By Jennifer Viegas for The Daily Cat
Feeding a high-quality cat food containing at least seven special enhancements will fuel your cat’s daily activities and safeguard its health, says registered veterinary technician Jennifer Taylor.
Some of the key enhancements are glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, dental care formula to reduce tartar buildup, L-carnitine to help metabolize fat, and higher levels of antioxidants to support a healthy immune system. Veterinarian Amy Dicke shares more information about these and other ingredients.
1. Two Fibers Better Than One
Fiber cleans out your cat’s system and promotes a healthy digestive tract. Some cat foods now include a one-two fiber punch, doubling up on this ingredient.
Look for beet pulp and fructooligosaccharides (FOS) on the ingredient list of cat food. “Beet pulp, a moderately fermentable fiber, releases short-chain fatty acids, which are used as energy by the intestinal cells, thereby boosting their capability to absorb nutrients,” says Dicke. FOS, on the other hand, “selectively feeds the beneficial bacteria and promotes balance in the digestive tract,” she adds.
Antioxidants help prevent oxidation, which forms “free radicals” in your body. Free radicals are rogue oxygen molecules that can dangerously react with other molecules, leading to health problems. The same thing may happen to your cat and other mammals.
As a result, some cat foods now contain antioxidants like vitamin E and beta-carotene, the natural component that adds color to many vegetables. These antioxidants have been shown to improve immune function in dogs and cats, says Dicke. “A strong immune system is important in fighting and protecting against disease and invaders, such as bacteria and viruses,” she says.
3. Glucosamine and Chondroitin
The dynamic duo of glucosamine and chondroitin has eased the minds of arthritis patients because it plays an important role in nourishing and supporting joint health. These components occur naturally in your joints, as well as in the joints of cats and other mammals.
4. Dental Care Formula
While nothing can substitute regular dental cleanings and exams at your veterinarian’s office, what you feed your cat can help prevent the formation of tartar. “Tartar is a hard, yellow-brown accumulation of minerals, which can cause gum regression, gum inflammation and loss of teeth,” says Dicke.
Feeding your cat crunchy kibbles made of high-quality ingredients is one way you can help slow tartar from building up on your pet’s teeth.
L-carnitine is a naturally occurring vitaminlike compound that plays a vital role in the metabolism of fat. Dicke explains that L-carnitine helps dogs and cats gain a desired body composition by promoting the loss of weight and fat while maintaining lean body tissue.
A prebiotic, such as FOS, is actually a fiber. The enzymes in your cat’s digestive tract do not digest it. “Instead, the bacteria in the intestinal tract break the fiber down and use it for food,” says Dicke. “What makes a prebiotic different from other fibers is it feeds, or supports, the good bacteria -- not the bad -- helping the good bacteria grow.”
7. Natural, High-quality Ingredients
The final enhancement is natural, high-quality ingredients. Sometimes what’s not included in cat food is just as important as what is on the ingredient list. In this case, you should look for cat foods that do not contain any added fillers, artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.
Given the nutritional and medical benefits of the above ingredients in cat foods on the market today, you can rest easy knowing that you are feeding your furry pal some of the best food available.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other science-related topics.