As cat owners, we want to ensure our furry friends are healthy and well fed. But with so many pet food options in the store, it can be challenging to determine which is best. It’s easy to get swayed into thinking that more expensive foods are better, but price isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing what to feed your cat. So, are expensive cat foods worth the money?
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Here’s how to find out, what to look for, and what to avoid:
Check the Ingredients
No real standards need to be met for dog and cat premium brands other than to advertise a product in a way that will justify its higher cost to the consumer. So, how do we know if the pet foods we’re considering meet the nutritional requirements of our feline overlords?
An easy way to find out is by looking at the ingredients.
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The natural diet of cats (back before they domesticated us) was a meat-based regimen primarily consisting of mice and birds. Because of this, cats adapted to using protein and fat as their primary energy sources.
The ingredients list
High-quality cat food will contain more real meat and fewer fillers. This is the first thing to look for when checking the ingredients list.
You will also want to ensure the fat source is the best for your cat. Healthy fat sources include meat such as chicken, salmon, liver, and/or beef. Some manufacturers include additional fats from fish and beef oil sources. Soybean oil is another source, and one that Hill’s Pet Food praises for its benefits, but many other higher-end pet food brands avoid adding it to their products.
To see if expensive cat foods worth the money, look for a clearly identified source of protein, such as chicken or salmon, rather than vague terminology. It should be first on the list, especially in canned cat food.
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A high protein content doesn’t mean that you should expect grain-free dry food. For optimal health, cats need taurine, commonly found in grains. There’s a balance to be found. The higher the content of meat-based protein, the better, but not at the expense of entirely eliminating grains.
Also, check the rest of the list and avoid unnecessary additives and preservatives.
Look at the nutrition label
Pet owners are paying more for their premium pet food and raw food in increasing numbers, but is this leading to healthier pets? Are expensive cat foods worth the money? A vital part of the answer comes down to nutrients, and some gourmet brands fall short. Here are the nutrients that keep some of our favorite cats healthy.
Cats need taurine, an amino acid crucial for their health. Unlike humans and dogs, PetMD notes that cats cannot produce taurine on their own, so they need to get it through their diet. The same is true for vitamin D.
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A taurine deficiency can lead to blindness, serious heart problems, and other health issues in cats. It’s important to ensure that the food you feed your cat is supplemented with taurine.
Another important nutrient for cats is the vitamin A found in meat. Cats cannot convert beta-carotene to vitamin A, so their food should be supplemented with the vitamin or contain enough meat protein to meet their requirements.
Other vitamins and nutrients to look for on the label include:
- Vitamin E – a vital antioxidant
- Vitamin B12 – required for metabolizing food and supporting nerve function
- Vitamin K – essential for healthy blood clotting
- Biotin – supports the production of fatty and amino acids
- Choline – necessary neurotransmitter and crucial to cell membrane health
- Folic acid – needed to support the amino acid methionine as well as DNA synthesis
- Niacin and riboflavin – help to process and release the proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in cat food
- Pantothenic acid – metabolizes many of the carbohydrates, fats, and amino acids in a pet’s diet
- Pyridoxine – helps to metabolize glucose, amino acids, and fatty acids
- Thiamin – supports carbohydrate metabolism
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Don’t be swayed by a pet food brand or product simply because it’s advertised as premium cat food.
“Premiumization” is a marketing term that originated in the alcohol industry but has since spread to other sectors, including pet products. It’s how marketers tap into the consumer desire for luxury goods by presenting products that provide “tangible or imaginary surplus value” at a higher price range than typical products. These products may actually be of higher quality than average or may just be perceived to be higher quality.
When it comes to feeding your feline, spotting the difference is important.
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A study published by the Cambridge University Press showed that price can alter our perception of a product. In the study, volunteers were given samples of wine, differentiated only by price. Participants reported that the “expensive” wine tasted better than the same wine presented as an inexpensive product.
Thankfully, most of us don’t have to taste gourmet cat food and can leave that to our pets, but we’re still more likely to assume that the cat food in the more expensive bag will be the better one.
To avoid falling into the advertising trap, always:
- Check the label
- Read the nutrition information and ingredients
- Learn about the brand
Go for better brands
Some of the brands more frequently recommended by vets are:
- Hill’s Pet Nutrition
- Open Farm
- Rachel Ray
- The Honest Kitchen
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Your cat’s nutritional needs may vary depending on several factors, all of which their vet should be familiar with. One of the easiest ways to learn about a brand and make certain that it’s the right one for your cat is by asking your veterinarian. Ask them which available brands are the highest quality and what they suggest based on your pet’s age and health condition.
So, are expensive cat foods worth the money?
While expensive cat foods may offer some benefits, including higher quality ingredients and fewer fillers, it’s important to remember that price alone does not determine the quality of the food. In fact, some pet food manufacturers may rely more on advertising than actual nutritional value to justify a higher price point.
Always make sure to do your research and read the ingredients list in addition to the nutritional information before spending any money on what promises to be premium cat food.
Your cat will appreciate your effort. They might even show it.
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