Friday, January 31, 2014

Caught up in the debate over which type of cat food is best? Get the facts

Flickr by hatch.m
I care for a lot of cats in my day-to-day life, and they all have different needs that depend on their health, living situation and stage of life.

I find, and rightfully so, that people have a lot to say when it comes to what their cats are fed — and what everybody else's cat should be eating. In my experience, there is a lot more attention to detail when it comes to the feline diet in comparison to dogs. It's no surprise really. Cats can be quite picky and sometimes they have special nutritional needs.

By and large, most cats are on a traditional adult feline diet, and the feeding directives are easy. The only thing that I really need to be concerned about is how much a cat is eating, since they can become overweight.

Of course, I do ask a lot of questions with regard to the specifics of a feline client's diet, because there are certain situations where a cat may need special consideration when it comes to what they eat.

Knowing that this topic is quite controversial (there are people who will undoubtedly disagree with the information here), it seems important to map out some facts about dry and canned cat food in an effort to demystify the topic, and hopefully debunk some of the advice I've heard some pet store employees give.

There seems to be a lot of dissent as to which is best: canned or dry.

The fact is they're both good, and for different reasons.

Most people feed dry cat food, and it has a lot of benefits. It's convenient, easy to store and generally speaking is a great choice for most cats. It's wonderful for cats that are prone to dental problems. Its dry, crunchy texture, (primarily a prescription dental formula) and because if that, is helpful in keeping kitty's teeth clean.

Underweight cats benefit greatly from dry food because it tends to have a higher caloric content than canned.

Calories count when it comes to outdoor cats, especially in the winter. I have a couple of clients who tend to 1-2 stray/feral TNR cats, and these animals benefit greatly from dry kitten food — it has a higher fat and calorie content than adult food, giving them the fuel that they need to stay warm and healthy in the winter.

Canned food is a great choice for a few reasons.

If you have an overweight cat, they'll benefit as canned food has fewer calories, making it an good choice for achieving an ideal weight. (It seems important to note that research indicates that despite all of the talk about dry food and carbohydrates being behind feline diabetes, it's not the dry food that is a catalyst in the predisposition of diabetes, but obesity itself.)

Felines that experience issues with constipation fare better with canned food, and ditto for kitties who are experiencing urinary issues. The reason? They benefit from the extra moisture.

If you have a cat who is underweight or needs a little coaxing to eat, canned food is superb! Canned cat food has a stronger aroma, and might help if a cat is exhibiting inappetance.

(Pro tip: if your cat has been prescribed medication that can be mixed into food, use a pate-style canned food, as opposed to cuts or fillets. Most cats have a preference for pate-style and medication can be easily mixed in and disguised.)

I'm not going to get into what brand of food is best, because I have no answers for that. Food that is high in quality, and fed in the proper amounts is key. Whether you decide to go with dry or canned — or both — is up to you.

Lorrie Shaw is a freelance writer and owner of Professional Pet Sitting. Shoot her an email, contact her at 734-904-7279 or follow her adventures on Twitter.

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