Have you ever wondered about the nutritional content of the food you’re giving to your furry feline friends? Would you be able to say, for sure, whether your cat’s food provided them with all the vitamins, minerals, and other compounds they need to stay fit and healthy? Balanced cat nutrition is vital for a wide assortment of reasons, including healthier cats, reduced need for alternative options to pet insurance when overweight pets aren’t covered, and reduced pet care costs. It’s time to break down the world kitty nutrition.
What Nutrition Do Cats Need?
Cats are carnivores, but they don’t need only meat to stay fit and healthy. Just like humans, felines need a varied and balanced diet, made up of several food groups. Wild felines prey upon small mammals, such as rodents, which provides them with the following:
- Protein (high)
- Fat (moderate)
- Carbohydrates (minimal)
The organs and bones are also consumed alongside the stomach contents of prey. The latter provides them with small amounts of vegetable-based minerals and vitamins. The former helps with amino and fatty acids that cats also need. Commercial cat food labelled as “complete” contains all nutrients that cats need, in the right amounts, as per expert-set regulations.
Can Cats Eat a Vegan Diet?
No, a vegan diet is not a healthy diet for cats. They are ‘obligate carnivores’, which means they must have meat to get all the nutrients they need. It is inhumane to feed your feline friend(s) a vegan diet, and it can cause irreversible and extensive harm. According to Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, cats need certain nutrients that can only be found in meat products and not from alternatives or substitutes.
How Healthy is a Homemade Cat Food Diet?
Unless you know exactly what nutritional requirements your cat needs, you cannot provide it. This makes homemade cat food diets rather tricky to master. Complete cat foods are exactly that: complete. They have the complete range of vitamins, minerals, food groups, and other nutrients that felines need. You would need to create food that mimics that ratio of ingredients.
To make sure you create safe and healthy homemade food for a cat, if that’s the route you’d like to take, always consult with a vet. They exist to ensure you keep your pets healthy, after all!
What Type of Food is Best for a Cat?
There isn’t a definitive answer to this question because cats and their paw-parents are all different. Some cats will only eat wet food, but there are a few that might only eat dry. Most cats prefer a mixture of both, but there are added costs associated with wet types. This is something that your cat will help you to figure out, along with your vet or pet care provider. Homemade dishes are fine for a treat every now and then, as are treat-based (or ‘complementary’) foods.
Always ensure that the food is labelled as “complete” cat food regardless of whether it is wet or dry. This will ensure that your cat gets the right nutrients either way. If feed both types, you will need to work out the right amounts of each, as per your cat’s gram or calorie requirements.
How Frequently Should You Feed a Cat?
Where possible, allow your feline friend to dictate feeding times. Some cats will enjoy three meals per day, but others prefer smaller and more frequent feeds. There are even a few kitties that would much prefer one large meal over lots of smaller ones. In the wild, felines naturally eat little and often, and feeding activity increases at sunrise and sunset.
Each cat is different. Where possible, try to accommodate their natural feeding habits. The more you do, the happier and healthier they will be. Kittens require smaller, more frequent feeds than adult cats. Adult cats should, ideally, feed at least two times per day.
How Much Should You Feed a Cat?
There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question; several factors must be considered. These include:
- Health status;
- Current weight;
- Specific dietary requirements;
- Pregnant/not pregnant;
- Spayed/neutered or intact;
You’ll likely have noticed that the pet food industry has different foods for different ages of cats (kitten, 1-year plus, 7-years plus, etc.). This is because the dietary requirements of kittens, adult cats, and elderly cats are different. The food has been created for that specific age range. There are also cat foods designed specifically for indoor cats, targeted health boosts (such as urinary health), and more. Once again, the ingredients and nutrients have been tweaked for that specific kitty lifestyle.
The packaging of these foods will tell you how much you should feed your pet, usually by weight and/or age. Alternatively, you could also ask your vet, who will give you an amount based on your cat’s exact health and lifestyle requirements.
Should You Give Your Pet Cat Vitamin Supplements?
Never feed your pet cat human supplements because it can be fatal. Too much of a certain vitamin or mineral can be just as dangerous – if not more so – than a deficiency. For that reason, it is also ill-advised to give your fur-kids pet-safe vitamin or mineral supplements without expert advice.
If you provide your cat with a balanced, healthy, and complete diet, there is no need to give them supplements. The food will give them all the nutrients they need.
How to Change a Cat’s Food (The Right Way)
Your feline friends can be quite fussy when it comes to food, and many of them do not like change. Do not make sudden changes to your cat’s diet. They might refuse to eat altogether. Instead, you should incorporate new food into your pet’s diet slowly, bit by bit. Don’t mix old with new food because that might make your cat dislike both. Separate them into different dishes but present them at the same time. (Just remember to use half of each type.)
Do not force food on your cat if they don’t eat it or leave it out to turn bad. If they refuse twice or three times, they are probably never going to eat it.
It is important to give your cat the right type of food and amount of food, at the right times, to keep your them happy and healthy. These critters are quite picky when it comes to feeding, and they’ll soon let you know if they don’t like something. Remember to seek advice before making big changes to your pet’s diet, and always make those changes gradually.