We share a very special relationship with our furry little friends. For most people, pets are pretty much an integral part of the family, and sometimes some people see their pets as their babies. This means we all want the best for our furry friends and will spend any amount of money to get them the best quality in everything. And good quality food is no exception.
For our little feline companions, food can be quite a dicey issue. Choosing a healthy diet for our cats can be an intimidating process as cats have very specific requirements for their dietary nutrients. In the wild, most big cats are purely carnivorous and this remains true even for their domesticated counterparts. Therefore, while it may not outright harm them to feed them the kind of vegetables we eat, or even dairy products, providing them with the right source of nutrients from the right type of food is extremely important.
This is where commercial cat food comes in. Certain nutrients, including a lot of vitamins and amino acids, can be degraded by the temperatures, pressures and chemical treatments used during the manufacturing process, and hence need to be added after manufacture to avoid nutritional deficiency in your cat.
For example, taurine is an example of a very specific amino acid that is found in meat. During processing commercial cat food, however, this taurine is degraded, which can result in vitamin and protein deficiency in your cat. Therefore, companies will produce synthetic taurine to be added to the meat product later. Long-term taurine deficiency is extremely dangerous to cats and can lead to a variety of diseases and illnesses such as retinal degradation, loss of vision, and cardiac arrest. So with all the options available in the market today, how do we figure out which is the best option for our cat?
Stores these days sell targeted cat food to address specific needs, including cat food for young cats, old cats, fit cats, couch cats, sick cats, obese cats, active cats, and so on. Companies such as 4Health have come up with even more options in these, that are specially formulated to be the most effective. Read on as we talk about what the dietary requirements of cats are, and how 4Health cat food can fit into your cat’s needs.
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Natural Diet Of Cats
Food is the nutritional fuel that powers your cat’s internal engine. Food is made up of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, other nutrients, and water, and for optimum health, these nutrients must come from high-quality sources and must be present in your cat’s diet in specific proportions. Each nutrient supports specific bodily functions that contribute to physical and mental health.
There’s a lot of conflicting information out there about proper nutrition for cats, and despite their best intentions, many pet owners don’t know what’s really in the food they buy. With debates raging about protein and carb balance, plus brands throwing around buzzwords like ‘premium’ and ‘all-natural,” it’s easy to get misled.
Like big cats, their wild counterparts, domesticated cats are obligate carnivores. This means they are true carnivores and require the nutrients present in animal flesh to fulfill their dietary requirements. Even domesticated cats will relish freshly killed meat from rodents, rabbits, amphibians, birds, reptiles, and fish, but cats are also opportunistic feeders and will readily take cooked food.
They will also take dry food when offered provided that food is palatable. Therefore, the natural diet of cats does not contain any vegetable matter, although domesticated cats will not outright refuse vegetable matter given to them, this is not their natural diet and hence must be avoided where possible. One exception to this is that cats have been known to eat certain plants and grasses occasionally, usually as an emetic (a substance that causes vomiting).
Cats are unable to synthesize some essential nutrients that are necessary for survival that human beings can. These nutrients include the amino acids arginine and taurine. Cats lack the specific physiology to extract nutrients efficiently from plant-based materials and require a high protein diet, which is why high-energy meats from freshly killed prey are optimal foods. So it is necessary for you to provide these nutrients directly to your cat through natural meat in their diet.
Commercial Cat Food
Most of the store-bought food you can find in the market today can be bought in either wet canned form, or in a dry form known as kibble. Some manufacturers have even started selling frozen raw diets and premix products in case you wish to feed raw food to your cat.
Quality ingredients in your cat’s food, that is, whole proteins that are free from harmful or controversial substances are one of the most important characteristics of the best cat food formulas.
Quality ingredients are a key component of the best cat food, but if those high-quality nutrients aren’t actually being absorbed by your cat, the benefits of the superior ingredients are lost. Digestibility is the percentage of foodstuff taken into the digestive tract that is actually absorbed into the body and it’s an important characteristic to consider when selecting a cat food.
Why Low-Quality Ingredients Are Harmful
Regardless of where you fall in the debate over carbohydrates, it’s a known fact that high-quality ingredients matter for a healthy cat. Processed ingredients and additives not only don’t offer the same nutrients as whole meats and fish but also may be contaminated with bacteria and other harmful agents.
