Choosing the Right Food for your Cat

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Introduction

It’s rather easy to obtain a pet. Sometimes a cat or a dog will simply show up at your doorstep. And you, being a soft touch for those big begging eyes, open the door and let the creature in–to your house and your heart.

The other way to obtain a pet is to first decide what you want — cat or dog– and then go looking at the local shelters for that certain creature that will share your living space for ten to 15 years.

That is where I found my two cats. They are litter mates and I adopted them in 2007. They were about two years old and according to the shelter people their owner could no longer care for them. We went home and began the process of settling in.

Julie, a tuxedo(Black and white), ate whatever came her way, and turned the hallway between living room and bedroom into a runway. Janie, a tortoise shell was a willing accomplice to whatever Julie decided to get into.

It wasn’t long until I realized that Janie had food problems.

Julie and Janie in my big chair

She literally could not digest most food I set out for her. That bit of knowledge started a thirteen year battle with food–what could she eat ? what would she keep down? I have read dozens of food labels, numerous articles on food; we have visited vets, studied food allergies.etc.

I found out so much about cat foods, the best ingredients, raw foods, home cooked foods, specialty foods, cheap foods, expensive foods, brand name foods.  There are certain ingredients in foods that cats need for good health, good coats and long life. I began to realize that choosing the right food for your cat, and my cat, is more than price and advertising.

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Choosing the right food for your cat- meat eaters

Simply put, cats are carnivores, more to the point, obligate carnivores-that is meat eaters. Originally, cats were tolerated  around the farm and in the barns because they were death to the mice.  Cats could live on small rodents and birds as their sole food before humans began to invent such things as mouse traps and poisons to kill rodents.

Years ago. I remember walking by the isles of foods with my mother and there was one all purpose food for cats and dogs labled Ideal dog and cat food. Mother bought several cans every week for our cat and dog.  A daily treat was milk. In addition, the pets got trimmings off chicken and beefs cuts.

Today, the dog and cat sections are separate, with all kinds of branded foods. Foods  of all kinds and flavors designed to take care of any and all kinds of special problems that your cat might have. We have all spent so much time time reading labels, so as to be sure we are getting the right thing for our beloved pet.

Reading labels-Selecting Brands

There are so many brand labels that it takes an expert to choose the right food for your cat. It takes a while to figure out what is inside the can. Two label sections that must be read carefully in order to learn what is inside the mystery can are the Ingredients and Guaranteed analysis.

Labels and ingredients on food cans

Ingredients:   Lists water, meats, veggies, vitamins and minerals in each serving. Ingredients are listed in reverse order of amount in each can. For instance, if water is listed first, then water(sufficient for processing) is the largest ingredient, then next largest amount is pork,then chicken,etc all the way down to supplements to trace minerals.

Guaranteed Analysis: lists protein, fat, fiber, moisture, ash, and other items depending upon what category the prepared food is designed for such as weight management, sensitive skin, digestive system, urinary tract, etc.

Somewhere on the label you should find that this food meets nutritional standards of AAFCO cat food nutrient profile. You will also find the manufacturer’s name and address. Look them up online for more details.

When shopping for cat food, protein should be the highest percentage. Fiber and fat should be lesser percentages and ash should be small percentage such as 1 to 2.5, 2.8% or at most 3.2 %. It is believed that  a smaller percentage of ash is better for keeping the urinary tract healthy.

If your kitty is a healthy, happy cat, that plays a lot, eats well, and gets a good health review from her vet, you should not have too much difficulty finding good healthy food for your furry buddy.  Grocery stores usually carry two or three brand name canned and dry foods.

You can usually find, for a moderate price, Friskies, Purina, Blue Buffalo, and other brands in your grocery stores. You have the information on the labels to help you select good food for your cat. You will also have the choice of dry or canned food.

Your cat may have a preference.   A lot of working people like the convenience of dry food. It can be left out all day and your cat can eat at will. Be sure you have a water bowl close by. Cats need to drink lots of water with dry food.

Pet stores carry more brands of cat food than all purpose grocery stores. Some carry their own brand which is a little less expensive than specialty brands. You will find a full line of Purina, Blue Buffalo, Hills, Royal Canin, and several others.

Of all the  brands you will find, my preference are the brands I have mentioned. I have always been able to find good nutritional food that my cats like with these brands.

But what about Janie and her special food problem?

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Specialty Foods, Prescription Diet Foods

Choosing the right foods for my cat turned out to be a life-long search. I had an excellent Veterinary service in my town, and we went through numerous tests and trials of different foods. Nothing stayed down. It got to the point that I wanted to scream when I heard that retching sound that came shortly after she ate.

She was losing weight. Through tests we eliminated everything but the possibility of IBD (Intestinal Bowel Disease). Finally the vet suggested that we do an Endoscopy to see if anything was growing in the digestive area or a malfunction.

I left her overnight and came back for her the next afternoon. By process of elimination, the diagnosis was IBD. The vet suggested Hill’s prescription diet food.

I have to tell you, Janie is a fighter. She is a normal sized adult female cat with a normal weight of 8 to 10 pounds. She weighed just a lttle over 4 pounds when I took her home after her endoscopy. I made a bed for her on the foot of my bed. She stayed there for 3 days-only getting down to go use the litter box- then back up to the bed.

Hill’s Prescription Diet didn’t help and I decided I needed a different Vet with some different solutions.I found a Holistic vet that uses both natural remedies with latest trends.

First we did a check of food allergies-found out Janie was allergic to almost all foods normal cats eat! Beef, Duck,Lamb, potatoes, milk, oats, plus some additional items with very small allergic reactions. She wasn’t allergic to eggs, fish,chicken, turkey, rice, venison, peas.

That’s when I learned to read ingredients. The surprise for me was how many processed cat foods have potatoes as a base that holds foods together. We put her on venison- in fact Julie ate venison too- for a long time and Janie gained her normal weight back (10 lbs). I no longer heard that awful retching sound.

Janie did well for several years with Venison and other “wild” meats that I could get through my Veterinarian. We also had her on a probiotic and an Omega-3 fish oil. She began to build up an intolerance to the food that had worked so well and she was back to being unable to hold anything down.

By now Janie was 10 or 11 years old. My vet put her on prednisolone.

Janie curled around her water bowl

That is where she is today. The only thing that keeps her from vomiting everything she eats is the prednisolone. She is 15.

Choosing the right food for your cat- many choices for many situations

Some owners today want to tailor their pet’s diet for special nutritional needs:breed, size, health conditions and other defining traits. Personalized pet food is beginning to emerge as the latest trend in specialized diets.Big-brand names are looking at developing foods that address certain diseases that haven’t been included before.

Special grain-friendly foods are being developed to minimize allergies  and skin disorders. The food industry is also looking at special food formulas that will calm anxiety issues.

There is no end to specialized foods that are tailored for life stages and genetics.There are also plenty of dry foods available for pets , but some  owners are opting for fresh,human grade diets.

Most of these personalized food choices are for dogs at this point, but the demand for similar specialties for cats is in the wings. One company  —Smalls, out of New York,is offering fresh, freeze-dried,and kibble cat food subscriptions.

As long as we have cute little kittens and puppies that are looking for a home and people who fall in love with these adorable little fur balls, we will have companies working on foods that will appeal to the palates of these delightful babies, and also appeal to their owners.

I hope that the information in this article is helpful for people who have pets with dietary problems, as well as pets who just like to eat and entertain their owners. Keep reading those labels.

I’m Barbara Nelson and I would love to hear from my readers, Janie and Julie would love to hear from you, too.

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