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What is the healthiest cat food for cats?
A wet canned food high in animal protein and low in carbohydrate is the healthiest choice for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off the nutrients in meat, organs, and bones. Wet foods give cats enough moisture for hydration.
Many sources online give advice that isn’t healthful for a cats needs. This can lead to an increased risk of kidney disease, digestive issues, and obesity long term.
In this article I’ll help you find the healthiest cat food no matter what budget situation you’re in.
The goal of this website is to help cat owners learn more about taking care of their cats. I am not a veterinarian and I recommend seeking the advice of a vet for any further questions.
The advice in this article is not intended as medical advice.
Let’s get into the article.
What is the healthiest cat food for cats?
A wet canned food high in animal protein and low in carbohydrate is the healthiest choice for cats. Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off the nutrients in meat, organs, and bones. Look for a product that is AAFCO approved for all life stages.
Let’s get into more specifics about why this option is best for cats.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as:
Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity
Put simply, the diet should help to keep your cat free of disease but also offer physical, mental, and social well-being.
Cats are obligate carnivores. This means they evolved to eat and consume prey as a main source of nutrition. This includes prey such as:
Cats evolved differences with their body adapted to a meat based diet with several differences to their bodies including:
- Ability to maintain glucose for the brain eating a low-carbohydrate diet without ketosis
- Higher dietary protein requirement than omnivores (e.g. humans)
- No dietary need for carbohydrate
- Inability to convert plant based forms of nutrients into active forms
- Can’t convert tryptophan to niacin
- Can’t convert beta carotene to Vitamin A
- Can’t convert linoleic acid to arachidonic acid
- Can’t make taurine in their body
When it comes to meeting the definition of health, wet canned foods are a great option.
They give cats all the nutrients they need to prevent disease in forms they can absorb. This type of food matches what a cat would eat in the wild.
Cat food manufacturers also add vitamins and minerals to meet the nutrient guidelines set by AAFCO. This ensures your cat isn’t going to have any shortages.
Is there any problem to feeding foods other than meats, organs, and bones?
In a word, yes.
According to research cats are in a constant state of gluconeogenesis. This means that cats livers are producing sugar from protein as a way of getting energy.
Cats don’t adapt to eating higher carbohydrate diets. They don’t produce more carbohydrate digesting enzymes with a high carbohydrate intakes. Also, their liver doesn’t stop producing sugar.
This means a high carbohydrate diet can raise blood sugar. Sugar in the urine (glycosuria) may damage kidneys long term. Since cats also have fewer digestive enzymes, a carbohydrate based diet can also increase the risk of digestive issues.
When given a choice a cat opts for a diet lower in carbohydrate diet (12% on a dry matter basis).
Researchers suggest cats can tolerate 20g of carbohydrate per day. A diet with less than 20g of carbohydrate is possibly the best choice for long term health.
What is the healthiest cat food brand?
I recommend Feline Natural as a top choice for cats. They have a range of wet cat food that is AAFCO approved for all life stages. Their foods are free of fillers and high in grass fed animal foods.
All Feline Natural products are below 10% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis. This makes the foods an excellent choice for digestion and long term health.
Although, this option is going to cost a little more. If you’re willing to put in a couple of extra bucks a day for your cat, then these foods are well worth the price.
Dry cat foods are usually higher in carbohydrate. I recommend opting for a low carbohydrate dry food higher in animal based food sources for health.
Learn more: Honest Feline Natural Cat Food Review
Learn more: Best Dry Cat Food Brands for Health
What is the healthiest dry food for my cat?
I recommend Dr. Elsey’s Clean Protein or Ziwi Peak Air-Dried cat food as the healthiest dry food options. It’s very low in carbohydrate and is high in animal protein. The food is AAFCO approved for all life stages and doesn’t contain any fillers like legumes.
Most dry foods are well over 10% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis. They tend to create a lot of ingredients cats don’t need like rice, wheat, corn, and oats.
Learn more: Best Dry Cat Food Brands for Health
What is the healthiest cat food for indoor cats?
Tiki Cat After Dark is a great choice for indoor cats. This food is high in a great range of meats, organs and low carbohydrate. It’s a little lower in fat which is a great option to lower calories.
Indoor cats tend to get less activity than outdoor dwelling cats. Whilst this depends on many factors (e.g. cat trees, tunnels, opportunities for play) they tend to need a little less calories.
Technically, any food in lower amounts will work fine for indoor cats but Tiki Cat is one of the best options to lower the calorie density.
Learn more: Best Wet Cat Food for Weight Loss
Is it better for cats to eat dry food or wet food?
Wet food is a better option for cats. These foods are lower in carbohydrate and have more moisture. They are easier to digest and better for long term health.
Most dry cat food is high in carbohydrate.
Remember, the carbohydrate ceiling effect is 20g per day. Cats self select a diet of about 12% carbohydrate on a dry matter basis. This lines up at around the 20g limit.
A diet of over 12% carbohydrate will push the total carbohydrate over this ceiling. Cats reject food the higher in carbohydrate it is, although added flavors may affect odor and taste.
Over the long term, a high carbohydrate diet may lead to an increased risk of kidney disease and diabetes.
If you opt for dry food, I recommend either increasing the amount of wet food you provide or decreasing the dry food in line with the carbohydrate ceiling.
Should cats be grain free?
Grain free is a better option as this can help reduce food intolerance related digestive issues. Some cats are intolerant to grain based foods like wheat and corn.
Corn gluten meal decreases the water amount in feces, which can increase the risk of constipation.
Although cats can digest cooked starch well, it’s the amount that is the problem. Too many carbohydrate in the diet pushes the amount to levels that can raise blood sugar. This may increase the risk of kidney disease and diabetes long term.
Rice bran is known to reduce taurine absorption, and essential amino acid.
There’s no real benefit to giving cats grains, and potential downside.
Is A Homemade Diet The Healthiest Choice For Cats?
A homemade diet seems like a great strategy for cats. However, the problem with is balancing all the food sources carefully to meet your cats nutritional needs. Research into recipes online found that the majority failed to give the right balance of nutrients needed for cats.
It’s not as simple as meat in a bowl.
Cats need a wide range of vitamins and minerals. In fact, a meat only diet has it’s own problems, creating a calcium deficiency. This can result in some nasty health problems including depression and bone abnormalities.
Some recipes online contain ingredients toxic to cats include garlic and onions (even ones made by vets). As you can see, picking a recipe online is a game of Russian Roulette!
Buying a commercial food is much easier for most people. A good product contains all the nutrients your cat needs for health (e.g. Feline Natural).
I have made my own guide to help you in case you wanted to look more into homemade diets.
Learn more: Complete Guide to Homemade Cat Food
Learn more: 17 Foods That are Poisonous to Cats
In this article I talked about the healthiest food cat food for cats.
Cats are obligate carnivores and thrive off animal based foods. A mixture of different meat sources, organs, and ground bones give cats all the nutrients they need for health.
Unlike humans, cats don’t benefit from a high carbohydrate diet. They have sensitive bodies that aren’t able to tolerate these diets.
High quality food options online include Feline Natural, Ziwi Peak, and Tiki Cat After Dark wet foods.
You can make your own homemade cat food. However, you must balance all the nutrients and avoid toxic foods like onions and garlic.