Answers to the question of the best cat foods are simple and easy. They are — and always have been — the ones the fascinating little four-leggers like best. Whittling down to a handful of great meal options doesn’t require expert advice. Just a little patience and commitment to your cats’ happiness.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
By David Stone
Having known dozens of cats as well as their owners, I’ve always wondered why so many feed their feline friends foods they don’t like. Or that aren’t especially good for them when there are so many healthful, happy choices.
When not one of them would do that to themselves… for any reason.
Hint #1. You can always tell when it’s the wrong food. Cats are uncomplicated when it comes to food and, really, just about everything else.
If they’re hungry but walk away when you set a bowl in front of them, it’s not being fussy or anything like that. It’s because you’re giving them food they don’t want or that their instincts steer them away from.
That look on their faces? It might be disgust or just confusion over how you never get the message.
Best Cat Food: Wet or Dry?
It’s not that dry cat foods are, by definition, bad for cats, but they are never optimal. No matter how many vets or experts say otherwise.
Here’s the thing. Cats are creatures of evolution, just as you and I are, and as desert animals, they evolved to absorb fluids from the food they eat. Not from a bowl. That’s how their digestive systems work.
Few people recognize how mind-bendingly complicated our digestive systems are, let alone those of cats.
But for starters, it all begins in our noses and mouths. Sensory detectors tell us “Go,” “No go” or “Wow! this tastes as good as it smells!” Signals have already raced down to the gut, like “Get ready. Here’s what’s on the way.”
So, guts are ready to digest, set for pulling out all the good stuff, while you and/or your cat are still chewing.
Now, what goes wrong with dry food is that manufacturers spray it with chemicals that make it smell like something it’s not, i.e., wet food or a freshly chased down rodent. Screws up the whole works.
But dry’s good for their teeth…
There are good reasons for choosing dry food. For example, it won’t go bad if you have to be away and can’t serve up fresh wet food. And dry food works well in timed dispensers.
But unless you believe you can substitute pretzels for brushing your own teeth, you can’t make the dry food argument for cats. And yes, for proper health, theirs and yours, cleaning teeth regularly is essential.
We’ll save that for another story. Just keep in mind that while dry food has benefits, it’s always second best.
And who wants the same meal, day after day, anyway? The definition of boring, and cats bore more easily even than we do.
Variety makes life beautiful. For them and for us, and it’s much easier with the huge selections of wet foods available.
Furthermore, statistics show that obesity, diabetes and kidney problems are more common with cats eating dry food. Think of it like the all pasta diets once all the rage among human experts until they spurred the obesity epidemic, and then, they weren’t.
Cats eating dry food don’t drink enough water, and this increases the risk of chronic kidney disease (CKD) and lower urinary tract diseases, such as feline interstitial cystitis (FIC) and urolithiasis. Feeding canned foods maintains better hydration and promotes dilute urine, reducing the risk of these diseasesVeterinary Practice News
Wet may be the best cat food, but my cat won’t switch…
If you’ve been feeding your cat dry food, they’ve become accustomed to the tantalizing, artificial smell, and just like any addiction, you need to ease them off it. Cold turkey won’t work usually, but feel free to try. Some cats will go for wet food immediately, just as some people win the lottery, if its taste of smell appeal to them, but it can be like switching from comic books to classic literature. It takes adjusting.
The best way to switch a cat over is by, one meal at a time, substituting wet for dry. Some people even mix them at first.
Give a few months, including setbacks. like when your cats figure out what you’re up to and rebel. One of our cats got lockjaw as soon as we hit 51% wet food. It was a border he would not cross. But eventually did. He was a black cat; so, you expect the stubbornness.
Unlike most cats, ours have always gotten 4 to 6 meals a day, same amount of food, but spread out. This more closely resembles their tendency to graze, and it also spreads out the pleasure.
That makes substituting easier, but if fewer meals are what you can manage, innovate, mixing and matching until the dry is finally mixed out.
Of course, that’s easier said than done…
You bet it is, and one big reason is that your cats may not like the wet food you’re using as an addiction ending lure. You’ll have to do some shopping around.
We’ve always had good luck with Blue Buffalo brand cat foods and also Halo. But we’re not mentioning them to earn commissions. No links here. Plenty of places sell the brands, and you can find them easily in a search.
You might also find brands your cats like better. They hate being predictable
How we got there is interesting because, like we said, the best cat foods are the ones they like. Cats are wiser, their systems more sophisticated than they get credit for. Let them pick, but because Petco won’t accept cuteness as payment, you’ll have to help them.
Starting with recommendations from friends and blogs we like, we’ve offered out cats a wide variety until their own choices whittled it down to a half-dozen. We rotate, never giving them the same food two meals in a row.
Keep it lively.
Many people recommend Weruva products, and our cats liked them initially but that didn’t last. Not for our guys.
We also went through every other brand found on Petco shelves before landing on the favorites. Surprisingly, our cats have always individually picked the same favorites, including levels of excitement.
Stick with what your cats stick with and rotate in experiments when something new or interesting comes out. Think of it as shopping for presents for very good friends.
It took a little extra work, but in the end, we have happy meal times. If one of our cats walks away from a meal, we know something is wrong, and that’s good to know. Either the food’s bad for some reason, or the cat’s not well. And we’d never know it until they told us.
Legends about cats being fussy eaters ought to go the way of all old wives’ tales. That is, away.
Best cat foods, exceptions to the rule…
After seeing bad results from feeding our cats seafood mixes, we’ve decided against seafood. There’s some logical sense.
News reports show that a lot of seafood gets misidentified in the system, probably by unethical middlemen. What looks like salmon isn’t always salmon, genetic testing shows. So, what prevents them from lying about freshness too?
And a lot of seafood is now well-known to be contaminated with water borne pollutants.
Care needs to be taken, but we skip seafood altogether. It’s just easier.
We also avoid food with prices that are just too low. They’re low for a reason. Maybe it’s low quality ingredients, sometimes quite different than the label, and sometimes it’s food sourced from foreign sources not following the healthful procedures expected in the U.S.
Conclusion: Best Cat Food
It’s wet food, hands down, but beyond that, it’s whatever your cats’ like best. Trust their judgment. Evolution didn’t evolve them for bad judgment, not about food anyway.
Just like what works well for you, me and other upright creatures, include lots of variety. You cat will make smart choices.
And you won’t get that look after he or she takes a sniff.