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9 May 2022

5 cat food buying tips you need to know

What to consider when choosing food for your furry friend

Cats can be choosy about their food. But as well as a meal they enjoy, it's important to ensure they have an appropriate diet to keep them happy and healthy.

Of course, cost matters too, especially with widespread price rises putting the squeeze on many households. So we've pulled together tips on choosing the right food and why that doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive.

First things first, if you’re a new cat owner, make sure to visit a vet first to discuss its dietary needs and get vaccinations sorted. 

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1. Wet or dry: it's not as big a deal as you might think

Despite the long-standing debate on whether it is best to feed your cat wet or dry cat food, the most important thing is to choose cat food that is appropriate for your cat's dietary needs.

Dr Justine Shotton, President of the British Veterinary Association, told us: "there is not enough evidence to recommend one over the other, there are advantages to both. A vet will be able to recommend the most suitable diet."

Combining the two types can be a good option as your cat will enjoy a variety of textures and it may help with its water intake. But if you're unsure, chat to your vet for tailored advice.

Whatever you decide, ensure you opt for a commercial grade cat food that meets industry guidelines and is nutritionally sound. 

You can check which pet food brands meet the guidelines on the Pet Food Manufacturers Association (PFMA) website.

Best and worst cat food brands - discover which brands owners (and their pets) like best, and get advice on choosing the right option for your pet

2. Age matters: pick a food for your cat's life stage

Your cat's nutritional needs will change depending on how old it is, so it is important to choose a diet that matches your cat’s life stage.

A good way to start is to look for a specific diet depending on whether you have a:

  • Kitten – up to 12 months old
  • Adult cat – 1 to 7 years
  • Senior cat – 7+ years old

The activity level and energy intake required by a senior cat is completely different to that of a kitten. Protein and fatty acids are important when growing but how much your cat needs declines with age.

For older cats, you need to keep an eye out for weight gain as declining activity levels mean obesity is more of a risk.

Your cat's lifestyle (e.g. indoor or outdoor cat), breed and any existing health conditions (including pregnancy) may also impact what diet would suit it best, so again it's best to discuss with a vet.

Cat insurance compared

3. A good diet doesn't have to be expensive

It may feel like spending more means lavishing love on your cat, but healthy and tasty cat food doesn't have to be fancy.

Our survey of cat owners revealed one cheap supermarket own-brand cat food was popular one among cat owners (and their cats), with an impressive 93% saying their kitty ate all the food. Owners rated it highly for value for money too. See which cheaper cat food brands impressed in our cat food brands compared buying guide.

4. Don't overdo it

Cat looking up

Overfeeding your beloved pet is surprisingly easy to do, and something to watch out for. 

Obesity is on the rise and one of the top concerns cited by vets, so it's worth being vigilant about your pet's weight and not getting too trigger happy with the treats.

Don't forget that food scraps and kitty treats all contribute to your cat's daily food intake, so you should take this into consideration when measuring out food.

Dog owner? See our dog food brand buying guide and find out how owners rated popular brands

5. Going veggie should be approached with caution

Open tin of cat food

If you're trying to cut your meat consumption for environmental reasons, you might be tempted to dial back on your pet's diet too, but this isn't simple. Cats are obligate carnivores and need the essential amino acid taurine that's mainly found in animal-based protein like meat and fish, so going veggie isn't generally advised.

It is possible to have a nutritionally complete plant-based diet for your pet, but it's a lot trickier - you should always discuss this with your vet to ensure your cat will get all the nutrients it needs.

Plant-based meat alternatives - from tofu and tempeh to 'advanced' plant-based meat, get the lowdown on veggie options in the supermarket aisles, and future ones in development