These days most people are very aware about what we should and shouldn’t eat to have a balanced diet. Our pets are no different, they need an optimal diet to keep them healthy that should be suitable for their age and meet all their nutritional requirements.
Our pet cats have become a much loved feature in many households. Yet what nutrition does a cat need and how is this best met?
Your Cat’s Nutritional requirements
Our domestic cats are obligate carnivores, which means they cannot be vegetarian. They require a high protein content that is only available through feeding a primarily meat based food.
In theory, you could feed your cat a homemade diet. However, it is very hard to make sure this is nutritionally balanced with adequate levels of vitamins and minerals. Cats require several key essential amino acids to be included in their food as these cannot be synthesized by the body and are only taken in at meal times. One example of this is Taurine. This amino acid is essential for reproduction, fetal growth and to prevent eye and heart disease and is added to all commercial cat foods.
In addition to essential amino acids, essential fatty acids operate in the same way. One example is Omega-6 which keeps the coat and skin in good condition. Again, these need to be provided by their food. While cats are primarily meat eaters, a small amount of carbohydrate added to commercial foods can help provide some of the glucose used to supply energy to the brain. It should not be present in too high a quantity however as they cannot break down all of it and the rest would just be stored as fat which can lead to obesity.
Feed According to Life Stage
Commercial foods are generally tailored to fit each life stage of kitten, both adult and senior. Kittens are going through a period of growth and as such have higher energy levels, yet these need to be optimized for steady instead of rushed growth. Adult cats then require a maintenance level of calories, whereas senior cats may be more prone to weight gain as they become more sedentary and therefore require less.
Other Considerations to Bear in Mind
Whatever you feed your cat, make sure that clean, fresh water is available at all times. If your cat is overweight, or particularly sedentary, they may need a lower calorie diet – or more exercise!
If your cat suffers from any form of medical condition, check with your veterinarian that you are feeding the correct diet. Some problems, such as kidney disease, may benefit from a prescription diet rather than a commercial cat food. Should your cat have surgery they may want a higher calorie content for a while as they recover.
Ultimately your cat should receive all its nutritional requirements from a complete balanced diet. Treats can be fed occasionally, but make sure they do not make up more than 5% of their daily food. Avoid giving milk, despite the tradition of feeding it to cats. Although they usually love it, they struggle to digest the lactose in it as they lack the lactase enzymes required to break it down in large enough quantities. Feeding milk can give you cat diarrhea or cause vomiting.
Wet or Dry Food?
There are many dry and wet commercial foods available on the market, and there are good and bad points to both. Dry foods often help keep your cats teeth in better condition as they help prevent the build-up of plaque, yet they can be loaded with carbohydrates. Wet foods can contain up to 75% water, so they are less nutritional dense than dry food. However, they can be great for picky eaters as they are highly palatable due to their consistency and smell. Shop around and look at the different brands before you buy; however generally you get what you pay for.
Feeding your pet cat is not as complicated as it sounds, providing you stick to the simple rules and feed them what they have evolved to eat. There are many good quality commercial foods out there that can meet all of their nutritional needs that coverall their life stages.