Types of Cat Food

There is an enormous range of cat food available and it can be very confusing to the new pet owner deciding what to feed. There’s an opinion on every type. I was recently at a veterinarian’s office and the nurse there was scrunching her nose up at tinned cat food, saying it’s nothing more than junk food for cats. While I don’t claim to be an expert on feline nutrition, I did disagree with her. There are benefits to feeding canned, such as increasing water consumption (some cats just aren’t big drinkers), but it can all get a bit technical going into the reasons behind different feeding regimes and that is for another article. I personally am a fan of feeding a variety of types of food.

  • Canned: Has a higher water content. Cats are desert-dwelling animals and get most of their water via the food, they have a very low thirst drive and when fed dry food, they won’t always make up the shortfall in water content.
  • Dry: It’s convenient, it can be left out all day for the cats to graze on.
  • Raw: Chopped up chunks of human-grade steak, organ meats and chicken necks which help with teeth and jaw health.

I worry that cats will become a bit fussy if they are fed one type of food all the time. There may be a need to switch diets at a later stage in their life, such as if they need to go on a prescription diet or their chosen brand is discontinued.

Reading labels

Pet food labels can tell you a lot. Cheaper brands bulk up the food with cheap fillers, these are usually corn or wheat and are of little nutritional benefit to cats. The main ingredient is always listed first, followed by the next main ingredient etc. You want to be looking for food which lists meat first or as close to first as possible.

Canned food

Cans are available in a variety of sizes from the standard 400g to single-serve 95g. The water content of canned food is between 70-80%.

Dry food

Dry food (or kibble) is very popular among cat owners. The water content is approximately 10%. Cheaper brands, in particular, can contain too many fillers. These are made up of carbohydrates which cats don’t need in large quantities. Think about the makeup of your wild cat’s typical prey (say a mouse), it is not high in carbohydrates but would be predominantly made up of water, protein, fat and a few carbs. So, always read the ingredients panel carefully to make sure that the brand you are selecting is not high in fillers, and the leading ingredient is meat and not corn or wheat.

You can purchase dry food from the supermarket, pet store or your veterinarian. Supermarket brands tend to be of poorer quality than brands available from your veterinarian or pet store.

Prescription diet

Prescription diets may be necessary if your cat develops a medical condition such as kidney disease, urinary tract disorders, food allergies, weight loss. They come in dry and canned but you can only purchase them from your veterinarian. There are prescription diets for the following conditions:

  • Kidney disease
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Oral care
  • Urinary health
  • Weight loss
  • Digestive care
  • Diabetes

Raw diet

Raw diets can be purchased or made at home. If you are making your cat’s own food, it is VITAL you spend a huge amount of time researching the nutritional requirements of cats. Feline Nutrition is a wealth of information on raw diets. If the diet is not nutritionally sound it can have a devastating effect on your cat. This is why I choose not to make my own food for the cats, but just “supplement” their diet with beef chunks. But if you know what you are doing, it’s a great option. You are guaranteeing that your cat is eating the best quality ingredients and know exactly what is going into their food.

Leave fresh clean water out at all times.

Julia Wilson is a cat expert with over 20 years of experience writing about a wide range of cat topics, with a special interest in cat health, welfare and preventative care. Julia lives in Sydney with her family, four cats and two dogs. She enjoys photography, gardening and running in her spare time. Full author bio Contact Julia