The best cat food brands should be easy to distinguish from the rest in theory, but in practice it may require some research.
Your cat’s needs, which can be determined by their life stage, activity level, digestive health, and general well-being, should be taken into consideration when choosing a pet food, in addition to meeting industry and veterinary standards (more on that below).
Oh, and you ought to probably seek out a kind of food that your cat genuinely enjoys eating as well.
Cat foods don’t come in one size fits all, as Aimee Simpson, VMD, medical director of the VCA Cat Hospital of Philadelphia, tells SELF.
You can, however, be well on your way to discovering the best cat food brand for your feline friend with some expert advice and research.
When I go to the store to buy food for my cat, what should I look for?
As is the case with dog food, the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has developed a specific set of guidelines for cat food as well. These guidelines determine whether or not a particular brand or formulation offers a complete nutritional profile.
The American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is not a regulatory body, as SELF has reported previously.
Instead, it establishes industry guidelines for a diet that is both healthy and balanced.
A good first step in the process of locating a high-quality cat food is to look for an AAFCO statement on the food’s label and to make sure the food contains an adequate amount of protein. According to Dr. Simpson, “AAFCO recommends that commercial cat food contain at least 30 percent protein on a dry matter basis for kittens and 26 percent protein for adults.”
She also mentions that another essential nutrient for cats is the amino acid taurine, and that there are certain foods that contain much higher levels of protein and other nutrients than what is recommended, which can lead to illnesses such as the following: Too much calcium can cause crystals and stones to form in the urinary tract, which can be made worse by high levels of protein, phosphorus, and sodium. On the other hand, high levels of protein can make chronic kidney disease worse. In addition to the AAFCO, Dr. Simpson refers to global nutritional guidelines from the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which specifically concern the quality of pet food manufacturers. These guidelines were developed in conjunction with the AAFCO.
These guidelines include a number of important questions that you need to ask about the food your cat eats: Do they have at least one nutritionist working for them full-time (who is either a nutritionist with a PhD or a veterinary nutritionist who is board-certified by the American College of Veterinary Nutrition)?
- Do they have their own factories to produce their goods?
- To what extent do they conduct and publish nutritional research in an effort to continuously improve their diets?
- Do they adhere to stringent standards and controls for quality control testing?
Again, these are recommendations that are fairly general in nature; however, they are helpful when it comes to distinguishing between high-quality cat food and cat food that merely fulfills the bare minimum requirements for nutritional value.
You can always reach out to the customer service team of a particular brand for more information, or you can ask your vet about it if you aren’t completely certain about the quality of a particular brand.
What should I be on the lookout for when perusing the ingredient list of a cat food?
According to Dr. Simpson, “Reading the labels on pet food can be difficult,” and he adds that the order in which ingredients are listed can be deceiving.
“Ingredients like chicken meat that contain more moisture (and therefore weigh more) are listed before dehydrated ingredients like the chicken meal that may provide more nutrients,” she explains, providing an example.
On the ingredient list of your cat food, you might find grains listed alongside high-quality protein sources and nutrient-dense animal protein by-products like liver and other organ meats. This is not an issue at all for your cat’s diet; in fact, it is encouraged.
Dr. Simpson says. ” Grains and corn are often misrepresented as pet food fillers; however, these ingredients are actually good sources of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber,” she explains, adding that although cats are obligate carnivores, they can digest the carbohydrates that are found in conventional cat foods. ” Grains and corn are often misrepresented as pet food fillers; however, these ingredients are actually good sources of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and fiber.”
How do I decide which brand of cat food to buy out of the many different options?
According to Dr. Simpson, “Factors such as age, breed, and health can certainly play a role when selecting the appropriate consistency of food for your cat. In addition, your cat’s personal preferences are something to take into consideration as well.”
On the one hand, dry cat food, such as kibble, is available in a variety of shapes and textures, and it can assist with dental issues such as the control of tartar buildup.
Additionally, pet owners who are short on both time and money may appreciate the fact that dry food is typically less expensive and more convenient to feed than wet food for cats.
Wet food, on the other hand, has a higher moisture content than dry food, which can be beneficial for cats who require more hydration in their diets, such as diabetic cats, cats with chronic kidney disease, and cats with lower urinary tract disease, according to Dr. Simpson.
She also mentions that the texture of wet food, which can include anything from pates to stews, is more manageable for cats that have a limited number of teeth.
If your cat does not appear to prefer the consistency of just one type of food, you can try mixing a small amount of dry food with a small amount of wet food.
What should you never give your cat to eat?
Outside of the standard dry, moist, and wet foods for cats, Dr. Simpson advises pet parents not to feed their cats diets that are entirely raw or made from scratch.
