Feeding Cats

Feeding a Cat

Many cat owners, while trying to do the best they can for their cat, are actually feeding a cat in a way that is not most beneficial. Just like a human has certain nutritional requirements, so do cats.

While many of the pet foods on the market aim to be sure that all of these needs are met, many fall short. Some pet foods contain more filler than they do substantial food, but how can one select the food that is best for their cat?

The first step is to learn about the nutritional needs of the pet

Taurine
Taurine is just one of several amino acids that are required in order to cats to maintain optimal health. While taurine is found in various birds and fish, it is found only in trace amounts in plants. For this reason, cats require that birds and/or fish be included in their diet. It is important to keep this in mind when feeding a cat, because without it, cats can develop serious health problems, including blindness and heart disease.

Fats and Fatty Acids
Fats and fatty acids should also be included in your cat’s diet. In fact, cats can safely consume a higher percentage of fat in their diet than humans with no adverse effects. A number to keep in mind is 10%. That is the amount of fat that a cat’s food should contain. Most have heard of the importance of omega-3 fats that are vital to keeping humans in the best health. These same omega-3s are essential to a cat’s good health as well. If a cat does not get enough omega-3 fats, they are at greater risk for a host of health problems including allergies and arthritis.

Vitamins and Minerals
There are many vitamins and minerals that your cat needs to maintain good health. It is possible for cats to have too much of a certain vitamin, which is why it is important to follow the recommended feeding guidelines of whatever food you select. Vets recommend using a high quality food rather than offering the cat vitamin supplements. Because most foods contain at least some of the vitamins and minerals needed, giving a supplement as well can lead to the cat ingesting too much of a certain vitamin or mineral.

Carbohydrates
Cats need carbs for one of the same reasons humans do: as a form of fuel. Each cat will have different needs when it comes to the amount of carbohydrates that should be included in the diet. Active cats, kittens and cats that are nursing will need more than other cats. Because the need varies from cat to cat, it is a good idea to get some guidance from your vet about how many carbs to include in the cat’s diet.

Now that you have an idea of some of the requirements for your cat’s diet, we can take a look at the types cat food that is available.

Dry
This food is the most economical choice. There are premium versions of dry food that contain all of the ingredients your cat needs and there are “grocery store" cat foods that contain a high level of filler. This food is convenient in that it can be left out, allowing the cat to eat throughout the day whenever it pleases. Whether this is a good idea will be discussed a bit later in the article. A downside is that some cats will not be as eager to eat dry food as they would another form of cat food. Some cats refuse to eat dry food at all.

Semi-Moist
The moisture content in this food is equal to about 35%. There are high quality versions available. This food is more appealing to most cats. In cannot be left out for free feeding, because it will spoil much more quickly than will dry food. It can be left out longer, however, than the next type of food.

Canned
This food contains about 75% moisture.There are high quality versions of canned cat food available. This food is usually the most appealing to cats. Because of the high moisture content, it spoils rather quickly. Uneaten portions should be removed after feeding times as mold can grow which can cause health problems for the cat if ingested.

Vegetarian
As more and more people are choosing to forgo meat in favor of a vegetarian lifestyle, they are also forcing their cats to eat a vegetarian diet. Feeding a cat this type of diet can be dangerous as one of the important nutritional requirements – taurine – is not found abundantly in plant matter. Pet owners who insist on feeding this type of diet should do so only under the close supervision of a veterinarian.

Home Cooked
Another trend that is gaining steam is that of pet owners who are preparing their cats diet at home and not using commercial cat food at all. When done properly, this diet can certainly meet all of the nutritional requirements of the cat. This is also one of the most expensive options for feeding your cat, and the food preparation takes some time each week. If this diet appeals to you, be sure to consult with your vet about the types and amount of foods to include to be sure that the cat gets the needed nutrition without being overfed.

Do I Need to Use a Premium Cat Food?

Many pet owners ask the above question.The short answer is “yes" if you want the cat’s nutritional needs to be met. Some wrongly assume that the premium foods cost more simply because of marketing and packaging, but the truth is that the premium foods contain more meat, poultry or fish and less filler.

Even among premium cat foods, there are differences in quality. For this reason, learning to read the label is of the utmost importance. Here are some things pet owners should look for on the label when selecting a cat food.

In the list of ingredients, you want to see a named protein source. In other words, look for “chicken", “beef" or “fish" rather than “meat". This protein source should be the first ingredient listed.

If the words “animal byproducts", “bone meal" or “animal digest" appear anywhere on the ingredients list, choose another food.

Preservatives are just as bad for your cat as they are for you, so avoid foods that contain BHT, BHA or propyl gallate.

If you see the words “complete and balanced" that means the food has met certain criteria set up by The American Associate of Feed Control Officials. Only foods that have met these criteria can display those words on the bag, pouch or can.

More Expensive, But Worth It

Yes, premium food is much more expensive than grocery store brands, but there are many reasons that it is worth the extra cost when feeding a cat. In addition to being the best choice for your cat’s health, here are some other benefits to choosing a premium cat food.

  • Cat will have an increased level of energy
  • The cat will eat less of the food as it will be more filling
  • Feeding premium foods make it easier for your cat to maintain a healthy weight
  • Cat will display a shiny coat and will develop fewer hairballs.

Another common question among cat owners involves how much food to feed their cat.

Free Feeding
While always leaving some dry food in the cat’s bowl may be the easiest way to feed the cat, it may cause health problems. Free feeding makes it very easy for a cat to overeat, resulting it cats that have problems with their weight. Of course, if your cat does not overeat and is not overweight, there is no reason not to free feed. Cats that are fairly inactive are at a higher risk for becoming overweight and should not be free fed.

Quantity Depends on the Food
The amount of food to be given per day depends on the brand of food chosen. Each food will have feeding guidelines listed on the bag, pouch or can. The amount will be based on the cat’s weight. It is best to divide the recommended daily amount into two or three feedings rather than giving it to the cat all at once.

If still unsure about which food is best for your cat, your vet can offer recommendations based on the individual needs of your cat. If you find that your cat is underweight or overweight, talk to your vet about special foods that can help bring your cat back around to a healthy weight.

The selected food can be supplemented with cat treats. Treats should be given in moderation, especially in cats that have a weight problem.

Taking a little time to select the best food for your cat is one of the best things you can do for the health of your pet.

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