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The Importance of Food to Your Cat's Health

Why Cats Thrive With Well-Balanced Nutrition

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Along with veterinary care, a nutritious diet is critical to your cat's health and longevity. Learn why the right food plays such an important role in responsible cat care. You'll find covered here material on the history of commercial cat food, the story behind the recent revolution in cat food manufacturing, and reasons why you need to be very selective in choosing the kinds of food that make up your cat's diet.

You can do a service to your cat by learning what he would eat if he foraged in the wild, then approximating that diet as closely as possible in his daily food choices.

Why all the Fuss About Cat Food?

Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
Retail cat food sales alone accounted for an estimated 8.2 billion dollars in 2002, according to Ann Gurkin, writing for the Petfood Industry magazine. It is therefore unfortunate that some of the top-selling pet foods may be doing cats an injustice, and in some cases, may actually be harming them. The massive pet food recall in early 2007 was an extreme example of the latter. However, the recalls had to do with tainted ingredients imported from China. The more insidious damage is being done with poor quality cheap ingredients which are accepted and defined by AAFCO and excessive quantities of grain fillers such as corn. Other "legal" ingredients are simply unspeakable, as you will learn here.

Food Pets Die For, by Ann N. Martin - Review

Photo Credit: © Franny Syufy
The content of this book is not for the squeamish, but was written with frank, detailed disclosure of the sorts of disgusting ingredients which are "legal" in pet foods, along with descriptions of the commonly-used processes of producing those ingredients. If you can get past the graphic descriptions in the second chapter, you'll find yourself hoping that it is all a huge mistake, but in your heart you will realize the inherent truth in Ann Martin's words.

It's possible that you will consider leaving this particular book unread. On the other hand, you couldn't perform a more loving act on behalf of the cats and dogs who share your home and trust you to do what is right for them, than to read this book and take to heart its admonishments.

Why Cats are Called "Obligate Carnivores"

Photo of Teeth of a Carnivorous Cat
Photo Credit: © iStockPhoto/Michael Bodmann

Some people are confused by the distinction between carnivores and obligate carnivores. There is a fine, but extremely important distinction between the two terms as related to cats. Let's start with the definition of "carnivore." The simplest definition is: "an animal which eats flesh."

So far, so good. However, consider that fact that most humans eat flesh, in the form of hamburgers, chicken, and seafood, for example. Is that all we eat? Hardly. Most of us also eat vegetables, fruits, and grains. Many humans are vegetarian, or even vegan - those folks don't consume anything of animal origin.

Take a look at your cat's teeth - they were made to kill, then rip and tear the flesh of their prey - a sure clue to their carnivorous needs.

Raw Food Diet for Cats

Many cat caregivers have come to the conclusion that there is no perfect commercial food for cats. What is a concerned cat owner to do, then?

Raw food diets have been around for over a decade. Probably the first one was the BARF (Bones and Raw Food) diet, originally intended for dogs. To my knowledge, the first commercially-offered raw food diet for cats was Instincts TC developed in Canada in 1996 by Natascha Wille and Scott Baker. Instincts TC is sold on the Feline Future web site, now managed by Natascha Wille.

Today, we have options for feeding raw:

  • Starting from scratch, which can be time-consuming
  • Using a supplement (such as Instincts TC) with our own meat preparation
  • Purchasing frozen or freeze-dried raw food

How to Choose Cat Food

If you've read the previous articles shown here, you understand the compelling reasons why your choice of foods for your cats is so important. For those of us who do not have the time to prepare raw food for cats, the option is to buy the most healthful commercial food possible, which most closely resembles a raw food diet. But weeding out the junk from the best foods requires study.

A survey disclosed that many pet food consumers do not know as much as they think they know about the food their cats and dogs eat. Many did not really know how to read labels, nor the meaning of the ingredients. Now you can learn how to read cat food labels, why some foods are better than others, and what those mysterious ingredients are.

Cat Food Recalls

Cat food recalls were relatively rare until the massive Menu Foods Recalls in early 2007, which blindsided both consumers and some of the pet food companies involved.

Since 2007, there have been a few cat food recalls which bear mentioning.

It should be noted, that in the last case (Premium Edge), cats who are fed a regular rotation of brands and formulas, should not suffer from the deficiency of any singular vitamin or mineral. The cats affected by Premium Edge had eaten it exclusively over a period of time.

Cat Food FAQs

Some of the most often asked questions I receive are about cat food: feeding habits, schedules, what kinds of food to give cats, even what kind of cat food dishes to use. Listed here are commonly-asked questions about cat food and nutrition.

Cat Food Glossary

AAFCO definitions of ingredients that can legally be used in pet food. Some of these will be eye-openers if you have already read the other articles in this section.
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