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5 Types of Cat Food: How to Choose the Best for Your Cat

Nicole Cosgrove

Shopping for cat food can be confusing, difficult, and downright frustrating. You want to give your cat the best nutrition possible while having it still be something that they enjoy eating. It seems like the options are endless, and every food claims to be the one that your cat needs.

It’s all going to come down to your cat’s personal preferences. But even if you could choose one specific brand and flavor, there are still so many different types of food! Which is better for your cat and how can you tell?

Here, we look at the different types of cat food and go over ways to make the best choice for your feline’s food bowl.

5 Types of Cat Food

Cats are notoriously picky eaters, but there may be good reasons for this. Aside from them just not liking the food, they may also start to feel sick after they eat it. This can happen without us knowing that it happens. If a cat eats something and doesn’t feel good afterward, the smell of that same food will bring back the memory of illness and they won’t touch it again. This is a possible explanation for why some cats eat a specific food for a while and then stop.

Many cats simply like what they like and are unwilling to change. If you’d like to switch your cat’s food, doing so slowly is best. Mixing a little of the new food with the old food will not only keep the change from being overwhelming as you gradually increase it over time, but it will also ward off gastric upset. If your cat refuses to eat, don’t leave the food around, assuming that they’ll eat it when they get hungry. Some cats won’t eat it no matter what. The longer that cats go without food, the more they are at risk for fatty liver disease. If your cat refuses to eat their new food, replace it with an old food that you know they like and keep trying until you find one that works.

1. Dry Food

Gray cat eating cat food
Image Credit: kropekk_pl, Pixabay

Also known as kibble, dry cat food comes in bags and consists of small, dry, crunchy bits. Most cats enjoy this food, and it is formulated with nutrients that your cat needs to be healthy. While kibble alone could be enough to sustain your cat, they have to be able to eat it. Cats with missing teeth or dental issues may not eat kibble because it hurts their mouths. A solution for them would be to soak the kibble in hot water or bone broth to soften it first.

Many people choose kibble because it’s easy. Storing it is no problem as long as you have an air-tight food container. It’s a quick way to feed your cat. Just scoop out the correct amount, dump it in the bowl, and get on with your day.

With kibble-only diets, it’s crucial to make sure your cat is hydrated. Cats don’t drink as much water as they should, and just eating dry kibble further depletes their moisture intake. Adding water or broth to kibble even if your cat doesn’t have dental issues is a good way to make sure your cat is getting enough hydration.


2. Wet Food

Wet food is a type of food that many cats love. It has an odor and soft consistency that seem to be irresistible to them. Wet food comes in different flavors and textures. You can find it in cans or pouches, and the varieties seem endless.

  • Chunky: Chunks of protein in thick gravy
  • Heavy Gravy: For cats that won’t eat wet food without a generous portion of gravy; also aids in hydration
  • Flaked: Usually pieces of fish in a broth or gravy
  • Pâté: Smooth consistency that appears to be spreadable, usually in gravy
  • Sliced: Long, thick strips of protein in a broth or gravy
  • Shredded: Small, thin strips of protein in gravy
  • Puree: Food blended with water to form a puréed consistency to appeal to senior cats or those with dental issues; also good as a kibble topper to entice eating
  • Broth: Usually in a pouch with a soupy consistency; can also be used as a topper for kibble or other wet foods to entice eating

3. Frozen Raw Food

This food is made up of frozen raw meat and is formulated to closely resemble a cat’s wild diet. It’s generally more expensive than other commercial cat foods and more difficult to prepare. It involves measuring the proper amounts of food and thawing them before serving. It’s a high-protein option with minimal processing.


4. Freeze-Dried Raw Food

Freeze-dried raw food doesn’t require a freezer to store it, making it easier to keep and work with when feeding your cat. It’s a high-protein option, and you’ll need to rehydrate it before serving. This can be done with warm broth or water.


5. Semi-moist Food

cat eating_Shutterstock_Africa Studio
Image Credit: Africa Studio, Shutterstock

Semi-moist cat food is similar to kibble, but it’s made of soft, chewy pieces that are usually brightly colored. This is only to attract the customer. Cats don’t care what color their food is, but they like to eat semi-moist food because of its taste. It’s usually much higher in salt and sugar than other foods and filled with artificial colors and flavors. Some cats can eat this food with no issues, but it may not be suitable for every cat, depending on their health status.

How to Choose the Best Food for Your Cat

The type of food that you choose for your cat is going to come down to what they will eat. If your cat is opposed to the taste of seafood, they won’t eat fish-flavored foods no matter what. You may have to try a few different foods before you find the taste and textures that your cat enjoys. For example, some cats only eat pâté food, while others will eat anything but.

