Here's What Makes Up A Healthy Cat Diet, According To Vets
All the nutrients your cat needs 😻
It can be tricky trying to figure out the best food to feed your cat, but it comes down to making sure she’s getting all the nutrients she needs to live a happy and healthy life.
But what nutrients does she need, exactly?
We reached out to Dr. Claudine Sievert, a veterinarian at Stayyy, and Dr. Albert Ahn, a veterinary advisor at Myos Pet, to learn more about cat diets and how to make sure yours is getting all the essential goodies for a fulfilling life.
What nutrients do cats need?
There are six essential nutrients that cats need to be healthy.
Cats are carnivores, and meat should be the first ingredient in your cat's food. “They receive their essential amino acids from animal protein,” Dr. Sievert told The Dodo.
Protein is vital to building healthy organs, tissues, cartilage, tendons, hair and skin — just to name a few.
When deciding which cat food to get for your feline, it would be best to look for protein-rich meats such as turkey, chicken, fish or beef.
Animal fats are the primary source of energy for cats.
“Good fats are present in meat and fish, as well as essential fatty acids like omega-3 and -6, which are crucial for your pet's health,” Dr. Sievert said.
Carbs play a critical role in your cat's diet.
“They are easy to digest and give your kitty extra energy,” Dr. Sievert said.
Water is essential to your feline's health because it helps the body distribute and metabolize nutrients, maintain temperature and eliminate toxins.
Cat food should contain vitamins A, D, B1, B2, B3 and B6.
“These vitamins are essential for your cat's overall growth and good health,” Dr. Sievert said. “If they don't get the right amount of vitamins, it can lead to many different issues, including heart or kidney disease.”
Minerals and amino acids
Like vitamins, minerals and amino acids are also essential for your cat. “They contribute to enzyme formation, pH balance, nutrient utilization and oxygen transportation,” Dr. Sievert said.
The minerals you should look for are iron, calcium, magnesium, sodium and chloride. An essential amino acid that should always be in your cat’s food is taurine.
Are there different types of cat diets?
Some cats may need a special diet based on their age or a health issue.
”In general terms, cat foods are categorized by the following headings: kittens, adults, seniors and a range of modified diets designed to help cats with specific conditions, such as gastrointestinal diseases, skin allergies, urinary crystals and stones, weight management and kidney disease to name a few,” Dr. Ahn told The Dodo.
“Kitten food will be higher in calories because of higher fat content and will tend to have higher levels of calcium to help with bone growth and development,” Dr. Ahn added.
In the same sense, if your cat has skin allergies, there’s likely a diet she can go on that will help her feel better. “Typically [cat] foods developed for skin allergies will try to eliminate specific proteins that may be causing the skin allergy,” Dr. Ahn said.
There are also different types of cat food you can choose from if your cat’s a healthy adult, like wet food, kibble, freeze-dried, dehydrated and even food prepared at home.
“Some people want to make their cats handmade food, but this isn't recommended because it can be a time-consuming and challenging process, and the recipe may not contain the right amount of calories or proportions of nutrients your cat needs,” Dr. Sievert said. “It's recommended that owners purchase balanced cat foods unless a veterinarian recommends differently.”
How to find the best diet for your cat
When it comes to finding the right diet for your cat, your best bet is to ask your veterinarian since they can provide a tailored recommendation.
It’s also a good idea to know that most vets recommend feeding your cat wet food over dry food since it’s more hydrating.
While wet food’s recommended, if your cat prefers dry food, that’s also OK — it’s better to have a cat who’s eating her food than one who isn’t eating at all.
“Pay attention to your cat's specific needs, avoid foods that are toxic to cats, transition to new foods gradually to avoid upsetting their stomach, and follow the feeding guidelines on their food for optimal health,” Dr. Sievert said.
While finding the right cat diet might take a little trial and error, your best resource in figuring out which food is best for your kitty will always be your veterinarian.