By Mel Lee-Smith
Published: 10/27/2020, edited: 10/26/2022
It's never easy picking out the right wet food for your feline friend — cats can be fussy, and balancing their diet is tricky business. Hundreds of different types of wet food for cats are available on the market. So how do you ensure Smudge is getting a healthy and balanced meal? From fat content to preservatives, here are a few tips on choosing the best wet food for cats.
The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) sets out guidelines for each state on key ingredients in wet cat food. A guaranteed analysis requires wet cat food to contain the minimum recommended percentages of crude fat and crude protein, as well as the maximum percentages of moisture and fiber. These regulations also include information on taurine and magnesium.
When purchasing wet cat food, always check for the “guaranteed analysis” label. This indicates that the food contains the minimum percentages of fat and protein required by law. While the crude amount of ingredients doesn't tell pet parents the whole story on nutritional value, it does go a long way to ensuring your feline is getting a balanced diet.
"Complete and Balanced"
You can also tell a lot about the quality of wet cat food by looking for the phrase "complete and balanced" printed on the packaging. The term "complete and balanced" refers to whether pet food meets one of the AAFCO’s nutrient profiles. Pet food can meet one of these profiles by containing all of the necessary nutrients needed for a balanced diet. Alternatively, pet food is certified “complete and balanced” if it passes a feeding trial test conducted by the AAFCO.
Cats need a diet high in protein. Cats are obligate carnivores and require high-quality fish, poultry, or meat as the main ingredient in their wet food. According to the AAFCO, a cat needs a minimum of 26% of crude protein in their diet.
Taurine is an essential amino acid that naturally occurs in humans, but not in cats. Taurine is an essential part of a cat's diet, as it helps promote good vision, heart health, digestion. A taurine deficiency can have severe effects on your cat's wellbeing.
Cats struggle to drink enough water to keep them properly hydrated, so it's important their food has a high water content. The AAFCO states that most high-quality wet cat foods have a moisture percentage of 80%.
Cats require many of the same vitamins of dogs, with a few variations. For example, cats need high levels of Vitamin A as they can't convert beta carotene naturally. They also need higher levels of Vitamin B, as this helps regulate pancreas and liver function. Avoid giving your cat vitamin supplements as this can be dangerous. Most high-quality cat foods will give your cat the correct vitamins.
Fruits and vegetables
Only pumpkin and beet fiber are suitable for cats to consume. Several vegetables and fruits, such as cranberries and avocados, are toxic to cats and should be avoided. There are very few studies on how safe it is to feed your cat specific fruits and vegetables. As they are not vital to your cat's diet, you're best off avoiding them to be on the safe side.
While cats do have the right enzymes in their saliva to break down carbohydrates, you should avoid them in wet cat food. It's fairly common for cats to have a grain allergy, which can cause everything from vomiting to seizures.
Unspecified animal products
Animal by-products and unspecified meat ingredients are generally low in protein and high in fat. Accordingly to the AAFCO, cats require a minimum daily fat intake of 9%, with an ideal percentage in the mid-teens. Foods with unspecified animal by-products will likely exceed these fat guidelines.
Many preservatives are harmful to cats, such as the pesticide ethoxyquin and chemical additives butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). One of the best preservatives you'll find in wet cat foods is Vitamin E.
Your cat doesn't care about the color of their food, and these food dyes are only present to please pet parents. Many food dyes such as Blue 2, Red 40, and Yellow 5 and 6 can cause allergic reactions in cats. Other dyes are also known animal carcinogens and can cause cancer.
Consider your cat's age
At different stages in their lives, your cat will require different levels of nutrients. Most cat food brands have food that caters explicitly to kittens, cats over a year old, and elderly cats. If you're unsure whether your cat is eating the correct food for their age group, consult your vet for advice.
Different cat food requires different portions. Always check on the packaging to ensure you're feeding your cat the correct amount each day. Too much will make your cat gain weight, while too little could cause deficiencies.
Avoid homemade cat food
You might be tempted to create your own cat food, but this could cause a lot more problems than it solves. It's time-consuming and challenging to get the correct balance of vitamins, taurine, protein, moisture, etc.
Cut down on treats
Your feline friend undoubtedly loves some treats from time to time, but don't overdo it. Treats shouldn't exceed 15% of your cats daily calorie intake. Treats are calorific, and your kitty will pack on the pounds if you're not careful.
Mix it up
As you probably already know, cats are fussy eaters, and they'll often become fixated on a specific food. It's worth finding 2 or 3 high-quality cat foods so your cat doesn't get bored and refuse to eat.
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