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How to Choose a Balanced Cat Food

Balance is important in every area of our lives, but for our cats it’s probably most critical in their nutrition.

A cat that eats an unbalanced pet food that does not contain all the essential nutrients she needs is likely to suffer health problems and live a shorter and less happy life.

How Do I Know My Cat Food is Balanced?

Cats are carnivores so their requirements for a balanced cat food are slightly different than dogs or people. They require lots of animal protein (meat or fish). And even though cats have a particular penchant for seafood, it’s vital that they are fed red meat regularly, too, because they require taurine (an amino acid). Taurine helps heart muscle development and is particularly critical because “if this muscle is damaged or undeveloped, it doesn’t repair very well,” points out Dr. Kerri Marshall, DVM, a licensed veterinarian and chief veterinary officer at Trupanion.

Cats also require more than 50 key nutrients, the most vital of which are vitamin C and minerals magnesium, calcium, and phosphorus. The balance between these nutrients is important, too. “The body is a very complex organic place where biochemical reactions are going on,” explains Dr. Marshall.

Should I Change My Cat Food According to My Cat's Lifestage?

Yes! Like humans, cats have different nutritional needs depending on their life stage. Kittens and lactating and pregnant females in particular need plenty of calcium and magnesium for bone health and growth; older animals typically need fewer minerals to avoid kidney damage.

Because of these different requirements, “be sure to always buy cat food that’s specifically balanced for the life stage of your cat,” says Dr. Marshall. 

If your cat has one of a number of diseases, such as arthritis or renal disease, her problems could worsen if you feed her an incorrectly balanced cat food. To avoid problems, there are foods that are especially designed for these issues, which cats can eat indefinitely.

And, says Dr. Marshall, there are even foods specifically balanced for shorter-term medical problems like obesity, bladder infections, vomiting, kidney stones, and anemia. For example, a cat with anemia could recover quickly if given high calorie, rich food to replace her red blood cells; or a lower pH pet food can help with bladder infections.

If your cat is on a special cat food for a short-term medical problem or a short-term life stage like being pregnant, be sure to switch to the new cat food — or back to the old food — gradually, warns Dr. Marshall, or your cat could suffer vomiting or diarrhea from the sudden change. The transition should take at least a week.

For the complete article on balanced cat food and choosing the best food for your cat’s health, visit petMD!


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