Feeding Your Adult Cat: What You Need to Know

Get expert tips for keeping your cat healthy, happy, and well fed.

By Annie Stuart
WebMD Pet Health Feature

Reviewed by Drew Weigner, DVM

Whether you're pinching pennies or can afford to pay top dollar, when it comes to nutrition, you no doubt want to do right by your feline companion. But you don't have to spend lots of money or frequent boutique shops to feed your adult cat well. Here are a few guidelines to help ensure the feline member of your family gets the nutritious adult cat food he or she deserves.

How can I select a high-quality food for my adult cat?

Jennifer Larsen, DVM, PhD is a nutritional consultant and assistant professor of clinical nutrition at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital at UC Davis in California. Although manufacturer reputation is one reliable indicator of the quality of adult cat food, she says the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) provides some added assurance of sound nutrition. You can check for the AAFCO statement on your cat's food label.

AAFCO uses two methods to evaluate the nutritional adequacy of adult cat foods: formulation and feeding test. The formulation method involves doing a nutritional analysis of ingredients and comparing it with AAFCO nutrient profiles for a cat's particular life stage. “That diet doesn't have to be fed to any live animal before it's sold,” Larsen says. The feeding test method, on the other hand, evaluates the digestibility and absorption of nutrients in live animals. “I strongly prefer foods that have been through AAFCO feeding tests,” she says.

Although adult cat foods may contain a wide range of ingredients, Larsen says your focus should be on nutrients. Mindy Bough, CVT, senior director of client services for the Midwest Office of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), agrees. “The presence of one or two ingredients may make the food appear healthy, but it's the balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals that make a healthy cat food.”

When evaluating percentages of nutrients, keep in mind that these are measured on a “dry matter basis.” For this reason, a dry cat food may appear to have more protein than a wet food, for instance, but only because it contains less water.