Our pets make up a very important part of our life, especially our little moggies. Because it is so important for us to take care of them, the question may have passed you mind before of whether or not the food you have been giving to your cat has been the right one. In order to satisfy this question, we here at Pet Food Plus More have written this article to help you understand the nutritional needs of cats and how best to feed them.
One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a cat food is what the age of your cat is. The nutritional needs for a cat changes a lot with age, with kittens needing different food from an adult cat, and seniors often also benefiting from more specific foods. The next few paragraphs will explain all of these differences.
Firstly, we'll start by discussing kittens. Kittens, needless to say, have a lot of growing to do! This means that they will need a lot of nutrients that will support their growth and make sure they develop properly on their journey to adulthood. For the first four weeks of their life they will need to feed from their mother, and her milk will naturally provide everything they need (note that if your kitten gets separated from it's mother for whatever reason, it is possible to feed a kitten on formula milk, such as Beaphar Kitty Milk) After this, the kittens will start to feed on solid foods as well as still suckling from their mother, and will eventually fully transition to solid foods after roughly 8 weeks. Be aware that cat foods designed for adults won't be nutritionally balanced for a kitten and if they are only fed on this it may give them problems. Kittens need roughly an extra 1/3rd of the energy intake that an adult cat needs, and on top of that also needs additional proteins and fats so that they can build their bodies and keep their hair and skin nice and healthy. Thankfully, most kitten foods are made to be 'complete', meaning that they have already formulated the food to have the perfect balance of what they need! You will need to supply at least some of this complete food dry, and if you wish to also feed your kitten wet cat food, there are also wet kitten foods available on the market. These wet foods will also be nutritionally complete, so simply supply the wet food and keep the amount of dry food they consume monitored. It is also important to make sure that your kitten has food available at all time, as they need to eat little and often due to their small stomachs! An example of some good kitten food available on the market is Burgess Kitten Complete, which will supply your kitten with their nutritional needs and are great value for money!
Next, we will address the nutritional needs of your adult cat. Cats of course are carnivorous, meaning that they are meat-eating animals, which also means that they must be fed a diet with a high meat content. Animals that are herbivorous (meaning that they only eat vegetables) have the ability to turn plant material into vital proteins that they need to live, but cats do not have this ability. This means that cats must get these proteins from eating other animals. The most important of these is a substance known as Taurine, which is a crucial building block for some of the body's most important organs, such as the brain and heart. This means that, no matter what you feed you decide to feed your cat, you should always be make sure that they are getting a sufficient amount of meat in their diet, and you should be suspicious of any 'vegan cat diets' you may come across. Now, in regards to the other nutritional needs of a cat, they will also need similar substances as ourselves in terms of needing carbohydrates for energy, fat for their hair and skins, fibre for digestion aid, and vitamins and minerals to keep their body working at peak efficiency. The difference is that cats need these substances in different ratios to us.
All reputable cat food manufacturers already know what cats need and in which quantities, so most cat food on the market has already been formulated to meet all of a cat's requirements, simply check on the packaging to see if the food is a complete food. It is very unlikely that any dry cat food you encounter will not be complete, as unlike dog foods there are not 'mixers' that would expect you to mix meat in with their food. Rather, dry cat food will pretty much always be more-or-less sufficient for your cat. Any wet cat food or additional meats that you supply to a cat can also be a lovely treat for them, but are often supplementary. If you know that your cat is being fed a food with lower protein content, a little bit of chicken or other meats every once in a while can help to boost the amount that they are receiving, and if you're worried that your cat isn't drinking enough water, wet cat food can help to provide them with extra hydration. Just be sure that if you do give them any extra food that you reduce the amount of dry food you are giving them so that they do not end up eating too much, or else they may end up obese, which can cause a lot of health problems and may end up with a trip to the vets. On this note, it is also worth bearing in mind how you feed your cats. There is some debate as to whether you should be feeding cats proportionally on a daily schedule or whether it is fine to let them feed freely and to simply fill their bowls back up when it gets empty. Such debates are worth an article in and of themselves, but to simplify it, we here at Pet Food Plus More think that it is fine to let your cat to eat freely as long as you monitor their weight, and if they start to look a bit on the chunky side then you can always start feeding proportionally (or using a weight management diet, as described further below). If you choose to feed proportionally, it is often recommended to feed a cat a full standard cat bowl two times a day with equal spacing between meals. If you're stuck for choice on how to feed your cat, we recommend you try them on Carnilove Duck & Pheasant - it's very high on meat content and we find that cats go crazy for it!
