There are several options for feeding your cat a healthy, natural diet. You can rely on good quality commercial foods, create all the food for yourself, or do a combination of the two. But regardless of what you feed the tabby who likes to stalk you until you put the breakfast bowl down on the kitchen floor each morning, you will need to be aware that he or she has some highly specialized dining preferences and specific food needs. You should also be familiar with the foods that can harm your cat and the other toxins that may be in the environment.
Natural Menu Options for Your Cat
The menu of dining options you create for your cat can be as simple or as complex as you — and your cat — want. It is quite possible to fulfill all of your cat’s nutritional requirements with just a few high-quality commercial grade food products. At the extreme opposite end of the spectrum, you can load your freezer with gourmet-quality meals you produced yourself from special-ordered meats. There is a multitude of options in between, giving you the freedom to custom tailor his or her menu to fit your lifestyle, budget, and storage space, as well as your cat’s taste buds.
Feeding only high-quality commercial foods
Finding and feeding a high-quality commercial cat food might not be as easy as it sounds. You will find a variety of products on store shelves claiming to fit the bill, but you will need to take a close look at the labels and read the fine print to be sure. As mentioned earlier, the AAFCO sets the standards as to what a “complete and balanced” cat food contains as far as nutrition goes.
That organization requires companies to put on the label the percentage of the weight of the food that contains protein, fat, carbohydrates, and moisture. If you look at the part of a cat food label that says “Guaranteed Analysis,” you will find it tells you the moisture percentage of the product as well.
What Does the Label Mean?
You will need to do a little math to determine how much protein, fat, and carbohydrates are in a container of prepackaged cat food. On the package label, the manufacturer should tell you the basic nutrition facts of the product, which is the percentage of protein, fat, and so on.
There will also be a number telling you how much of the food is made from moisture. The first step to finding the protein level is to subtract the moisture percentage number from 100. That gives you the number of dry ingredients. Next, divide that answer number into the crude protein figure on the label. The resulting number will be a close estimate of how large the portion of protein is in the food. For example, say a can of cat food has protein listed at 9 percent and moisture at 77 percent. The math would look like this:
100 – 77 = 23
9 ÷ 23 = .40 (by rounding to the nearest tenth)
Therefore the amount of protein in the product is 40 percent, which is less than the 60 to 65 percent you want to aim for in your cat’s diet.
You will need to repeat the process to determine how much fat is in the product by using the crude fat figure on the label as well.
Even after doing the math to determine the protein and fat ratio of the cat food, your job is not yet done. If you are determined to only feed your kitty a good, quality commercial feed, you will also need to look at the ingredient list to be sure meat by-products and poultry by-products are not in it.
There are several pet food companies trying to meet the demand for high-quality natural foods, and there are now a growing number of organic and natural packaged foods on pet store shelves. The company Natura sells several holistic pet foods under different brands, including Innova, Evo, and California Natural. Blue Buffalo is another high-quality cat food manufacturer that promises to avoid by-products and cheap fillers. However, those foods remain quite expensive. For example, a six-pound bag of Evo Dry Cat and Kitten Food from Natura can cost close to $25, and pet owners must still go on faith that the ingredients are pure and untainted.