To live a long, healthy life, your cat needs proper nutrition. Here are some things to consider when selecting an appropriate diet for your cat.
Cats are obligate carnivores, which means that they rely on nutrients found only in animal products. Cats evolved as hunters that consume prey that contains high amounts of protein, moderate amounts of fat, and a minimal amount of carbohydrates, and their diet still requires these general proportions today. Cats also require more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
Although your cat needs certain amounts of each specific nutrient to be healthy, more is not always better. This is particularly true of vitamins and minerals, so the use of supplements is usually not necessary if you are feeding a balanced and complete diet. Supplements can be harmful to your cat, and they should never be given without a veterinarian’s approval. Cats should have access to clean, fresh water at all times.
Types of Commercial Cat Food
Commercial cat foods are formulated as dry, semi-moist, and canned. These products differ in water content, protein level, caloric density, palatability, and digestibility.
Dry food contains between six and 10 percent water. Depending on the specific formulation, a mixture of ingredients are combined, extruded, and dried into bite-sized pieces. Ingredients may include:
- meat and/or meat byproducts
- poultry and/or poultry byproducts
- grain and/or grain byproducts
- fish meal
- fiber sources
- milk products
- vitamin and mineral supplements
The pieces of dry food are often then coated with flavor enhancers, such as animal fat, to make the food more appetizing.
Meat and meat byproducts are the primary ingredients of semi-moist food, which contains approximately 35 percent moisture. Other materials, including soybean meal, cereals, grain byproducts, and preservatives are added to make the final product. The cost of semi-moist food is generally mid-range. Semi-moist foods may be more appealing than dry cat food to some cats and can also be fed free choice. After the package is opened, however, the food can dry out, becoming less palatable and/or becoming rancid.
Canned cat food has a moisture content of at least 75 percent, making it a good dietary source of water. It is generally the most expensive type of cat food, but is also highly palatable for most cats. Many different varieties are available, which can be helpful if your cat is a finicky eater. Canned food has the longest shelf life when unopened, but any unused portion of opened canned cat food should be refrigerated to maintain quality and prevent spoilage. Gourmet canned cat foods generally feature meats, such as kidney or liver, and whole meat byproducts as primary ingredients. Some brands, however, may be nutritionally incomplete, and it is important to read the nutrition labels carefully on such specialty cat-food items to ensure that they have a nutritional guarantee.
Making your own cat food is a difficult and time-consuming process, as the recipe may not contain the right quantities and proportions of nutrients for your cat. It is generally recommended that cat owners purchase nutritionally balanced commercial foods, unless a veterinarian recommends a home-formulated recipe for medical purposes. In that event, your veterinarian will likely recommend a recipe developed by veterinarians certified in animal nutrition.
Meal Feeding Cats
Meal feeding means you're providing food to your cat only at specific meal times during the day. Both canned and dry foods can be fed in this manner.
Advantages: Food intake can be closely monitored, which means it will be easy to tell if your cat has had a change in appetite. In addition, if you have the joy of having a multiple cat household, all cats will have access to food without one being dominant over the others — one cat could be eating all the food and gaining too much weight, and the other cat(s) could be missing out on the nutrients they need to stay healthy.
Disadvantages： Cats might beg for food between meals. Your cat cannot control how much she eats at a certain time. However, if you are following your veterinarian's advice with proper amounts and regular feeding, you can rest easy that she is indeed getting the right amount of food and nutrients.
The bottom line：While kittens should be fed up to three times a day, once a cat becomes an adult (at about one year of age) feeding once or twice a day is just fine, says the Cornell Feline Health Center. In fact, feeding just once a day should be acceptable for the majority of cats. "Once cats reach adulthood, once a day feeding is fine as long as they are healthy and have no disease problems suggesting a reason to feed differently," Cornell reports. Again, always check with your vet before deciding on a feeding regimen.
If you have multiple cats, ideally each cat should have their own food and water station in a quiet, low-traffic place where the cat likes to spend time, The Cat Doctors advises. That's because cats are solitary eaters — they prefer to be alone when they eat.
