Your cat is one of a kind, so it stands to reason that you want to choose a cat food that accounts for their unique tastes, age, breed and health concerns. But with thousands of pet foods available, how do you pick the one that’s right for your cat?
First, it’s important to understand your cat’s nutritional needs. Then, you’ll need to think about your cat’s life stage, lifestyle and any health issues, and do a bit of research on cat food types, ingredients and cost. That may sound complicated, but we’ll make it easy for you — just keep reading.
Understanding Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
Good nutrition is as important to your cat as it is to you — but their nutritional needs are quite different! Unlike humans, a cat needs a high-fat diet with less fiber. And even if you prefer a vegetarian diet, keep in mind that cats are carnivores. They need nutrients from animal protein and fat for optimal health, and they benefit from fiber for a healthy digestive tract and carbohydrates for energy.
5 Considerations for Choosing a Cat Food
1. Think about Your Cat’s Life Stage and Lifestyle
Kittens, adult cats, nursing mothers and mature or senior cats are all examples of life stages, and each has different nutritional requirements. All cat foods should state which life stage they are recommended for — as an example, IAMS™ Healthy Kitten and Healthy Kitten Cuts in Gravy, IAMS™ Healthy Adult with Chicken and IAMS™ Healthy Senior all include the intended life stage right on the package.
Nutritional needs also vary depending on your cat’s lifestyle. A cat whose primary activity is guarding the couch doesn’t need as much energy as one who enjoys roaming outside. Does your cat need to drop a few pounds to reach a healthy weight? Foods tailored to weight management, such as IAMS™ Indoor Weight and Hairball Care, are designed to assist with healthy weight loss.
Finally, consider special medical conditions your cat may have, such as urinary tract issues, sensitive digestion or a dull, dry coat — many IAMS™ cat foods are formulated to help address specific health concerns. If your cat has food allergies, they might require a special diet recommended by your veterinarian.
2. Decide on Dry or Wet Cat Food
Once you’ve determined your cat’s life stage and lifestyle needs, decide whether to feed dry or wet food. Most cats thrive on only dry food. This type of food promotes oral hygiene and health as they crunch it up. Some cats, especially finicky eaters, enjoy the smooth, wet texture of canned or pouch foods. Many owners also mix wet food and dry to give their cats the best of both worlds!
Remember: While dry food can be left in a bowl all day, wet food should be thrown away after 30 minutes if not eaten. Want to serve a fresh, perfectly portioned wet food with an easy-open pack that cuts down on the mess? IAMS™ PERFECT PORTIONS™ wet cat foods come in a variety of flavors and are tailored for different life stages.
3. Compare Labels
Because cats need the nutrients found in animal sources, it’s best to pick a food in which a primary ingredient (one of the first ones listed) is an animal-based protein source such as chicken, lamb, fish, egg or one of their by-products. These ingredients contain all the essential amino acids your cat needs, including taurine, which isn’t found in a plant-based protein source. Some foods, such as IAMS™ High Protein, contain a high concentration of animal-based protein sources like chicken and salmon to feed your cat’s carnivore nature and keep them ready to pounce.
Foods that include a combination of carbohydrates in your cat’s diet, such as corn meal or barley and grain sorghum, ensure efficient absorption of nutrients and help maintain energy levels. And beet pulp is an excellent fiber source that promotes a healthy digestive tract.
For a soft, thick coat and healthy skin, your pet needs fatty acids like those found in vitamin-rich fish oils and quality fat sources such as chicken.
4. Seek Out Quality
Cat food labels provide limited information on the nutritional value of your pet’s food because labeling regulations do not allow manufacturers to describe the quality of ingredients on the package. A reputable pet food manufacturer can explain how they evaluate and ensure the quality of their products.
5. Compare Prices
When choosing cat food, the saying “You get what you pay for” definitely applies. A low price may indicate cheap ingredients or ingredients that change as manufacturer costs fluctuate. So while price is an important factor, it shouldn’t be the only one you consider.
Plus, many lower-priced products recommend higher daily portions to provide the same amount of nutrition found in a high-quality diet. To get a better idea of cost, it is the cost per feeding, not the total cost, that counts.
To figure out the cost per feeding for a cat food, divide the total cost by the number of days the product lasts. For example, a 20-pound bag of food that costs $18.99 and lasts 30 days is $0.63 per day. A 20-pound bag that costs $15.99 and lasts 20 days costs $0.80 per day. When compared closely, high-quality pet foods tend to come out on top, from both a nutritional and a cost standpoint.
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Introducing a new cat into your home and life is a rewarding and fulfilling decision, one that requires some thought before you head to the shelter. So what should you consider before adopting a cat? Follow our tips to prepare for the best.
- What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
- Choosing the Right Cat for You
- Where to Adopt a Cat
- The Cat Adoption Process
What to Consider before Adopting a Cat
First, let’s explore some of the commitments you’ll need to make to ensure your new cat is content (and that you are, too!).
Cat-proofing Your Home
Make sure your home is cat-safe by eliminating or hiding away anything that could harm or poison your newbie. This includes:
- Household cleaners and chemicals
- Toxic plants, including aloe vera, azalea, rhododendron, lilies, chrysanthemum, mistletoe, philodendron, poinsettias and tulips
- Toxic foods, including chocolate, coffee and tea, dairy, raw meat, grapes and raisins, carrots, onions, garlic and alcohol
Cat Supplies You’ll Need
You’ll need a cat bed or hideout, toys, scratching mats, a cat tree or climbing tower, food and water bowls, litter and boxes, and, of course, well-balanced, nutritious cat food. IAMS™ provides a wide range of tailored, nutritional cat food to promote the health of your new cat.
