When you consider balanced nutrition for cats, you probably think of protein. While cats do require protein as the major component of their diets, protein is only one aspect of a balanced diet for felines.
“A ‘balanced and complete’ diet is a diet that contains at least the minimum or maximum levels of essential nutrients for cats per day, particularly taking into account the nutrients that cats cannot ‘make’ themselves and require our input, like taurine for eyesight,” explains Carlos Neves, a technical consultant to the pet food industry. “We are speaking not only of the macro nutrients, such as protein and fat, but just as important are the micro-nutrients such as amino acids, vitamins and minerals to sustain a cat’s health every day. Certain brands contain higher or lower levels depending if the product is economy, premium or super-premium. The important point is that those minimum/maximum levels are found in the food to ensure the maintenance of a cat throughout her life stages.”
Kittens require a high-energy diet to help their bodies cope with growth demands and a high activity level. The right diet for your adult cat will depend on her current life stage, weight, any health conditions she may have and her lifestyle (whether she is an indoor or outdoor cat, or an active or sedentary cat). If she has a condition that can be improved by diet, your veterinarian may suggest a prescription diet, specifically formulated for the condition.
Neves says that cat food must contain high levels of protein as cats are obligate carnivores, but also an optimum balance between protein, fat and carbohydrates. “It’s imperative that the ingredients used allow for a low urine pH to maintain a healthy urinary tract and not allow for the formation of struvite crystals, particularly in male cats,” he adds.
Canned food is wet food. The manufacturer produces the recipe for the food and manufacturers it to the same standards as any tin of human food. The food batch is prepared and mixed according to the formulation and pumped into sterilised cans. Cans are sealed and then undergo a cooking process. Canned cat food has a moisture content of over 70%.
Kibble is dry food. When a new food is produced, the recipe is perfected by the manufacturer and is based on the type of diet they are producing and the nutritional requirements of the pet for which the food is produced.
The ingredients are mixed together to form a soft dough, which is then put through an extruder machine and cooked for a few seconds under pressure at medium temperatures. Thereafter, it passes through a die which cuts the kibble shapes. The kibble is further dried to ensure a moisture content of around 10%. Once completely dry and cooled, some products receive a spray coating of vitamins, minerals and fats if required.
* Ideally, first on the ingredient list
* Low-quality protein – animal by-products and bonemeal
* High-quality protein – quality meats
* Fish – a good source of omega 3
Grains and other carbohydrates
* Inclusion is controversial
* Low grades – low nutritional value – used as a filler (high inclusion)
* Good source of carbs – good nutritional benefits (low inclusion)
* Grain-free food available (personal choice/food allergy diet)
Vegetables and fruit
* May or may not be included, depending on the product
* Offers nutritional benefits
* Source of dietary fibre/antioxidants
* Source of vitamins/minerals
Vitamins, minerals and amino acids
* Essential in a balanced diet
* Should include antioxidants
* Added supplements for specific benefit (for example omega 3 and 6 for skin and coat)
* May include pre- and probiotics for healthy digestion
* Mineral levels (calcium, phosphorus and magnesium, for example) monitored to avoid dangerous high levels
* Ensures good shelf life/nutrient efficacy
* Curbs the breakdown of fats
* Natural products like rosemary or vitamin E
* Or approved chemical preservatives