Any responsible cat owner should know what to feed the cat with in order not to harm the cat’s health. Cats fed with poor quality products or with the same feed all the time usually get sick more often, are more susceptible to infections and their life expectancy is significantly less. Healthy eating is the basis of a full and long life of your pet.
Dry/canned feed or natural products?
The most important thing you should remember: food should be various. However, it doesn’t mean that you need to treat your cat to delicacies and invent new recipes every day. Leave culinary delights for people. In natural environment animals usually keep to one diet throughout all their lives. But smart ones compile this diet the way it included all he needed nutrients in necessary proportions.
Having decided to keep a cat, owners are faced with a choice: whether they should make the diet on their own or to entrust this task to professionals. The question “what to choose: dry feed or natural products?” has no right answer. It is much more important that the selected type of food met the needs of the pet. High quality dry feed is undeniably better than feeding cats with what you have in the fridge today. But if the owner has time to consult a veterinarian, and will be able to always follow the diet recommendations without feeding the pet with something that is at hand, then there is no need to buy dry feed.
Special attention should be paid to the way the cat is fed. Perfectly balanced menu will bring no benefit if the cat will keep eating all day long without sticking to the regime. In this case even highest quality feed can harm if the preference is given to the wrong product lines or the pet gets way too large servings.
Feeding with natural products
If the cat is fed with natural products, you should add a vitamin-mineral complex to the diet twice a year. Typically, the course of treatment lasts about three weeks.
It’s hard to imagine a cat eating beef or boiled rice in its natural habitat. Thus feeding cats with natural food should imply feeding it with birds and mice, grasshoppers and other bugs as well as with some types of herbs. But responsible owners won’t feed their pets with insects and small rodents, first of all because it is a direct path to helminthic infestation. Therefore, products that we call “natural” are so for humans, but not for cats. Cat diet should be compiled once, and you should stick to it throughout the cat’s life, adjusting it only when it is necessary.
It is recommended to feed healthy adult cats 1-2 times a day. The best time for twofold feeding – is 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. If a cat eats once a day, it is preferable to give food in the evening. Servings are calculated empirically: the cat must eat everything it was offered and quietly move away from the bowl. If the cat has left something in the bowl – you need to reduce the serving. If it has eaten everything offered and is still walking around and licking the bowl – you need to increase the serving. Of course, it is important to monitor the pet’s condition: the ribs should be well palpated, but shouldn’t stick out.
Feeding cats with natural products only implies the use of “natural” (i.e. not industrial) products only. The opinion of most veterinarians is categorical: either natural products or dry/canned feed. Combined feeding leads to imbalance that manifests in poor digestion, gastritis and colitis, metabolic disorders, deficiency or overabundance of certain nutrients.
Meat should be boiled or well frozen (two weeks at the temperature of -13 °F). Also you can feed your cat with poultry, veal and beef, goat, lamb and rabbit. The meat you choose should be low-fat, it’s better to choose trimmings or sinewy pieces. Undercuts is not the best choice (muscular meat contains too much protein, so the load on the kidneys is too high). Eating raw meat leads to helminthic infestation and some infectious diseases. Minced meat is hardly digestible and pampers cat’s stomach. Pieces should be of the size that would make the cat chew it. Thus gums and teeth will be provided with the necessary load.
You can feed the cat with by-products (stomachs, kidneys, hearts, livers and other offal). They should be low-fat, it would be better if they were cooked. Liver should be given to cats not too frequently and with caution.
Dairy products are also good for cats, for example cheese, low-fat fermented milk, kefir or sour milk. They improve digestion, but eating them too frequently may lead to opposite effects like gastritis, diarrhea and other digestion disorder. You can treat your pet to non-sweetened yogurt or kefir several times a week, adding that to the morning serving, preferably dressing the vegetables.
As far as fish is concerned you should feed your cat with sea or ocean fish only. The pieces should be free from skin and bones and carefully boiled. Veterinarians suggest feeding the cat with fish no more than two times per week. If the owner chooses the feed for a spayed or neutered cat, it is recommended to exclude fish from the cat’s menu completely.
You can give your cat boiled quail or chicken eggs several times a week. It is desirable to dress cut eggs with vegetable oil or to them mix with grated vegetables.
Cereals (buckwheat, rice, and sometimes oats) also can be used for cat feeding. Porridges should be cooked with water or meat broth. You can pour hot water into a bowl with grains and leave it overnight without cooking; that would make a nice breakfast for your cat. Choose usual (not steamed) cereals.
