As you tend to the needs of your indoor cat, you need to make sure your cat’s diet is up to par. Whether you choose dry food or wet food, the nutritional content of the food matters. High-quality food helps protect against obesity while also providing the right balance of carbohydrates, protein, and other nutrients that your cat needs. As you look for food for your indoor cat, consider these six diet recommendations to help you find the right one.
Do Indoor Cats Require Different Diets Than Outdoor or Wild Cats?
Indoor cats have slightly different dietary requirements than outdoor cats. As you shop for cat food, you’ll notice that some foods have labels indicating they are specific for indoor cats.
Most of the time, the primary difference is the number of calories, because indoor cats often get less exercise than outdoor cats. The lower calorie count in indoor cat food helps protect against obesity. Indoor cat foods may also have higher fiber content because indoor cats are more prone to hairballs. Outdoor cats are predators, so outdoor cat food formulas tend to be higher in protein than indoor cat food formulas.
It's also very important that indoor cats have plenty of access to water, as dehydration can be a common problem for pet cats.
6 Diet Recommendations for Indoor Cats
Cat nutrition is a key component to having a healthy cat with a long lifespan. So, what should you look for in indoor cat food options? Below are six recommendations that will help you find the right food for your indoor cat.
1) Provide a Source of Animal Protein
According to Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, cats are obligate carnivores. This means they need nutrients they can only get from animal products. While cats do need some carbohydrates, the primary component of quality cat food should be animal-based protein.
How can you tell if cat food is high-protein? The key is in the ingredients list. When you read the label on cat food, look for meat, seafood, or meat by-products within the first few ingredients. The order in which ingredients are listed indicates how much of the food is made up of that ingredient, so seeing proteins listed first means they are primary ingredients.
2) Add Moisture to Your Cat’s Diet Using Water or Wet Food
Another factor that is important in cat food is moisture. Dry food and kibble often lack moisture, and this can lead to dehydration. While cats do drink water, most of their hydration comes from their food. Choosing a wet food — or adding water to dry food — helps ensure you add the moisture your cat needs for their health.
Learn more about water and cats, and then check out The Honest Kitchen’s wet cat food to find high-quality food with a high moisture content. With this food, you can protect your cat from dehydration.
3) Look for Foods With Fiber
Fiber is an important component in a cat’s diet, especially for indoor cats. Cats are prone to hairballs when they spend a lot of time grooming, and fiber helps move the hair through the system so the cat does not have to cough up the hairball. Fiber also helps prevent intestinal health issues, like constipation and diarrhea. In adult cats, it can reduce the risk of diabetes and obesity as well.
In commercial cat food, fiber often comes from carbs. However, you can still serve a low-carbohydrate food that is high in protein and has the fiber content your cat needs. Simply make sure the food contains some fiber, and you should be good.
Why does indoor cat food need to have fiber added? Outdoor cats tend to eat live prey (like mice) on occasion, and they consume all of the prey animals — including fur and bone. While this isn’t soluble fiber, it performs the same function. Indoor cats need some fiber added to the food to compensate. If the food itself doesn’t contain fiber, consider a cat food topper to add this important nutrient.
Catnip can be a source of fiber, and it also is something most cats love to eat. Consider growing some in your backyard or inside your house to give your cat access to extra fiber and mental stimulation.
4) Select a “Complete and Balanced” Diet Based on Your Cat’s Age
Your cat’s dietary needs will change as they age. Kittens need different nutrients than adult cats, and senior cats need different nutrients than young adult cats. What constitutes a balanced diet will differ based on your cat’s age.
One way to make sure your cat’s food is meeting their nutritional needs at their current stage of life is to buy a “complete and balanced” food that is marked for their particular age. This food will help your cat maintain a healthy weight even as they get older.
5) Monitor Your Cat’s Eating and Don’t Leave Food Out Buffet-Style
Activity level is the main difference between indoor and outdoor cats. Indoor cats simply don’t get as much exercise as outdoor cats. They tend to lie around and sleep most of the day. Many cat owners unknowingly over-feed their cats, leading to problems with their cat’s weight. Obesity is dangerous because overweight cats are at higher risk for many health problems, including diabetes, joint problems, cancer, kidney disease, and arthritis.
One way to prevent this is to monitor how much your cat is eating, and only serve the recommended serving size for your cat’s age and weight. Cats often do best with several small meals throughout the day, but be sure to only put the food down for a set period of time, then pick it up — even if the cat didn’t finish it. Never leave cat food out as a “buffet,” which encourages overeating.
Pay attention to your cat’s body condition, and make adjustments to serving sizes if your cat starts to look overweight. Remember, your indoor cat likely does not get much exercise, so make sure your cat eats the right amount to maintain a healthy weight. If your cat needs to lose some weight, then cut back on the amount you feed or choose a food with a lower calorie count until your cat is within a healthy weight range. You can also implement the ideas in our article, “9 Tricks for Getting Your Cat to Lose Weight,” to achieve weight loss effectively.
Also, while your cat's food shouldn't be left out all day, it's imperative that your cat has access to water at all times. While a bowl of water can be just fine, some cats prefer to drink from running water sources. There's several cat watering bowls that allow for this to entice your cat to stay hydrated.
6) Carefully Read Cat Food Labels and Check With Your Veterinarian
Cat food labels are helpful sources of information, but they can be deceiving. They typically are designed to sell cat food and may use trendy terms like “grain-free” or “complete” to make you think they are healthier than they are. These terms deceive because they do contain a measure of truth. For example, grain-free cat foods are recommended by the DVM, but simply stating that a food is grain-free does not mean it is healthy or contains all of the nutrients your cat needs to thrive.
Understanding the components of a healthy diet is essential, as is talking to your veterinarian about healthy foods and how much your cat should eat daily. Follow your vet’s recommendations when choosing pet food, and do not be swayed by a brand’s packaging and claims of being the “best cat food” without solid evidence to back it up.
Provide the Best Diet for Your Indoor Cat With The Honest Kitchen
As you look for healthy food options for your indoor cat, consider The Honest Kitchen. Our line of grain-free dehydrated and wet cat foods meet the nutritional needs of cats in all stages of life, with kitten food and adult food formulas. These cat foods are made with human grade ingredients, and are complete and balanced foods without unnecessary preservatives and additives. They contain real meat, fiber, and essential amino acids and minerals, like taurine and potassium. Try cat food from The Honest Kitchen today to give your cat high-quality food options to keep them as healthy as possible while making mealtime enjoyable for both of you.
Health Disclaimer: This post is educational in nature and doesn’t constitute health advice. Please consult your pet’s veterinarian or other healthcare professionals for specific guidance on this topic.