FloridaWild Vet Hospital

Advice for First Time Cat Owners: Part 2

There is definitely both an “art” and a “science” to feeding cats correctly, in this writer’s opinion. Even though there’s an abundance of scientific literature concerning feline dietary requirements available, controversies still exist that could be confusing for owners about what we should be feeding our kitties.

Cats are Obligate Carnivores:
In order to help cats enjoy a long and healthy life, they require spot-on, species -appropriate nutrition.
Felines are “obligate” carnivores. This means that to get their nutritional needs met, they require a diet high in meat protein, a moderate amount of fat, and more than a dozen other nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids. So when you visit the Petfood aisle checking out various cat food brands, or purchasing food online bear this in mind. Learning to read labels is extremely important.

Cats need certain amounts of nutrients in their diet but giving your cat more nutrients than is required can be risky. Supplements generally are not necessary if your cat is eating a well-balanced, complete diet. But if you’re planning to offer additional supplements to your cat, first consult with your veterinarian.

Types of cat food:
There are three main commercially produced cat foods; dry, semi-moist and canned. However these products differ in their protein and carbohydrate levels, fluid content, calories, digestibility, and palatability.

Dry Food:
The majority of dry foods contain between six and 10 percent water. Most dry foods are created by mixing the ingredients, extruding the ingredients and then drying them into different bite-sized pieces. Included in the dry food ingredients may be meat and/ or meat byproducts, grain, and/or grain byproducts, and fish meal, fiber sources, milk products and vitamins and minerals. To make it more appealing, dry food is often coated with animal fat. Dry food is more or less inexpensive and since it doesn’t “dry out”, owners can enjoy the convenience of feeding it as “free choice” to their kitties. However, to help prevent obesity, free-feeding is discouraged. Cats do extremely well when fed on a schedule. Additionally, although there are relatively “high quality high-cost” dry foods on the market, these foods are often high in carbohydrate, are not easily digestible and can cause digestive disorders.

Semi-Moist Food Semi-Moist Food:
Semi-moist cat foods primarily contain meat and meat byproducts. They generally contain about 35 percent fluids. To make the final product, cereals, grain byproducts, soybeans and preservatives are added. Although a semi-moist food may be more appealing than dry food, the food can become rancid after the package is opened.

Wet Food:
As far as this writer is concerned, the most species appropriate diet for kitties is wet food. Since domestic cats evolved from their desert cousins, many cats don’t drink enough water each day. Canned food contains a moisture content of at least 75 percent making it an optimum source of fluid in their diets. Although wet food is generally the most expensive type of cat food, most cats find it extremely palatable. Unfortunately, kittens fed an all dry-food diet may not recognize wet food as “food”; leaving owners possibly having a hard time switching these cats over to an all wet diet.

Any unused portion of opened canned cat food should be covered and refrigerated to prevent it from getting spoiled. High quality canned cat foods often contain the primary meat source other ingredients such as liver and/or kidney. Although many high quality canned cat foods omit grain from the ingredients, vegetables and fruits may be added, which may raise its carbohydrate content. To ensure that you are feeding a guaranteed balanced diet to your cat, it is essential to read the nutrition labels on all the foods your cat is being fed.

Considering feeding a raw diet?
Cooking can alter and/or diminish meat’s vital substances. Since a raw diet closely resembles what cats in the wild would eat, feeding the domestic obligate carnivore a raw diet is refuted to be a biologically, species –appropriate diet. Raw food advocates claim that their cats’ coats are shinier and enjoy radiant health. However, there still remain those folks who believe that it isn’t safe to feed a raw diet due to the risk of potential Salmonella and E.Coli contamination. To minimize these risks, learning how to handle raw meat safely, feeding a high quality commercially prepared raw food or freeze- frozen prepared products is recommended. An alternate option is preparing a raw diet.

Interactive play and toys:
In the same way that excellent nutrition is a critical building block for cats’ radiant health, play is another essential building block for their emotional health. Cats are born hunters. Even though Fluffy is peacefully snuggled in your lap, her hunting instincts must find an appropriate outlet. Interactive play is a fantastic bonding exercise. Playing interactively with your cat using a dangling feather toy on a wand for 10-15 minutes twice a day gives her opportunity to “hunt, and capture prey”.

Your kitty will be delighted by having a tall, sturdy cat tree, several scratching posts throughout the house, a few wall shelves, a few cardboard boxes in which to hide, and a cuddly bed near a window.

Love your cat unconditionally:
Being owned and loved by a cat is a great honor. It is something we will remember forever. While some folks believe that cats are fiercely independent and aloof, they absolutely don’t know the joy they are missing! Cats teach us a great deal about unconditional love which is a powerful lesson.

Does your cat fascinate you? Want to learn more about her? Check out these 7 Great Books for Kitty Owners

By: Jo Singer, MSW, CSW, LCSW, (Ret.)
Photo Credit: Ella Jane : Marie Youngken
Cat Tree: Internet Share

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