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
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,”
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
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
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
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