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Commercial pet food has really only been around for the last 80 years or so and, in that time, it has changed a great deal.
While pet food was once made primarily from horse meat and other ingredients you wouldn’t even think of feeding your cat today, many pet food brands use human-grade and even organic ingredients in their products.
Today, cat food comes in many different forms but one of the newest options is dehydrated cat food. If you are looking for a high-quality commercial cat food product to feed your cat, dehydrated cat food is definitely an option you should consider. Before you make the switch, however, you should learn what it is and familiarize yourself with the pros and cons.
Quick Look : Top 5 Best Dehydrated Cat Foods
What is Dehydrated Cat Food?
You probably already know what dehydrated food is, but you may not be familiar with the process through dehydrated pet foods are made. Many people assume that freeze-dried cat food and dehydrated cat foods are the same. While these two options may be very similar, there are some key differences between the two. Freeze-dried cat food is flash-frozen and then subjected to a strong vacuum to remove all of the moisture content from the food without exposing it to damaging heat or chemicals. Dehydrated cat food, on the other hand, is heated to remove the moisture content of the ingredients while preserving most of their nutritional integrity.
The difference between dehydrated cat food and traditional kibble is that while kibbled cat foods are exposed to temperatures as high as 400°F in a cooking process known as extrusion, dehydrated cat food is exposed to temperatures only high enough to kill bacteria and to remove moisture. In fact, many of the ingredients in dehydrated cat food are still considered “raw” because they aren’t exposed to temperatures high enough to cook them. These moderate temperatures are generally not high enough to destroy any significant portion of the vitamin, mineral, or enzyme content of the raw ingredients. Meat and eggs are the only exception here, as they must be heated to slightly higher temperatures to kill any bacteria.
Dehydrated Cat Food vs. Traditional Dry Food
As it has already been mentioned, the process through which traditional kibbles are cooked is called extrusion, but what exactly does the cooking process look like for commercial dry cat foods? The process to make commercial dry cat foods involves multiple steps starting with the assembly and storage of the raw ingredients. Once the ingredients have been gathered they are ground into smaller particles in preparation for cooking. To some degree, the process of grinding or breaking up certain raw ingredients (like grains) makes the nutrients in them more digestible for animals like cats that have a limited ability to digest carbohydrates. After the ingredients are gathered and ground they are mixed in precise amounts according to the manufacturer’s formula – sometimes in batches up to 2,000 pounds.
Once the ingredients are formulated according to the recipe, they are cooked in a process known as extrusion. The blended formula is kneaded into a dough and forced through a corkscrew which shapes it into ribbon-like threads. The threads are then cut into kibbles then cooled and dried. After being dried at the proper rate and temperature to prevent mold growth or crumbling, the kibbles are sprayed with a liquid or coated in powder to add flavor or to act as a preservative. This is the basic process through which most traditional kibbles are made, though different manufacturers may alter the process at certain stages. For example, manufacturers of high-quality cat foods often cook their products in smaller batches which helps them to ensure safety and quality to a higher degree.
When you open up a bag of traditional kibble cat food, all you see is the kibbles – they are uniform in shape, size, and texture and they do not look anything like the raw materials from which they were made. Dehydrated cat foods, on the other hand, often comes in a powder-like form with dehydrated chunks of meat, vegetables, and other ingredients. This type of cat food needs to be mixed with warm water or broth in order to rehydrate it before you feed it to your cat. Once dehydrated, this kind of cat food has plenty of natural flavor but the consistency will be much different from that of traditional kibble so it may take your cat some time to get used to it.
What are the Pros and Cons of Dehydrated Cat Food?
When considering the pros and cons of dehydrated cat food, you will find that they are closely aligned with the pros and cons of raw cat food diets. Dehydrated cat food is essentially raw cat food that has had all of the water content removed. The same nutritional benefits for raw cat food, however, also apply to dehydrated cat food. Whereas the cooking process used for traditional kibbles destroys much of the nutrient content of the raw ingredients (including vitamins, minerals, and enzymes), the dehydration process does not. The enzymes contained in the raw ingredients are not destroyed but they are suspended – once the food is rehydrated, they become reactivated. One major difference between raw and dehydrated cat food is that dehydrated cat food can be stored safely at room temperature – it doesn’t need to be frozen or refrigerated.
The benefits of feeding your cat a raw or dehydrated diet are numerous. For one thing, the nutritional content of this kind of cat food is much higher than that of traditional kibble. Dehydrated cat foods are made with fresh, raw ingredients like real meat, poultry, eggs, fish, fruits and vegetables and the dehydration process negates the need for any kind of artificial preservatives. Feeding your cat a highly nutritious diet such as dehydrated cat food will help to improve and regulate his digestion, boost his immune health and energy levels, improve the health of his skin and coat, and help to protect him against dental disease. Dehydrated cat food also has plenty of natural flavor and, once rehydrated, a more natural texture than commercial kibbles.