Free Feeding Cats
If you're not considering other options, you might be wondering if free feeding is an acceptable method. When you free feed your cat, their food is available at all times. Keep in mind that only dry foods can be fed in this way because wet food should not be left out throughout the day. If you're noticing that your cat is leaving dry food in their bowl for more than a day, you should still throw it out to maintain its freshness.
Advantages: Your cat can eat multiple small meals per day on their own schedule. A key to success for free feeding is place the right amount of dry food for a cat for only one day at a time in the bowl.
Disadvantages: Free feeding cats can lead to overeating and obesity, especially if the amount of food is not limited. It can also be difficult to tell if your cat's appetite has changed, for the better or worse. It's also difficult to tell, if you have multiple cats, how much each one is eating.
The bottom line: While free feeding can lead to extra weight if not correctly managed, there are ways to allow free feeding that keeps your cat's weight and food take into account. Make sure to properly measure the amount of food necessary for them for the day. When the food is gone, don't fill it back up until the next day. This will teach your cat to feed throughout the day, rather than gobble it all down at once.
Another option for free feeding cats, it's a good idea to use a food puzzle with pre-measured food so you control how much and how often your cat eats. In an interview with Scientific American, cat behavior expert Mikel Delgado says she likes food puzzles not just for rewards, but as a way to feed cats every day.
"The thinking is two-fold: the first is that food puzzles provide activity and mental stimulation for cats; the second is that as obligate hunters, cats would naturally work for their food. No one would hand them a bowl of mice," Delgado says.
Mixed feeding can be defined as serving canned food as a twice-daily meal and dry food is freely available.
Advantages: Combination feeding allows your cat to eat multiple, small meals of dry food per day on their own schedule. You can monitor appetite at least partially when you feed them wet food as a specific meal at a set time of day. It also gives cats the nutritional benefits of both wet and dry food.
Disadvantages: Combination feeding, like free feeding, can often lead to overeating and obesity, so it is important to measure the food out and not refill them bowl until the next day. If you have multiple cats it can be difficult to monitor each one's total food intake, so any form of free feeding may not be the best option.
The bottom line: Both wet and dry food have advantages and disadvantages, when it comes to your cat. For instance, cats diagnosed with certain medical conditions — such as urinary and kidney issues — might benefit from the higher moisture content in wet food. Dry food, meanwhile, is better for a cat's teeth and is easier to store.
If you do try combination feeding, consider using a food puzzle so your cat feels challenged by playing with them snacks.
If you have a multi-cat home, keep in mind that the volume of food offered should not exceed the total calorie requirements for all the cats each day. Otherwise, your cat or cats could become overweight, leading to a higher risk of developing other health problems.
Cat Bowl Choices
- ALLOWS YOU TO WARM YOUR PET’S MEAL as the bottom compartment of the bowl can be used to place hot water with and the top portion comes with a metal bowl that conducts heat allowing the food to get warm.
- DETACHABLE AND DOES NOT OVERTURN so that you can conveniently store the bowl when not in use. It’s designed in such a way that it will not easily flip over avoiding food spilling and accidents that may harm your pet
- PERFECT FOR SOLID OR LIQUID FOOD may it be canned meat that needs to be thawed in heat or a cold bowl of milk that needs to be warm for your cat to enjoy.
- COMES IN A CUTE CLOWN DESIGN that looks adorable! Your cat room will have that fun and amusing touch when you have this cat bowl.
- ELEVATED BOWL DESIGN FOR EASY FEEDING as it allows your cat to feed and drink without having to stoop their head to low that may cause them discomfort when in the same position for a long time. Perfect for pets who are experiencing pain on their bones and body.
- LESS MESS, LESS CLEANING as it allows your pets to feed with their heads almost level to their body. This makes it convenient for them to drink or eat compared to floor level dish.
- TRENDY, MODERN DESIGN that will look great no matter where you place them inside your home. They look clean and sleek that you would want to display them.
- LARGE AND SPACIOUS so that you won’t need to keep on adding pellets or drinks when your cat wants more!
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