Cat food is generally made of proteins, water, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. It is the mixture of these ingredients that determines how close the food is to that found within nature. Cats are carnivores so they require nutrients that are found in animals, which include minimal carbs, a moderate amount of fat, and high levels of protein. Their bodies metabolize animal fats and proteins featuring complete amino acids that cannot be made in adequate amounts.
The Importance of Different Cat Food Ingredients
Carbs provide energy but cats do not efficiently use these as an energy source. They require regular glucose release from protein. Fat is the most concentrated energy form and it provides essential fatty acids that felines do not make efficiently. These include omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Fat also helps with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.
Cats require vitamins A, D, K, E, and B and phosphorus, calcium, and other minerals. They also need arginine, taurine, methionine, and cysteine, which are complete amino acids that they are unable to make sufficiently. Water is also important because it assists with bodily functions including circulation and digestion.
Dry Vs. Canned Cat Food
The debate between dry and canned food is a big one. Some vets say that as long as the food is high-quality, its form does not matter. However, they do admit that some felines benefit from the high moisture level of wet food, which dilutes urine. Other vets say that canned food features more animal protein and meat, while dry food has less moisture and mainly plant-based ingredients, a different type of protein and carbs, making it less desirable.
In general, carbs should represent no more than ten percent of calories. Some vets belief that energy-dense, high-starch dry foods could lead to feline obesity, especially when dry food is free-fed. Nutrients are the most important feature of cat food and different ingredients feature different levels of nutrients. Ingredients are listed on labels in descending weight order and protein should be the most predominant nutrient listed.
Cat food labels make it difficult to compare brands. The reputation of the manufacturer is important and so is the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) seal of approval. This indicates that the food contains the correct amounts and ratios of important nutrients. However, even the AAFCO feeding tests leave something to be desired due to their parameters, length, and size, say many vets.