According to her explanation, the first option does not provide any advantages over regular commercial cat food in terms of meeting the dietary requirements of the cat, and it may even result in nutritional deficiencies and food-borne illnesses.
The latter, on the other hand, puts cats at risk for nutritional deficiencies.
Dr. Simpson recommends getting in touch with a veterinary nutritionist through the American College of Veterinary Nutrition if you are thinking about making your cat’s food at home. This is the case if you are considering feeding your cat homemade food.
If you are completely unsure about what might be the best canned food or dry cat food for your feline friend, for example, getting in touch with an expert is the best course of action to take because they will be able to guide you in the right direction. ” It can be confusing and frustrating to choose the best diet for your cat because there are hundreds of different brands, advertising that could be misleading, and information available online,” says Dr. Simpson. Asking your veterinarian for a recommendation on an appropriate diet is the most effective way to choose a diet for your pet.
With this in mind, there is no way that we could highlight every single healthy and protein-rich cat food brand that is currently available on the market. However, using the guidelines that were referenced by Dr. Simpson (along with some assistance from the internet’s most enthusiastic reviewers), we have highlighted some of the best cat food brands for you to try below.
Hill's Science Diet
Hill’s Science Diet is an example. It is not a coincidence that foods from Hill’s Science Diet—and Hill’s Prescription Diet, the branch of the brand that addresses health concerns such as sensitive stomachs, urinary tract issues, and maintaining a healthy weight—regularly appear on the shelves at veterinarians’ offices. Hill’s Prescription Diet is the brand’s arm that addresses these health concerns.
This company is the industry leader when it comes to producing foods that are compliant with AAFCO and WSAVA, and its Global Pet Nutrition Center is home to more than 200 scientific researchers.
Hill's Science Diet
Royal Canin’s in-house team of veterinarians and nutritionists put all of the company’s meals through an extensive development process before selling them to customers. This makes Royal Canin a favored brand among veterinary professionals.
Recipes that are high in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as those that are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids for shiny coats, are some of the unique items that are included in its special selection of products.
Purina Pro Plan
Purina Pro Plan is a great option if you’re looking for recipes that are backed by science and packed with nutritious proteins and carbs that won’t put a significant dent in your bank account.
There is a product available from this brand that is suitable for all types of cats, including those that live indoors, those that are older, and those that have a tendency to get hairballs.
Purina One, a less expensive alternative from the same brand, is not as focused on providing health-oriented recipes as Purina Select, but it will still offer your cat a diet that is complete and balanced.
Merrick stands out among other brands of pet food because it employs a team of nutritional specialists, it operates its own canneries and factories, and it has a long-standing commitment to producing foods that do not contain any artificial flavors, preservatives, or fillers.
Its Purrfect Bistro line of cat foods includes foods that are packed with all of the essential vitamins, antioxidants, minerals, and fiber that are required for a cat to lead a happy and healthy life.
In addition, the line includes recipes made with salmon, beef, and chicken that are intended to promote healthy skin and coats in addition to controlling hairballs.
Even though this brand does not have the same level of name recognition as, say, Purina, the nutritional prowess of this product has helped put it on the map.
Farmina’s Vet Research team collaborates with independent veterinarians to develop its recipes in order to promote ongoing improvements in the field of animal nutrition.
You can have confidence that your cat is eating nutritious, high-quality food because the recipes in question call for ingredients that come from farms and producers that have been subjected to stringent quality control measures.
The mission of VetDiet, which is true to its name, is to produce meals that prioritize your cat’s health and wellness. These meals are made with premium ingredients and have an in-house Health and Nutrition Advisory Board that is expanding all the time.
This company, which has been in operation for 25 years and is run by a family, produces delectable meals that are suitable for all stages of a cat’s life, from when they are young kittens to when they are senior citizens, as well as for specific requirements such as boosting the immune system and managing weight.
It can even be used to make nutritious treats for your cat, for times when he or she has been an especially good girl or boy (in other words, always).
All of the vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that your cat requires can be found in meats, vegetables, and healthy carbs thanks to the fact that Nature’s Logic was founded on the principle of the value of whole-food nutrition. This means that the company’s products do not contain any added synthetic ingredients.
Every batch of food that is produced at one of the company’s facilities in the United States is subjected to quality testing, and the company either directly purchases or approves the sources of all of its ingredients. This helps the company maintain quality control and reduce the risk of contamination.
Since the company’s inception almost a century ago, Earthborn Holistic has been family-owned and operated throughout its entire production process, from the kitchens where the food is prepared to the factories where it is manufactured.
It provides dry food for cats that is made with whole grains or without grains at all, as well as wet food that is free of grains and gluten and is made with hearty proteins like chicken liver.
Its products all begin with an animal-based protein, such as beef, chicken, duck, or salmon, as their primary component, but there are also other options.