Cats are carnivores and need meat to survive. As your cat's caretaker, your goal should be to replicate a wild cat's diet with biologically appropriate food. High-protein diets with moderate fat will help keep your indoor cat healthy and happy.
Protein is Key
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means they must have meat. According to veterinarian Debra Zoran, professor at Texas A&M University, adults cats need two to three times more protein than dogs do. In the wild, a cat's diet would consist primarily of small animals, resulting in a high-protein intake. Since indoor cats can't hunt their own prey, feeding high-quality, high-protein food is key. A raw diet will provide the highest level of quality protein, followed by canned food. Suggested raw diets include Primal and Vital Essentials. Good quality canned foods include Weruva, Fussie Cat and Dave's. Dry kibble should be the last alternative. If you choose to feed kibble, choose a grain-free kibble with a protein level of at least 35 percent, such as EVO, Orijen or Acana.
Fats are Important
As people, we have become obsessed with "low-fat" and think fat is bad. But for cats, low-fat can be unhealthy. Cats use fats as their primary energy source instead of carbohydrates. Omega 3, omega 6 and omega 9 fatty acids are critical for cat health, especially omega 3. This important fat helps with immune function, joint and skin health, muscle development and allergies. Omega 3 fatty acids are found primarily in fish and flax, so look for a food that includes appropriate levels of all fatty acids, but especially omega 3. Your cat should have 250 mg of omega 3 per day, which can be added to your cat's food as a supplement of krill oil, sardines or salmon oil.
Cats have no nutritional need for carbohydrates. In the wild, cats would almost never eat any grains (corn, wheat, soy, etc) and would only rarely eat fruits and vegetables as a survival strategy. Most dry kibble foods use corn, wheat and other grains as fillers to bulk up the food and keep the price low. But cats don't have the necessary enzymes or long intestinal to digest grains, so grains go in one end and out the other. When eating a good high in grains, cats miss out on the essential ingredients they need, resulting in myriad health problems, including obesity, diabetes, irritable bowels, muscle weakness and more. Since indoor cats are exclusively reliant on us for their food, it's important to avoid grains. When choosing a food for your cat, read the labels carefully and quickly walk away from any cat foods that contain corn, wheat or soy components.
Add Moisture for Best Health
Most domestic indoor cats evolved from the wildcats in northern Africa and the Middle East, where they lived in more arid environments. As a result of their original environment, cats do not have a strong thirst drive. They get most of their water from their food, which is 70 to 75 percent water when eating a biologically appropriate diet. Kibble, on the other hand, is generally less than 10 percent water. For indoor cats, adding moisture to their diet is a necessity, since they will almost never drink enough water from a bowl to be completely hydrated. If you feed kibble, consider adding a grain-free canned food or raw food to increase the water in your cat's diet. Feeding dry kibble alone with leave your cat in a constant state of dehydration.