Three Things to Consider Before Buying Dry Cat Food

When it comes to dry cat food, it’s important to get one that meets your cat’s diet and nutritional needs.

Silver tabby cat lying on wooden floor
Your choice of cat food has a direct relation to the health and longevity of your favorite feline.Inge Wallumrod

If you own a cat—which isn’t unlikely since there are 94 million pet cats in the United States—feeding it the right food is important. The choice between dry and wet cat food is one that is highly personal and often decided by the cat, not the owner. If you have decided to feed your pet a dry food, it’s important to note that not all dry cat foods are created equal. When selecting food for your cat, you should consider a dry cat food’s ingredients, protein and fat content, and other nutritional information. If the wide variety of foods available still leaves you uncertain on which one to buy, it’s wise to consult your veterinarian.

Ingredients

Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food, for Adult Indoor Cats, Chicken Recipe
This high-quality dry cat food contains chicken and whole-grain wheat, and has a crude protein content of at least 31 percent, suitable for most adult cats.Hill's Science Diet

What’s in a name? The name and advertised ingredients could say a lot about cat food you are considering feeding to your feline companion. According to guidelines by the Association of American Feed Control Officials, if a food is advertised to contain a single ingredient, it must contain 95 percent of that ingredient, not including added water. If a combination of ingredients is advertised, that combination must make up at least 95 percent of the food. Additionally, foods with descriptive phrases in their names, like dinner, platter or entrée, must contain at least 25 percent of the named ingredient. On the other end of the spectrum, foods that have a name stating “with” a certain ingredient only need to contain 3 percent of that ingredient. Knowing the ingredients in your cat’s food is the first step to making a good decision.

Protein Content

Taste of the Wild Grain Free High Protein Real Meat Recipe Rocky Mountain Premium Dry Cat Food
Loaded with protein, this food has the taste of roasted and smoked meat, fish, and poultry.Taste of the Wild

The amount of protein a cat food has is important in determining how healthy it will be for your cat. Kittens below one year of age are growing and developing quickly and should be getting 30 to 40 percent of their energy from protein. For adult cats between one and six years of age, a well-balanced food will generally contain about 35 to 40 percent protein. Later in life, cats over about seven years of age thrive better on foods with a little lower protein content since they sometimes develop kidney problems that are made worse by a high-protein diet. Feed your cat a food without adequate protein content, and he or she is likely to be underweight, not have a shiny coat, and will fail to thrive overall. Too much protein isn’t usually harmful for normal, healthy cats under age seven, although it will demand a premium price and could lead you to purchasing a more expensive food than your cat really needs.

Nutrition

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein Grain Free, Natural Adult Dry Cat Food, Chicken
With chicken as its first ingredient, this food is advertised as 100 percent grain free.Blue Buffalo

While grains are used in many cat foods, many cat owners prefer not to feed them to their cat, opting for a more “natural” alternative. In truth, grains are an excellent source of carbohydrates that is easily metabolized by cats and used as an energy source. An analysis is included on the packaging of most pet foods that lists the minimum amount of protein and fat by percentage and the maximum amount of fiber and moisture by percentage. Fats contain more than twice as much energy as proteins and carbs per gram. Cat foods should contain at the very least a fat content of about nine percent of dry matter. Fat content can be reasonably high without any adverse effects, but if your cat is putting on lots of extra weight, cutting back on the fat is one place to look for a solution. If you’re unsure what is the best mix of ingredients and nutritional factors for you cat, consult your veterinarian for help in choosing a food.