Is My Cat Eating Correctly? (Part One)

Is My Cat Eating Correctly? (Part One)

By David Brooks

1) How many times a day do you feed your cat?

Since cats cannot be exercised like dogs can, the only way you can influence your cats weight is by controlling the amount and type of food he or she eats. If the cat is being fed individual meals several times daily, there is often a tendency by the owner to offer the daily supply of food on several occasions rather than divide up the daily feed into several meals. This can also occur with cats fed dry food ad lib. Cats usually regulate their food intake, but continual exposure to large quantities of food may lead to over-eating and subsequent obesity if too many calories are consumed.

In short, both several individual meals a day and ad lib feeding are fine, it is the total amount offered per 24 hour period which is the important figure.

Kittens should be fed small meals at regular intervals due to their tiny stomachs. Four or five meals are recommended at eight weeks of age, decreasing to two at six months of age.

2) Is your cats diet manufactured specifically for cats or do you give human food?

Some cat owners like to ‘spoil’ their cat by feeding them human food as the bulk of their diet. Others have tried feeding their cat regular catfood, but find their ‘fussy’ cat won’t touch it, and prefers to wait for the inevitable human food offering, which soon becomes the staple diet.

Is it really unhealthy to feed cats human food though? Of course it depends what food. Remember that cats are carnivores, and require a high proportion of meat in their diet. They simply cannot adapt to a low protein diet, and will lose bodyweight if deprived of it. In fact, as a species they are relatively unique; a deficiency of the amino acid, arginine, in a single meal can lead to symptoms of lethargy, hypersalivation and vocalisation. Arginine is required by the cat to produce urea, a waste product resulting from the breakdown of protein.

Another essential nutrient for the cat is the amino acid, taurine, which the cat cannot manufacture sufficiently by itself to meet its needs. The cat’s diet must therefore contain taurine in sufficient quantities. If a deficiency develops there is a high risk of serious and irreversible damage to major organs such as the heart and the eye. Taurine is found almost entirely in meat, confirming the fact that the cat is a compulsory carnivore.

Another disease of nutritional origin is that caused by cats eating raw liver regularly, who can suffer from a condition called hypervitaminosis A. Cats suffering from this can present with signs of lethargy, unthriftiness, a stiff neck and other skeletal problems. To play it safe, don’t feed your cat liver more than once a week.

Reputable cat foods are formulated after extensive trials by pet food companies to provide the mixture of protein, carbohydrate and fat that suits feline physiology best. It is easier, cheaper and possibly more healthy for your cat to be fed a reputable cat food diet, with occasional treats if desired (tuna, liver etc).

3) Which is better out of dry cat food or wet cat food?

Most vets recommend complete dry biscuit based cat food. This is because studies have shown that cats on dry food diets are less likely to suffer from dental disease than those on wet food from a tin or pouch. The physical motion of biting these biscuits helps prevent tartar from adhering to the surface of the tooth. However, even cats with no teeth can eat biscuit based food without a problem, as they just scoop up the biscuits with their tongue and swallow them whole. Another advantage of dry food is that it doesn’t spoil as quickly – useful for cats that are fed ad lib.

There are occasionally reasons why a wet food is preferable, as a method to increase the water consumption in a cat with a urinary problem such as cystitis.

Conservative estimates are that 25% of cats and dogs in the USA and UK are obese! Often owners are unaware of the health problems obesity can contribute towards, such as heart disease, arthritis and diabetes. As a result they don’t take the problem seriously. Furthermore, obese pets experience fatigue, exercise intolerance and heat intolerance leading to a poor overall quality of life.

visit to help you find out if your pet is overweight and learn the keys steps to beating obesity in your pet.

Dr Brooks BVetMed

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