Feeding your cat
Feeding your cat a well-balanced diet can give them a long and happy life. There are so many diets available that it is often confusing to pick one, and have confidence that you are doing your best by your cat.
When you first acquire a new cat you should always try to keep it on the diet it has been used to. If you decide to change a cat’s diet for any reason then this should always be modified gradually, by adding a little bit more new food each day and decreasing the one that is being replaced. If your cat suffers from a sensitive stomach or regular episodes of vomiting then you should consult a vet for advice on feeding.
Stage of life
You should always try to keep your cat on a good quality, life stage diet. There are a range of dry and wet diets available, made by hundreds of different manufacturers. Kittens should be fed three to four small meals throughout the day. Kitten food is available to buy in dry and wet versions; it will give all the extra nutrients for growth that are required. The biggest range of cat food is aimed at the fully grown adult cat. They come in all different varieties and should provide a balanced diet to maintain good health. Older cats should ideally be fed on a senior diet which contains extra nutrients for an ageing cat.
Specially tailored diets
Some of the larger cat food manufacturers produce a wide range of diets, so you can be more specific than just the age. You can get food for particular breeds of cats, indoor cats, neutered cats and dental or hairball diets. It is an owner’s choice whether to feed a specially tailored diet and whether to pick a wet food, dry food or mixture of both in the diet. As long as the diet provides complete nourishment for the cat, then you should be guided on which the cat enjoys most.
Wet food should always be stored appropriately and replaced regularly, especially in hot weather. Some wet diets are advised by a vet for particular medical conditions, such as kidney disease or urinary problems, only use this diet or change to a different diet at the request of your vet.
Biscuits provide a good opportunity to keep your cat’s teeth clean as it helps chip the tartar and plaque off the teeth. Even though biscuits can help keep the cat’s teeth in good condition, it is quite normal for your cat to require dental work by a vet at various points in its life, usually the latter years. If your cat has a sore mouth or is lacking in teeth then please be very conscious of this when giving a dry diet.
Many cats are actually lactose intolerant, so it is best to avoid giving them cow’s milk and just provide fresh water at all times. Cat treats should be given in moderation or as a reward for positive behaviour. Human food should be avoided as treats, unless it is steamed white fish or chicken.
We are seeing an increase of hypoallergenic diets available to cat owners, this means they do not contain ingredients that cats are commonly allergic to, or struggle to digest. It is advisable to go for a hypoallergenic diet if you can afford to do so.
Many diets are designed by companies to appeal to humans. They will often place vegetables in them, make them multi coloured or design them to look like our food does. In reality this is done to attract owners rather than the need for the cat to have vegetables or fruit in its diet, try to avoid products with unnecessary ingredients or lots of brightly coloured biscuits.
Overfeeding cats is a very common problem, it causes obesity and it can have many related medical issues. If your cat is gaining or losing weight then please consult a vet for advice regarding diet. Always feed your cats separately even if they are content eating together, it means that each cat gets its time to eat in peace and you can also monitor who is eating what. Try to get a low sided bowl so that your cat can eat comfortably, pressure on the whiskers can be an unpleasant sensation for a cat.
In the wild cats spend a large proportion of their time stalking, catching and eating their prey whereas it takes most cats two minutes to eat their food. You can enrich this feeding routine by trying some of the following suggestions.
Scatter feed the dry biscuits around the feeding area
Hide the food around in the house so the cat has to find each bit
Create forage boxes with shredded paper and dry food inside
Some cats enjoy retrieving food that an owner has thrown for the cat
Most pet shops sell feeder panels or treat balls that the cat has to manipulate in order to receive the food
Rubber Kongs can also be brought from pet shops which can have wet food placed inside
You could always make your own feeding enrichment; one of the most common ones is a triangle shape of toilet rolls stuck to a base, so the cat has to pull each individual treat out with its paw.