The main downside of dehydrated cat food is the cost. If you are serious about giving your cat the best diet possible, however, this may not be an issue for you. Still, a 4-pound box of dehydrated cat food will cost you about $50 and will last you between 1 and 2 months – that is a daily cost of about $0.85 up to $1.65 per day. This may not sound like much, but if you compare it to the average daily cost for low-quality kibble which may be as low as $0.25 (a high-quality kibble costs between $0.40 and $0.60 per day), it is a significant increase. Another potential problem with dehydrated cat foods is the texture. Once rehydrated there may be some chunks of whole ingredients but the overall texture of the food will be closer to that of a canned food paté than that of traditional kibble. Some cats simply do not like the texture of dehydrated cat food.
Feeding Tips for Dehydrated Cat Food
No matter what kind of diet your cat is currently following, you need to be very careful when switching him to another cat food. Making any sudden changes to your cat’s diet can cause digestive upset and that is not something you want for him. You also have to consider the fact that the texture of dehydrated cat food will be unlike anything he has eaten before, so it may take him some time to get used to it. It is recommended that you take a minimum of one week to transition your cat onto the dehydrated cat food, though you will be better off if you take a longer time to make the transition. You will need to mix small amounts of the new food into your cat’s current food, working your way up to feeding him just the dehydrated food in the end.
Another thing you need to consider when making the switch to dehydrated cat food is the fact that the feeding amount could be much different than what you are used to. Consider the fact that a 4-pound box of The Honest Kitchen dehydrated cat food makes about 12 pounds of fresh food once rehydrated. When calculating the amount to feed your cat you will probably be measuring the dry product. Consult the pet food label to determine the appropriate amount to feed your cat (according to his weight) as well as the right amount of water to add to rehydrate the product. If you need to make adjustments to your cat’s diet you can try calculating his daily portion according to a percentage of his weight. Use the following percentages to determine the ideal amount to feed your cat:
- Weight Loss = 1.5%
- Normal/Sedentary = 2.0%
- Maintain Weight = 2.5%
- Slight Weight Gain = 3.0%
- Higher Weight Gain = 3.5%
- Kitten (2 to 12 Months) = 4.0%
- Kitten (4-8 Weeks) = 4.5% – 8.0%
Remember, if you calculate your cat’s daily portion as a percentage of his weight, be sure that the weight of the food is taken once the food is rehydrated. If you have trouble getting your cat to eat a diet that consists solely of dehydrated cat food, you can try feeding him 50% of his daily ration in high-quality kibble and mix in the remaining amount of rehydrated dehydrated food.
Recommendations for Dehydrated Cat Food Brands
If you think that dehydrated cat food might be the right choice for your cat but you need some help getting started with this kind of diet, consider one of the dehydrated cat food brands below.
ZiwiPeak Air-Dried Beef Cat Food
If you have done any research in regard to freeze-dried or dehydrated cat food, you have probably come across the New Zealand-based company Ziwipeak. This company sources all of their ingredients from local New Zealand farms and their products are manufactured there as well. Each and every one of Ziwipeak’s recipes is fully balanced for nutritional completeness, made with quality ingredients like fresh venison, beef, lamb, shellfish, and seafood in addition to fresh fruits and vegetables. Ziwipeak’s pet food formulas are free from grains, potatoes, and non-nutritive fillers as well as antibiotics, hormones, and artificial preservatives. What makes Ziwipeak’s products unique is the fact that they are air-dried. This process is slightly different from the traditional dehydration process but it still presernves the majority of the nutritional integrity for the raw ingredients.
All of Ziwipeak’s air-dried cat foods contain 90% meat, organs, fish, and seafood with added vitamins and minerals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. They offer four different recipes for dehydrated cat food – Beef, Lamb, Venison, and Venison & Fish. All four of these recipes is loaded with real meat proteins including organ meats to ensure that your cat gets the protein and animal fat he needs to maintain lean muscle mass as well as strong bones and joints. Each recipe is formulated without grains and other allergenic ingredients, making Ziwipeak air-dried cat food a good choice for cats that suffer from food allergies or intolerance. The nutritional supplements included in these products will also help to protect your cat against joint problems, dental problems, and digestive issues.
The Honest Kitchen Prowl Grain Free Dehydrated Cat Food
The Honest Kitchen pet food company was only started in 2002 but it has quickly risen through the ranks of high-quality commercial pet food products. The company got its start when Lucy began making her own homemade dog food for her dog, Mosi. After making a lot of mess in her own kitchen at home. Lucy decided to experiment with dehydrated pet food and thus The Honest Kitchen was born! Over the next few years, the company grew to provide a number of different recipes for both dogs and cats, both freeze-dried and dehydrated options. Today, the company offers their customers what they call “The Honest Difference” which guarantees human-grade ingredients, whole foods, and healthy recipes. The dehydration process used to produce their pet foods is time-tested and guaranteed to deliver high-quality, nutritious results.
