Proper nutrition is essential for growth, so it's important to choose the right food depending on your new cat's life-stage.
Some of the best food you can offer to your pet is any food without any animal Byproduct ingredients, without chemicals, preservatives and corn! Please read the labels.
As a general rule, we promote using wet-food as the main source of nutrition for cats (90%+, if possible). When we do use dry food for our rescues, it's more as a snack, treat or meal-topper for persnickety cats that do not enjoy wet-food as much. We highly advise against Free Feeding.
Be aware that growing cats have different nutritional requirements than adult cats, kitten food is more nutrient dense than adult cat food: it contains more calories, protein, and fat, also because the correct proportions of vitamins & minerals to assist in the development of the brain, vision and immune systems of energetic, growing kittens. It's especially important to use kitten food, or even kmr milk if your kitten is newly weaned. Most of our kittens are completely weaned by 3-8 weeks depending on the circumstances of their rescue.
Cats are obligate carnivores and typically require meat protein in their diet. This protein should be of the highest quality, so choose a name-brand food specifically formulated for kittens that's made by a reputable cat food company.
Kitten food should be fed until your kitten reaches twelve months of age [18-22 months for Maine Coons].
In a pinch, you can also feed kitten food to an adult cat, or a cat who needs an extra nutrient boost while recuperating from a health issue; but preferably don't feed a kitten adult food as it won't contain the correct proportions of calories, protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals for growing furbabies as kitten food would.
It really does make a difference later on in a senior cat's health, to reduce the amount of dry food throughout their life before they hit their twilight years. You can effectively stave of kidney & liver disease simply by providing your feline friend with a moisture-rich diet. We're not saying cut out dry food entirely, but definitely reduce the amount of dry food, don't make it the type main food, and include moisture in their diet in the form of wet food at the very least even if the wet food is not of the greatest quality. We are avid users of Freeze-dried food, cats can live well into their 20s with freeze-dried. Usually mixed with wet-food pâté. You can also mix in 1-2 tablespoons of water into their wet food to make it even more moisture dense.
Table foods aren't recommended at all because human diets are not nutritionally sound for cats, and have some ingredients such as allium [garlic/onions] that can badly harm your cat [and even dogs]. Supplementing your kitten’s diet with a bowl of milk or tuna might seem like a sort of fun treat, but may mean your kitten will eat less of the nutritious food they actually needs. Additionally, most cats are lactose intolerant and will very likely experience gastrointestinal upset from consuming dairy products. Some cats will often hold out for the tasty treats that upset their tummies and decline their well-balanced cat food because it's not as olfactorily engaging. If you do choose to give your kitten table food, be sure that at least 90% of their diet is good quality commercial kitten food. Do not worry about your kitten getting bored with their diet. Even if humans enjoy a wide variety of things to eat, most cats actually prefer not to change from one food to another and it can upset their stomachs to do so. Furthermore, human food usually contains garlic, onions, chives & leeks which are all poisonous to cats and dogs due to the reactive oxidants produced upon ingestion of alliums that directly harm red blood cells harm red blood cells.
Buy food that has been certified by a recognized organization as complete and balanced. This means that the food is nutritionally complete to meet the needs of growth and development. In the United States, you should look for food that has been certified by AAFCO, an independent organization that oversees the entire pet food industry. Your veterinarian may provide you with specific dietary recommendations that will help your cat with specific, diagnosed health issues.
Commercials for cat food can be misleading and often promote cat food based on taste, shape, or consistency. Nutrition is rarely mentioned. Most of the gourmet foods are marketed to appeal to owners who are willing to spend more, but they do not offer the cat any nutritional advantage over a good quality cat food.
Please note that when switching diets, it is very important to slowly transition your cat or kitten, as it takes time for their digestive system to adapt to the different nutrient levels in different foods. Over the course of a 5-7 day period, you should gradually mix in new food with the old food they are used to eating, increasing the ratio of new food each day so that by day 7 you are feeding 100% new food.
READ THE LABELS
Understanding Pet Food Ingredients
Dogs and cats are carnivores, and do best on a meat-based diet. The protein sourced to make pet food comes from a variety of animal sources. When animals are slaughtered [cattle, swine, chickens, lambs, + other], lean muscle tissue will be trimmed away from the carcass for human consumption, along with the few organs that people like to eat [such as tongues & tripe].
