In short: It is very important to remember that cats are obligate carnivores that have no dietary need for carbohydrates. When choosing a diet for your cats it is absolutely critical that it be high in very high quality protein. In 2019 we transitioned to a mostly raw diet for our cats, and have seen excellent results so far with coat, appetite, and GI health - bonus: poops don't smell! (When you have six cats running around, that matters!) Some reading material here: UC Davis research; and CatInfo.org - one vet's take
First know: We do not recommend feeding kibble. However expensive high quality food is, please keep in mind how much more expensive it is to have a $5,000 emergency visit to the vet for surgery! (Not to mention how scary for everyone.) We understand kibble is necessary for some families. However: kibble is junk, with addictive additives to keep cats eating it (because why else would they eat old dry, hard nuggets?!) Please know that kibble brings risks of urinary problems, kidney problems, and even heart problems. Kibble is essentially junk food. You would not eat tortilla chips and donuts your whole life and expect to live and long and vital life! Same for your cats (and dogs!!).
We no longer feed fish, except in very small amounts. The best diet is exclusively carnivore - no starch, grains, vegetables, legumes, etc. However, since that is not always possible, a high quality food is an excellent substitute. For pet homes with adult male cats: if you cannot feed raw, we are now recommending you feed at least 50% a "urinary diet." Neutered male cats are particularly prone to urinary problems, and the urinary diets help to balance minerals etc to keep their bladders and kidney happy! Wysong Uretic is what we have recently switched to supplement our male cats, for part of their food. We are in the proceed of searching for a urinary formula with better ingredients!
Our kittens are weaned on raw food, to give them the best start possible. Info on raw food, for a start, here. Basic info on feline food here.
For the raw food, I order from three places, although your pet stores will also sell raw food in a small freezer section. I go between Raw Paws and Hare Today, depending on sales. Update: We recently learned about Blue Ridge Beef, and it's about half the price of the above places. However, you have to find a local distributor, and order your raw meat in advance. Our kittens are eating primarily the "kitten mix." There's a great Facebook group about raw food: Cats Completely Raw And Proud (Cat CRAP), which you can join if you want to learn more.
Please keep in mind that cats must eat bone and organ meats in addition to muscle meat. So unfortunately just regular old ground turkey from the grocery store isn't a good longterm option. I have recently been buying thighs or chicken necks and hacking them up with a cleaver (it's very satisfying after a long day of toddlers yelling at me!), as well as breasts which you can cut into chunks. It is good for their teeth and jaws to eat not only the ground meat, but to have to work on big hunks of meat. You can also often find very cheap packs of chicken organs at your grocery store. You can separate them into little ziplock bags and get them out as needed! Or freeze separately in ice cube trays and transfer to a larger back for easy separation when you want.
They love duck and rabbit! It's a little pricier so I don't buy it for my crowd since we can go through 5-10 pounds of raw meat per day (that's not including the dry we also supplement with!) If you know or want to look into someone locally who sells meat rabbits, and feel adventurous (and not too squeamish!) you may be able to get some for cheaper that way! Or maybe you have friends who hunt turkey (without the pellets)! There are SO many ways to make this a fun research and exploratory venture!
No-mess raw: If you're willing to pay slightly more (or not if you find it on sale!), the Stella & Chewy's freeze dried raw food is a great place to look! Wonderful ingredients, and not messy like the raw food! You add water to it, let it sit for about 10 minutes, then give it to them! Viola! (Again, we avoid the fish ones.) Ziwi's air dried cat food is also a healthier kibble alternative! (avoid the fish recipes)
Easier raw: Full disclosure: I have not tried these options myself! I might soon. I just learned about this, and it's a less expensive way to "make" your own raw recipes using store bought meat! If you try these, please get back to me with what you think! TC Feline Raw Cat food premix Know Better Cat food mix
Kibble suggestions. Please remember that we do not recommend kibble. Here are some of the kibbles you can consider. Please remember to read labels! No fish, wheat, or corn, and try to avoid legumes (like peas), especially if they are one of the first few ingredients. - Instinct Raw Boost - this is what we use as of November 2021 (I'm often changing and experimenting though!) - Tiki kitten formula - this has the best protein and fat content of any dry food for kittens! - Wellness Core Kitten food - a more economical option - Essence Air and Gamefowl Recipe - Inception Chicken recipe - Farmina N&D Lamb and Blueberry - I like this brand, but avoid the recipes with much fish - Wyson Uretic - urinary formula, especially important for neutered male cats - Farmina N&D Quinoa Urinary food - again, especially for the males but also good for females
Water: Fresh, clean water is absolutely critical to your cats overall health. We recommend using a filtered water fountain for your cat to encourage drinking. If that is not possible, then it is best to use ceramic bowls because they are easy to clean and very appealing to the cats. We use this fountain, but there are many others. (Reminder: don't use plastic - it gives cats acne. See below.)
Dishes: Use glass, ceramic or stainless steel, low sided bowls and clean them daily, ideally in the dishwasher. Feel free to google "biofilm and pet bowls" and see what you learn! I've had good success finding reasonably priced ceramic bowls in the pet section of TJMaxx. Plastic collects bacteria from the oils in the cat food and can lead to chin acne, bacterial infections etc. Maine Coons enjoy playing with their food and sometimes their water. We recommend using heavy water bowls and putting trays under the water bowls to prevent floods. Keep the food bowl at least 12 inches from the water bowl. Do not keep the litter pan anywhere near the food and water containers - no one likes to eat by the toilet. Eww.