How To Choose Prepared Cat Foods at The Shop

It is crucial to be aware of the ingredients the food contains

It is convenient to buy readily made foods. Although always available, durable and containing the nutrients cats need, as their manufacturers assure, this kind of foods are not without their faults.

In addition to the preservatives and enhancers, a significant problem of the prepared foods are the products they are made of and the thermal treatment used for food preparation. Labels such as ‘balanced products’ may simply mean that by-products and cheap meat substitutes with extra vitamins were used. That’s why, in search of quality prepared foods, we should ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. Which products is this balance achieved with?
  2. How are these foodstuffs prepared?
  3. What are the conditions of the animal farming for the meat production?

For both, homemade and prepared food, you should take into account the products that are recommended and not suitable for cats. The nutrition for prepared foods should be the same as that of the homemade food. When choosing food at the shop, the point is to be aware of the ingredients the food contains. If the description on the label doesn’t give the precise quantities of the ingredients, like it’s usually the case, you can figure them out from the order in which they are listed. The higher in the list is an ingredient, the more is its content. General definitions like ‘meat and derived products’ aren’t a good sign. The meat and its exact kind must be mentioned. However, the definition ‘vegetable protein’ might include industrial waste products like chopped nut shells or soy-residue. Expressions like ‘animal protein’ could imply animal residues like hooves, fur, feathers or claws. If it’s indicated meat content is only 15% it’s not only insufficient for cats, but we can hardly expect anything good in respect of the rest of the ingredients.


Commercial categories. Premium and super-premium

You better entirely rule out the so-called ‘economic class’. Most of the issues described above concern the foods of this category at most. You can certainly read the phrase ‘economic class’ on very few labels. The other main categories of prepared foods that are being sold at the shops are usually labelled as ‘premium’ and ‘super-premium’. Such labels do not precisely describe the product, aren’t related to a shared common system, as it might appear at first glance, and reflect merely the views of the particular company on the sort and quality of the ingredients, as well as how it decided to structure its own supply. If you read the contents of the ‘premium’ foods, you’ll notice that many of them contain a lot of ingredients, that are not recommended for cats. You’ll surely find more options for acceptable ingredients and friendly methods of preparation among the ‘super-premium’ foods and the industry pursuit of responsible attitude towards the environment, grazing animals and bio-agriculture is recounted in the ‘holistic’ class of foodstuffs.
The quality of the prepared foods is primarily influenced by the quantity and the type of meat, which content must be indicated on the package. The meat content of edible offal and by-products isn’t harmful, but it isn’t a complete meat substitute. Рotatoes and maize are not recommended. Flavorings and sweeteners can cause addiction of cats to certain type of prepared food and ignoring all other options.


Dry and wet food

Avoid giving your cat different types of prepared food, as well as simultaneously dry and wet food, whether or not they are produced by the same manufacturer. Dry food requires a different functioning of the stomach glands. Thus, the change-over from one type of nutrition to another must be done little by little, by gradually adding new food, particularly between granules and natural food. This may take weeks. Due to illness or old age, some cats can become raw meat intolerant, so you must switch to boiled meat or give prepared food purchased in shops for practical reasons.

Prepared foods have different quality, but there are two factors present in the dry food which make canned food a better choice:

  • thermal treatment at a very high temperature destroys the nutrients
  • the low water content in it

Cats must take more water from the food itself. The water content in the natural cat food is over 70 percent and in the dry food circa 10 percent. If you feed your cat with granules, you have to make sure it always has water available and check whether it drinks enough of it.

Adding water to the dry food is also possible, but it quickly gets bad and becomes unattractive to cats. Once open, the food can be stored in a jar for up to one day and if granulated, kept closed in its package. Avoid buying dry bulk foods, as they are susceptible to contamination when stored in open containers and bags having direct contact with the environment.


Marketing myths

Granular food does not clean your cat’s teeth, nor protect them against tartar. There is no objective data demonstrating positive effect on cat’s teeth.

There are no specific diet differences depending on the breed. The basic cat foodstuffs are the same. Cats have rather individual tastes, especially at different ages. They vary in their willingness to move around and thus in a need to eat food with different caloric value. These differences should be taken into account when choosing foods that work well for your cat. 

The suggestion that cats eat only a few types of food isn’t entirely correct. In fact, their food range is quite wide. What we actually offer to our cats are the foodstuffs that are suitable for us, humans. Our diet for instance doesn’t contain insects, reptiles or rodents and we have subjective, aesthetic and purely practical reasons to provide our cats similar foodstuffs. Habits play a crucial role too. Often domestic cats don’t eat the prey they caught but rather bring it along to their owners.

There is a difference between wild, stray and domestic cats. Although cats are preserved to the largest extent compared to other domesticated animals, the differences between wild and domestic cats are still obvious.

Life expectancy of domestic cats is 10 – 15 years, in comparison to 3 – 4 years of the street cats. Nutrition is among the main reasons for this difference. Feeding your cat properly would save you a lot of mutual troubles. That’s how you help your cat live a longer and finer life.



Lisa A. Pierson, DVM, Learn How To Read a Pet Food Ingredient Labels,

C.A. Tony Buffington, Dry foods and risk of disease in cats


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