Rendered fat is a common additive in pet foods because it easily increases the necessary fat content. However, it is ripe for bacteria and mold growth, so it can be unsafe for your pet to eat. Not just that but also it doesn’t offer the same health benefits as the whole fats that come from real fish and meat.
Other additives, like artificial colors and flavors, may be considered known carcinogens; caramel, BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin are all considered to be dangerous for both people and pets. Below is a quick guide on what to look for and what to avoid.
Types Of Cat Food Available
Fortunately, it is not as hard as it first seems to get to the bottom of the different types of cat food and what you should be looking for. All you need to have is a basic understanding of your cat’s individual needs, and how each type of food meets that requirement.
Generally, cat owners focus on three main aspects of cat food. Quality, cost, and convenience. However, this is a question of your kitty’s health, and so quality must be at the forefront of your purchasing decisions, definitely above cost and convenience.
There are three main types of cat food. Dry food (also known as kibble), semi-moist food and wet food (also known as canned food.)
This is often the cheapest choice available for your cat. It has a very long shelf life, and one bag of food will last several months. The difficulty with dry food is that it is not very palatable, and cats who are renowned for being fussy eaters may easily turn their nose up at it if their diet solely consists of this. A cat is less likely to gorge itself on dry food, perhaps because of its unpalatability and instead only eat what is required to relieve hunger. Because of this, it is a good idea to leave out during the day for your cat to have a nibble on as you can trust that your cat is not likely to overeat because of it.
Dry food has a reputation of being nutritionally unbalanced, however, these days there are plenty of high-quality dry foods available that are far from nutritionally incomplete. Many cats lead long and healthy lives on a diet of just dry food.
This would usually be your cat’s first choice of food. Easy to eat and very tasty, a cat would happily eat their way through tins and tins (or packets and packets) of wet food if given half a chance. For this reason, you shouldn’t freely leave out wet food as they will probably continue to eat it even if they don’t necessarily need anymore and then become overweight.
It is absolutely vital that your cat receives the complete balance of nutrition that it needs. A cat’s nutritional needs change during its life and so it is important to make adjustments to their diet as time goes on. Kittens, for example, need around twice as many nutrients per pound of body weight than an adult cat does. Likewise, a pregnant or lactating cat needs more nutrition to help them stay strong.
There are very high-quality varieties of wet food in the market, although it is necessary that you understand the labels. For example “Tuna Cat Food” is a phrase that means there is at least 95% tuna in the product. “Tuna Dinner” or “Tuna Platter” means there is on average about 25% tuna contained within the product, and “Cat Food with Tuna” means there is just 3% of tuna to be found in the product. It is very important to make sure of what you are buying, as it is a question of furry friend’s long-term health.
This is not dissimilar to dry food in terms of appearance, but rather than crunchy it is chewy. Although it would be common sense to assume this was the happy medium between dry and wet food in terms of cost and shelf life, it is not actually a popular choice, nor particularly good for your cat’s health. This is because the processes and additives that are involved in production make it poor quality. It is not very common to see this type of cat food on shelves anymore as consumers are wiser to what their cat needs and what is unhealthy for them. As a rule, it is best to avoid semi-moist food.
There are other minor varieties available in the market as well based on your cat’s needs. Your vet can offer advice on the best type and amount of food to provide your cat, but generally, it is safest to choose a cat food that has been specifically designed to meet the needs of your cat at whatever stage it is at. Kitten food should be purchased for kittens for example and stopped once the cat reaches adulthood (when it is one year old.)
If your cat is suffering from a particular illness or disease, it may be prudent to switch to a therapeutic diet which is designed to help relieve some of the symptoms and even aid recovery. Because of the specialized nature of these types of cat food, it is only possible to buy this type of food on prescription from your vet. Talk to your vet if you feel this may be of some benefit to the health of your cat.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that you choose your cat food based on your company’s values. The best companies to buy cat food from are the ones who make sure their products are accessible to anyone who wants it (online or in-store), offer quality nutrition (organic, grain-free and novel proteins like bison, for example) and make reading food labels easy. These companies also show a social/moral responsibility for the greater good of all companion animals.
4Health Cat Food
Originally produced for Tractor Supply Company, 4Health started out with dog food but ventured into cat food as well because of popular demand. While a lot of store-brand cat foods are made with low-quality fillers and artificial ingredients, this is not true of 4Health cat food. The 4Health cat food brand uses the tagline, “Optimal nutrition for optimal health” and it really shows in the quality of the product they create.
