Cat Food 101 (Part 1)

Cat Food 101 (Part 1)

Providing your cat with a happy lifestyle is what being a pet parent is all about, and this starts with her food. But as a new Cat owner, you’ll probably come across a lot of information about what you should and shouldn't feed your cat. So much information that it could really get overwhelming. This guide sets out to provide you with all you need to know to ensure that your cat gets nutritious food.

The truth is that whether you are pinching pennies or you can afford to pay top dollar, when it comes to your cat's nutrition you'll want to do right by your cat and the good news is that you do not have to spend a lot of money to be able to feed your cat, all you have to do is learn more about what you are buying and what your cat needs.

It has been noted that no matter if your cat is a picky eater or not, she'll probably let you know how she feels about what you put in her bowl. According to Julie A. Churchill, DVM, PhD, associate professor of nutrition at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine in St. Paul, cats are very opinionated about food, and a lot of their preferences are formed in the first Year. This means that if your cat is a kitten, now is the time to get her used to different types of food – wet, dry and semi dry. But even if your pet is older, there are still ways to make sure she']s getting all the nutrients she needs to be healthy. Here are the guidelines to all you need to know about cat food 101!


Just like humans, cats require nutritious, well-balanced meals for an all round growth, development and optimum functioning of their body system. That is, along with plenty of fresh cool water, your cat needs the best cat food for her stage in life – one that includes protein, carbohydrates, certain types of fats and essential vitamins and minerals to keep her active. Richard Hill, PhD, associate professor at the university of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine in Gainesville says that all cat owners should know how to read a cat food label and that even though people tend to focus more on the ingredients, the nutrients are more important, namely protein and fat. He also pointed out that although it might be trendy to bash grains and carbohydrates in pet food, these are not necessarily bad. “carbs can be valuable to hold dry food together and make food more affordable, and many cats like that crunch. As long as carbs are in an amount cats can handle, it's okay.’’

How do I know if my cats food is balanced?

The best way to confirm this is to look for a statement from the Association of American Feed Control Officials [AAFCO] on the package. Jennifer Larson, DVM, PhD, a nutritional consultant and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in Carlifornia also says that the American Association of Feed Control Officials [AAFCO] provides some added assurance of sound nutrition, “I strongly prefer foods that have been through AAFCO feeding tests” she says. You can check for the AAFCO statement on your cats food label.

AAFCO uses two methods to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of adult cat foods: formulation and feeding test.

The formulation method involves doing a nutritional analysis of ingredients and comparing it with AAFCO nutrient profiles for a cats particular life stage. ‘’that diet doesn't have to be fed to any live animal before it is sold,” Larson says. The feeding method evaluates the digestibility and absorption of nutrients in live animals. Larson also corroborates what Richard Hill says by stating that although adult cat foods may contain a wide range of ingredients, your focus should be on nutrients.

Mindy Bough, CVT, Senior director of client services for the midwest office of the American Society for the prevention of Cruelty to Animals [ASPCA], also agrees. “The presence of one or two ingredients may make the food appear healthy, but it's the balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals that make a healthy cat food,” Bough says.


On the issue of how much to feed cats; “Overfeeding is an epidemic,” Churchill says. When cats gain too much weight, they can have problems like joint disease, heart disease and diabetes. It has also been established that one in five cats in industrialized countries today is obese. Many factors contribute to this widespread problem, including inactivity, overfeeding rich foods and neutering. You can however help manage these weight problems by playing with your cat and controlling food intake around the time of neutering.

How much your kitty should get in her bowl depends on her age, her size, and how active she is, but the average is about 200 calories per day. It is a good idea to ask your veterinary team to help you calculate your cat's needs. Pay careful attention to the calorie counts on all foods you give to your cat, Churchill says.

If your cat likes to eat a lot, it is most helpful to switch to a food lower in calories rather than to reduce the quantity, Hill says. “The problem with restricting food is that it can lead to mean cats.” It is also okay to give them occasional treats but it shouldn't be more than 5% to 10% of your cats daily calories. Otherwise, your cat might start to eat less of his or her regular adult cat food, which means his overall diet could lack essential nutrients.

Most cats will eat their main meals at dawn and dusk, when they would normally be hunting and catching prey in the wild, so those are often the best times to feed them. There are also several feeding methods owners commonly use, which may vary depending on the needs of their adult cats and their schedules:

Portion-control feeding involves measuring the food and offering it as a meal. It can be used for weight control and for animals that tend to overeat if allowed to feed at will

Free choice feeding means food [typically dry food, which is less likely to spoil] is available around the clock. Nursing cats are commonly fed free choice. But you can see why thus method can turn into a problem for a cat that doesn't know when to stop.

Time feeding involves making food available for a certain amount of time, then picking it up after like 30 minutes.

Larson recommends twice daily feedings. Bough says, “As a general rule of thumb, We recommend that cats be fed twice daily using the portion control feeding method. To do this, start by dividing the amount suggested on the label of your pets food into two meals, spaced eight to 12 hours apart. You may need to adjust portions as you learn your cat`s ideal daily maintenance amount.”
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