For many people, our cats are our entire world. They can give us sweet comfort when we are feeling low, and they can make us smile with their peculiar ways.
As a cat owner, it’s understandable that you’re going to want to provide them with the best nutrition that you can get. One way you may do that is by giving them grain free cat food, which is quite popular right now.
Many people in the pet community tout the benefits of giving their furry feline friends grain free cat food and you may be wondering what’s so special about grain free. There are quite a few scientists who believe that a grain free diet is more beneficial for cats because they are naturally carnivores, and their diet should be more protein based than laden with grains.
Why Does Your Cat Need Grain Free Cat Food?
When you look at the ingredient list on the bag of cat food you’re currently feeding your kitty, you may see that there are grains like corn, rice, or wheat listed as one of its main ingredients.
These ingredients tend to be heavily featured in pet food because it is cheaper to make and they let these pet food manufacturing companies to reach the required carbohydrate limits on their foods while not spending a whole lot of money.
Unfortunately, these grains can be problematic for some cats. Just like people, cats can be allergic to certain grains and they have difficulty trying to digest them. There are a few scientists who feel that this is a result of giving cats food that they wouldn’t eat while in their natural habitat.
Cats do not have amylase, which is an enzyme in the saliva that helps them break down carbohydrates (like the corn, rice, and wheat) before it hits their stomach. Interestingly enough, a cat’s pancreas does secrete amylase while food is digesting in their intestines.
Simply put, before cats were domesticated, their diets would consist of more protein based foods and they’d consume minimal amounts of carbohydrates through the proteins they ate.
Advantages (And Disadvantages) Of Grain Free Cat Food
With all this talk of switching to grain free cat food, you might be curious as to the benefits your cat will receive from this new diet.
For one thing, grain free cat food is going to have more of the ingredients that your feline friend would normally eat as if they were in the wild. The grain free food will have higher concentrations of proteins like fish and meat.
Another benefit of going grain free is that if your pet has grain allergies, it is easy to eliminate that ingredient that is wreaking havoc on their digestive system.
Word of caution, some cat food manufacturers will forego the higher amounts of meat proteins and use a high glycemic carbohydrate like potatoes and tapioca, which have nutrient values that are very similar to the very thing you’re trying to eliminate from your pet’s diet – grains.
The drawbacks of giving your cats grain free cat food is that while it has a higher concentration of proteins, it is also going to have more fat. This can be problematic if your cat isn’t very active or if they are overweight, as the fat will make them gain more weight.
Another drawback of this kind of food is that it is going to be more expensive than your run of the mill cat food. However, most grain free food will have recommended serving sizes that are smaller than the traditional food serving size. So, in essence, you’ll be able to stretch the food for a longer period of time.
When Would I Give My Pet Grain Free Cat Food?
In most instances, cat don’t necessarily need grain free cat food and you could very well continue to give them cat food with grain in and they’d still live a very healthy life. However, you may want to reconsider if and when your pet is experiencing symptoms of a food allergy such as:
If your cat does exhibit these symptoms, you will want to take your cat to a vet for them to be properly diagnosed with a grain allergy. It is worth noting that sometimes your cat could be allergic to other food sources such as beef, dairy, eggs or chicken, so it may take some trial and error to find out which food items are causing your cat some discomfort.
What Is A Proper Diet For A Cat?
Trying to find the perfect food for your pet is going to depend on the gender of the cat and their age.
A kitten’s nutritional needs is going to differ from an adult cat because within the first few weeks of their lives, they are going to grow rapidly, causing their weight to double or triple within that time.
To account for their fast growth and all that energy they are going to have (kittens may have more than three times the amount of energy as your adult cat!), you are going to have feed them multiple times a day because they won’t be able to get enough calories in just one meal.
So, what do you feed them? You are going to want to feed them kitten food because the food is formulated with higher amounts of protein, amino acids, and minerals.
You should continue to feed your kitten a grain free, high protein, low carb kitten food until they reach 1 years old.
Adult Male Cats
Adult male cats are going to have different nutritional needs than an adult female cat. We already discussed that cats are carnivores by nature and they need a diet that reflects that: high protein, moderate amounts of fat, and low in carbs.
As your cat grows into an adult (1 year old and up), they are going to need the right combination of proteins, fats, carbs, vitamins and minerals. The food you feed him should be labeled “complete and balanced nutrition” and meets the nutritional requirements of the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
If your little guy is neutered, you may notice that they have a bigger appetite than before they were fixed. You will want to limit the amount of food they eat so they don’t gain weight and potentially become obese.
