‘You are what you eat’ certainly rings true when it comes to feeding your cat. A good quality diet makes an enormous difference to maintaining a healthy pet, so what are you looking for? Well here are a few important aspects to consider:
complete, balanced diet
appropriate life stage
Other things to bear in mind include:
any diet changes should be made gradually
food should be at body temperature when fed
feed to maintain a stable, healthy body weight (this will vary in each animal! Don’t just go based on packet guidelines)
cats may either ‘graze’ through the day on food or have set meals
A good high quality diet optimises bone growth, development and maintenance, and also maintains a healthy skin and coat. The general rule is: the more expensive the diet the better quality it will be. Cheaper diets will contain ingredients of a poorer quality and lower digestibility, which means only a small amount is nutritionally available for absorption and the rest becomes waste. This means your pet will defecate more – which means more stools to clear up – and you will need to feed a high quantity of the food to meet the nutritional requirements, so you’ll need to buy more food. Higher quality diets contains ‘human’ grade ingredients, meaning they would be good enough for us to eat; they are highly digestible so less faeces are produced and a lower quantity of food will need to be fed.
Many good brands do life stage diets now which are specifically designed for the requirements of your cat at different ages. Some of the better quality food brands out there include ROYAL CANIN, PURINA, HILLS, JAMES WELLBELOVED, IAMS and EUKANUBA. It is important both to feed dogs dog food and cats cat food (cats are NOT small dogs and have very different nutritional needs!) and to feed them the appropriate life stage.
Fixed formula means the bag of food you buy will contain exactly the same ingredients in exactly the same quantities every time you buy it. Lower quality foods are unlikely to be of a fixed formula so the bag of food you buy will be of a different make-up each time you buy it. This means the food you feed will vary – which can make weight maintenance more difficult and also increase the risk of food allergies (such as skin disease or a sensitive stomach) because your pet will be coming into contact with an increased number of other cereal and protein sources.
A complete balanced diet means i) it will contain the required levels of protein, carbohydrate, fat, vitamins and minerals that your pet needs to stay healthy ii) there is no need to add supplements such as treats or wet food! The diet should be in biscuit form to prevent selective feeding – in ‘colourful’ diets the pet is able to choose the more tasty bits which can lead to dietary imbalances. AVOID homemade diets – commercial diets have undergone rigorous testing to ensure they are balanced, whereas homemade diets carry a much greater risk of causing imbalances.
Dry and wet foods have different advantages, some of which are listed below and are worth considering. At the end of the day you need to try and select a diet which you get on well with and your pet enjoys – and most importantly, is good quality, balanced and meets their needs.
Stays fresh for long period of time
Easy to measure out the daily requirement – try to weigh it rather than using a cup, as this is more accurate
Overall better for the teeth
70% water – large quantities of food needed to achieve nutritional requirement, which can be an advantage for weight loss but a disadvantage to you as you will need to buy a larger volume
More difficult to keep fresh
Could smell more or attract flies, especially in the summer
Adds to build up of tartar on teeth
Pets do not require edible treats every day – these do not constitute a balanced diet. Do not substitute part of your cat's diet for treats as this can and will lead to dietary imbalances and obesity – giving your pet treats every day is like giving a child a chocolate bar or hamburger every day, which is just not good for them! To most cats a game, toy, grooming session, or cuddle is just as much a treat or reward as getting something tasty. Food treats should be saved for especially good behaviour, and used reservedly as training aids. As humans it is up to us to feed our pets correctly; quite often it is more our enjoyment of giving treats to our pets that makes us feel the pet will be upset if we do not give it to them, than it is the pet actually desiring the treat.
Will my cat get bored eating the same diet every day?
Eating is not a sociable thing for our pets; they eat to survive! They won’t tend to become bored with a diet if they are unaware of others! Giving them lots of variety can also lead to problems – if you give your cat choice e.g. feeding from your own plate, adding different flavours, or changing the food you are feeding a lot then your pet will become choosey, picky, and very difficult to manage. They will come to learn that if they don’t eat their food they might get some of yours, and then you have a very difficult situation to rectify. A lot of variation can also cause diarrhoea and tummy upsets.
Home Made Diets
Some owners choose to make their own food for their cat – AVOID THIS! It can never be nutritionally balanced. You would need to spend huge amounts of time researching into specific needs nutritionally for your pet, which will obviously change as it gets older. You would also need to know in depth the nutritional content of different food items that you will need to use to prepare the food. For example: meat is a poor source of calcium so should not be fed solely, feeding raw fish especially oily fish can lead to vitamin deficiencies. Eggs should always be cooked, and all other dairy products are a good source of calcium, protein & fat but many animals are lactose intolerant. Cats are obligate carnivores, so ideally should be fed meat only, not cereals and vegetables too as their digestive tracts are not designed to digest these properly. You would also need to add vitamin and mineral supplements...so preparing homemade food will take up large amounts of time, cost you more money than buying a readily prepared food, and won’t be as healthy for your pet. There is so much research that goes into producing high quality balanced diets for cats these days, why waste time & money preparing your own?