Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Healthy Cats

Select An Article
Font Size

Feeding Your Adult Cat: What You Need to Know

Get expert tips for keeping your cat healthy, happy, and well fed.
By
WebMD Pet Health Feature
Reviewed by Audrey Cook, BVM&S

Whether you’re pinching pennies or can afford to pay top dollar, when it comes to nutrition, you no doubt want to do right by your cat. But you don’t have to spend lots of money or frequent boutique shops to feed your adult cat well.

Here are some guidelines to help ensure that your cat gets nutritious adult cat food.

How can I select a high-quality food for my adult cat?

Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD is a nutritional consultant and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in California. Although manufacturer reputation is one reliable indicator of the quality of adult cat food, she says the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides some added assurance of sound nutrition. You can check for the AAFCO statement on your cat’s food label.

AAFCO uses two methods to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of adult cat foods: formulation and feeding test.

The formulation method involves doing a nutritional analysis of ingredients and comparing it with AAFCO nutrient profiles for a cat’s particular life stage. “That diet doesn’t have to be fed to any live animal before it’s sold,” Larsen says.

The feeding test method evaluates the digestibility and absorption of nutrients in live animals. “I strongly prefer foods that have been through AAFCO feeding tests,” Larsen says.

Although adult cat foods may contain a wide range of ingredients, Larsen says your focus should be on nutrients.

Mindy Bough, CVT, senior director of client services for the Midwest Office of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), agrees. “The presence of one or two ingredients may make the food appear healthy, but it’s the balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that make a healthy cat food," Bough says.

When evaluating percentages of nutrients, keep in mind that these are measured on a “dry matter basis.” For this reason, a dry cat food may appear to have more protein than a wet food, for instance, but only because it contains less water.

Canned vs. dry cat food: Which one is better?

The experts haven't reached complete consensus. But most agree on some of the pros and cons of dry and wet adult cat food.

Dry adult cat food:

  • Is more economical
  • Is convenient because you can leave it out and it doesn’t spoil as easily
  • Is energy dense, meaning a cat can consume lots of calories quickly
  • Has about 10% moisture content
  • Tends to have more carbohydrates and less protein than wet food
  • May be only slightly better than canned food at preventing dental disease

Canned adult cat food:

  • Is more expensive
  • Can spoil more easily and requires refrigeration after opening
  • Is less energy dense than dry food
  • Has up to 78% moisture content
  • Tends to have more fat and protein - especially animal protein - and fewer carbohydrates than dry food
Next Article:

Today on WebMD

kitten with onions
Slideshow
Night stalking cat
Slideshow
 
Young woman holding Papillon
Slideshow
Kitten playing
Quiz
 
cat on couch
Slideshow
Kitten using litter box
Quiz
 
sleeping kitten
Slideshow
sad kitten looking at milk glass
Slideshow
 
Cat looking at fish
Slideshow
muddy dog on white sofa
Quiz
 
Maine Coon cat breed
Article
Pets: Behavior Problems in Cats
Slideshow