Indoor Cat Food vs. Regular Do You Know the Difference

  • Time to read: 10 min.

Knowing the best diet for your cat is an essential part of pet care. While every cat is different and has different needs, their lifestyle should be one of the primary influences on their diet. Indoor cats have a much more sedentary lifestyle—meaning that their diet shouldn’t be the same as an average outdoor cat.

Indoor cat food is commonly low in calories because they aren’t as active and high in fiber to ensure passing hairballs isn’t a hassle. Since they don’t hunt as often as their outdoor counterparts, an indoor cat’s diet should be protein-heavy. Wet food is necessary to keep them well hydrated.

While keeping your cats indoors is a healthy and safe option for your pets, there are many things to consider. Indoor cats require more care than outdoor cats, such as regular interactive playtime and significant space to roam during the day. Their dietary requirements may also change to accommodate their activity levels and needs.

What Makes an Indoor Cat Food Different?

All cats have the same needs to meet, regardless of whether they are indoor or outdoor cats. That means they should get enough exercise to keep them happy, as well as a diet that has all the nutrients they need to stay healthy.

Cats are obligatory carnivores—they cannot, and should not, survive on a vegetarian diet. Their diets require a sufficient amount of protein to keep them healthy. Not only do they need meat, but cats need to have at least some real meat in their diet. That is where wet food is essential; most wet or canned foods are high in protein and contain fresh meats.

Wet food is also an excellent way to keep cats hydrated. Cats have a high tolerance for thirst, meaning they can go a long time without drinking water. While this may be necessary for wild cats, domesticated kitties don’t need to dehydrate unnecessarily! Wild cats get most of their water intake from the fresh prey they hunt. Since house cats don’t hunt, wet food is the next best thing.

So now that we know what all cats require to stay healthy, we should look at why indoor cat food is designed to meet the needs of indoor cats specifically. To understand why indoor and regular are different, we should look at the differences between indoor and outdoor cats.

What Makes an Indoor Cat Different?

Outdoor cats can leave their homes as they please, meaning they can move and play outside freely. Indoor cats, however, are only allowed out under supervision—thus, they are only free to roam their homes.

Many owners choose to raise or train cats to be indoors only. If done correctly, indoor cats have longer lifespans and are generally healthier than the average outdoor kitty. It minimizes the risks and dangers for your feline companion. Indoor cats won’t encounter stray or wild animals and are less likely to get hurt and trapped where you can’t help them.

However, a cat who is allowed outside freely has the chance to play in a bigger space. They might also find themselves hunting if they encounter smaller wildlife like birds, mice, or even lizards. Outdoor cats can wander up to a mile a day. They might also attempt to climb trees and jump over walls—they do have the age-old “cat stuck in a tree” joke to live up to, after all.

Indoor cats rarely cover this much ground. Being confined to the space of your house, they aren’t nearly as active as the average outdoor cat. Thus, it only makes sense that their diets shouldn’t be giving them as much energy to spend. If your indoor cat is on a regular cat food diet, you might find your kitty picking up a lot of weight.

Since they have a lot of time on their paws, indoor cats may be more likely to spend spare time grooming themselves. Overgrooming isn’t as much of an issue (unless they start to hurt themselves or lose hair). Still, it could cause some uncomfortable situations in the form of hairballs. The proper diet should alleviate their discomfort slightly, making hair easier to digest and expel.

What Makes Indoor Cat Food Special?

Indoor cat food is low-calorie. Lower calorie cat food doesn’t give your cat as much energy to expend. Since indoor-only cats are mainly sedentary, this is a better option for your pet if you want them to maintain a healthy weight.

Hairballs are a problem widespread amongst indoor cats—especially long-haired breeds! High fiber indoor cat foods should make it easier for them to deal with. Fiber helps your cat digest and expel the hair they ingest from grooming without much of a struggle.

Should Your Cat be Eating Indoor Cat Food?

Suppose you have an indoor-only cat, or you are considering an indoor lifestyle for your kitten. In that case, you should consider switching to indoor cat food. It is designed to keep your cat healthy and give them enough energy without overdoing the calorie intake. An indoor cat eating regular food risks becoming overweight, especially without the right amount of exercise.

