Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Be SAVVY about your cat's nutrition

I encourage my clients to  ask me questions about their cat's food because, as a consumer, making healthy choices  is not easy.  However,  it is SO very important to your cat.   Your cat DEPENDS on you for good quality nutritious food -and NOT ALL food on the market fits into this catagory. 

 Very few of the pet food manufacturers put useful information on their label.  The most important information, aside from the ingredient list, is calorie count.  How many calories are in each 8 oz cup or 5.5 oz can of your cat's  food?  The average 10# indoor  cat should be fed 200-250 kcal per day.  Without knowing how many calories are in the food you feed, you do not know how much to feed daily.  And PLEASE do not trust the chart on the bag that tells you how much to feed your cat!  These charts always encourage overfeeding!  (It is a sad fact that pet food companies are more concerned about the bottom line, than the health of your cat.)

 As many of you know, part of my annual exam appointment  includes a discussion of nutrition and  healthy choices, we calculate how many calories to feed , and the amount to feed based on YOUR food choices.  I do this because I am convinced that the way to keep your cat  healthy is by making healthy choices.  I also carry a variety of wellness diets in my practice that I have researched and feel comfortable recommending.  These are foods that I feed my own cats.  I know that many of you don't have time or the desire to do the necessary nutritional research before you chose your cat's food.   I have the calories per cup or can clearly posted on my shelves.  My staff can advise you on how much to feed to maintain a healthy weight.  I have recently posted the  percentages of protein, fat, and carbohydrates in these canned wellness foods.  Again, this information is not found on the label (without doing the math), but it is SO important.

I recommend looking for a food that is at least  40% protein, whether you are feeding canned or dry food.  Watch the carbohydrate percentage -cats should not be getting more than 25% of their diet as carbs (and some nutritionists think that even this is too high.).  The first ingredient in your cat food MUST BE meat based protein, or DO NOT FEED IT.  I recently had a client bring a bag of Science Diet dry food in for me to evaluate, and I was shocked to see the first two ingredients were rice and corn.  Remember that companies change their ingredient list AT WILL.  They are not required to change the label or notify their customers in any way -so ALWAYS read the label with every purchase. And a reputable name brand does not ensure quality ingredients. 

Lastly,  evaluate the water content in your chosen canned food.  Water in canned food should be around 75-78%, and this is plainly marked on the label .  If the water content is 78%, then you are paying for 22% food.  Water is a great addition to canned food,  but you can always add more water before serving .   I have seen some quality canned foods as high as 87 1/2% water -so your cat is only getting 12 1/2% food.    If the water content is high, the calorie count is usually lower, but the PRICE MAY STILL BE HIGH -so READ THE LABEL.

The internet can be your friend, if you are wanting more facts about the food you feed your feline friend.  Or, feel free to bring your cat food bag/can in with your next annual exam.  We will be happy to do the research for you!
Dr. Maureen Flatley
Fox Valley Cat Clinic