05JUNE 2017 |

Cat Health and Nutrition Information  

A true carnivoret

Even the most domesticated cat is also a hunter and so, a carnivore. Cats must have some animal tissue in their diet to remain healthy. Make sure you provide your cat with a food that contains properly balanced amounts of all the essential vitamins, minerals and nutrients for optimum cat health and cat nutrition. For example, taurine, pre-formed vitamin A, and arachidonic acid are essential nutrients that the cat must have and that are not found in significant quantities in plant foods.

A balanced diet

Like their owners, cats need a well-balanced diet to stay in peak condition. Your cat’s food must contain a full complement of protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals, all in the right proportions.

In the wild, cats naturally consume the whole body of their prey – not just the flesh – but also the bones, internal organs, intestinal contents, skin, and hair of the prey. These provide the cat with vitamins, minerals, and roughage, otherwise missing from a purely meat diet.

In the world of the domestic cat, there is less opportunity to devour an entire body. Domestic cats, like all other animals, eat primarily to satisfy their energy requirements, not their roughage or nutrient needs. The food you feed your cat must therefore provide all the essential nutrients in the correct amounts and in the correct balance, based on the energy content of the diet and requirements of your cat.

Energy in your cat’s diet comes from protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Your cat does require a relatively high level of protein; in fact, she is unable to adapt to a diet that is extremely low in protein. Animal fats are also essential for cats, not only for the energy they provide, but also because they are a source of the fatty acids such as arachidonic acid, as well as the fat soluble vitamins.

Choosing a diet for your cat 

Nutritionally speaking, your cat is a very complex animal.

Because of this, most cat owners prefer to use one of the commercially prepared brands of cat food. They are nutritionally balanced and complete, as well as convenient for the owner. There are generally two types of prepared cat food available, distinguished by their water content – wet and dry.

Be sure to provide plenty of drinking water for your cat, particularly if you feed her dry food, because of the significantly reduced moisture level. And remember to clean the water bowl and food bowl frequently.

Fussy eaters

Cats are notoriously fastidious eaters and can be overly fussy about their food – even to the point of starving themselves if they don’t like what is being offered. Obviously, this should and can be discouraged, by introducing a variety of different flavors and textures to the cat’s diet.

Cats don’t like food served straight from the refrigerator. If you keep canned food in the refrigerator, let it reach room temperature, or warm it before you serve it – your cat will prefer it that way. If you microwave the food, stir it before serving to distribute the heat, and always ensure that it’s not too hot (not above 96 F).

Although many cats do seek variety, there are times when they prefer a familiar diet. If you need to feed your cat a different diet, possibly on the advice of your veterinarian, introduce it gradually over several days. Repeated exposure to fresh supplies of the new food should encourage your cat to overcome her initial reluctance to eat.

How much and how often to feed

How much food your cat needs depends on her size, age, activity, and condition. Most cats regulate their food intake well and, if the food contains the right dietary balance, they will usually eat the right amount. Unless your cat is overweight, don’t worry about the amount you give her at any one meal. However, you need to ensure she stays the right weight by regularly checking her weight.

When allowed continuous access to food, cats tend to eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. They are easily adaptable, however, to more regular feeding schedules. Many cats are fed two meals per day.
Overeating in cats

While most cats regulate their eating well; a number of cats will overeat.

Cats who overeat tend to be the ones who are kept indoors all the time and don’t get much exercise. If your cat overeats, offer her less food at each meal, and stop giving her any between-meals treats.

If your cat is overweight, talk to your veterinarian. Never put your cat on a severely restricted diet without consulting your veterinarian, as severe calorie restriction can be harmful and even fatal to some cats.
Mother and kittens 

If you think your cat is pregnant, consult your veterinarian for advice. During pregnancy, your cat will need more food to allow for the growth of her unborn kittens. She’ll need a special energy and nutrient-rich food.

Pregnant dogs tend to gain their weight in the final stage of pregnancy, but the pregnant cat is different. She begins to eat more and her weight steadily increases within a week of a successful mating. She starts early, laying down extra energy stores in her body which can be used later in pregnancy and in lactation, when she may not be able to eat enough to meet her requirements. During the last two weeks of her nine-week pregnancy, the pregnant cat may eat as much as twice her normal ration of food.

Throughout the whole period of her pregnancy and lactation, make sure to feed your cat as much as she wants. During lactation, in particular, make food also available through the night. Be sure the diet is designed for pregnant and/or nursing cats.

By the fifth and sixth week of lactation, the combined food intake of mother and kittens may be three times that of the mother cat before mating. Continue this extra feeding until the kittens are weaned. After they’re weaned, gradually cut back on the additional food until your cat is eating her normal amount. Of course, the general condition and health of the mother cat is your best guide: watch for any signs of weight loss or gain, and adjust her meals accordingly.

The growing kittens

At about four weeks, kittens are usually active and well-developed, and can begin taking solid food. By this point, they’re getting less nourishment from their mother’s milk.

Be sure to feed your kittens foods that are soft, moist, and easy to eat. Look for commercial foods that are designed especially for kittens, and introduce them gradually. At this stage, it’s best to use well-mashed canned food, and if dry food is used, it should be well soaked. Remember to find a dish shallow enough for the kittens to eat from.

At six to eight weeks, kittens should be eating solid food happily and can be fully weaned. After weaning, at seven to eight weeks, kittens need four or five meals a day.
Caring for your cat

You can expect your cat to live ten to fifteen years, or even longer. Help increase her longevity by giving her the care and attention she needs throughout her life.

Although cats are clean and independent animals, you, finally, are responsible for your pet’s health and physical well-being. Obviously, she needs a balanced diet to keep her fit and healthy, but she also requires shelter and companionship, and someone to keep her free from disease.

A healthy, well-cared-for cat presents no health risk to you and your family, but it is a good idea to take common sense precautions.

  • Give your cat her own feeding bowls and utensils. Keep them clean and wash them separately from the family’s dishes.
  • Provide your cat with her own sleeping quarters and wash her bedding regularly.
  • Train your cat to use a litter box, or allow her free outdoor access.
  • Remove soiled litter from the box at least once a day. Replace the litter and clean the box at least once a week. Remember to wear gloves and to wash your hands thoroughly afterward.
  • Don’t allow your cat to walk over surfaces used during the preparation or consumption of food.
  • Don’t let your cat lick you or your children, especially around the face.
  • Cover children’s sand boxes when not in use. (Outside cats will use them as litter boxes.)
  • Dispose of any cat feces in the garden by burying them, especially if there are children around.
  • Groom your cat regularly and check for fleas and other parasites.
  • Worm your cat according to the instructions of your veterinarian.
  • Don’t feed your cat uncooked meat or fish.
  • If you note any signs of illness in your cat, have her treated promptly.