Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they require a diet that is high in protein and low in carbohydrates to support their health and growth. It is important for owners to become familiar with the basics of feline nutrition in order to provide a balanced and nutritious diet for their cats.
In this article, we will discuss:
- The best foods for cats
- Foods cats should avoid
- The dangers of feeding cats human foods
- How much to feed cats
- The importance of fresh water
- Transitioning cats to a new diet
- Supplements and treats for cats.
The Basics of Feline Nutrition
Feline nutrition is an important component of maintaining the overall health and well-being of cats. Cats, like all animals, require a balanced diet of proteins, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins, and minerals in order to remain healthy and active. According to research conducted at the University of Illinois, cats need 41 different essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, and amino acids.
The diet should be tailored to the individual cat’s age, breed, size, and activity level. Fresh, high-quality protein sources, such as meat, poultry, fish, or eggs, should make up the majority of the diet.
Carbohydrates are also important for cats, but they should come from high-fiber sources, such as grains or vegetables. Cats should also have access to a source of vitamin A, such as liver, and taurine, an essential amino acid found in animal protein.
Fats, while important for energy and skin health, should come from sources that are low in saturated fats, such as fish or poultry oils.
The Best Foods for Cats
The best foods for cats are those that provide essential vitamins and minerals, as well as necessary proteins and fats. Oftentimes, this means opting for a commercial cat food that has been formulated specifically for cats.
Dr. Jennifer Coates, a veterinary advisor with petMD, states “Commercial cat foods are formulated to be complete and balanced, meaning they contain all of the nutrients that cats need in the appropriate quantities”
In addition, cats can benefit from consuming a variety of other foods, such as:
- Lean meats such as chicken, beef, and, sardine fish
- Vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, and spinach
- Fruits such as melon, apples, and bananas
Foods Cats Should Avoid
Cats should refrain from consuming certain foods that may be detrimental to their health. According to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, “Ingesting as little as 5 g/kg of onions in cats can result in clinically important hematologic changes”. These foods can include chocolate, garlic, onion, grapes, raisins, raw eggs, macadamia nuts, and dairy products, as these can often lead to digestive issues, or in the case of chocolate, be toxic.
Additionally, it is important to avoid feeding cats any kind of processed food, as these can often contain high levels of fat, salt, and sugar, and may also contain dangerous preservatives.
Furthermore, it is important to avoid feeding cats any kind of human junk food, such as chips, candy, tater tots or soda, as these can also be dangerous for cats.
The Dangers of Feeding Cats Human Foods
Feeding cats human foods can be dangerous as they may contain high levels of fat, salt, and sugar, as well as harmful preservatives. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) reports that human foods contribute to nearly a quarter of all calls to their Animal Poison Control Center.” It is important to note that cats cannot digest some human foods, and some can even be toxic to cats.
Common human foods that cats should avoid include:
- Dairy products, which contain lactose that cats cannot digest
- Onions, garlic, and chives, which can damage cats’ red blood cells
- Grapes and raisins, which can cause kidney failure in cats
- Chocolate, which can be toxic to cats
- Raw or undercooked meat, which can contain bacteria that can be harmful to cats.
There are several other foods which do not suitable as a main meal, but no harm if it as an occasional treat for your cat. I have put a list of them below.
How Much to Feed Cats
Proper nutrition is essential for felines and an appropriate amount of food should be determined to ensure their health and well-being.
Domestic cats should be fed the same food daily to maintain healthy body weight and condition.
The amount of food should be tailored to the individual cat’s needs, taking into account its age, weight, activity level, and health status.
Too much food can lead to obesity, which can cause a range of health problems, while too little can lead to malnutrition.
It is recommended to feed cats twice daily, using a measured portion and providing fresh water.
The Importance of Fresh Water
Providing fresh, clean water is an important part of a cat’s daily diet and should not be overlooked. Being mindful of the water intake of cats is especially important for their overall health and wellbeing.
The benefits of having access to fresh water include:
- Cats get essential minerals from drinking water
- Helps cats digest food better
- Prevents dehydration
- Aids in the absorption of nutrients from food
How to Transition Cats to a New Diet?
When transitioning a cat to a new diet, it is important to ensure a gradual transition in order to prevent digestive upset. For best results, the transition should take place over the course of a few weeks.
Start by replacing a small amount of their current food with the new food. Gradually increase the amount of the new food while simultaneously decreasing the amount of the current food, eventually eliminating the current food from the diet.
It may be beneficial to add a few drops of water or broth to the new food to increase palatability and encourage cats to try the new food. It is important to consult with a veterinarian when transitioning cats to a new diet to ensure the cat is receiving the proper nutrients and to address any potential health concerns.
Supplements & Treats for Cats
Cats may benefit from supplementation and treats, depending on their individual needs and lifestyle. Veterinary-approved supplements can assist in maintaining a healthy nutritional balance for cats, while treats can provide additional sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. However, treats should be used as part of an overall healthy diet, and should not replace meals.
Treats should be fed in moderation and should be appropriate for a cat’s age and health condition. Treats should also be nutritionally balanced and free from artificial preservatives. If unsure, a vet should be consulted to ensure the treat is suitable for the cat.
Cats are carnivores and require a diet that provides adequate amounts of protein, fat, vitamins, minerals, and water. However, not all foods are suitable for cats, and it is important to be aware of which foods are safe for cats and which are not.
Feeding cats the right amount of quality nutrition is essential for their health and well-being. Transitioning cats to a new diet should be done slowly and with care. Supplements and treats can be used to provide extra nutrition and flavor to their diet.
With the right diet and proper nutrition, cats can live a healthy and happy life.