10 Cat Food Myths

Myth #1: Dry food is the best food for cats.
Once considered the end-all and be-all for feline nutrition, evidence now shows dry foods may be a source of chronic health issues. Urinary, arthritis, kidney, diabetes, and dental problems are just a few of the diseases now associated with dry food diets, including those that are grain free. Water matters and is most absorbable and beneficial in food.  Moisture rich foods offer critical support to electrolyte and micronutrient balance, helping maintain cellular membranes throughout the body. Quality canned, raw, and well-balanced home-made foods offer higher meat proteins, fewer carbohydrates, proper moisture levels, and fewer highly processed ingredients, mimicking a more natural diet.

Myth #2: Dry food is important for cleaning teeth.
Your cat is an obligate carnivore with teeth designed for tearing and shredding, not grinding. Because of the size and texture, most dry foods are swallowed whole with minimal chewing. What little of these carbohydrate rich foods is chewed produces a starchy film that adheres to teeth creating a rich environment for dental-damaging bacteria.

Myth #3: Premium foods are just higher priced foods.
The adage – you get what you pay for – is just as true with pet foods.  Nutrition is not only about whether your cat likes and eats the food, but how digestible the food is, what your cat can absorb, and how your cat metabolizes it. Premium food manufacturers go to great lengths to source quality ingredients, cook at low temperatures to preserve valuable nutrients, and use special packaging to preserve freshness. Inexpensive foods should raise alarms; corners were cut in the ingredients, manufacturing, or labor.

Myth #4: Do not mix or change cat foods.
In the wild, your feline predator will hunt for a range of entrees from mice to bugs. A well-planned variety of foods may prevent over-supplementation, nutritional imbalances, and the development of food sensitivities.  Slow introductions of a selection of foods with a variety of proteins, textures and styles, will encourage better digestion, a healthier immune system, and help reduce fixation on select foods.

Myth #5: Organic cat foods are superior.
While organic and free-range meats make superior protein sources, they are often not the primary ingredients in commercial organic pet foods. Because of costs, many dry and some canned foods use higher levels of plant proteins to meet nutritional requirements, increasing the carbohydrate load in your cat’s diet. Cats cannot properly metabolize high volumes of carbohydrates and in turn store them as fat. Understanding your cat’s nutritional needs AND how to read labels will help you select the best foods for your obligate carnivore.

Myth #6: Diet foods offer better weight management.
Increased fiber and empty calorie ingredients are used in lite, indoor and weight management diets. These ingredients add to the load of carbohydrates and can actually contribute to weight gain, trigger skin and coat disorders, and create food intolerances. Be aware, grain-free does not equate to carb free.  A water-rich, meat-based, low-carbohydrate diet – canned, raw, or home-cooked – that is balanced for your cat’s caloric needs, is the key to a sleek and agile cat.

Myth #7: People food and homemade foods are harmful to cats.
If you have a feline audience when preparing your meals, know that you and your cat can eat a number of the same things: meat, fish, eggs, and some veggies. Break the dependence on commercial foods and discover the health benefits of fresh, homemade cat food your cat will pounce on. A well-balanced, home-prepared diet using free range meats and fresh organic ingredients you source are the best foods for you and your cat because it gives you control over recipes, supplements, and processing. Adding even a little fresh food can go a long way to boosting the nutritional value of your cat’s diet.

Myth #8: Raw foods have the highest risk of bacterial contamination.
As a predator, your cat evolved with a digestive tract designed to process and eliminate food quickly—short, acidic, and hostile to bacteria. While caution should be taken with cats with weakened immune systems or in homes with humans with health challenges, proactive procedures of leading manufacturers of raw diet pet foods offer safety and peace of mind.

Myth #9: Food must be left out, so your cat won’t go hungry.
Leaving dry food out is for our convenience, not the health of your cat.  Dry foods are sprayed with flavorings to addict your cat. The more your cat eats, the more it wants, discouraging your cat from other foods. Unless there is a specific health issue, cats benefit from a schedule of 3-4 small meals a day for more complete and proper digestion. A couple of snacks are fine but remember that’s a few pieces . . . not a bowlful.

Myth #10: Diet does not affect stress, aggression, or hyperactivity.
Behavior issues can be affected by a range of ingredients in the diet, from the type of protein—meat vs. plant—to carbohydrates, in addition to the level of processing. Cats are especially susceptible to the balance of amino acids and micronutrients. Food sensitivities can also be at the root of behavior issues. When working with any behavior issue, it’s imperative the diet is evaluated. Foods aren’t only about calories and energy; a species appropriate cat diet nourishes their body, brain, and every other organ system.

© Terri Symonds Grow 2017, Revised 2021

Terri Grow writes and speaks on pet health and welfare, working with veterinarians, trainers, shelters and manufacturers to empower canine and feline health through diets, herbal therapies, supplements and environmental adjustments.