Breaking Down Your Cat's Diet
With so many options for cat food, it can be overwhelming to pick a type, flavor, and brand of food to serve your cat's needs. Here, we'll review a history of cat food and how to wade through all of the details and find what works best for your furry friend.
A History Of Cats And Their Food
Unlike dogs, who quickly became dependent on humans for food and shelter, cats have always been more independent. Cats likely became domesticated after spending time around humans -- in their barns, and in their trash piles -- but as obligate carnivores (that means they can only eat meat!), they've been hunting our pests for tens of thousands of years.
It is only in recent civilization that "cat food" as we know it, packaged and branded, came into existence. Purina is considered to be the first cat food company, opening its doors in 1894, and soon after, the concept of "cat food" as an item exploded. Until the 1920s, cat food was considered a luxury product. Now, of course, it is an essential part of any modern home with cats.
Cat Dietary Needs
As obligate carnivores, cats need diets that are mostly or entirely meat. Forcing your cat to eat vegetarian or vegan can be very dangerous. As a result, good cat foods will be primarily meat and fish based.
In addition to meat, cats need a lot of water to function in daily life. Cats are often resistant to drinking stagnant water, but may be more interested in drinking from a fountain or faucet. Encouraging your cat to drink more water is important.
Although dry kibble is convenient, it often leaves our cats chronically dehydrated, which can cause problems with kidney function and digestive health. Even if you feed primarily kibble, you should occasionally feed your cat some wet food, raw food, moist food toppers, or other sources of moist food besides water.
How To Read The Label
Luckily, packaged cat food takes the guesswork out of what your cat's diet should be. With standard labeling, you can figure out how much protein is in your cat's food, as well as where it comes from. Like all nutrition labels, cat food ingredients are listed by their weight. So, if salmon is the first ingredient, then salmon is what is most prevalent in the food. Using this knowledge, you can determine which flavors and types of food might be better for your pet. If the cat food has vegetables up front, you'll want to pick another brand. For a more detailed description of pet food labels, you can check out our Pet Diet article.