So, you’re standing in the cat food aisle of your local pet store, completely bewildered. Not only are there countless different brands of cat food, but they’re all different prices! How can one brand of cat food possibly cost three, even four times as much as another brand? Are expensive foods actually any better than cheaper foods, or would I just be paying for the brand name? Does price really make that much of a difference?
The short answer is: yes. Usually, the price does make a pretty big difference. For the most part (though this isn’t always the case) the more expensive the food, the higher quality it is, and the better it will be for your cat. But why? Well, that will take a bit more explaining! The world of commercial cat food can be very misleading. For a start, you may have noticed that cheaper, poor quality foods are far, far, far more popular than expensive foods. Why? The main reason is: they’re cheap! The sad truth is that the vast majority of cat owners can’t or won’t spend their extra cash on their cat’s diet. Some owners would like to feed their cats a higher quality food, but simply can’t afford the extra expense. Some owners, on the other hand, buy low quality food simply because they don’t really care what their cat eats.
Cheap cat food brands spend a lot of money on advertising. It’s extremely rare for you to see a high quality cat food advertised on television. This is because cheaper foods are usually owned by larger corporations than have more money to spend on marketing their product – partly because they’ve saved a lot of money by filling their cat food with cheap, low quality ingredients. Ignorance plays a huge part here – too many cat owners assume that because they see one of these poor quality products advertised everywhere, it must be a good choice for their cat’s diet. Usually, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Don’t allow yourself to be brainwashed!
Cheaper cat foods are more widely available than expensive ones. As I said before, cheaper foods are usually made by big corporations than can afford to mass market their products, while high quality foods are often made by much smaller, specialist companies or family businesses that don’t have the means to manufacture their foods on such a large scale. High quality food manufacturers tend to be stocked by specialist pet retailers, whereas you can buy cheap cat foods from pretty much any grocery store you choose. So, the majority of cat owners feed cheap, low quality food. Why shouldn’t you follow the herd and do the same? Well, you obviously care about what you’re putting into your cat, or you wouldn’t be reading this guide in the first place! Let’s talk a little about what the difference is between these foods. What exactly makes one food cheap and another food expensive?
Essentially, when you pay a higher price for a cat food, what you’re usually paying for is higher quality ingredients. The main constituent of your cat’s food should be meat, and meat is pricey. High quality foods usually contain more meat, and the quality of that meat is of a higher standard. Low quality foods often contain staggeringly low levels of meat, and what little meat they do contain usually comes in the form of meat by-products or derivatives rather than fresh meat. The ingredients lists on cheap cat foods will never tell you what these derivatives and by-products are – and they have good reason to keep that from you, as those ingredients can be pretty much anything! So, if these cheap foods contain low levels of meat, what else is in them? Well, usually, they’re pumped full of cereals and other pointless fillers that are much cheaper to produce than meat is. These fillers are difficult for your cat to digest, as they’re not part of the diet he has evolved to eat. Sometimes, depending on the fillers used, they can even be harmful in large amounts and can eventually lead to a number of health problems. These foods are also more likely to use cheap preservatives that can be really harmful. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend you read this guide, which goes into much greater detail about cat food ingredients and which foods to avoid: Know your ingredients: a complete guide to understanding cat food labels.
But will this have any effect on your cat? Of course it will. No, feeding low quality food will not put your cat in any immediate danger. But look at it this way: what would happen to a human that ate fast food for every meal, for the rest of his life? Yes, he might live to a ripe old age, but his health would suffer dreadfully as a result of his diet. Put simply, your cat will not receive the high level of nutrients he would receive in the wild. He won’t be able to digest large parts of his food, so it’ll pass straight through him, resulting in a nasty mess in the litter tray every day. His resistance to disease will be lowered, and he’ll already be at risk of developing the conditions associated with feeding a diet that’s high in carbohydrate instead of protein! Poor quality diets simply don’t suit your cat’s digestive system very well, and your cat is bound to be unhealthier for it.Will this have any effect on you? Well to be honest, you might find that feeding a poor quality cat food becomes quite costly! Surprised? Many cat owners have no idea that feeding cheap, low quality foods isn’t actually very cost-effective at all. You see, because low quality foods are less nutritional than high quality foods, your cat actually needs to eat more of it to feel full and fill his nutrient quota for the day. This means that you actually end up buying more of the cheaper food than you would an expensive food, and may end up spending more money!
So, hopefully we’ve established that price definitely does make a difference when it comes to choosing a diet for your cat. However, let’s not lose our heads here – price isn’t everything. There are exceptions to the rule – for instance there are expensive commercial foods out there that still contain high levels of carbohydrates and other ingredients that should be avoided. Seriously, some of these foods may surprise you! Just because a higher price often means higher quality ingredients, this doesn’t mean we should put all our trust in expensive foods just because they cost more – you should always, always do your research before embarking on a change of diet. Use your initiative, read those labels carefully and make sure you know exactly what you’re getting your cat into! If you need help with that, I’ll once again direct you to this guide on understanding cat food labels – it can get quite complicated!
Okay, the rest is up to you. Hopefully you’ll give this some real thought – after all, your cat is worth it, isn’t he? This can be a bit of a touchy subject, but I’m a firm believer in providing your cat with the best care possible. If don’t think you’ll be able to afford to feed a cat anything but a poor quality diet, then perhaps it’s unfair to bring a cat into your life at the moment. Too many people adopt cats without considering the financial ramifications, and the cat’s health suffers as a result. Remember, you’re responsible for that kitty, and he’s relying on you to look after his health for him! There are so many healthy options out there – if you don’t like the idea of feeding commercial cat food at all, remember that you could consider a raw diet for your cat. These diets can still get expensive, but they allow for a little more flexibility and control – you can read a little more about these diets in this guide here. Have fun researching!