat.
In reality, cats’ dietary needs are simple – they require meat to survive. Unlike humans and canines who can thrive on a vegetarian diet, cats are obligate carnivores which means they must eat a primarily meat diet. In the wild they are eating rodents & birds, which are meat protein with lots of moisture included in each meal and very little carbohydrates. Compare that to the formulation of dry food – lower protein, and some of that from plants which cats’ bodies are not able to utilize well, high carbs, and little or no moisture. The typical highly-processed dry food is not even close to a natural diet for a cat. Why then do cats eat it, if it’s so unnatural? The reason is that the baked and dried product is sprayed with something called “animal digest” to make it smell and taste very enticing to cats.
Vets like Dr. Lisa Pierson are now recommending canned food as the preferred diet for cats. On her website www.catinfo.org, Dr. Pierson reports that she has been seeing increasing instances of cats with obesity, diabetes and urinary obstructions in her practice. She is convinced that the wide-spread use of a dry food diet is a major contributor to this alarming trend.
She cites two immediate benefits to a canned food diet. First, most canned foods contain a higher percentage of the meat-protein that cats need to thrive. Wet food typically contains low percentages of plant-based carbohydrates that cats’ bodies were not designed to run on. Without the excessive and unnatural percentage of carbs like corn, wheat, rice, & soy, canned food is a healthier alternative in the prevention of obesity and the many health problems associated with it.
The second benefit of wet food is increased moisture. A cat’s urinary tract is much better off with an appropriate amount of water flowing through it. Cats are not big water drinkers and are used to getting their water with, and not in addition to, their food. As Dr. Pierson points out, “A cat’s normal prey contains approximately 70 – 75 percent water. Dry food only contains 5-10 percent water whereas canned foods contain approximately 78 percent water. Canned foods therefore more closely approximate the natural diet of the cat and are better suited to meet the cat’s water needs.” This is why she states that urinary issues like cystitis and blockages can be almost entirely avoided with this diet.
Based on this information, we highly recommend a canned diet for your new kitten. Although 100% canned is best, even a part canned/ part dry diet is better than all dry food. Sometimes dry food is seen as being more economical, but Dr. Pierson believes that even the least expensive canned foods are better for our kitties that the best dry foods. Another important factor to keep in mind is that the small difference in cost can be more than offset by the avoidance of future medical bills to alleviate a urinary blockage or other health crisis. For those of us who dearly love our kitty companions, providing the best possible diet for them is a small price to pay for them to avoid pain and live a long and healthy life.
Reference: “Feeding Your Cat: Know the Basics of Feline Nutrition,” by Dr. Lisa A. Pierson, DVM on her website www.catinfo.org.
IMPORTANT NOTE TO THOSE WITH A DIABETIC CAT ON INSULIN
ALWAYS CONSULT WITH YOUR VETERINARIAN BEFORE CHANGING THE DIET OF A DIABETIC CAT ON INSULIN. THE SWITCH TO A CANNED FOOD / LOWER CARBOHYDRATE DIET OFTEN IMMEDIATELY LOWERS THE NEED FOR INSULIN AND CAN RESULT IN A DANGEROUSLY LOW BLOOD SUGAR LEVEL IF INSULIN AMOUNTS ARE NOT ADJUSTED BASED ON BLOOD SUGAR TESTING BEFORE MEALS.