They use meat as their number one ingredient. In addition to this, not only does this brand use real animal proteins as the primary ingredient, but they manufacture their foods without any corn, wheat, or soy products. According to the Tractor Supply website, 4Health pet foods are made with “flavor-filled, nutritious ingredients at an affordable price”. This brand may not offer the widest selection of cat food products, but those they do offer seem to be made with quality ingredients in healthy formulas that are designed for cats in all life stages.
The 4Health cat food brand is produced by Diamond Pet Foods, Inc. and owned by the Tractor Supply Company. All of 4Health cat food products are manufactured in the United States in plants located in South Carolina, California, and Missouri. This company was founded in 1938 as a mail order tractor parts business but it soon became a leading provider of home improvement, lawn and garden maintenance, agriculture, livestock, and pet care products. Because this brand is a store brand, it is exclusively available at Tractor Supply Stores.
4Health Cat Food Review
Finding detailed information about the 4Health cat food brand is a little difficult given the fact that it is a private label brand. The Tractor Supply Company website provides limited information about the brand as well as their individual products. The website states that “pets deserve a premium food with the nutrition their bodies need and flavors they crave,” suggesting that meat is always the number-1 ingredient in their pet food products. The website goes on to say that all 4Health products are balanced with omega fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals – all t–e nutrients pets need to remain happy and healthy without any corn, wheat, or soy ingredients.
4Health offers an assortment of both dry and wet food formulas. There are two traditional dry cat food recipes as well as two grain-free options. The 4Health All Life Stages dry cat food formula is made with real chicken and salmon meal as the primary sources of protein, supplemented with chicken fat and flaxseed as healthy fats. In terms of digestible carbohydrates, this recipe features ground white rice, cracked pearl barley, and potatoes. In addition to these ingredients, the recipe also contains fresh fruits and vegetables for added nutrition as well as chelated minerals. The 4Health Indoor Formula is designed to meet the nutritional needs of indoor adult cats – it has ideal levels of fiber and fat to help your cat maintain lean body composition. It is very similar in composition to the All Life Stages recipe but has the addition of dried fermentation products to help promote healthy digestion.
In addition to these options, 4Health offers two grain-free dry food options for cats. The Grain-Free Indoor Cat Formula is made with chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and fish meal with chicken fat and flaxseed for fat. In terms of carbohydrates, this recipe features garbanzo beans, peas, lentils, and powdered cellulose. The Grain-Free Whitefish and Potato recipe feature whitefish, fish meal, salmon meal, and turkey meal. It also contains a whole potato, dried peas, and tapioca. Both of these recipes are supplemented with vitamins and minerals as well as fresh or dried fruits and vegetables to ensure balanced nutrition.
Also, 4Health offers five traditional recipes as well as two grain-free options. The two grain-free options are Turkey & Giblet Dinner and Chicken & Whitefish Dinner. There is one Indoor Chicken Formula, a Turkey & Salmon recipe, a Chicken & Beef recipe, and a Chicken & Brown Rice recipe. Both of the grain-free wet foods are supplemented with chelated minerals and vitamin supplements and they are made with a limited number of additional ingredients such as chicken, turkey, poultry giblets, dried egg product, and broth. The Adult Chicken Formula is a little bit different from the Indoor Chicken Formula, though both include added antioxidants and omega fatty acids. These recipes are also made with chelated minerals and vitamin supplements.
The 4Health Grain-Free Indoor Cat formula features chicken as the number-1 ingredient with chicken meal, turkey meal, and fish meal as supplementary sources of protein. This recipe “provides optimal nutrition for indoor adult cats with a formulation that helps maintain a healthy digestive system”. Let us look into the details of each type of cat food that this company manufactures, and whether or not it is good for your cat.
4Health Wet Cat Food Reviews
4Health Adult Chicken Formula
Out of the list of ingredients provided in this cat food, the top 5 are Chicken Chicken Broth, Liver, Dried Egg Product, Brewer’s Rice. Chicken includes the meat, skin, and bone of chicken. About 70% moisture, therefore, is always seen near the top of the ingredients lists. After cooking, the chicken loses most of its moisture as well as protein. A common ingredient found in cat food.
