How to Feed your Cat

The domestic cat makes for a beautiful pet with more than 70 cat breeds in the world. When adopting or buying a cat that are a myriad of questions you may ask yourself and, one of the first that comes to mind will regard a cat’s diet. Here we provide some important advice on everything relating to cats and their food.

Cats 

The domestic cat is a small, typically furry, carnivorous mammal quite similar in anatomy to other felines: a strong flexible body, quick reflexes, sharp retractable claws, and teeth adapted to killing small prey.  

With more than 70 cat breeds differing in size, coat colour patterns and temperament potential pet owners who prefer felids have a wide choice when preparing to adopt or purchase a cat. 

The largest domestic cat is the Main Coon which can occasionally reach 48 in (120 cm) in length (including the tail) and weigh up to 25 lb (11 kg). However the average cat weighs around 10 lb (5 kg) and is about 18 in (45 cm) in length. The life expectancy of indoor cats (also know as domestic cats) is 12-15 years compared to feral cats which live in the wild and may only reach 2-5 years of age.

cat

Feeding your Cat

As with any kind of pet, the choice of cat food must take into account age, size, activity level and health history. For example, a kitten will need a higher caloric intake in order to grow while an older, less active cat may need to lose some weight. Cat food labels will normally advise the amounts based on the pet’s life stage and weight. This is usually divided into kitten up to 12 months, adult cat up to 7 years and after 7 years it is for a senior cat.

One of the first things to do as a cat owner is monitor your pet’s weight. This way it will be easier to adjust the quantities. Based on a cat activity level, daily nutritional requirements can vary. For example, an average size adult of 4kg (8.8lb) needs around 250 calories in a day with a balance of proteins, carbohydrates, fats and minerals. Modify the feed according to the cat’s need. If your cat is overweight then reduce the food by approximately 10%, if your cat is underweight increase its food by 10%. Always consult with an experienced veterinarian before changing your pet's diet. 

Don’t neglect hydration! Water is extremely important to all cats. If you choose a dry food diet then your cat will need a little more water to gain that extra moisture. Remember to keep the bowl clean and change the water daily (or more in summer). Water fountains may be a good solution as they provide fresh water and entertainment for your pet. This helps to keep the kidneys healthy and reduce the risk of any urinary tract infections. Contrary to popular belief, cats should only hydrate with water and not milk. Shortly after weaving, most cats will lose the ability to digest milk and become lactose intolerant due to the sugar level contained in it. If you choose to continue to feed milk, make sure you consult with the vet who will recommend specific ‘cat milk’.

Another essential step is to establish a set feeding time for your cat so that it knows when to expect food without constantly demanding it. 

cat food

Dry vs. Wet Cat Food

Unlike dogs, which can live quite happily on a balanced vegetarian diet, cats will go blind, suffer other debilitating conditions and ultimately die if fed only a vegetarian diet. Cats are obligate carnivores – eating meat is necessary for survival! 
Domestic cats tend to select food based on its temperature, smell and texture, and will likely dislike chilled foods by responding most strongly to moist foods rich in amino acids, which are similar to meat.

If your cat eats a combination of dry and wet food, be mindful not to overfeed it and always make sure both options are high quality meals. Avoid food that contains artificial colours, flavours or harmful chemicals and choose those with animal protein and fat. Cats should feed mainly on meat so be mindful to include it in their daily meals.

Some owners prefer to make their own cat food at home. Although it may be an expensive and time consuming process more and more cat owners choose this as a viable option to feed their pets the healthiest meal. This process requires extra care and guidance from a veterinarian or professional breeder in finding the appropriate recipe for your pet.

Whatever type of food you choose for your pet, always make sure you are not overfeeding. Overweight cats will easily be subject to health issues affecting their joints and heart as well as developing diabetes.

Improper feeding related illnesses

As with any other pet, there are a number of illnesses caused by poorly or improperly feeding your cat. Among these we find: feline urologic syndrome (FUS or more commonly known as feline lower urinary tract disease); uric acid urolithiasis caused by a diet based on high amounts of purine found in beef, poultry and fish; taurine deficiency which is linked to to dilated cardiomyopathy in cats as well as to reproductive problems; secondary nutritional hyperparathyroidism (a disorder is encountered in cats fed all meat diets); obesity; type 2 diabetes mellitus; food allergies and intolerance causing gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea.

One of the most common mistake among cat owners is overfeeding, not only in quantities but also in certain nutrients. It is essential that your pet's diet is balanced to include the appropriate ratio of proteins and fat. On the other hand, underfeeding a cat is also dangerous to its health. For example, some pet owners have chosen a completely vegetarian or vegan diet for their pets and, although extremes are never a balanced option, certain dogs will happily live on such a diet. However cats cannot be fed vegetables only and, as all other felids and felines they require meat to survive and strive.

Learn to know your cat's behaviour and attitude towards food. Avoid any sudden change in diet and seek veterinary care in case you notice a change in appetite or liveliness.

Author Marino
Author: Marino Tilatti
Member of PetsForAll Editorial Stuff
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