While a fat cat might seem like an adorable round ball of fur, overweight and obese cats can develop many health problems. These include high blood pressure, diabetes, liver problems, urinary disorders, and cancer. Keeping your cat on a diet that suits their lifestyle is vital—and regulating their food intake is essential.

Can an Indoor Cat Eat Regular Cat Food?

Some cat foods are branded as light cat food—this usually means they are low-calorie and high in fiber. These are generally identical to indoor cat-specific foods. These foods should be fine for your indoor kitty, depending on whether they have any other particular dietary need. Ideally, you should still check if they are hairball-reducing or have any other benefits for your pet.

How Often Should You Feed Indoor Cats?

Ideally, you should feed your cat twice daily. However, feeding times depend on your cat’s habits and needs, and mealtimes should be adjusted to suit them. Make sure you have fresh water available for your cats to drink. While they may not consume a lot of water, they still get thirsty—and leaving water still is a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

Free feeding is a good option for cats who can regulate their food intake. Just make sure that their food is always fresh and isn’t attracting pests from outside. But if your cat is a bit of a glutton, you should probably avoid keeping a permanently filled bowl. Instead, stick to regular feeding times as much as possible.

When feeding your cat, make sure to measure out the appropriate amount of food for each serving. It’s important not to overfeed your cat since it can be detrimental to your pet’s health. Check on the back of your cat food packaging for the feeding guidelines. If you still feel uncertain, you can consult your vet about your cat’s diet.

Should an Indoor Cat Eat Wet or Dry Cat Food?

It would be best if you balance between wet and dry foods for your pets. Indoor cats might benefit from having more wet food available. While this is a relatively expensive option, wet food helps combat urinary tract disease by keeping them well hydrated. Wet food has a higher protein content compared to dry food.

Dry foods have a longer shelf life than wet foods. But you should check what goes into the recipes of the brand you buy. Sometimes dry food has added ingredients that might not agree with your cat’s stomach. Try to avoid foods that contain too many rely too heavily on grain products such as wheat, corn, and rice.

Overweight Indoor Cats and Pet Diets

Suppose your indoor cat is struggling to maintain a healthy weight. Then you might have to consider a more nutritious diet and a regular exercise routine for your pet. But don’t just jump onto the pet diet bandwagon without consulting a professional! Always consult a vet before making any significant dietary adjustments for your pets.

Diets don’t just mean decreasing the amount of food you feed your cat. A weight loss plan for pets means a well-balanced diet and includes regular exercise and activity. If cats aren’t fed enough food, they might develop liver diseases, which may be life-threatening. Underweight and overweight cats are equally unhealthy. You don’t want your pet to jump from one health risk to another.

Ask your vet how to go about this and what steps you will have to take. They might suggest some activities that shouldn’t be too taxing on an overweight pet’s body. They should also help you develop the perfect diet plan and a few good pet food suggestions. Every feline is different, and yours might have some special needs that your vet can help you find a workaround for.

If your cat is a little overzealous during mealtimes, you might want to try feeding them more wet foods than dry ones. Wet foods are an excellent way to monitor your cats’ intake. Some canned foods or sachets are pre-portioned, making it easier to regulate their serving side. Having a constant supply of dry food available could cause your cat to overeat during the day.

But your cat’s physical health isn’t only dependent on their diet. Ensure your indoor cat has enough space to roam and has a lot of interactive playtimes. You will have to set aside time to play with them daily or consider leash training so you can take them on walks. A cat tree and scratching post are a must-have if you don’t want them ruining furniture and knocking things off shelves.

Helping Your Cat Adjust to New Food

Keep in mind that dietary changes might take a while for your cat to get used to. Slow steps are the key to getting your cat into a healthier shape physically. If your cat doesn’t immediately take a liking to its new food, there’s no need to panic. Cats might be really picky when it comes to food, and they might be a bit stubborn if you switch their food too suddenly.

An excellent way to help your cat adjust to this is slowly transitioning them from one to the next. To do this, you should:

  • Mix some of their new food in with their usual food.
  • Add a little bit more of the new food each day.
  • Do this until you are mixing in significantly more of the new food.
  • At this point, your cat should eat the new food without protest.
  • Don’t add too much at once, or they might not eat it.