Chicken broth is used to add moisture to the formula. Different from water as broth has added nutrients and proteins. This broth is made from chicken. The liver is packed full of nutrients. Rich in Vitamin A. A good quality ingredient, yet intake has to be monitored. A vague term as we don’t know the source of the liver. Dried Egg refers to egg or egg product that has had the moisture removed. However, this also contains grains, which are of poor nutritional value for cats. Cats cannot digest grains easily.
They are in cat foods as a filler ingredient and filler only. Wheat, corn, corn flour, flour, white rice, ground rice, barley, brewer’s rice, etc. fall into this category. Ingredients such as wheat gluten and corn gluten also fall into this category as these ingredients originate from grains.
4Health Chicken & Beef Dinner
This type contains an ingredient called sodium selenite. Many cat owners are concerned about this ingredient. It is a cheaper form of selenium and is linked with selenium toxicity. This is because ingredients such as fish, meat, and grains already contain selenium naturally. Therefore the addition of sodium selenite just adds more selenium to the formula. For what it is worth, a study has shown sodium selenite is no more harmful than natural sources of selenium. Aside from that, fruits are added in this type to make the food appear healthier, although they provide no extra benefits.
This brand also contains food-grade carrageenan, which is known to cause GI tract issues in cats. This is because the food grade carrageenan contains small amounts of pro-inflammatory particles. A highly controversial ingredient as much fear that even the food grade carrageenan will eventually lead to cancer (this has not been proven though).
4Health Turkey & Salmon Dinner
This is a good option, and the top 5 ingredients are Turkey, turkey broth, liver, salmon and dried egg.
Turkey includes meat, skin, and bone of turkey. About 70% moisture, therefore, is always seen near the top of the ingredients lists. After cooking, the turkey loses most of its moisture as well as protein. A common ingredient found in cat food. The broth is also made from turkey and is used to add moisture to the formula. It is different from water as broth has added nutrients and proteins. The liver is rich in Vitamin A, making it a good quality ingredient, yet intake has to be monitored. Salmon is a very popular species of fish, which provides protein and may have elevated levels of mercury.
While feeding your cat salmon every now and then is okay, however, long term exposure to fish will cause health problems. Also, the majority of the time fish used for pet food is rank and of poor quality. This type also contains grains, and sodium selenite making it a subpar type of cat food.
4Health Grain Free Chicken & Whitefish dinner
This category contains chicken broth, chicken, poultry liver, whitefish, and dried egg. It is a significantly better type of cat food. Poultry usually refers to chicken, duck, goose, or turkey. The liver is nutritious organ meat coming from a poultry source. Whitefish is a vague term for fish. It can mean cod, haddock, sole or others. Whitefish is less fattening than other fish
4Health Grain Free Salmon Recipe in Broth
The first 5 ingredients in this model are salmon, salmon brother, water, chicken liver, and chicken. This is a good quality cat food in wet foods, as the nutrients your cat will get from this type are very good. However, one concerning ingredient for many customers would be the chicken liver, which is organ meat that has many nutrients. Toxicity due to eating too much liver is a possibility, therefore intake has to be monitored. It is present in this cat food in safe amounts, so you don’t have to worry about your cat being sick.
4Health Dry Cat Food Reviews
Price: $21.99 for 18 lbs
This type of cat food contains chicken, chicken meal, rice, peas and chicken fat (preserved with mixed tocopherols). The chicken fat is used as an energy source as well as providing Omega-6 fatty acids, perhaps too much, and it is usually sprayed on and entices the cat to eat the food. Peas are used as a protein source and bulking agent. Peas high on an ingredient list indicate that a lot of peas are in the formula.
Chicken meal refers to the dried rendered skin, meat, and bone of chicken. This excludes the head, feet, and intestines. If the ingredients list states ‘boneless’ than the meal is skin and meat without the bone, making it a more concentrated source of protein. The chicken itself refers to the meat, skin, and bone of chicken. About 70% moisture, therefore, is always seen near the top of the ingredients lists. After cooking, the chicken loses most of its moisture as well as protein.
4Health Indoor Cat Formula
This contains chicken, chicken meal, rice, peas, and cracked pearled barley. Meals are a concentrated source of protein, more so than actual meat like chicken, turkey, etc. Sometimes up to 50% more protein. The concern with meals over regular meat is that meals can legally contain the ‘4Ds.’ This means dead, diseased, dying, and disabled animals.