However, about 50% of each food animal does not get utilized in human foods. Remains of the animal carcass [heads, feet, bones, blood, intestines, lungs, spleens, livers, ligaments, fat trimmings, unborn babies, & other parts not generally consumed by humans] are used to make pet food, animal feed, fertilizer, industrial lubricants, soap, rubber, and many other products. These “other parts” are referred to as “byproducts.” Byproducts are utilized in feed for poultry and livestock and also in pet food.
Meat or poultry “byproducts” are quite common in wet pet foods.
Remember that the term “meat” only refers to cows, swine, sheep, and goats. Since sheep and goats are rare compared to the 37 million cows and 100 million hogs slaughtered for food yearly, nearly all meat byproducts come from cattle and pigs.
The better quality brands of pet food, such as many “super-premium,” “natural,” and “organic” varieties, do not use byproducts. On the label, you’ll often see one, or more, named meats amongst the first few ingredients, like “lamb” or “chicken”. These so-called meats are still mostly leftover scraps; and in the specific case of poultry, bones are allowed, so “chicken” consists mainly of the backs and frames—the spine and ribs, minus their expensive breast meat. The small amount of meat left on the bones is the meat that is then used to make the pet food. Meat meals, poultry meals, byproduct meals, and meat-and-bone meal are all very common ingredients in most commonly available dry pet foods. The term “meal” means that these materials aren't used fresh, but instead have been rendered. While there are chicken, turkey, and poultry byproduct meals, there's no equivalent term for mammal “meat byproduct meal” —it is named “meat-and-bone-meal.” You might also encounter this on label referred to by species, like “beef-and-bone-meal” or “pork-and-bone-meal.”
What is rendering?
Miriam Webster's Dictionary defines the verb "to render" as: “to process as for industrial use: to render livestock carcasses and to extract oil from fat, blubber, etc., by melting.” Essentially raw materials are dumped into large vats and boiled down for several hours. The rendering process separates fat, removes water, and kills bacteria, viruses, parasites, and other organisms. However, the high temperatures used (270°F/130°C) can detrimentally alter or destroy natural enzymes and proteins found within the raw ingredients.
Because of persistent rumors that rendered byproducts contain dead dogs and cats, the FDA conducted a study trying to find pentobarbital, the foremost common euthanasia drug, in pet foods. They found it.
PET FOOD COMPANY SECRETS
Why is commercial pet food dangerous?
The 2007 Menu Foods recall shed light a number of the pet food industry’s dirtiest secrets.
Most people were surprised —and appalled — to find out that all Iams/Eukanuba canned foods aren't made by The Iams Company. As a matter of fact, in 2003 Iams signed an exclusive 10-year contract with Menu for the production of 100% of its canned foods.
This type of deal Iams made with Menu is commonly referred to as “co-packing.” One company makes the food, but puts someone else’s label on it thereon. This is a really common arrangement in the pet food industry. It was first illustrated by the Doane’s and Diamond recalls, in which dozens of seemingly private labels were involved. But none of these companies were as large nor as "reputable" as Iams, Eukanuba, Hill’s, Purina, Nutro, and other high-end, so-called "premium" pet foods.
The big question raised by this arrangement is whether there's is any real difference between the expensive premium brands versus the lowliest of generics. The recalled products all shared similar things in common: they contained the ingredient wheat gluten, but also all contained byproducts of some kind, including specified byproducts like giblets or liver.
Whatever the differences are between cheap and high-end food, one thing is clear: the retail price of pet food doesn't always determine whether the food is good or bad or even safe. However, the very cheapest foods can be relied on to have the very cheapest ingredients without exceptions. Take for example the Wal-Mart’s store brand Ol’ Roy, which has now been involved in 3 serious recalls. Fancy Feast has never been recalled, but is additionally a prime example of inferiour/low quality food made with animal byproducts. Additionally, filler ingredients such as wheat, corn, soy, and meat byproducts may trigger food sensitivities in kitties.
