A healthy diet for your cat
What should I feed my cat? How can I give my cat a good diet?
We all want to our best for our cats and kittens, learning a little bit about your cat’s dietary needs will help you keep your loved one healthy and happy. Read our simple guide about how to give your cat a healthy diet. Cats need a good diet to maintain a healthy body, coat and good dental health. A good diet will help your cat live longer and avoid unnecessary health problems.
Cats need meat for a good diet
Cats are carnivorous, this means they eat meat and have little need for carbohydrates (cereals and vegetables). Hunting cats will eat a variety of prey – mice, voles, birds, rabbits etc. Cats eat the muscles, organs, skin and bones of prey; this is a diet high in protein and fat. Cats need three times more protein than dogs. Cats must not be fed a vegetarian diet.
Cats and cereals
Cats have little need for cereals and vegetables (about 2-3% in a natural diet).
Many dry cat foods contain up to 35-50% starches. Your cat does not have the metabolic adaptation to digest all this carbohydrate and so it is turned into fat. Feeding a lot of dry food may mean your cat is more likely to get overweight. Buy a high quality dried cat food as this will contain less starchy ingredients.
Cats with a history of urinary tract infection may be best fed with wet foods, although some premium dry foods containing cranberry are good.
Cats with diabetes should avoid dry foods that have a high carbohydrate (starchy) content; starches are converted into sugars as part of digestion.
Always get specialist advice if your cat has diabetes.
What should I feed my cat?
Prepared wet cat foods are a reliable way to give your cat a balanced diet, but can cause tooth decay if they contain sugars.
Commercial canned cat food and sachets are higher in protein than dry foods and therefore can be a convenient option; although quality varies a lot between brands.
Varieties with gravy will contain more starchy stuff (and probably more salt and sugar) than the jelly type (jelly is made from the bones and ligaments of animals). Jelly varieties are generally better for your cat’s teeth and dental health.
Canned foods usually contain around 8-10% carbohydrate and so this is nearer to a natural diet; canned foods do though contain a lot of water and so your cat will need to drink less water than on a dried food diet.
Cats eat a variety of prey in the wild, so your cat can quickly get bored with the same flavours of cat food.
Add variety to your cat’s diet with some:
- Cooked meat (beef, lamb, pork, rabbit, turkey, chicken), be careful to remove all the bones though and cut the meat into small chunks or use minced meat. Cats do not chew!
- Canned sardines, herring or mackerel make a good, nutritious treat.
- Lightly scrambled egg is good as a light meal (never give cats raw egg white).
Don’t feed your cat
- Too much liver – this can upset the bowels.
- Too much fish – can lead to vitamin B1 deficiency.
- Too much lean meat – cats need fat too.
- Raw egg white –it contains avidin which can affect vitamin B absorption.
- Dog food- it is too low in protein and too high in carbohydrates.
- Anything salty.
Dry cat food and your cat’s diet
There are some good quality complete dry cats foods on the market which do not contain high levels of carbohydrate; look for products which are grain-free.
High-quality dry foods will be easier to digest than brands containing more starchy material. Dry foods containing a lot of starch can cause bowel problems as cats are not designed to eat grains.
Cranberry extract often added to dry food is good for your cat’s urinary tract health.
Dry food may be less likely to cause tooth decay.
An obese or overwieght cat
An overweight cat has a shorter life expectancy and is more likely to get diabetes. Feeding your cat two large meals a day can encourage obesity so if you can put out small amounts throughout the day.
Cats usually prefer a number of smaller meals, rather than one or two large meals. Research shows that cats prefer many (up to 20) very small meals a day.
Wet foods may better than dried food for heavy cats as they contain a lot of water, although there are specialist dry foods for older and overweight cats.
Lazy cats will need less food than active cats.
Ask your vet for advice; weighing dried food will help with portion size.
Safe human foods for snacks and treats for your cat – all part of a good diet for your cat
Occasional treats are fine:
- Hard cheese (in small amounts)
- Cooked scrambled egg
- Poached fish (bones removed)
- Canned tuna (not in brine –salted water)
- Cooked broccoli, pumpkin and carrot
Human foods toxic or likely to cause stomach upset in cats
- Citrus fruits
- Apple seeds
- Apricot, cherry, peach
- Cooked bones
- Coffee, tea, alcohol
- Grapes, raisins
Foods to avoid:
Milk can cause tummy upsets as cats are often lactose intolerant, so maybe best avoided. There are special cat milks available which are lactose-free.
Don’t feed too much tuna (excessive amounts of this can lead to ‘yellow fat’ disease).
Food allergies in cats
Some cats may develop an allergy to something in the content of their food.
- Itchy skin is a common symptom of food allergy or intolerance.
- A diet free from wheat and added carbohydrates may benefit your cat.
Check the labels on cat food carefully.
If you have any concerns about your cat contact your vet for advice.
Chaos had itchy skin and was constantly scratching, she was also underweight. A grain-free diet has improved her skin and coat and she is now a healthy weight.
Of course, your cat may be guilty of visiting other homes for an extra meal!
- Cats like small mouse-sized meals several times a day.
- If you have more than one cat each cat should have its own bowl.
- Cats like variety so don’t always feed the same foods.
- Always leave fresh water out and if you have more than one cat leave several bowls in different locations.
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