Is My Cat Eating Correctly?
How many times a day do you feed
Since cats cannot be exercised like dogs can, the only way you
can influence your cat’s weight is by controlling the amount and
type of food he or she eats. If the cat is being fed individual
meals several times daily, there is often a tendency by the owner
to offer the daily supply of food on several occasions rather than
divide up the daily feed into several meals. This can also occur
with cats fed dry food ad lib. Cats usually regulate their food
intake, but continual exposure to large quantities of food may lead
to over-eating and subsequent obesity if too many calories are
In short, both several individual meals a day and ad lib feeding
are fine, it is the total amount offered per 24-hour period which
is the important figure.
Kittens should be fed small meals at regular intervals due to
their tiny stomachs. Four or five meals are recommended at eight
weeks of age, decreasing to two at six months of age.
Is your cats diet manufactured specifically for
cats or do you give human
Some cat owners like to “spoil” their cat by feeding them human
food as the bulk of their diet. Others have tried feeding their cat
regular cat food, but find their “fussy” cat won’t touch it, and
prefers to wait for the inevitable human food offering, which soon
becomes the staple diet.
Is it really unhealthy to feed cats human food, though? Of
course, that depends what food. Remember that cats are carnivores
and require a high proportion of meat in their diet. They simply
cannot adapt to a low-protein diet and will lose bodyweight if
deprived of it. In fact, as a species they are relatively unique; a
deficiency of the amino acid, arginine, in a single meal can lead
to symptoms of lethargy, hypersalivation and vocalization. Arginine
is required by the cat to produce urea, a waste product resulting
from the breakdown of protein.
Another essential nutrient for the cat is the amino acid,
taurine, which the cat cannot manufacture sufficiently by itself to
meet its needs. The cat’s diet must therefore contain taurine in
sufficient quantities. If a deficiency develops, there is a high
risk of serious and irreversible damage to major organs such as the
heart and the eye. Taurine is found almost entirely in meat,
confirming the fact that the cat is a compulsory carnivore.
Another disease of nutritional origin is that caused by cats
eating raw liver regularly, who can suffer from a condition called
hypervitaminosis A. Cats suffering from this can present with signs
of lethargy, unthriftiness, a stiff neck and other skeletal
problems. To play it safe, don’t feed your cat liver more than once
Reputable cat foods are formulated after extensive trials by pet
food companies to provide the mixture of protein, carbohydrate and
fat that suits feline physiology best. It is easier, cheaper and
possibly more healthy for your cat to be fed a reputable cat food
diet, with occasional treats—tuna, liver, etc.—if desired.
Which is better out of dry cat food or wet cat
Most vets recommend complete dry biscuit-based cat food. This is
because studies have shown that cats on dry food diets are less
likely to suffer from dental disease than those on wet food from a
tin or pouch. The physical motion of biting these biscuits helps
prevent tartar from adhering to the surface of the tooth. However,
even cats with no teeth can eat biscuit based food without a
problem, as they just scoop up the biscuits with their tongue and
swallow them whole. Another advantage of dry food is that it
doesn’t spoil as quickly—useful for cats that are fed ad lib.
There are occasionally reasons why a wet food is preferable, as
a method to increase the water consumption in a cat with a urinary
problem such as cystitis.
Which is the best cat food to choose?
There are so many different brands of cat food on the market
that the “best” one is basically a matter of opinion. Certainly
palatability is a factor, there’s no point in purchasing a
particular food if your cat can’t stand it, although this is
occasionally a necessity in cats requiring prescription diets.
Rather than recommending you a specific brand, we suggest that you
choose one which adheres to the criteria below.
