The easiest way to provide a balanced diet for your cat is by feeding a good brand of ready made cat food. Most good brands of cat food have teams of vets and dieticians who do extensive research to make sure that the food is properly balanced, you are unlikely to be able to do a better job yourself with a home made diet.
Different types of cats have different nutritional requirements and these will change throughout the cat’s life, depending on age and lifestyle. Ask your vet or veterinary nurse for advice on the best type food for your cat.
- Kittens should always be fed kitten food. They need this high energy food with the correct calcium and phosphate balance for optimal growth.
- Cats sometimes put on weight more easily when they have been neutered. This is easily avoided by feeding less calories, either by feeding a smaller volume of food or switching to a lower energy food.
- Nursing queens should be fed kitten food to supply them with extra energy.
Home made Diets
If you are keen to try feeding a home made diet ask your vet for advice. Without expert advice a homemade diet for a cat is likely to be extremely unbalanced and may cause serious health problems.
This will vary enormously from cat to cat. Your veterinary team will be happy to advise you.
- The guide on the pack will give you a very rough guide and can be used as a starting point.
- Weigh and condition score your cat regularly. Your vet practice will have weighing scales and will help you to condition score your cat.
- It is often easier to come in and weigh the cage and blanket first, then return to reweigh with the cat inside the cage. This is much safer than letting your cat out of its cage in the waiting room.
- If your cat is becoming over or under weight adjust the feed appropriately and continue to monitor.
- Ask your vet or veterinary nurse for guidance, they will be happy to help you monitor your cat’s weight and suggest alterations to the diet.
Some cats like to have their food down all day or night and to nibble at it throughout the day, others like to eat in all in one go. Either approach is fine as long as the total amount fed is the same. In multicat households it is often impossible to leave food down for one cat without the others eating it in addition to their own food.
How to Feed your cat
- Introduce any new food very gradually, this allows the enzymes in the intestines to adjust preventing tummy upsets.
- Start by feeding 1/10 new food 9/10 old food and gradually alter the balance over about 10 days to 10/10 new food.
- Whilst there is nothing wrong with finding a food that your cat enjoys, beware of offering lots of alternatives if your cat does not eat his dinner. He will quickly learn that not eating his dinner is a good way to get rewarded with lots of attention and an array of different foods to choose from.
- It is quite normal for some cats, particularly those that hunt, to miss occasional meals, it is usually their body telling them that they do not require any more food, if you override this natural feeling by offering tasty treats your cat will be at risk of becoming obese.
- If your cat is has not eaten his dinner and is otherwise healthy take the food up after half an hour and offer a fresh bowl a few hours later. Try not to make a big fuss about it and act unconcerned as to whether your cat eats or not.
- If your cat is misses more than one meal in a row, is loosing weight, is behaving strangely or has any other symptoms contact your vet for advice.
Dry or Wet?
You may find that you have little choice in this decision, many cats will only eat one type or the other. If your cat will eat both you are in the lucky position of being able to choose what you feed. There are advantages and disadvantages to both and some owners like to feed a combination of the two. You will notice that cats eating dry food usually drink a lot more than cats eating wet food, this is completely normal as wet food has much higher levels of water than dry food.
- Better for the teeth.
- Low volume, much less heavy to carry home from the shop.
- Cost effective, generally cheaper than wet food.
- Increases the chance of urinary problems in some cats.
- Contains higher water content, can be useful in dehydrated or cats with urinary problems.
- Makes urinary problems less likely.
- Likely to be a higher risk of dental problems
- Need a much higher weight and volume of food
- Usually more expensive than dry food
Obesity is unfortunately a very common problem in cats. Obese cats are at increased risk of bladder problems, dandruff due to an inability to groom themselves, breathing difficulties, heart problems and some types of cancer. All these factors mean that obese cats are unlikely to live for as long as a healthy weight cat.
Taking your cat for regular weight checks at your vets will help you to detect any problems very early making it much easier to correct any problems. It is also a lovely opportunity for your cat to get used to the staff and surroundings at the veterinary practices without a needle in sight.
If are concerned that your cat is overweight it is far better to tackle the problem immediately, certain health problems can cause obesity so it is a good idea to get your cat checked over by your vet before beginning a weight loss program.
The veterinary practice team will be there to give you the advice and support that you and your cat need to help you to rectify the problem. They will design a diet especially for your cat, it may be enough to reduce the amount of food that you are currently giving, or to increase the exercise. They may decide to prescribe a lower calorie food, or Atkins diet like food, so that your cat’s appetite will be satisfied and the calories can be cut back without him missing out on other vital nutrients
Tips for Preventing Obesity
- Measure out your cats food every day using a cup with a line drawn to the correct level.
- Avoid titbits
- If you need to give your cat treats hold back a portion of their daily food portion and use for treats.
- Use a good quality commercial cat food.
- Make sure your cat gets a suitable amount of exercise, ask your vet for advice.
- Weigh your cat regularly.
From diabetes to urinary problems and liver failure many medical conditions can be improved significantly by feeding a specialist or ‘prescription diet’. If your vet has recommended a prescription diet as part of the treatment regime it can provide huge benefits to your cat’s health either alone or alongside the appropriate drugs. The most common problem is getting your cat to eat the new food.
Tips for Feeding a Prescription Diet
- Introduce the new food gradually
- If your cat refuses the food just pick it up after half an hour and put a fresh bowl down about 2 hours later.
- Ask your vet for guidance as to how long it is safe to keep attempting this for.
- Unless your vet advises you to do so, do not add anything to the prescription diets and do not feed any other titbits, they will alter the balance of the prescription food.
A few Don’ts
- Never feed raw meat to your cat. Raw meat can contain dangerous bacteria such as Salmonella and Campylobacter. Just as in humans these can cause serious and even life threatening disease.
- Never feed bones to your cat. Some bones split into sharp shards that can damage the mouth, stomach or intestines. Cooked bones can be crunched into a sharp gravel like consistency, this can bind with faeces to create a concrete like substance causing constipation.