Cat Food & Diet
Choosing the right diet for your cat Guide: Learn how choosing the right diet and foods can affect your cat's health.
Nutritional Needs of a Cat
Cats are considered obligate carnivores, which mean that in the wild they live almost exclusively on meat. For example, the “perfect” natural cat diet – the mouse – is about 50% fat, 40% protein and 3% carbohydrates. This has caused cats to have some dietary idiosyncrasies as a result of being obligate carnivores. For example, their sense of taste is much less developed than that of people or dogs. They have fewer taste buds; those they do have can detect salt, sour and bitter tastes, but not sweetness. Cats don’t have as much digestive enzyme activity as dogs do. Increasing the carbohydrate component of a cat’s diet does not stimulate increased dietary enzyme production, secretion or activity, as it does in dogs. In addition, to remain healthy cats must have specific amino and fatty acids in their diets that can only be found in meat. Needless to say, without proper nutrition, a cat will not grow or reproduce normally, maintain good health or develop a strong immune system that is capable of fighting infection.
A well-balanced, tasty diet is critical to any cat’s overall health and well-being. Cat owners today have two fundamental choices to make about feeding their pets: they can either make a homemade diet, or they can feed a commercial cat food. The vast majority of cat owners in North America feed a commercially prepared diet. There are 3 main types of commercial pet food: dry, canned and semi-moist. Each of these types can be found
From time to time, for health or some other reason, a cat’s diet may need to be changed. For example, the pet may develop hairball problems and require a hairball formula diet. Or, it may need a special diet for kidney problems, weight management or food allergies. Unfortunately, because cats tend to be picky eaters, it can be quite challenging to transition them from one diet to another. Many cats will simply refuse to eat
Kittens and young cats are particularly susceptible to nutritional imbalances and feeding errors. Newborns survive entirely on their mother’s milk for the first 3 or 4 weeks of their lives, assuming that their mother is healthy and producing enough milk to satisfy her litter. Kittens will also start drinking water during this time. Dietary composition and habits established after weaning are largely responsible for a cat’s continuing health. Dogs and cats have very different nutritional
A cat’s diet typically will need to be changed at least twice during its lifetime. Kittens should be transitioned from a specifically-formulated growth diet to an adult maintenance diet somewhere between 6 and 12 months of age, to accommodate their changing nutritional requirements. Geriatric cats also have unique nutritional needs and should be fed a senior diet once they become “old.” When to make the transition to senior food is more art than science. The