CAT NUTRITION – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW!
We understand, as loving pet parents, you want to provide the best for your feline friend; and at the top of that list is providing your cat with the right nutrition. A perfectly balanced diet for your kitten or cat is absolutely critical to their health and well-being.
In this article Absolute Pets Vet, Dr Cooper, shares her expertise with us and answers some of the most frequently asked questions on cat nutrition.
Why is a top-quality cat food so important?
Good quality and specially-formulated diet provide the right nutrients to fuel the body and allow it to function properly. It can, therefore, prevent many conditions and ailments such as degenerative joint disease; diabetes; dental problems; urinary tract disease and skin and coat concerns.
Consider top cat food brands like Royal Canin (who have gone as far as developing breed-specific cat food to cater for specific needs) and Acana (who use only fresh regional ingredients and meat-based protein) for some great options of high quality, nutritious cat food.
Which ingredients do I consider when choosing a cat food & why?
Protein is the most important ingredient as this is the main source of energy for a cat; and when we talk about protein we mean animal protein, as their bodies don’t use plant protein very well. Fat is also an important energy source and there should be minimal to zero carbohydrates (grains/maize) as they are not needed by our feline friends.
For dog food, protein content is an important factor, is this the same for cats?
Yes, it is even more important for cats as they have a higher protein requirement and can’t use carbohydrates as efficiently as dogs can.
What are the top four nutrients that are important to a cat’s diet and what benefits do they provide for a cat’s health?
- Animal protein – this provides amino and fatty acids which are essential for muscle and joint maintenance.
- Fat – this is the key energy source.
- Vitamins – these are important for many reasons and for many functions. For example, skin and coat health; eye health and digestive health.
- Water – always critical to maintain hydration and keep the urinary tract healthy.
How often and how much should I feed my cat?
Feeding your cat twice a day is usually recommended. The amount depends on your cat’s ideal weight and the food you have chosen. It’s important to always consult the feeding guide of the food you have chosen to ensure you don’t over-feed your cat. Your vet will be also able to guide you here and complete a weight assessment.
Don’t forget to always have fresh, cool water available for your cat.
Can I feed my cat the same food from kitten through to old age?
Most respected cat food brands offer different options for kittens, adult cats and senior cats. This is because the needs of your cat change as they age. A kitten needs the right nutrients to allow them to grow and develop, a senior cat who may not exercise as much as they used to, needs a diet that supports their joints, coat condition and that prevents them picking up excess weight. Generally, your cat should be on adult food when they are one year old and start transitioning onto a senior food at seven years old.
Can my cat eat a vegetarian diet?
The simple answer is no! They are obligate carnivores and require animal protein in their diet.
Can you give cats the same milk we drink?
You shouldn’t give a cat the same milk humans drink. Once kittens have been weaned they lose the enzymes needed for them to digest the milk, so it isn’t digested very well. Milk is also quite high in lactose (milk sugar) and fat. For these reasons it is not a good idea to give your cat milk as it can cause upset tummies and obesity. Cats don’t need milk and water is a far better option for them.
Are there any human foods that should be avoided?
There are quite a few foods that we eat that cats shouldn’t. Some of the following are obvious but worth stating nevertheless: chocolate, coffee, tea, energy drinks, grapes, raisins, onion, garlic, xylitol and raw meat, raw eggs and raw fish (due to the chance of salmonella).
What leads to a cat being overweight?
There are several possible causes of a cat being overweight, most commonly it comes down to the amount of calories they are consuming and whether this exceeds the amount they are burning through daily exercise. There are some diseases that can cause your cat to be overweight as well, so if you notice your cat getting fat it is definitely worth booking a check-up with your vet to rule out any serious health concerns.
Why does my cat always bring home its prey?
To feed you – think of it as a compliment!
Why is my cat such a picky eater?
Some cats are just fussy (like some people!), particularly if they haven’t had exposure to different types of food as a kitten. If cats are feeling sick or have dental disease they also tend to avoid certain foods and some cats become addicted to the salt in ‘junk foods’. It may just be a case of trying different flavours until you find the one that your cat loves.
Is it normal for a cat to eat less food than their daily requirements even if dewormers are given on a regular basis?
Yes, this is normal. Remember that the recommended amounts are just guidelines and how much a cat actually needs is dependent on many factors including their metabolic rate and activity levels. Make sure they aren’t filling up on unhealthy foods as this could mean they lose their appetite.
We hope all our feline pet parents find this article helpful. If you are in any doubt about your pet’s nutrition, we highly recommend you ask your vet or a qualified animal nutritionist.