Feline Nutrition Guide
Before discussing feline nutrition guide, you should know your cat is a domestic animal and relies on you to feed him the foods that will keep him strong and healthy. A 100-percent nutritionally complete diet of the proper food can help prevent problems such as obesity, nutritional deficiencies, finicky eating, and plant chewing, and will help your cat maintain a healthy coat and a stronger immune system.
Cats enjoy a variety of foods, including vegetables. Feeding your cat greens such as cat grass and lettuce is fine, and even healthful, but remember that cats are true carnivores. Only meat provides the amino acid taurine, plus other essential nutrients cats need to survive.
You should choose a diet that suits your cat. For instance, kittens require a higher protein diet to grow strong and healthy. A cat with a kidney disease or some other illness might require a special diet lower in proteins and other nutrients to avoid making the condition worse.
Make sure you know what your cat needs and feed him a diet with the right amounts of protein, fats, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. Cats should be fed a varied diet and not strictly fish, lean meat, or liver, as these products alone will not be completely balanced and will cause deficiencies.
1. Canned Food or Dry?
The first item of the feline nutrition guide is choosing between canned food or dry. When dry or canned food is fed in the correct amounts based on your cat’s age and size, either should meet kitty’s nutritional requirements.
Dry food is good for a cat’s teeth, so it is a good idea to feed dry food either regularly or as the cat’s staple diet. Dry cat foods have more caloric density, which means there is less water in half a cup of dry food than there is in the same amount of canned food. However, cats also benefit from the high water content of canned foods. Most cats enjoy eating a combination of dry food and canned.
A kitten 8 weeks to 4 months of age should eat three to four meals a day of a high-quality kitten food (canned and/or dry). Starting at about 1 year of age, two meals a day is fine.
2. How much you feed your cat?
How much you feed your cat at each meal will depend on the cat and the type of food you feed. Several factors should be considered:
- Is your cat overweight?
- Does your cat require a special diet? (If so, follow your veterinarian’s recommendation.)
- Are you feeding a high-calorie food?
- Does your cat pick little bits all day long or gorge himself at every meal?
Dry food can be left out for your cats as long as they do not overeat and are not on a special diet. The food should not be allowed to spoil or get stale if the cat does not eat it.
I leave dry food out for my cats, and the turnover is so quick that it does not have a chance to get stale. I also feed a quarter can of moist cat food (six-ounce cans) to each cat twice a day; there are no left- overs, but if there were, I would not leave them around for more than about 15 minutes.
My cats eat only what they want and do not gorge themselves. However, this is not true for all cats. If your cats eat more than the recommended amount, I would advise feeding two square meals a day and removing any leftovers as soon as the cats walk away from their dishes.
It’s a good idea to monitor your cat’s weight over time. If, as an adult, his weight remains the same, continue to feed what you are feeding. However, if the cat seems to gain or lose weight, you can feed more or less until the cat’s weight is steady.
3. Feeding Time
The 2nd item of the feline nutrition guide is choosing the feeding time. If you have more than one cat and they get specific meals during the day, they should be able to enjoy their meals quietly and without hassle. Feed each cat in a separate food dish away from traffic and noise.
Some of my cats eat quickly and search out food from the slower cat’s dishes. To prevent this, watch the cats as they eat to make sure the slower cats are allowed to finish their food. Feeding slower eaters in a different room can also be helpful.
Cats should be fed away from strong odors such as litter boxes and chemicals. It’s not fair to them, and they can develop finicky eating habits. Don’t forget how sensitive their noses are!
Feed your cats in a quiet area that is not going to make them fear their dishes and feeding time. Cats like to be up high, so if you can, place your cat’s dish up on a cat tree and let him eat there, rather than feeding him on the floor,
If your cat develops bumps under his chin, a bit like acne, he might have an allergy to his dish. Sounds strange, I know. But if you feed your cat in a plastic dish, that may be where the problem lies. Cat food should be served in ceramic or stainless steel dishes.
Ceramic and stainless steel are also less porous, and therefore trap less bacteria. Food dishes should be flat-bottomed with low sides and should be washed thoroughly after each meal.
The 3rd item of the feline nutrition guide is providing sufficient water to your cat. You must provide your cat with fresh water at all times. The water should be changed at least twice a day to keep bacteria from building up in the dish, particularly in hot weather.
If your cat eats canned food as a large part of his diet, he’ll get water in his food and may drink less from his water dish. However, you must still leave fresh, clean water available for your cat at all times.
Some cats prefer to drink from a running water source. When my cats Taffy and Candy were in their final stages of kidney failure, they drank a lot of water.
For healthy feline nutrition: I bought them a Drinkwell Pet Fountain. This and other types of pet water fountains are available at pet supply stores and on the Internet. The Drinkwell Fountain offers a separate reservoir so the water lasts a long time. This fountain also provides a carbon filter so water is always clean and fresh. Just put in the filter, fill the unit with water (I use spring water), and plug it in. Every now and then, the flow valve will get clogged with debris and cat hair (as your cat drinks, hair some- times falls into the water). But the unit is easy to take apart, clean, and put back together.
Cats sometimes like to drink from the toilet bowl, because the water is renewed often and is cold. While this is generally not recommended (cats can fall in and become trapped in the cold water), just in case your cat sneaks a sip while you’re brushing your teeth, don’t use toilet bowl cleaners that release chemicals with every flush. And make sure you rinse the bowl thoroughly every time you clean it.
5. Do Cats Need Milk?
For healthy feline nutrition: Milk is not a necessary part of your cat’s diet and may cause upset tummy and diarrhea. There is no reason to feed your cat milk. Almost all pet supply stores (especially the chain stores, such as PetSmart and Petco) sell “cat milk,” a special drink that contains lactose-free nonfat milk.
Usually taurine and other essentials are added, as well. It comes in a variety of flavors and several brands. Many cats love it, others don’t. Read the instructions and make sure to refrigerate it after opening the container.
6. Vitamin and Mineral Supplements
The 4th item of the feline nutrition guide is detecting ” do your cat need more vitamin and mineral”. As long as you feed your cat a diet that is complete for cats (as stated on the label), there is no need to feed additional vitamins or minerals. Your cat will get enough of these in his diet, and extra supplements can throw a diet out of balance.
There are certain situations, however (such as metabolic difficulties, pregnant cats, and young kittens), where a vitamin or mineral supplement may be needed. They should be given only under the advice of a veterinarian.
7. Strange Eating Habits
The 5th item of the feline nutrition guide is observing the strange eating habits. Some cats develop the habit of sucking, chewing, or even eating odd things, such as socks or blankets. It’s not known exactly why some cats do this, and each cat’s reason is most likely different.
It may be a redirected suckling behavior—a leftover feeling of comfort from the days of suckling on Mamma. Or maybe the cat needs something in her diet that she’s not getting. The cause could also be stress or an eating disorder—similar to the way a person might overindulge when he or he is stressed.
If your cat has this rather odd habit, as my cat Taffy did (she would suck and chew blankets, which for her was a form of suckling), don’t worry. Usually it causes no difficulties. But be careful—watch that your cat does not ingest any- thing that contains hazardous chemicals. Also, stringy materials can cause blockages and problems within the intestinal tract.
If the problem gets out of hand, keep the preferred material out of your cat’s reach and contact your veterinarian. Interestingly, more scheduled playtime has been shown to be effective in many cases of compulsive chewing.
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