Are Premium Cat Food Brands Worth the Cost?
Cat Nutritional Requirements
The food that you give to your cat will determine how healthy your cat is, the condition of its fur, and possibly even how long your cat lives. Keep in mind that cats have different nutritional needs than humans or dogs do.
Cats need lots of animal protein in their diet. Cats are carnivores and cannot live on a vegetarian diet (like humans can). This means that feeding your cat foods made from mostly cereal grains may not be good for him or her.
Before cats lived with humans they ate mostly meat in the form of small animals, such as rodents, or birds. Because cats evolved eating these types of foods, this is what their system is most adapted to. I'm not suggesting you go out and catch your cat some rodents or birds each day; the point I'm trying to make is that feeding your cat processed food made mostly from cereal grain isn't the best for your cat's health.
A small amount of grain in their diet isn't harmful. When cats eat birds or rodents, the digestive system of these animals usually contains a small amount of vegetable matter or grain. A cat's diet should contain mostly protein, about 10 percent should be fat, and a small amout of carbohydrates (cereal grains).
Cats also need the amino acid taurine in their food. Whereas humans and dogs can manufacture this amino acid in the own bodies from other amino acids, cats cannot. Cats must obtain taurine through their diet. A lack of taurine in a cat's diet leads to blindness, serious heart problems, and other health problems in cats. The food you feed to your cat must be supplemented with taurine. Don't feed dog food to your cat because it won't have taurine in it.
Cats are also different from dogs and humans in that they can't convert beta-carotene to vitamin A. Preformed vitamin A is found in meat and the food you feed to your cat should be supplemented with vitamin A, or must contain enough meat protein containing vitamin A to meet the nutritional requirements of your cat. Cats also cannot manufacture vitamin D as humans can. Humans can make their own vitamin D through their skin, but cats must obtain it through their diet. However, if you are feeding your cat a good quality cat food then he or she should get the proper nutrients. Don't supplement your cat with vitamins without consulting a veterinarian because vitamins can be toxic in large amounts. As you will see below it is possible to pick out cat foods that contain all of the necessary nutrients for your cat.
Differences Between Premium Brands, Name brands, and Generic Cat Food
Premium brands of cat food include brands such as Hill's Science Diet, NutroPro, Iams, and Eukanuba. These premium cat foods do cost more than other cat food brands you can usually buy at your local grocery store, but they are worth the extra cost. The premium brands are usually found only in pet stores, online, or at your veterinarian's office.
What I'm calling name brands are cat foods that you can typically purchase at the grocery store (e.g., Meow Mix, Purina, Friskies).
Is it worth the expense to feed your cat a premium brand cat food?
One reason that premium cat food brands are more expensive is because they contain a higher amount of meat and fewer fillers than other cat food brands do. Keep in mind that all dry cat food includes some grain products. For example, in Hill's Science Diet for Adult Cats the main ingredient is chicken by-product meal, with ground corn as the second ingredient. But if you compare this to Meow Mix, Meow mix lists ground corn as the main ingredient, then corn gluten meal, and third is chicken by-products. What this means is that Meow Mix dry food brand doesn't contain as much meat as Hill's Science Diet does.
There are some cat food name brands that can be bought in grocery stores that do contain meat as the main ingredient. One of these is Purina Naturals. The main ingredient is chicken meal. Purina cat chow also lists poulty by-product meal as the main ingredient.
Generic cat foods are also known as no name brands or they can be the grocery store brand. In my opinion, generic brands should be avoided if possible. Generic cat foods contain more filler ingredients than premium, or name brand cat foods. Also, the ingredients tend to vary in the generic brands depending on what types of ingredients are most available at the time. There is a reason why they are cheaper and it isn't just the packaging (as some generic manufacturers claim). The ingredients also vary from batch to batch in name brand cat foods too, but not in the premium brands. The premium brands get their foods tested on a regular basis for nutritional quality through the AAFCO. This stands for Association of American Feed Control Officials. For high quality cat food brands you should look for the AAFCO statement on the cat food package.
A cat can survive on the name brand cat foods as long as they state that they provide complete and balanced nutrition on the package. However, they will be the healthiest if they are fed a premium brand of cat food.
Another reason to feed your cats premium brand foods is that cats that are fed premium brand cat foods produce less stool, and the stool that they do produce smells better than that of cats eating nonpremium brand foods. This is because poorer quality cat foods often contain high amounts of indigestible fillers. If you don't believe this, then try it out and you'll notice a difference in your cat's stool right away. However, any change to your cat's diet must be made gradually. You can do this by mixing in a small portion of the new food with the old food. You can gradually increase the amount of new food you give your cat each day until you are feeding only the new brand. Upbrupt changes to you cats diet should be avoided. Cats often get diarrhea when their diet is suddenly changed.
Cats fed premium cat food also don't require as much food to meet their nutritional needs. This helps to offset the increased cost of the better food. Follow the directions on the cat food package regarding how much your cat should eat each day.
One final note - If your cat doesn't like the premium brand food and won't eat it for some reason then it is best to go with a different brand. For example, I got the cat in the AboutCatsOnline.com logo when she was a kitten. She was a stray cat that I caught in a humane trap and she is semi-feral to this day (although she does let me pet her on a limited basis and she is happy). When I took her in I tried feeding her premium cat food (Hill's Science Diet for kittens). My other cats ate this when they were kittens and loved it. Strangely, the new kitten (Tinypie) wouldn't eat it at all. I had to try several brands before I found one that she liked. Currently I put out bowls of Hills Science Diet for Adults for the other cats and Tinypie has her own special bowl of Meow Mix. Is it the healthiest brand? I'm sure it isn't, however, it is of high enough quality that she can survive on it, plus I think that it is important to remember that keeping your cat happy and giving her food she likes also leads to good health. If your cat will eat the premium brands, then it is best to give it to them. If they refuse to eat it, then it isn't going to be nutritious for them.