Your cat’s health and longevity strongly depend on proper nutrition. Of course, it cannot fully protect a pet from illnesses, but it reduces risks. This article contains helpful tips on your cat’s diet.
Kitten Food vs Adult Food
What is the difference between kitten food and adult food? And is it possible to feed kittens with food for adult cats? The food for kittens differs from the food for adult animals in the following way:
- Energy value. A small kitten needs more energy than an adult cat. Babies are more active and constantly growing. If the kitten eats the food of an adult cat, it will not receive the necessary amount of energy.
- Granule size. It is difficult for a baby to cope with the large granules that are typical for adult cat food. They are harder to bite and are difficult to fit into the mouth.
A kitten can begin eating adult cat food starting from the age of 8-12 months. You need to transfer it to a new diet gradually - for example, over one to two weeks. This will reduce the load on the digestive system and the stress from changing the food.
How Often Should I Feed the Kitten?
Feeding routine is important to maintain a healthy digestive system and prevent obesity. Pets, unlike their wild relatives, cannot eat “in advance” without negative consequences. Therefore, you cannot give a cat a lot of food at once and forget about feeding it for a day or two. Feeding frequency depends on the pet’s age: the younger it is, the more often it needs to eat.
- 2-6 months. This age is a growth peak. A kitten needs a lot of energy, but its stomach can only absorb small portions at once. At this age, you should give food 6 times a day, at regular intervals.
- 6-8 months. Time to reduce feeding to 3 times a day and increase portions. However, it’s too early to give adult food. The kitten needs its own food, designed for this age.
- 8 months and older. The frequency of feeding is 2-3 times a day. Gradually begin to switch to adult food, adding it little by little over 2 to 3 weeks.
Your Cat’s Nutritional Needs
The nutritional needs of your cat change all the time depending on its age and lifestyle.
Mother's milk is the main element in the nutrition of newborn babies. But already in the 3rd week after birth, the kitten should be fed with goat milk or 2/5 diluted with water and slightly sweetened cow milk. As the pet grows older, the milk is diluted less.
At the age of 6 months, when the kitten gains 75-80% of its final weight, you can transfer it to adult food and limit the amount of undiluted milk as much as possible.
Vets recommend simple procedures to help you keep your cat healthy:
- Weigh your cat.
- Start feeding it according to recommendations on the packaging and the advice of your vet.
- For the first 6 months, assess the physical condition of the animal every 2 or 3 weeks by using the online BMI scale.
- Based on the results, adjust the amount of food.
Dry Food vs. Canned Food
The main difference between dry and canned food is the production technology. All other differences relate only to ingredients. Let's try to understand the pros and cons of dry and wet foods.
- Being appealing to cats. Cats like canned foods more than dry ones. The reason is clear - a product containing natural moisture smells stronger, and animals instinctively perceive wet foods as more “physiological”.
- Convenience for the owner. Dry food is more convenient. It’s easier to dose, store, and take along on the road. Canned food does not contain preservatives, so the contents of an open jar deteriorate very quickly and must be stored in the fridge. Another important point - dry foods are cheaper than wet ones if we are talking about products of similar quality. This is because dry food is a concentrated product without water.
- Balance of ingredients. Dry foods contain all the substances necessary for animals in the right ratio. Canned foods, on the contrary, can be both full-nutrition products and supplements. Therefore, when choosing canned food, search the label for a sign that it’s a full-nutrition product.
- Quality of ingredients. Many people believe that canned foods are more “natural” than dry ones, but this is a subjective opinion. The contents of a jar seem to be visually more attractive and “edible” than dry granules. However, if you look at the ingredients, you will understand that canned food has the same ingredients as dry food, so there’s no fundamental difference between them.
Raw Diet: Pros and Cons
The idea behind the raw diet is that the food should undergo minimal processing, being closer to natural food. All cats are predators, so meat must be the basis of their diet.
With a raw diet, you should buy regular raw meat at the store, such as chicken, beef, lamb, and fish.
Pros of a raw diet:
- You prepare food for the cat yourself and know the exact ingredients.
- Meat contains a lot of moisture, so the cat receives enough water.
- Eating raw meat is best suited to the cat’s physiology.
Cons of a raw diet:
- The tedious process of counting calories, micro- and macronutrients.
- High costs, because you should buy only high-quality meat from trusted providers.
- Irregular bowel movement.
- An improperly balanced raw diet causes health problems, for example, digestive hyperparathyroidism.
Upset Stomach Diet
All cats may suffer from an upset stomach at some point in their lives, but a suitable diet can help cope with sensitive digestion problems.
- Proteins. Easily digestible proteins can help soften the symptoms, as they cause less stress to the digestive system during the breakdown of nutrients.
- Fat. Excessive amounts of fat can be difficult to digest. The vet will consult you on the right amount of fat that your cat needs, so the animal can get nutrients and avoid digestive system overloading.
- Carbohydrates. Cats do not need carbohydrates as humans do, but it’s a good source of glucose that can provide energy. Cats with an upset stomach can enjoy easily digestible carbohydrates such as rice.
- Fiber. The health of a cat’s stomach depends on whether the food contains the right amount of fiber. A fiber-rich diet prevents the formation of hair lumps and regulates the microorganisms of the cat's digestive system.
Problems Because of the Wrong Diet
All members of the feline family are predators in nature and a vegetarian diet is harmful to them. The cat's body cannot produce protein, so it must receive special amino acids with food for the health of muscles, skin, and coat. Moreover, proteins in amino acids are the main source of energy.
A human needs 30 hours to 5 days to digest their food whereas cats need 12 hours to 24 hours. Therefore, they need an easily digestible menu. Food from your table is not suitable for cats, because it may contain sauces, oils, and spices.
Do not feed your cat with raw pork because it contains tapeworm larvae that cause cysticercosis. Besides, be careful with cow milk and dairy products. Many cats, like humans, lose their ability to digest milk with age. As an animal grows, its body produces less and less lactose. This leads to lactose intolerance and unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhea. Thus, vets do not recommend giving cats cow milk.
Green Treats for Cats
Some types of grass that you can grow at home are nutritious for cats and can be used as treats.
- Catnip is an excellent treat during training or when accustoming a pet to a scratching post or bed. It can also be a good motivator for physical activity and even help the cat relax.
- Valerian reduces cramps in the digestive system and is good for cats with an upset stomach. However, the reaction of cats to valerian can be different - from complete indifference to overexcitement, aggression, and even sexual activity.
- Parsley, wheat, oats, and barley are also useful for pets. Germinated oats are considered the most favorite grass of cats.
Follow these basic rules for a healthy cat's diet:
- Decide upon the type of diet (raw diet or dry/canned feeds).
- Give food and observe feeding intervals according to your cat's age.
- Check your cat's weight regularly.
- Do not feed your cat with food from your table and raw pork. Be careful with dairy products.
May your four-pawed friend stay healthy and happy