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Scan the names of canned cat foods on the shelf of a pet store and you might start getting hungry. Savory chicken in gravy, succulent salmon in sauce, pate with wholesome lamb and rice are just a few of the many options. They sound more like menu choices at a gourmet restaurant than kitty chow in a pop-top.
The names appeal to our human tastes, but the flavors and textures of today’s canned cat foods are aimed toward the kitty palate. Even the most finicky feline is bound to enjoy one or more favorites among the new choices. Canned food provides real health benefits, too. Here’s why you should consider it for your kitty’s daily diet:
It’s high in protein, low in carbohydrates Canned cat food tends to be high in protein and low in carbohydrates: a good balance that is similar to a cat’s natural birds-and-mice diet. “Cats who eat a diet that is exclusively canned, or with a strong focus on canned, tend to be much less inclined to develop obesity,” says Colleen Currigan, DVM, owner of Cat Hospital of Chicago.
Canned food keeps kitty hydrated The moisture in cat food makes it more palatable and helps to keep cats healthy. “It is very helpful in preventing dehydration, which can be a problem, especially in older cats suffering from kidney failure, where they lose a lot of water through their urinary tract,” says Dr. Currigan. It also helps cats with arthritis, whose painful joints make them less willing or able to get up and go to the water bowl as often as they might otherwise. Additionally, the water in canned food helps cats that tend to suffer from constipation.
It helps keep urinary track problems at bay Canned cat food is especially good for younger cats, too. “It is very beneficial in helping to prevent lower urinary tract problems,” says Dr. Currigan. Urinary tract blockage is more common in males, while cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) is common in cats of all ages but particularly in younger cats, both male and female. Canned cat food that is specially formulated to help avoid health problems such as obesity or urinary tract problems is also available at most pet stores.
It comes in soooo many flavors Many cats enjoy food that smells good, and most canned food has a strong smell. And because cat food is available in small portions, you can try a variety of flavors to find the one, or ones, your kitty prefers. Some canned foods combine flavors and come in several different textures: chunky bits of meat in sauce, a smooth mashed mix of meat or meat drenched in flavorful gravies.
Of course, some cats are so finicky that you’ll have to work hard to find the food that suits their changing tastes. “Our cat, Buzz, meows really loudly all over the house when he doesn’t like the food we put out for him,” says Kathe Nesson of Somerville, Mass. Buzz, a rescue cat, is so picky about his food that Nesson and her husband keep a chart on their refrigerator noting the cat’s least and most favorites. Many cats, like Buzz, will turn up their noses at cold food and will only eat food that is at room temperature or warmed for them.
In their geriatric years, cats are inclined to become more finicky due to changes in their ability to taste and smell food, says Dr. Currigan. But she advocates exposing cats to a range of flavors from kittenhood. “I really feel that if cats are fed a variety from a young age, they are less inclined to become finicky,” she says. So the next time you’re at the pet store, pick up some succulent salmon or savory chicken for your deserving feline friend.
Elizabeth Parker has written for The Boston Globe, Shape, Glamour, Viv and many other publications. She is co-author of Heeling Your Inner Dog: A Self-Whelp Book (Times Books) and currently lives in Los Angeles with her husband, son, cat and two rabbits.