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What Should I Consider When Buying Cat Food?

By Sheri Cyprus
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Animal owners should never buy pet food based on price alone. Cheaper pet foods have more fillers and less protein. Cats require a high protein diet and the proper nutrients to stay healthy. When you are buying cat food, look for a pure protein source as the first ingredient on the label and also consider your veterinarian's opinion of what kind of food is best for your cat.

Check product expiration dates when buying cat food. Your cat needs fresh food from a clean glass or metal dish. You should also give your cat fresh water from a clean glass or metal bowl each time you feed your cat. Plastic dishes tend to get scratched and bacteria can collect in the scratches and cause feline acne which can be painful and cause health problems in your cat.

When buying cat food, whether it is wet or dry cat food or kibble, it is a good idea to check the label for feeding trials approved by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO). The AAFCO has guidelines that pet food manufacturers must follow and feeding trials show that the product has been tested in actual use. According to the AAFO, a manufacturer can not claim the food to be a balanced source of all the nutrients a cat needs if this is not the case.

Your veterinarian should still be consulted before buying cat food, as some pet food manufacturers stay within AAFO guidelines by breaking up the filler products listed on their labels. For example, rather than listing "corn meal" they may list many different separate filler ingredients with corn in them to make the actual filler content appear less. The first three ingredients listed on the label are the important ones to consider when buying cat food and you can check with your vet if you think many variations of the same fillers are listed on the label.

A premium cat food with a pure protein source listed first such as turkey, chicken, lamb or fish will cost more than a budget cat food with a high filler content such as corn, rice or bone meal. Protein costs more than grain for the pet food manufacturer. This is why you should expect to pay more when buying a good quality cat food with the pure protein and other ingredients that offer proper feline nutrition.

Before buying cat food, you should also ask your veterinarian about any ingredients that could be harmful for your cat's urinary and dental health. Buying cat food recommended by your veterinarian is a good idea as he or she will be familiar with the unique needs of your cat. When buying cat food, be aware that changes in your cat's diet may cause diarrhea, so it is usually best to introduce the new food gradually.

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Discussion Comments
By Reminiscence — On Oct 23, 2014

When I adopted my two cats from the shelter, they gave me a small bag of the soft cat food they were used to eating. Once that bag started to run out, I decided to buy better cat food at a local pet store. The vet said I did the right thing by slowly introducing the new food to them instead of making a sudden swap.

One thing I would suggest to new cat owners is to do some experimenting with different flavors until you find something the cat really likes. Every cat is different. I've had some that really loved seafood flavors, while others wouldn't get near those food bowls. I did have to throw out a few cans of moist cat food at first, but once you dial in your cat's preferences, you'll save money by not buying the flavors they won't eat.

By AnswerMan — On Oct 23, 2014

I have to admit I used to buy the cheapest cat food I could find on the shelves, because it seemed like my rescue cat would eat just about anything. I had to change my way of thinking when she started losing weight and throwing up about every day. The vet said she had some serious food allergies, and one of them was the first ingredient listed on the cat food bag.

I now buy hypoallergenic cat food from a local pet store. I can still get away with buying some cheaper moist cat food once in a while, but for the most part I make sure that meat is the first ingredient listed on the can.

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