What to feed and not feed your cat is a perplexing question. On this page I summarize my conclusions which I came to by reading Marion Nestle’s book “What to Feed Your Pet”, talk to to our natural vet Kate Fernald, talking to clerks and “All the Best Pet Care”, and some selected reading on the internet. To keep it brief I won’t give lengthy reasons – you can read those else where.
General Advise: Feed a varied, species appropriate diet
Cats are obligate carnivorous so species appropriate diet is animal products. All cat foods must meet certain nutritional profiles and all should provide complete nutrition, however sticking closer to a species appropriate diet will make your cat healthier.
Lower cost foods add low cost grain and other carbohydrate fillers. Many cats can tolerate some grains and carbohydrates but some can not. Further, all the filler that is not actually cat food is waste that the cats must eliminate. This makes them a little less healthy at present and may create long term health problems.
The lower price “premium”, grain free foods tend to have higher fat content (10%) because fat is lower cost than animal products. Wellness and Evo are in this category. This may or may not be a problem for your cat.
Animal by-products are fine. They are only “by-” to what humans consider to be the edible parts of animals. Cats, as a species, do not share the human aesthetic – they consider most of an animal to be good eating. By products have good nutrition. On the other hand, they are more processed and associated with lower quality processing, which may be problems.
Minimize risk of contaminated foods. This means choosing manufacturers who choose quality ingredients, process with care, and test the food for contamination. Avoid manufacturers who don’t do these things as that increases the risk of feeding contaminated food to your pet. How do you know? That is the hard part. Price is an approximation of quality but only an approximation. A good pet store may do this investigation for you.
Be particularly selective if feeding raw food. Raw food naturally has more bacteria to start with and has greater risk of contamination. Choose a manufacturer you trust, preferably one that ships to you with fewer intermediate steps, and take care with your own handling of the food.
Dry food dehydrates cats. It has little moisture and cats don’t drink enough to compensate. Wet and raw food have species appropriate amount of moisture in the food.
Do feed a variety of formulas from one manufacturer and from different manufacturers. This avoids risk of malnourishment, keeps your cat interested and flexible. Some people report that any change in food upsets their cat’s digestion but we have not found that to be true.
Be willing to spend some money on good food – it will make a difference. Many fosters have come to us with dusty, dirty, or ugly coats. After a month of good food their coats are plush and pleasant to touch and they seem happier and healthier.
What We Feed
We feed only canned and raw food, in measured quantities, in two meals a day. Luna gets mostly raw food from Darwins and Natural Pet Pantry plus some canned for variety. Annabelle gets constipated on raw so she gets low fact (<5%) canned. This includes Weruva, Tiki Cat, and Nature’s Variety Homestyle.
We feed Friskies canned food to feral cats. We have fed this to indoor fosters but found that it created stinky poop.
We’ll feed lower priced “premium” such as Wellness and Evo to indoor foster cats who are not over weight.
This table shows the cost per day. I assumed feeding 5.5 oz per day. This is the common size of the hockey puck size can and a reasonable average daily consumption. I take the product cost to be what I find listed in a store with out addition of sales tax or subtraction of frequent buyer discounts. Your actual costs will be different but this table gives a good idea of the relative costs of food.
|Filaday Case of 12||150||$23.40||$0.78|
|Wellness case of 12||150||$28.00||$0.93|
|BFF, Tuna & Chicken||10||$2.19||$1.10|
|Natural Balance, Duck and Green Peas||6||$1.39||$1.16|
|Before Grain single can||5.5||$1.28||$1.16|
|Before Grain case of 24 cans||132||$30.96||$1.17|
|Darwins Raw Chicken||32||$7.90||$1.23|
|Darwins Raw Turkey||32||$8.90||$1.39|
|Nature’s Variety, Homestyle||5.5||$1.59||$1.45|
|Tiki Cat, Hawaiian Ahi||6||$1.89||$1.58|
|Weruva Paw Licking Chicken||10||$3.19||$1.60|
|Life’s Abundance Canned Cat Food||72||$25.11||$1.74|
|Weruva 5.5 oz can, various||5.5||$1.99||$1.81|
|Natural Pet Pantry (raw)||16||$6.49||$2.03|
|Tiki Cat, Suculent Chicken||6||$2.59||$2.16|