Another unpleasant practice brought to light by this recall is pet food testing on live animals. Menu’s own lab animals, who were deliberately fed the contaminated food, were the first identified victims. Menu's testing began on February 27 [a week after the first reports]; animals started to die painfully from kidney failure a few days later. After the initial reports released by the media, Menu quickly changed its tune and started calling these experiments “taste tests.” But Menu has continued with practices such as: live animal feeding, metabolic energy, palatability, and other tests for Iams and other companies for years under this terms. Videotapes expose the animals' lives in barren metal cages; callous treatment; invasive experiments; and careless avoidable cruelty. They keep huge colonies of cats and dogs for these testing purposes, or use testing laboratories that have their own animals for testing.
There's a new movement toward using companion animals in their homes for palatability & other studies. In 2006, The Iams Company announced that it would be reducing the utilisation of canine and feline lab animals by 70%. While they may proclaims this as a moral victory, the important reasons for this switch were most likely financial in nature. Regardless of the reasons, it is a really positive step for the animals.
A trip down the pet food aisle with all the wonderful claims made by pet food makers for their repertoire of products, will boggle the mind of the average consumer. Knowing the nature of the ingredients helps filter out some of the more outrageous claims, but what’s the reality behind all this hype?
Niche claims. Indoor cat, canine athlete, Persian, 7-year old, Bloodhound, or a pet with a sensitive tummy, too much flab, arthritis, or itchy feet — no matter what, there’s a food “designed” just for that pet’s personal needs. People wish to feel special, and a product with specific appeal is sure to sell better than a general product like “puppy food.” Truthfully, all pet foods are measured against these two basic standards: adult and growth [which includes gestation and lactation]. Everything else is a marketing gimmick, with the exception of some prescription-only formulas for different health issues [k/d etc.] only available via your veterinarian.
“Natural” and “Organic” claims. Some companies use terms like “Nature” or “Natural” or even “Organic” within the brand name, whether or not their products fit the definitions. Consumers should specifically be aware that the term “organic” does not imply anything at all about animal welfare; products from cows and chickens may be technically organic, yet the animals themselves are still just seen as “production units” in enormous inhumane factory farms.
Ingredient quality claims. Many pet foods today still falsely claim they contain “human grade” quality ingredients. However, this is a totally meaningless term — which is why the pet food companies are able to get away with using it. The same is applicable to “USDA inspected” or similar such phrasing. It's trying to imply that the food is made using ingredients that are passed by the USDA for human consumption, but there are some ways around this. For example: a facility could be USDA-inspected during the day, but the pet food is made at night after the inspector has gone home.
“Meat is the first ingredient” claim. A claim that a named meat (chicken, lamb, etc.) is that the #1 ingredient is usually seen for dry food. Ingredients are listed on the label by weight, and raw chicken weighs tons, since it contains tons of water. If you look further down the list, you’re likely to see listed ingredients like as chicken or poultry byproduct meal, meat-and-bone meal, corn gluten meal, soybean meal, or any other high-protein meal.
Special ingredient claims. Many of the high-end pet foods today depend on the marketing appeal of people-food ingredients like fruits, herbs, and vegetables. However, the amounts of those items actually present within the food are small; and likely the items themselves may likely be scraps and rejects from processors of human foods — not the whole, fresh ingredients they're hoping you'll picture. Such ingredients don’t provide any significant health benefit and are more so a flimflam marketing gimmick.
WHAT CONSUMERS CAN DO
Do not buy pet food that contain ambiguous labeling, meat byproducts or chemical additives
Write or call pet food companies and the Pet Food Institute and express your concerns about commercial pet foods. Demand that manufacturers improve the quality standards of the ingredients in their products.
Stop buying commercial pet food; or at a minimum stop buying dry food. Dry foods are the subject of many more recalls than wet foods, and have many adverse health effects in the long-term. If that isn't possible for you, reduce the quantity of commercial pet food and supplement it with fresh, organic foods, especially meat [Freeze-dried meat is an excellent alternative]. Acquire one or more of the many books currently available on pet nutrition and make your own food at home. Check that a veterinarian or a nutritionist has reviewed the recipes to ensure that they are balanced for long-term use.
AAFCO Pet Food Committee
David Syverson, Chair MN Dept of Agriculture
Dairy and Food Inspection Division
625 Robert Street North
St. Paul, MN 55155-2538
FDA — Center for Veterinary Medicine
7500 Standish Place
Rockville, MD 20855
Pet Food Institute
2025 M Street, NW, Suite 800 Washington, DC 20036