Cost of Cat Care
Plan to budget for an annual exam (older cats or those with special conditions may need more frequent visits), medication and parasite preventives. It’s smart to save for emergency care, too.
Cat Exercise and Playtime
Providing daily play and exercise opportunities can keep your cat physically and psychologically healthy, and help strengthen your bond. Toys, feather wands and cat trees should be part of your regular rotation! And believe it or not, many cats can be trained to walk on a leash.
Not all cats are solitary or antisocial; however, they can become this way if they aren’t introduced properly to new experiences. Strange sounds, smells and even appliances in your home might make a new cat anxious, as can other family members and pets (more on this later). So be sure to help your new cat get accustomed to unfamiliar people, places and things, and reward and praise them when doing so.
Litter and Litterboxes
Make sure you have the necessary box, scoop and other supplies to keep things tidy. If you have a multiple-cat household, provide one box per cat, plus one additional box, to help quell territorial issues.
A Lifetime Commitment
Keep in mind that cats often live into their teens and maybe even a second decade if you’re lucky. Know that you’re adopting a true family member for the extent of their lifetime.
Choosing the Right Cat for You
A cat match made in heaven starts by asking some questions about yourself.
What Is Your Lifestyle Like?
If you are not home regularly or gone for extended amounts of time, a cat’s independent nature can be a great fit. If your life includes other people or pets, make sure their behaviors, personalities and lifestyles suit having a cat family member — both for their sake and the cat’s. Allergies can be a dealbreaker, so take note of anyone in your home with cat allergies and their or your willingness to take allergy medication, vacuum constantly and groom the cat regularly to alleviate symptoms.
Your home should also have the space for play and exercise and shouldn’t harbor anything dangerous to your cat.
What Cat Personality Suits You?
Cats offer a variety of distinctive personality types, ranging from puppy-like cuddliness to feigned disinterest. Some cats are constantly on the go, exploring and poking into this and that, while others are certified nap ninjas. Vocally, they can be chatty catties or more taciturn souls. In short, you have a wide spectrum of personality types to choose from — which is what makes cats such fascinating and easy-to-love pets.
Do You Want to Adopt a Kitten or an Adult Cat?
Kittens will need a lot of attention, direction and a fair amount of patience. Their size, energy and inquisitive nature means you’ll need to supervise them closely.
Adult cats often will settle more quickly into a routine once introduced to their new home. An older or senior adult cat may be even more comfortable interacting with children and furniture. And providing a real home for a cat in their golden years is a rewarding and noble gesture you can feel good about.
Fur Better or Fur Worse
All cats shed. This will affect anyone with allergies and could also cause health issues for your cat, like hairballs or matting. Long-haired cats need to be brushed more regularly, and not all cats love this, so you may have to train yours to sit through this daily ritual.
Where to Adopt a Cat
There are several reasons adopting a cat from a shelter or rescue organization is preferable to buying. More effort goes into matchmaking when you adopt, because shelters and rescues generally have more information about their cats. Plus, adopting your cat from a shelter or a rescue actually helps two cats: the one you adopt and the homeless cat who takes your cat’s place.
In contrast, buying can be much more expensive than adopting, and the practice encourages cat mills and increases the number of pets who need homes.
Adopting a Cat from a Shelter
At shelters you can often visit with more than one cat and breed. The screening process can be easier (many shelters allow you to take a cat home that day), and adoption fees can be lower than at a rescue. However, the vet services might not cover all that your cat needs.
Adopting a Cat from a Rescue
Rescues have some advantages over shelters. They often know more about candidate cats because they may be placed in foster homes and even trained for a home. So you could adopt a cat that is already litterbox trained, socialized with other pets and with kids, trained to keep off furniture, etc.
Depending on the rescue’s screening process, you might have to make an appointment to see one cat at a time. While the screening might take longer, it’s designed to match you to the right cat. Adoption fees might be a little higher with a rescue, but they often cover more vet care, too.
The Cat Adoption Process
While rescues and shelters have similar adoption processes, they do vary depending on the organization. But you can count on these basic steps:
Make sure to have a valid ID to verify age (most organizations require adopters be adults) and address. You might also need references, so it’s a good idea to email or call ahead of time and ask about the application and overall adoption process.
Some of the cat adoption questions you might be asked include:
- Do you own or rent?
- Have you had a cat before?
- Do you currently have pets? Are they spayed or neutered? How are they with other animals?
- Do you have children at home? Are they good with pets?
- Does everyone residing in your home approve of adopting a cat?
- Where will your cat be kept during the day and in the evening?
- What are your care plans for when you have to leave home for an extended period of time, such as for a work trip or vacation?
They might also ask questions about your health, occupation and personal life to help match the right cat to the right parent.
2. Home Inspection
A home and family meet-and-greet might be required to see how everyone, including other pets, gets along with your prospective new cat. And the organization will want to ensure your residence will be a comfortable and safe home.
3. Adoption Fees
As we mentioned, cat adoption costs can vary, with rescues often being higher than shelters. Fortunately, the adoption fee will take care of basic veterinary services you will need anyway, including vaccinations, spaying or neutering, and microchipping.
Adopting a new cat isn’t just rewarding — it can be life-changing. Taking stock of the commitments of cat ownership, and taking the time to find your perfect feline match, will help set you both up for years of joy.
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