Before you start searching for flavors, though, consider a few things to help you choose a type of food.

Your Schedule

What are your time constraints? How much time do you have each day to dedicate to preparing your cat’s meals? It’s easier to scoop dry kibble into a bowl than it is to thaw frozen raw food. Opening a can or pouch of wet food and spooning it into a bowl is also easy, but if your cat doesn’t eat the entire can at once, you’ll end up with leftovers that you have to cover and store in the fridge until the next mealtime.

Your Cat’s Activity Level

If your cat is extremely active and always burning calories, they’ll need a higher protein content in their food than an older or less active cat. Kittens also require more protein and fat than adult cats.

Your Cat’s Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight for your cat is vital to their overall health and happiness. If your kitty needs to shed a few extra pounds, calorie content will be something that you’ll have to keep in mind. The nutritional information, including calorie count per serving, is listed on each container or bag of food.

Food Allergies

If you know that your cat suffers from food allergies, scan the ingredients label for signs of the allergen. For instance, if your cat is allergic to poultry, you should not choose a food with chicken in it. Some foods include chicken in the ingredients, even if it’s not listed as the flavor of the food. Salmon-flavored foods can still include poultry, for example, so checking the ingredients list is always best.

If your cat starts to develop allergies after eating new food, check the label to see what’s different from their previous food. You’ll know to avoid that in the future.

Your Vet’s Opinion

Talking with your vet is the best way to come up with a diet plan for your cat. Whether you feed your cat dry food, wet food, or a mix of all of these, you’ll know how much of each to give and how often. Each cat has different nutritional needs. Finding the best for your feline friend with help from a professional who knows your cat’s medical history is a great way to keep them healthy and avoid feeding them things that they shouldn’t have.

Affordability

Since cat food will be something that you buy often for many years, the one that you choose should fit your budget. Aim for the highest quality food that you can afford. There are many budget-friendly options on the market today.

What to Look For on the Label

Cat-eating-in-a-food-bowl
Image Credit: sweetlouise, Pixabay

Browsing the labels of different foods will let you know which ones have the nutritional content that would be best for your cat based on their needs. There are certain things that all cats need, though, and you should make sure the label includes them.

Protein

Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they need protein in their diet to stay healthy. This protein must be from animal sources. Cats need meat to provide the essential amino acids that their bodies need. A high-protein content in the food is ideal. It’s the first thing that you should look for, and the first ingredient in the food should be an animal protein. Choose food that fits your budget with the highest protein content that you can find.

Taurine

Taurine is an amino acid found in animal protein that is a requirement in your cat’s diet. It’s important for healthy vision, heart health, and muscle function. Without a proper amount of taurine, your cat could become very ill.

Healthy Fats

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are found in fish, fish oils, and other proteins, but they’re also added supplementally. These are important for your cat’s skin and coat health. They help keep skin moisturized and coats shiny and soft.

Life Stage

Each life stage of a cat will come with different nutritional needs. Kittens need more calories than adults. Seniors need fewer calories than younger cats. Buying food that is made for your cat’s life stage is necessary to ensure that they’re getting the proper nutrition for their age. If adult cats eat kitten food, they will consume too many calories, leading to weight gain. Each life stage food is formulated for what your cat will need during that period.

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Which Is the Best Overall?

cat after eating food from a plate
Image Credit: mik ulyannikov, Shutterstock

Everyone has a different opinion on what the best choice for cat food is, but the best cat food for your cat will be determined by your cat’s needs and preferences. What works well for one cat may not work well for another. Some cats are allergic to ingredients that other cats tolerate just fine. There is no universal cat food that is perfect for all cats to enjoy.

Finding the right food might take trial and error, but with a good idea of what to look for in ingredients, an understanding of your cat’s health, and a budget to stick to, you can find the right food for your cat.

Texture and taste are big factors that determine whether your cat likes the food. If they don’t like the way that the food feels in their mouths, they won’t eat it. If you try one type of food and your cat refuses to eat it, try a different texture or flavor and see if that works better.

Only you and your veterinarian know your cat best and what their needs are.

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Final Thoughts

Choosing cat food seems overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! With all the options available today, there is one (or several) that will be perfect for your cat and provide them all the nutrition that they need to keep them healthy. We hope that this guide gave you a few ideas on where to start.

As always, consult your vet before you introduce any new food, especially if you have questions about it. They are your best source of information when it comes to choosing the proper diet for your cat.

Healthy options can also taste great. Finding one that your cat enjoys eating is out there. Your cat can have the best of both worlds.


Featured Image Credit: karinrin, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.