Adjusting your cat’s diet can take a week or so, but you shouldn’t force your cat to eat the new food if they don’t want to. Cats don’t subscribe to the “if they are hungry enough, they will eat it” rule.

What Kind of Cat Food is Best for Indoor Cats?

To keep your cat interested, you should always keep a variety of flavors available. Most brands of cat food have a few different flavors available. As mentioned earlier, when you choose cat food for your indoor cat, you should always consider a few things. If you’re looking for a new brand, look at the ingredients list.

Ingredient labels are usually listed as what the recipe contains, from least to most used. This means that the first item in the list is the primary or most used ingredient, and the last in the list is the least used.

What Ingredients Should You Look Out For?

Proteins

  • Cats need a high protein diet to be healthy
  • Meats contain amino and fatty acids that are essential to healthy development
  • Taurine is an amino acid necessary to cats’ health
  • Omega 3 is a fatty acid that helps cats maintain a healthy coat
  • Preferably meat, fish, or poultry
  • Look for nutrient-rich meat such as organ meat

Grain Products

  • In most pet foods, rice, wheat, and corn are used as fillers
  • It shouldn’t contain too many grain products
  • Grains could upset your pet’s stomach
  • They might also be a potential allergen

Preservatives, Vitamins, and Minerals

  • Some preservatives and colorants could cause an adverse reaction
  • Too few vitamins can risk malnourishment
  • Too many vitamins can be a toxic
  • Essential vitamins include calcium and phosphorus

Most Popular Cat Food Brands

Hill’s cat food

This brand has a range of health-targeted foods that include both wet and dry foods for cats. The in-store availability is limited to high-end pet stores but easy to find when purchasing online. They boast a science-reviewed ingredient list, but their foods seem to be generally high in carbohydrates.

Hill's Science Diet Dry Cat Food, Adult, Sensitive Stomach & Skin, Chicken & Rice Recipe, 15.5 Lb Bag

Purina Cat Food

Purina is a prominent brand that includes other divisions like Fancy Feast and Friskies. They do, however, have a wide variety of flavors and types of food to choose from. Purina is affordable and easy to find in stores. Their dry food seems to have a high grain content, but the wet foods come highly recommended.

Purina ONE Natural Dry Cat Food, Tender Selects Blend With Real Salmon - 16 lb. Bag

Purina ONE Natural, High Protein Wet Cat Food, True Instinct Tuna Recipe in Sauce - (24) 3 oz. Pull-Top Cans

BLUE Buffalo Cat Food

Another affordable brand that cats seem to love, BLUE Buffalo, is often high in animal protein sources and tends to limit the use of preservatives. However, this cat food might be too rich or high in vitamins and minerals for your cat and contain many plant proteins that aren’t necessary for a cat.

Blue Buffalo Wilderness High Protein, Natural Adult Pate Wet Cat Food Variety Pack, Chicken, Salmon, Duck 3-Oz Cans (12 count- 4 of each flavor)

Royal Canin

Along with Hill’s, Royal Canin is one of the leading vet-recommended cat food brands. It has a large variety as well as some excellent reviews by customers. Cats seem to love Royal Canin, too. However, this food is on the pricier side—and a lot higher in plant-based ingredients than it needs to be.

Royal Canin Indoor Adult Dry Cat Food, 15 Pounds

Cat Person

As the new-kid-on-the-block brand, Cat Person has gotten great reviews since its launch. This is a subscription service delivering to your door, so it might be a bit pricier than commercial brands. With all high protein and low carb recipes, you can also personalize your recipes for your cat. However, since they are a newer company, they have a smaller variety.

Indoor, or Outdoor?

Hopefully, this article helped clear up the differences between indoor and outdoor cat foods and why cats might have different needs depending on their lifestyles.

Whatever you decide to feed your cats, make sure it’s a good choice for them as well as you. Don’t be afraid to ask for a vet’s opinion and double-check the brands you decide. Be safe by tracking how your cat adjusts when switching brands—especially considering that they could have adverse reactions to the ingredients.

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