Vegetables (carrots, cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, sometimes cauliflower) are highly preferable to be added to your cat’s diet. You can give them to your cat raw or stewed, dressed with corn, olive or linseed oil (not more than 1/3 of a teaspoon, not more).
Food for cat should be neither hot nor cold, but of room temperature (the temperature about 95 °F is also possible). Water should be filtered and clean, freely available round-the-clock.
It is forbidden to feed the cat with: cabbage, grease and salty food, smoked meat and pickles. Beans, pasta and bakery lead to fermentation in the bowels, flatulence and gastritis. Confectionery, sweet fruit and steamed grains spoil teeth and increase blood sugar levels. If the cat is healthy, bad feeding becomes apparent only in old age. Typically, healthy cats may eat everything up to 7-9 years, but after this age all the mistakes of the owner lead to: urolithiasis, renal failure, gastritis, problems with liver and pancreas, cardiovascular system disorder and diabetes. Cats that eat healthy remain active up to the age of 10 years or even longer.
What to feed breeding cats with?
Female breeding cats should be prepared for mating and motherhood from their birth. Meals should be perfectly balanced throughout the whole life. Three months prior to mating the diet is recommended to be enriched with vitamins and minerals (for a month, and only in case the cat is fed with dry/canned feed). To choose a proper diet for a pregnant cat you should consult the vet, who examines the cat. If there are no other indications you should:
- during the first two weeks of pregnancy increase the general amount of food by about 10%, and reduce the portions so that the feeding could be split in 4-5 servings per day;
- during the third week increase the general amount of food by 20-40% depending on the degree of cat’s activity and on how large the litter is;
- during the seventh week reduce the general amount of food and the number of feedings to 3 per day. The servings should be smaller and consist of easily digestible food.
A few days before the labor the pet usually loses appetite. This is the norm, so do not force the cat to eat.
No new products should appear in the diet of a pregnant cat. You shouldn’t overfeed the pet with meat during the last week of pregnancy. Avoid giving vitamin and mineral supplements during pregnancy if the vet hasn’t recommend the opposite: sometimes excessive intake of such supplements is several times more dangerous than a lack of them. How to feed a cat after the labor is the question that should be answered by your vet. It is very individual and depends on the number of kittens born, on the general state of the pet and characteristics of the organism. Typically vets recommend giving the cat easily digested food in small servings. To stimulate lactation the food is given in a semi-liquid form, yogurt and cottage cheese are added to the diet and sometimes special additives for nursing pets are used.
Feeding spayed and neutered cats
If there are no complications after this procedure and the cat is healthy with no signs of kidney stones, obesity and other problems, the diet can remain the same. It is enough just to eliminate or to minimize the feeding portion by 10-20% and to avoid feeding with fish.
Feeding sick and recovering cats
If the pet gets sick, you need consult the vet about how to feed the sick cat properly. Depending on the diagnosis, the veterinarian will recommend an optimal diet. Sometimes you need to increase the protein content, in other cases, you should reduce the amount of protein intake to a minimum. As a rule, sick cats should eat products that are quickly digested and don’t load the digestion system. A good choice is porridge of crushed cereals, meat and vegetable purees, as well as soups.
When you need to change the type of feeding or the diet in general?
The diet is corrected once in a while as the cats grow older. Kittens eat frequently and in small servings, they need more protein and minerals, as the organism grows. Young animals need fewer nutrients than little kittens, but sufficient to provide the active pet with necessary components. At the age of about seven years the cat becomes calmer and less mobile, so the servings should be reduced, and the amount of protein should be cut a bit. Senior cats move little; their organisms become more susceptible to negative factors. During this period, it is advisable not to make significant changes in feeding and to facilitate the digestive process: to give food in smaller pieces, warm it up, to use crushed cereal porridges instead of whole grain ones.
It is unreasonable to change the diet simply because “my poor cat eats the same food all the time”. If your cat is healthy, its coat is shiny and nice, eyes and nose are clean, stools have usual form, all you need is to pass urine and blood test once in a year. Based on test results it will be clear whether all the organs and body systems are working properly, if there is enough nutrients, no excess. If tests are unsatisfactory, the vet will recommend changing the diet. That will be the right approach, not just trial-and-error method. If the tests are ok you may leave the diet unchanged, nevertheless the cat should be regularly examined by the vet.