This is a page on cat food facts written for children or anyone who wants to read straightforward English.
The ideal cat food is a mouse. All cat food that is made in factories and sold on supermarket shelves should be made up of the same basic nutrients that are in a mouse. A “nutrient” is a substance that feeds a living creature. About 70% of a mouse is water. The remaining part is made of 50% fat, 40% protein and 3% carbohydrates. It is good to remember this when we select cat food.
We should not overlook what is inside a mouse’s stomach when it is eaten by a cat. The mouse eats fruit and grain from plants. A cat will eat this when he eats a mouse.
Most of us know that domestic cats eat grass from time to time. Grass is a plant. Although some people say that the cat is a strict carnivore (meaning only eating flesh), this is not entirely true. For example, the snow leopard eats quite a lot of a certain sort of bush in the mountains where it lives. This helps with the absorption of oxygen into the cat’s body¹.
The cat’s digestive system is basically like ours but simpler. The cat’s intestine is shorter than ours. It does not need an internal organ called a “cecum”, which breaks down plant material.
Balanced Diet Made For A Cat
As a near strict carnivore, the cat really has to eat certain sorts of foods to be healthy. It has to have a carefully balanced diet. This means that cat owners cannot be careless when feeding their cat. It is not good enough to give a cat meat and only meat. That would not be a balanced diet. Some important nutrients would be missing.
Another example is fish. Cats generally like fish but if a cat is just fed raw or cooked fish, he would eventually become ill². That does not mean a cat cannot be fed fish and raw meat, sometimes. Occasionally feeding these foods is OK. The same goes for treats such as cooked chicken or ham and so on. However, these foods should be given in smallish amounts.
Some Important Elements of Cat Food
Here are five important nutrients for a cat that must be in his food:
- Vitamin A (cats can’t make this inside their body)
- Vitamin D (cats can’t make this inside their body)
- Calcium – not getting enough calcium is the most common food problem in cats. It may happen because people feed their cat cooked and raw meat rather than proper cat food.
- Arginine – this is very important and is added by cat food manufacturers. Not eating it can kill a cat.
- Vitamin B1 (thiamine) – feeding raw fish can cause your cat to eat too little vitamin B1 and make your cat ill³.
What is the best cat food?
As I said, the best cat food is a mouse. The next best is the best wet cat food you can afford to buy that is made for cats plus a small amount of treats (for example, human food) and some dry cat food for nighttime eating. Cat food, for a grown up cat, should be at least 26% protein and 9% fat. A few years ago I decided that, in America, the best wet cat food was one of these: Nature’s Logic, Newmans, Merrick, Innova EVO, Halo’s Spots4. Things change and these are my selections. That does not mean you can’t have your own selection, but it has to be good food. This costs more.
Dry Cat Food
Dry cat food is very popular with people. It is probably less popular with cats. It obviously contains very little water. It also contains lots of carbohydrates. It is not a natural cat food but it does have its uses. Fed all the time with dry cat food, a cat might become ill with diabetes and/or a disease of the “urinary tract” (the organs and channels that deal with liquid waste – urine). A typical disease is cystitis. Dry cat food is very common and very popular but the best advice is to use it with care and not as the only cat food. In America, the best dry cat food is probably: Innova EVO Dry Cat Food (2010). Things change. Make up your own mind.
Homemade Cat Food
It is possible to make up your own cat food using meat and supplements (“supplements” are added nutrients to make the food complete). Making your own cat food needs some skill. Veterinarians don’t normally recommend that you do it as it can go wrong in preparation and storage. However, if done properly it can be excellent cat food and it can cure some vague health problems. There is a page on this website written for adults on making homemade cat food.
“Stool” means feces (in the UK it is spelled: “faeces”). You can tell a bit about the quality of your cat’s food when you clean out your cat’s litter tray:
- If the cat food is low in protein (a sign of low quality cat food) your cat’s stool might be loose and mushy or just plain diarrhea.
- If your cat’s food is too high in fiber (low quality) your cat’s stool might be very large and your cat might produce large amounts of feces.
Don’t feed a cat dog food as cats need much more protein than a dog. If you feed a cat dog food his diet will be missing many nutrients.
Food For Sick Cats
Sick cats don’t feel well and lose their appetite. Not eating makes them more ill. It is important to get food into your ill cat. Foods that smell and taste very nice are made for sick cats. One of them is in the picture on this page: Hills a/d. It is a “semi-moist” cat food. This means it is like a paste. There are plenty of others.
Hypoallergenic Cat Food
If a cat only eats mice he shouldn’t get ill because of the food he eats. However, some cats become ill when eating supermarket cat food. This is because there is something in it, such as soy, wheat or corn, that reacts badly inside the cat. It is called a cat allergy. Cat food allergies can cause diarrhea, an itchy skin, hair loss, vomiting and constipation and many more vague signs of illness. You can buy special cat food that is called “hypoallergenic cat food” which is basically very mild and safe. This may help your vet to fix the problem and make your cat feel better.
Cat Food Labels
Cat food labels are hard to read and anyway people don’t have the time to do it. In America look for:
- Words on the label that says it meets the standard as set by the AAFCO5.
- Words on the label that says, “complete and balanced”.
- For adults: this is the source of this statement.
- For adults: This is the source.
- For adults: Not eating vitamin B1 health problems.
- For adults: Source of this information.
- AAFCO stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials.
- For adults: this page is a simplified summary. There are lots of pages on PoC on cat food. Please search.