However, grains are of poor nutritional value for cats. Cats cannot digest grains easily. They are in cat foods as a filler ingredient and filler only. Wheat, corn, corn flour, flour, white rice, ground rice, barley, brewer’s rice, etc. fall into this category. Ingredients such as wheat gluten and corn gluten also fall into this category as these ingredients originate from grains. Vegetables are normally used as a binder and carbohydrate substitute.
Grain-Free cat food could still have a high amount of carbohydrates. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, peas, etc., while not grains, still contain carbohydrates. Another ingredient added to this model is cellulose. This ingredient is a fiber source, often used as a carbohydrate substitute. It also has thickening properties. It is a filler and lower quality ingredient. Cellulose can actually come from wood. This is just an example, it doesn’t mean wood chips are actually in this food.
The first 5 ingredients in this model are whitefish, fish meal, dried ground peas, chicken fat, and turkey meal. The lack of grains in this one really makes it a much better addition to the list of cat foods. You can opt for this although it is a higher range in terms of price. Some of the ingredients mentioned above include fish meal, which is the dried rendered ‘meat’ and bone of fish.
If the ingredients list states ‘boneless’ than the meal is skin and ‘meat’ without the bone. If a fish is named, then the meal is made from the named fish. A more concentrated source of protein, yet mercury levels are a concern. Another major concern is the presence of starch instead of grain. This includes pea, potato, tapioca starch (flour).
Starch is a type of carbohydrate. Cats need carbohydrates, but only very little.
The addition of these extra carbohydrate sources makes the percentage much higher than what a cat needs. Cats are not equipped to digest high amounts of carbs. These types of ingredients are mainly in cat food because they are great binders, they bind the food together effectively.
Another disadvantage is the presence of non-meat protein. This refers to protein extracted particularly from non-meat sources, this includes pea and potato protein amongst others. These ingredients have a low biological value. The protein from these sources simply cannot be used effectively by cats, as this protein lacks essential amino acids the cat needs.
4Health Special Care Weight Management
Price: $14.99 for 6 lbs
This is a special dry food for cats that are meant for obese cats that need to lose weight. The first 5 ingredients are chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, chickpeas, and lentils. Chickpeas are not harmful and they are actually high in protein. They do add unnecessary carbohydrates, however.
Turkey meal refers to the dried rendered skin, meat, and bone of turkey. This excludes the head, feet, and intestines. If the ingredients list states ‘boneless’ than the meal is skin and meat without the bone. The legumes include lentils, chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans), soybeans, or any other bean. The growing trend is to include legumes in cat food labeled as grain free, which is similar to fruits and vegetables.
Legumes provide bulk and a source of carbohydrates. It makes the food appear healthier as opposed to seeing grains however legumes are unnecessary. While for these reviews, peas are under the category of vegetables, peas are also considered a legume.
One important disadvantage is that this food contains copper sulfate. This is an irritant and is linked to copper toxicity. Many do not like the presence of this ingredient in cat food because it has many other uses. It can be found in the leather, wood, battery, ink, paint, and metal industries. It also contains sodium selenite, and many cat owners are concerned about this ingredient.
It is a cheaper form of selenium and is linked with selenium toxicity. This is because ingredients such as fish, meat, and grains already contain selenium naturally. Therefore the addition of sodium selenite just adds more selenium to the formula. For what it is worth, a study has shown sodium selenite is no more harmful than natural sources of selenium.
Overall, this 4Health Grain-Free Indoor formula seems to provide adequate nutrition for adult cats and it does include some beneficial additives such as chelated minerals and dried fermentation products. It is always good to see more than one source of animal protein at the beginning of the ingredients list with additional sources appearing further down the line. This product lives up to its grain-free name, relying on garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils for gluten- and grain-free carbohydrate as well as dietary fiber.
Many first-time cat owners, in an attempt to hold down expenses, buy the cheapest foods they can find for their cats. This is a false economy for a couple of reasons. First, studies have shown that cats eat as much as they need to get the nutrients they require. Therefore, they might eat twice as much of that generously-carbohydrate-filled store brand to get the nutrients they need in a normal feeding of premium food.
Second, the continued feeding of substandard foods over a period of years will heavily contribute to, or even cause, serious medical conditions that will require expensive veterinary care. So it is important that you pay attention to what is in your cat food, and this can keep your furry little friend healthy and happy for years to come.
If you are still struggling to know what food to feed your favorite feline, please check out our extensive Olive Knows Guide: How to Find the Best Cat Food!
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Ben Holt is as passionate about writing as he is about our little feline friends.