When it comes to cat food, The Honest Kitchen offers two different products – Grain-Free Chicken and Grain-Free Turkey. Both of these products are dehydrated so they must be reconstituted with warm water. When you add the water, a 4-pound box creates up to 12 pounds of real food. The Grain-Free Chicken recipe features quality ingredients like real chicken, eggs, sweet potatoes, organic flaxseed, and an assortment of fruits and vegetables. The Grain-Free Turkey recipe is made with real turkey, eggs, pumpkin, parsley, and cranberries. Both recipes are supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure maximum nutrient absorption and they are complete and balanced for cats in all life stages. The Honest Kitchen’s dehydrated cat food is free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients as well as artificial additives and preservatives.
Wellness CORE Air-Dried Chicken & Turkey Cat Food
The Wellness brand of cat food is produced and manufactured by WellPet, LLC. This company has been in existence since 1984 when it launched its very first product, oven-baked dog biscuits. Since then, Wellness has quickly become a household name among pet owners, known for the quality of their all-natural pet food products. The Wellness company as you know it today really got its start in 1997, though cat food products weren’t added until the year 2000. Today, Wellness offers a wide range of pet food products over several product lines including complete and balanced formulas as well as specialized recipes for kittens, adults, indoor cats, and senior cats. When it comes to all-natural cat food products, the CORE line of grain-free recipes is at the top of the list – it even includes several air-dried recipes which are similar to dehydrated cat food.
Only recently did Wellness add two air-dried cat food recipes to their lineup – these products find their home in the Wellness CORE product line of grain-free recipe. The two recipe options are Original Formula and Indoor Formula. Both of these options are made with 70% chicken and turkey ingredients including deboned chicken and deboned turkey as well as gluten-free, grain-free carbohydrates like chickpeas and green peas. Both air-dried cat food recipes are free from corn, wheat, and soy ingredients and they do not contain any by-products or non-nutritive fillers. They are also supplemented with chelated minerals to ensure maximum nutrient absorption as well as fruits, vegetables, and botanicals to ensure complete and balanced nutrition. Wellness CORE air-dried cat food can be served on its own or mixed into your cat’s kibble for a boost of nutrition.
Addiction Grain-Free Wild Brushtail Dehydrated Cat Food
The Addiction pet food company was founded in 2002 by a clinical nutritionist and holistic veterinary surgeon. Together, these two created a brand of pet food that has become widely known as one of the top brands in the natural pet food market. Addiction pet foods creates their formulas with a base of real, fresh meats including wild game meats – they also make heavy used of fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, herbs, and seeds to ensure natural flavor and nutritional completeness. In addition to being made with high-quality ingredients, Addiction pet foods are also hypoallergenic and easier to digest than many traditional kibbles, plus they are free from by-products, non-nutritive fillers, and artificial flavors, colors, and preservatives. All of Addiction’s products are manufactured in the company’s own plant based in New Zealand and they source many of their ingredients locally as well.
Compared to many other pet food brands, Addiction offers a fairly limited array of flavor options for cats. Of those they do offer, however, the quality is obvious and hard to beat. For dehydrated cat food, Addiction offers just one formula – Wild Brushtail & Berries Entrée. This recipe offers the health benefits and natural flavor of raw food with the convenience of dry food. It features premium New Zealand brushtail as well as antioxidant-rich berries and fresh fruits and vegetables. The recipe is gluten-free and grain-free, made with potatoes and carrots as the primary sources of carbohydrates. Addiction dehydrated cat food contains 28% protein and 9% fat and it is easy to feed – just rehydrated it with warm water and serve it up fresh.
The Real Meat Company Air-Dried Cat Food
When it comes to commercial cat foods, you may not be familiar with The Real Meat Company. This company was only founded in 2003 and its availability is still fairly limited. The Real Meat Company uses only the freshest natural ingredients in their products – especially real meat – to ensure complete and balanced nutrition as well as plenty of natural flavor. The company is family-owned and –operated and they product all of their recipes in either the United States or New Zealand. When it comes to sourcing their fresh ingredients, they too come from the U.S., New Zealand, or Australia. While The Real Meat Company first became known for its 95% jerky treats, they are rapidly gaining in popularity for their air-dried pet food products. These products are designed to be a convenient alternative to raw foods but they offer the same nutritional benefits and they are easy to rehydrate with water.
The Real Meat Company offers three different air-dried pet food recipes for dogs and for cats – the three flavor options are Chicken, Lamb, and Beef. The Chicken recipe features quality meat ingredients like real chicken, chicken liver, chicken heart, and chicken neck as well as chelated minerals and vitamin supplements. The Beef recipe features real beef and organ meats while the Lamb recipe includes real lamb, lamb liver, and lamb heart. All three of these recipes are naturally gluten-free and grain-free, supplemented with chelated minerals as well as ground bone for a boost of calcium. The Real Meat Company offers these flavors in 14-ounce bags which make about 5 pounds of rehydrated food.
If you are serious about providing your cat with the highest quality diet possible, dehydrated cat food is definitely an option you should consider. There are many advantages to feeding your cat a dehydrated diet, but it may not be the best option for all cats. To give dehydrated cat food a try, keep the information provided in mind and start with one of the cat food brands reviewed above.