Cat foods labeled as “complete” and “balanced” must meet
standards established by the Association of American Feed Control
Officials (AAFCO), either by meeting a “nutrient profile” or by
passing a feeding trial. There are now two separate nutrient
profiles for cats—one for growth (kittens) and one for maintenance
(adults). Maximum levels of intake of some nutrients have been
established for the first time because of the concern that
overnutrition, rather than undernutrition, is a bigger problem with
many pet foods today. The standards include recommendations on
protein, fat, fat soluble vitamins, water soluble vitamins, and
mineral content of foods. If you are prepared to get technical, you
should choose a food that comes closest to AAFCO
In summary, consider the following points:
Choose a food that suits your cat’s age. Most big pet food
companies will have different foods for kittens and adults. Cats
with medical conditions may be recommended special prescription
Choose a food that come closest to AAFCO recommendations.
The ingredients contains the truth about a particular food.
Everything else is there only for marketing purposes.
There are no legal and scientific definitions for the terms
“premium,” “super premium,” “quality,” or “natural.”
Use dry matter numbers to evaluate and compare foods.
The source of ingredients ( e.g. animal vs vegetable) does not
matter, except in the case of food allergies.
Avoid supplementation. All commercial cat foods have more than
enough protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Feeding your cat a
good food incorrectly can lead to significant problems.
My cat is overweight, but no matter how hard I try I
can’t get him or her to lose weight. What can I do?
Your cat is almost certainly being fed too much. Below some
common mistakes are listed. Have a good look at these and make sure
none of them could apply to your cat.
Not following the guidelines on the packet when measuring a
portion. Most cat foods will have a table on the packaging
suggesting daily portions for cats of different weights. The weight
of food suggested is per 24 hours, not per portion! Use your
kitchen weighing scales to measure out the portion until you are
sure of the correct amount.
Using a complete dry diet as a replacement for regular biscuits
and mixing it with wet cat food. If it says complete, you shouldn’t
mix it with anything or you will overfeed. Offering inappropriate
food that is high in fat, or full-fat milk to drink.
Several members of the household feeding the cat at different
times, whenever the cat is meows for food.
Giving the cat regular treats in addition to its main meal.
The cat is getting fed by neighbors, who think they are being
kind by feeding it and enjoy the attention it gives them.
The cat is scavenging food from outside sources, such as other
The cat is part of a multi-cat household and is stealing food
from the other cats, or even the dog.
Keep an open mind. If there is a possibility that any of the
above scenarios might be the case with your cat, investigate it. If
you are still at a loss, consider starting a prescription diet.
I’ve heard you can get special ‘light’ diets, or
‘prescription’ diets for fat cats. Do they really
Yes they do, if used properly. These types
of cat food are available in complete wet form or dry biscuit form,
and are growing in popularity amongst conscientious pet owners.
They are low in calories and high in fiber and often contain high
levels of L-carnitine, which has been used to help with fat
metabolism in other species and recent scientific work indicates
that it helps reduce weight in overweight dogs and cats. The real
benefit of these low-calorie diets though is that because of its
low calories, cats can still eat reasonable sized portions and
therefore feel full. This means they are more content and less
likely to beg and look for extra food.
These diets are perfectly healthy for normal sized cats to eat
too, so if you have a multi-cat household and it is unfeasible to
separate the cats during feeding time, you can safely feed all of
the cats the prescription diet together.
Where can I buy this low calorie food from?
Many of the big pet food companies are waking up to the problem
of pet obesity, and adding “light” versions to their range.
However, they are unlikely to be as effective as the traditional
“prescription diets” that are on the market. They are known as
prescription diets because they are a specialist food normally
prescribed by a veterinarian. However, you don’t need a
prescription to buy the food as it is a “general sales list”
product. These foods are rarely available in supermarkets as many
supermarkets are keen to sell their own brand, or have deals with
the big pet food manufacturers. Many owners but their prescription
diet from their veterinary clinic for convenience, whilst others
prefer to shop around to get the best price. Many online pharmacies
and pet stores are now offering these prescription foods, but
whilst they may appear cheaper online, watch out for delivery
charges added on top.
This article is part of the Let’s Beat Pet Obesity Campaign
run by www.whydoesmypet.com. To
find out more visit us today.