What should I feed my cat?
Cats are strict carnivores and require food of animal to survive. Cats require specific nutrients which they cannot manufacture in their body and are not present in foods of plant origin.
Fresh clean water should be available at all times to your cat, no matter what diet he is on.
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There are several essential nutrients found in animal tissues that must be supplied in the cat’s diet. These include Vitamin A, taurine and certain fatty acids.
There are three main types of cat food:
- Dried food
- Canned food
- Specially prepared home cooked food (please seek your vets advice before feeding your cat home prepared meals)
If purchasing the cat food from a supermarket, be sure to choose a reputable brand. It is imporatant that you read the ingredient label, the first ingredient should be the main ingredient such as; meat or fish (not rice or corn). Cats also have different nutritional requirements to dogs and should not be fed dog food.
With the right balance of nutrients and a crunchy texture, dry foods are very popular with cats. They are more concentrated with nutrients than moist foods, so only small servings are needed. Follow the recommendations on the product label as a guideline to ensure you are feeding your cat a balanced diet and in correct amounts. Small adjustments to serving size can be made based on your cats’ activity levels.
Dry cat food is convenient as it doesn't spoil rapidly and is relatively mess-free. However, it is important to ensure that the food is labeled as a “complete” food rather than “complimentary” as you might be buying a snack instead of a balanced diet. In addition, the dray food generally contains fillers and plant based protein, which is less digestible to a cat. If you are predominantly feeding dry food, still supplement the cat’s diet with canned food or appropriate home cooked food on a daily basis to ensure a balanced diet.
Always provide plenty of fresh water for your cat when feeding dry foods, as the pet will need moisture it would normally get in canned food. Also ensure that the drinking bowls are washed at least every couple of days to prevent water contamination.
Many cats prefer canned food to dry food, which also generally contains more proteins and less fillers. Once the can is opened, the unused portions of food should be covered and refrigerated for a maximum of 24 hours. Cats are notoriously conscious of smell and texture therefore food that is straight from the fridge may not be as appealing as food that is served at room temperature.
Be careful not to leave canned food lying around for more than an hour as it may become populated with bacteria, which could lead to a stomach upset.
In addition to the canned food diet, it's important to also leave some dry food for your cat to graze on as it helps to clean its teeth.
Home prepared diets
Your cat will love you for an occasional meal of meat balls or a plate of minced fish. However, if you decide to switch exclusively to a home cooked diet, please do your research first because leaving out a crucial ingredient may result in your cat's health deteriorating. In the wild a cat’s diet includes the organs and other tissue of the pray, which is an important part of the cats nutritional requirements in addition to the meat intake.
Occasionally bones can be included to clean the cat’s teeth. You have to be careful with bones, though, as fine bones (for example from chicken) can lodge in your cat’s mouth or throat. Also never feed cooked bones to your cat as these may splinter, cause internal damage or even provoke internal bleeding. Bones left outside can also get parasite infested. It is wise to check with the vet regarding the type of raw bones that are suitable for your particular cat.
Generally home-prepared diets require special care to be well balanced and are best designed in conjunction with your vet’s advice. Diets which are based on raw or cooked meats alone, without proper supplementation, are high in protein but not rich enough in other important nutrients and minerals (like calcium and taurine). This can lead to your cat becoming malnourished.
Take care with feeding liver! Cats love the taste, but it should never form part of the staple diet. Too much liver in the cat’s diet can lead to bone deformities due to very high levels of Vitamin A, so this is best served as an occasional treat.
Raw meat can also contain parasites and bacteria such as salmonella, which can make your cat sick. Some cats love dairy products such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, but remember that cats have difficulty properly digesting dairy foods so these should be given (if given at all) with great care.
How do I change my cat’s diet when I want to switch types of cat food?
If for whatever reason you decide to change foods either from wet to dry food or to change between different brands, always introduce the new food gradually over a seven to ten day period. Sudden switching of food types or brands, can lead to tummy upset for your pet, particularly if your cat is used to always eating the same food.
Begin the switch over by adding a quarter of the new food to your cat’s old food. Gradually increase amounts of the new food until you have made the complete transition. A slow transition allows your cat time to adjust to a new food and also decreases the chances of digestive upset.
How much food?
Kittens under three months of age should be fed four times a day, then gradually reduce the number of feed to twice a day by twelve months of age. Adult cats are usually fed morning and night while some like to have lunchtime feed as well. Cats have a relatively small stomach and may prefer smaller meals more often.
The owners should also try how to evaluate the pet because the cats’ energy requirements will vary depending on the climate and activity levels. If the cat is getting overweight, the serving sizes should be reduced.
Fresh water should be available at all times to your cat, whatever the type of diet it is on.