As a cat begins to age, their nutritional requirements and the needs they require from their food will begin to change. Most cats are considered senior at the age of 7 years old, though there is some variation depending on what breed the cat belongs to. As a cat begins to reach old age the amount of protein it needs decreases as it slows down with producing or repairing it's body. However, it does need help keeping it's body protected from the possibility of chronic diseases - particularly arthritis. Such protection will normally come in the form of the need of supplements rather than food. The most important thing to be mindful of in senior cats is their weight. As cats begin to get older they start to become less active, which means that if their food intake is not decreased they will start to get obese. Obesity can cause a lot of medical problems in cats, and this can make their life uncomfortable, and could end up costing you a fortune at the vets to treat their health problems. It could also become a spiraling problem, as obese cats are more likely to damage their joints, which in turn further decreases their activity, which then leads to them becoming even more obese. This makes it very important to keep an eye on your cats weight. If they put on more weight, you should consider either feeding them less or choosing a light-weight diet consisting of cat food such as Royal Canin Light Weight. Such light-weight cat foods not only decreases the amount of calories your cat will consume, but also makes them feel full up with a small amount of food, meaning that they will be less likely to feel hungry and to beg you for more. Additionally, it is also worth noting that the opposite to this problem could also occur - as some cats get older their sense of smell and taste will start to decrease, and this can leave them un-enthused about their current diet. This will lead to them eating less, which can lead to them losing weight, which is also equally dangerous for their health. This can be combatted by specially-made cat food that is designed to be more appealing to cats with even poor senses of smell and taste. An example of such foods includes Royal Canin Aroma Exigent and Royal Canin Savour Exigent respectively.
Aside from age, there are a few other factors that may influence what your cat's nutritional needs are. First to consider is the needs of a pregnant cat. As you can likely imagine, a pregnant cat will have different nutritional needs to it's usual needs. In fact, the extra nutritional needs of a pregnant cat are similar to the needs of kittens, which maybe isn't all that surprising! This means that pregnant cats will need more energy, more protein, and more calcium, and these extra requirements will last all the way until the mother stops lactating, typically 8 weeks or so after giving birth. Especially in the later stages of pregnancy, cats can struggle to eat large amounts at once, which means that those who feed their cat twice a day proportionally must switch to letting the cat feed as it wishes to. Because of the similarity in requirements for kittens and mothers, it is often a good idea to switch a pregnant cat to kitten food, and then you can feed it to her kittens too as they start to reach the age where they can eat solid foods. This means that cat foods such as Royal Canin Mother & Babycat would be the most suitable for a pregnant cat.
The final consideration into how you feed your cat will stem from whether they have any health conditions that may require you to alter the food you are giving them. Usually you will become aware of such a requirement from your vet's advice, and they will usually advise you on what you may need, but some of these foods can also be preventative, or may solve non-medical issues that your cat has been having trouble with. For example, if your cat is suffering from kidney problems, your vet may recommend a cat food that is opti-renal. Some cats, especially cats that are only fed dry cat food, can also benefit from opti-renal cat food as a preventative measure to keep their kidneys healthy and can help prevent them from developing an issue in the first place. A great choice for opti-renal cat food would be Purina Pro Plan. As another example, if you have a cat that suffers from frequent hair balls (which is much more common in cats with long hair) then it may be preferable for you to look into foods that have been specially developed to reduce shedding, and therefor reduce the number of hairballs. An example of such a food is Hills Hairball Control.
That now concludes this article on cat nutrition. We hope that you have found it informative and now feel more confident that you know how best to supply your cat with a nutritious food routine. You can see our full offerings for dry cat food by clicking here, and our full offerings for wet cat food by clicking here. If you still have any questions at all, be sure to contact us by clicking here.
See you in-store again sometime soon!
Henry Jackson, Head of IT at Pet Food Plus More.