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Although more expensive than average brands, these foods are often better for your cat. They are low-bulk, which means that cats will digest more of the food, thus eating and eliminating less. They contain little or no dyes, which can be important if your cat vomits regularly (easier to clean up); probably also good from a diet viewpoint.

Examples of these kind of brands include (but are not limited to) Hill’s Science Diet, Iams, Wysong, Nature’s Recipe (Optimum Feline), and Purina (One). These foods are also beneficial for the cats coats and many readers have attested to their cat’s silky fur and good health on these diets.

Cat food composition

The Guaranteed Crude analysis provides more nutrition info than you can get on the vast majority of human foods. If you want more, ask the vendor. E.g. Purina is 800-345-5678. Any major commercial cat food is formulated with either natural ingredients (including meat byproducts which supply nutrients to cats that meat itself doesn’t since cats in the wild eat the whole animal) or are supplemented with the required nutrients to make them balanced diets for cats.

Wet foods

Canned foods contain quite a bit of water. It is expensive. Tartar build-up may be a problem. Smell (of the food, the cat’s breath, or the cat’s feces) and gas may be a problem. The food can spoil quickly. The dishes will have to be washed every day. Stools will be softer. On the other hand, cats that have medical conditions requiring higher water intake may benefit from the water in these products.

Dry foods

Cats will require more water on this kind of diet, but tartar-buildup may be lessened as a result of crunching on the kibble. Generally less expensive and less smelly. Dishes will remain clean and food will not build up nor spoil quickly. Stools will be firmer.

Moist foods

These are "soft kibble". The benefits are difficult to ascertain. They are more appealing to humans than anything else. There is no anti-tartar benefit and not much difference from canned food. They are fairly expensive. A lot of dye is typically used, which makes vomit very stain prone. Some are actually bad for your cat: proylene glycol found in these products (as a preservative) can damage red blood cells and sensitize the cats to other things as well. (Source: August 1992 edition of Cats Magazine.)

Snack foods

Many snack products are out there for cats. Most are fine as supplemental feeding, but of course they should never take place of regular food. Try to use treats that are nutritionally balanced so as to minimize any disruption in your cat’s overall diet. Treats like dried liver, which are not balanced food, should be used sparingly. In addition, these products can be useful in training.

Milk

Most adult cats are lactose intolerant and drinking milk will give them diarrhea. Otherwise, milk is a nutritious snack. Cream is even better than milk — most cats can handle the butterfat just fine and it’s good for them. A small serving of cream will satisfy the cat more than a saucer of milk and will contain less lactose.

Homemade Food

Check Frazier’s The New Natural Cat. She gives a number of recipies and general information on making your own cat food and on what foods are good for sick cats. A number of cat books contain recipies for making your own kitty treats. These can be fun to make and give to your cat.

People Food

It is a poor idea to feed cats table scraps or food from your own meals. First, table scraps do not meet your cat’s nutritional needs and only add unneeded calories or undigestibles to its diet. Second, you risk having your cat become a major nuisance when you are eating. Stick with prepared cat treats. Any food you give it should be placed in its food dish, or you can give it treats as long as you are not eating or preparing your own food.

That said, there is a pretty wide variety of food that cats will eat and enjoy. Rec.pets.cats abounds with "weird food" stories ranging from peanut butter to marshmallows.