Is Your Cat Getting the Right Nutrients?
Like all animals, your cat needs a diet that's properly balanced and contains all the required nutrients in correct quantities. These nutrients are water, protein, fats and oils, carbohydrate, minerals and vitamins. Most manufactured pet food should provide your cat with this basic nutritional balance. The choice of serving canned or dry, or a mixture of the two, is really a matter of personal preference between you and your cat.
Recent developments in pet nutrition mean there is now a wide range of commercially produced cat foods designed to match more accurately your cat's specific needs. If your cat spends most of his time indoors, for example, he may benefit from a special indoor formula, while less-active cats require less fat, so feeding a 'light' formula could help to avoid weight gain. There are also specific foods for a range of health issues such as hyperthyroidism, allergy concerns, urinary stress and many more. These can usually be bought or ordered through your veterinary practice.
With dry food, you can expect your cat to chew it more actively and take longer to eat; to drink more water; and to return regularly to the food rather than eating it all at once. Dry food is convenient in that it will stay fresh all day, so it can be left out for your cat to eat whenever he wants. Dry food must however, be stored in a dry, clean environment.
With wet foods cats tend to eat more in one sitting rather than going back and forth, and will drink less. Serve the food at room temperature to ensure your cat can taste and smell it properly. Warming up an opened can may take up to two hours from being taken out of the fridge, microwaving canned foods for a short time is always an option. Don't keep wet food opened for longer than 24 hours as it will go off and cause upset tummies.
Make sure fresh drinking water is always available for your cat, but don't give cow's milk. Cow's milk isn't suitable for cats, as most cats lose the ability to digest lactose shortly after weaning. Pasteurised yoghurt doesn't contain lactose, however, so this can be an alternative for some cats.
Cats are defined as obligate carnivores, unlike dogs, so need more protein than other mammals and will suffer serious health conditions if fed on a vegetarian diet. All the senses of a cat are adapted to respond to the make up and smell of meat. If the cat does not get the required amino acids from protein, then problems can occur. If the amino acid arginine is missing, for example, this can lead to clinical signs of lethargy and hypersalivation. This is needed by cats to synthesise urea, a waste product resulting from the breakdown of protein.
It's always a good idea to feed on a surface that is easily cleaned, like a tiled floor or a mat. Place feeding bowls away from the litter tray and, if you have two cats, keep the bowls a reasonable distance apart to avoid confrontations or bullying. Ensure you provide clean, fresh water in a large metal or ceramic bowl. This helps to keep the kidneys healthy and reduce the risk of Urinary infections. Some cats won’t drink out of bowls and prefer to drink from running water and taps. You can purchase different kinds of water stations for cats which provide running water into a large bowl which many cats prefer.
If you have concerns about your pets diet or think he needs to go onto a specialised diet; it is always best to get advice from your local veterinary practice. Many veterinary practices offer free nurse clinics where you can discuss all your pets’ dietary needs and also get a food recommendation specialised for your cat to help him live a healthy, happy life for many years to come!
Student Veterinary Nurse