rips milk ringNow that Ripley’s weight has become more manageable and all of us have become used to our new, healthier routine, I’ve been able to give more thought to what we’re putting in Ripley’s body.

Since her diet, I’ve been feeding Ripley Purina Naturals dry food, which, like Vitamin Water, has a very appealing look and message. It’s a natural-looking, matte bag with earthy colors and carrots and cuts of meat and grains all over it, and it’s covered in a bunch of buzz words, like the all-holy current buzzword, SOY. I never read the ingredients because, hey, what do I know about what cats are supposed to eat? Doesn’t soy solve all of the world’s problems? Even kitty problems?

A couple of people posted on my blog, though, and told me that I shouldn’t be feeding my cat dry food at all – and my mom called to tell me the same thing. Ripley, too, has chimed in on the subject, by going berserk every time I open any kind of can.

I started reading about cat nutrition online and came up with various answers and explanations for what cats should be eating. Pet food companies said one thing, cat enthusiasts said another, and veterinarians said another. I decided to take the vets’ advice.

Here are some of the main points to consider:

  • Cats are carnivores. Their bodies are designed to metabolize high animal protein, low plant carbohydrate meals. Most commercial cat food has wheat, corn, or other grains, but you should try to find the brands with the highest amount of protein and the lowest amount of carbs.
  • Cats have low thirst drives and because of this need to get fluids from their food sources in order to stay optimally hydrated. It’s a good reason to feed your cat canned food at least some of the time.
  • In any diet, kitty or human, variety is very important.
  • Many cat foods contain tons of “fillers” even aside from grains- animal by-products, animal organs (even brains and spleens and things), and animal meal. It’s important to make sure that none of those things are listed first on your cat food’s ingredient list.

It was eye opening to say the least, but it was also all very logical. It turns out that while I thought all the grains and vegetables and SOY portrayed on Purina’s naturals box meant I was smart and loved my cat, it actually meant that I was blindly buying things that looked good.

On the other hand, while the health-conscious part of my brain was pleased with my discovery, the wallet-conscious part of my brain starting going off. As did the I-don’t-want-to-become-one-of-those-cat-ladies part of my brain. Sure, I should be feeding my cat better food. But I’m sure the organic, all-meat, human-grade fancy-pants food will cost me more than I’d like to spend on anything other than me. I mean, she’s a cat. She eats whatever I put in front of her and some things that I don’t put in front of her.

The answer is that it will prevent a lot of icky kitty diseases like diabetes, renal disease, and urinary tract problems. And if that isn’t enough, just think of the vet bills that will accompany these ailments.

I’m not sure. I want Ripley to be healthy, but I also don’t want to bounce any checks. I’m going to head down to Whole Foods tomorrow and get Rips some quality chow. I’ll check back in next week and tell you how it goes (and how much it costs).

Here’s the best article I read about kitty nutrition issues, written by a vet.
She goes into much, much more detail, for those interested, and also ranks the commercial cat foods and lists their pros and cons.