What's wrong with regular cat food?
I should preface by saying that I don't think it matters as much as some people make out. Especially when it comes to feeding a pet at such high risk of getting run over by a car, and given how expensive high quality cat food is. But on the whole, most commercial foods sold for cats are a bit pants. As cheap fillers, they have lots of cereals, grains and carbohydrates, whereas the natural diet of cats is overwhelmingly meat (and certainly no grains). Dry cat foods tend to be especially high in grain content. Also, too much dry food is probably hard on cat kidneys, because cats have low natural urges to drink water. It's also alleged that high grain content diets lead to wrong pH (too alkaline) urine in cats, leading to increased risk of urinary tract problems. Kidney failure and UTIs are common in older cats. The actual meat used in any cat food tends to be fairly low grade, perhaps mechanically extracted, although it can't be too poor quality because human tasters are used to check flavours and consistently. Also it has been cooked to industrial standards, so should have low parasite or contamination risks.
So is wet food always better?
Not necessarily; some wet foods have just as much grains fillers and just as little protein or actual meat content as the typical dry food. Unfortunately, you really have to do some research (spending ages reading fine print) to find the best food for your cat. Keeping in mind how fussy cats can be, and your budget.
Is dry food better for cat teeth?
There is mixed evidence about this, much of it highly contested where it seems to show that wet feeding is associated with more feline caries. From what few scholarly articles I can find, there is a consistent affect of dry food being better for dental health. I imagine this comes down to the carbohydrate fillers sticking more firmly to cat teeth, if they are part of a generally sticky wet food. So the dental risk depends very much on overall quality of the wet food used, too.
How do I find a good food for my cat?
Pricey doesn't necessarily mean better. Read the fine print on packaging for high meat content (% total) and minimum or low grain content. Some rather expensive cat foods are still very high in grain content. Odds are you won't find the most meat for money in supermarket, then again, you may be surprised. Zooplus.co.uk is a popular online retailer of bulk quantity premium pet foods, made from better quality ingredients (or so they claim!). Zooplus website is helpful in giving detailed ingredients information, and prices in £/kg equivalents for different brands and product options. I can vouch for their fast delivery service, too.
I put together some tables of cat food data (price, % meat) available to us locally and online, which may help someone else. All data accurate as of late July 2012. I'm focusing on the last two columns, which is how much do I pay for the meat/overall meal. Lower numbers = better, because it means I'm paying less for more meat.
Data to be filled in later when I don't have children whinging at me.
Dry Cat Foods
| Source || Product || % meat content || price (£) || Volume for money (£/kg) ||Meat for money=£ / (kg * % meat) |
|Sainsbury's ||IAMs Ocean Fish+Chicken, 3 kg bag on offer || 39 || 10.00 ||3.33|| 8.55 |
|Sainsbury's ||IAMs Ocean Fish+Chicken, 3 kg bag RRP || 39 || 14.49 ||4.83|| 12.38 |
|Zooplus ||Applaws chicken, 2x7.5kg bag, with free delivery and 10% discount ||80 ||59.38||3.96 ||4.95|
|Ebay ||Royal Canin chicken 10 kg bag, with free delivery ||32 (max, est) ||45.99||4.60 ||14.37|
|NW Garden Centre ||Burgess Supacat, 1.5kg bag, chicken-duck-salmon ||27 (est) ||3.99 ||2.66||10.64|
Wet Cat Foods
| Source || Product || % dry meat content || price (£) ||Volume for money= £/kg|| Meat value for money= £ / (kg * % meat) |
|Sainsbury's ||Butcher's || ?? || ?? || ?? || ?? |
|Sainsbury's ||Own make sachets, 48 x 100g box || 30 (est) ||9.79 || 2.04 ||6.8|
|Zooplus ||Bozita Chunks in Jelly, var. flavours, 24x370g sachets, with free delivery and 10% discount ||90 (est) ||19.90||2.24 ||2.49|
|Zooplus ||Bozita var. flavours, 6x410g cans, with free delivery and 10% discount ||95 ||5.99||2.43 ||2.56|
|Monster Pet Supplies (online) ||Lily's Kitchen Proper Cat Food, 16x100g tins (no grains) assume free delivery ||60 ||13.28||8.3 ||13.83|
|Zooplus ||Almo Nature 12x70g cans Ocean Fish, free delivery and 10% discount || 98 || 6.74 || 8.02 ||8.19 |
If you decide to experiment with quality cat foods, only buy small quantities to start with in case your cat doesn't like it. No point in wasting money on food cat won't eat!
So what do we feed our cats?
We are still experimenting, but my long term plan is veering towards buying large (10 kg) bags of Applaws online, and Butchers brand (cans of wet food) in local supermarket.
What other feeding options are there?
It's increasingly popular to feed cats all on raw food diets. Ie, you buy regular human-grade meat and feed this to your cats instead of commercial cat food. Most sources insist that a raw food cat diet must be supplemented with many micro-nutrients (notably the amino acid Taurine; note that many claim that even cats fed high quality commercial foods still need Taurine and other supplements for optimal health, it's all too complicated for me to summarise!). Raw feeding can be combined with regular cat food. For me, feeding raw foods to my cats was just too much thinking, mess and fridge storage space (and expense I reckon, though haven't researched it closely), but I can see why it works well for others.
Anything else I should keep in mind?
Some people argue that feeding cats high quality food saves owners money in the long run due to fewer health problems. But see my note at start about high risk of cat getting run over, anyway.
It's also asserted that cats fed higher percentage meat diets consume less volume of food, so you can't just compare the £/kg statistics to see what is cheapest. I am waiting to see how true that claim is for my cats!
Buying food in bulk means higher risk your cat will stop liking it or you'll otherwise be stuck with a lots of expensive food no cat in your household will eat. Plus, there's high risk of weevil infestation if you have a large bag of dried food sitting around for ages. I'm not sure if the cats wouldn't just see weevils as extra protein, but you don't want an insect infestation, ideally.
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