Adult Female Cats
Much like humans, a female cat is going to have a different appetite than her brothers – especially if she is pregnant or nursing.
You are going to want to make sure the food you’re giving her has extra protein and you’ll want to feed her smaller, more frequent meals during the day. Of course, you will want to consult your vet for their recommendations on what is best for your pregnant kitty.
If you have spayed your little lady, you will want to be mindful of how much they eat, because they too will experience a change in their eating habits.
Once your cat hits about 12 years old, they are considered seniors and their dietary needs are going to change.
You will want to give them food that is formulated to help protect against disease, boost their metabolism and immune system, keep their skin, coat, and teeth healthy. This can be achieved by making sure the food you are giving them has more protein and is formulated specially for senior cats.
Since a senior cat’s digestive system is fragile, you will want to make the change gradually – slowly incorporating the new senior formula, grain free cat food while gradually phasing out their old food. You may also want to give them a few smaller meals throughout the day to help their digestive tracts manage.
What’s The Deal With Vegan Cat Food?
Some people who live a vegan lifestyle take their beliefs incredibly seriously and they will even give their cats vegan cat food. We’ve already discussed that cats are, by nature, carnivores, and by trying to force them to eat a plant based diet is going completely against their biological code.
Not only does it go against their instincts, the vegan diet isn’t going to give the cat the nutrients they need to be healthy – nutrients that they can only get from meat.
For example, cats do not make Vitamin D in their skin and they specifically need vitamin D3, which is only found in animal sources. Another example, cats cannot make the amino acid taurine, which they need to get through animal based proteins.
If your pet is diagnosed with food allergies, liver disease, or bladder stones, consult your vet for their recommendations, as they will usually recommend specially formulated cat foods that are made from eggs, soy, and other nonmeat protein sources.
Which Is Better? Dry Cat Food Or Wet Cat Food?
When it comes to what kind of food you should give your pet, people often struggle with the choice between dry food or wet. Many times people opt for a plain dry diet because it is going to be easier on their diet.
Or, they will leave a bowl of dry food for the cat to graze on throughout the day. Dry food can also help clean your cat’s teeth, depending on the type of food you purchase.
With wet food, it is going to be the more expensive of the two, but the wet food can help your cat (especially a kitten) form strong muscles and bones. Also, wet food is often more palatable to the cat and in some cases, it may be the answer to trying to get a cat to eat if they are a picky eater.
Both types of food have their benefits and you can’t really go wrong with either or both.
How To Read The Label Of Your Cat Food
Choosing the best cat food for your furry friend may seem simple, but when you take a trip to the pet store, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of options available! So, how do you know which grain free cat food is going to be optimal for your cat?
Well, the first thing to look at is to look for the food labeled clearly, “Grain Free.” You can also find some brands that have other statements that indicate other things like what age the cat food is designed for, indoor / outdoor formula, and more.
After you’ve located the right kind of food, you’ll want to check out the ingredient list. By law, the ingredients in cat food has to be listed in descending order according to weight. This means that heavy, moisture laden ingredients like salmon, chicken, or beef, are going to be listed higher on the ingredient list than the same ingredient that’s been added in its dry form.
The most common ingredients you’ll find in cat food will be:
When you’re looking at the cat food, you don’t want to focus solely on the ingredients – you should look at the nutrition too. Every food manufacturer must list the minimum and maximum amounts for the four main nutrients: protein, fat, fiber, and moisture content.
How To Make Your Own Grain Free Cat Food
Of course, some people just don't trust commercial manufacturers to make grain free cat food (or anything else) in a way that's healthy. They prefer to take control of their cat's diet so they know what they are getting. If you want to make your own grain free cat food, we have a couple of recipes you can try!
As a cat owner, we want to provide our furry feline friends with the best food we can get them. Understandably, going out and purchasing cat food may come down to running to the convenient store and grabbing a small box of whatever they have on hand – which can work in a pinch.
However, for the long term, especially if your cat has grain allergies, you will want to take your time and choose a highly recommended grain free cat food.
The question many people may have is what is the best grain free cat food, there are just so many! We understand your plight, believe us, we surely do! There are countless options and if your vet hasn’t offered suggestions on which brand is a great option, we have a buyer’s guide that will help you choose the best food for your pet.
In our buyer’s guide, we provide you with five mini reviews of great grain free cat food option (4 dry formulas and 1 wet formula). Then we also have a brief break down of what to look for when choosing a cat food. Then we give our top recommendations. If you want our top picks, head over to the buying guide, which can be found here!
Leave us a comment below and tell us what you currently feed your cat and why you are interested in going grain free!