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Feeding

Food plays a vital role in our health and in that of our pets. To have a happy, healthy cat, the correct foods need to be provided from an early age. Feline nutritional science has made great advances. Commercial foods are now available to supply balanced diets for kittens through to old age cats.

As with many things, excess and deficiency are both harmful. You should be aware as to the qualitative and the quantitative needs of your kitten, which are quite different from those of a dog.

Cats need some 50 nutrients in order to remain healthy. Deficiency in any one of these nutrients sets off a chain reaction resulting in poor health. A cat’s daily requirements depend on its physiological status (growing or adult, pregnant or nursing) and reproductive status (desexed or not).

Proteins constitute the framework of body tissues and are made up of chains of molecules known as amino acids. Cats are unable to make arginine and taurine – two essential amino acids. Taurine deficiency for example can cause blindness and heart problems.

Lipids or fats are composed of fatty acids. They provide energy and contribute to cell membrane structure. Once again, cats need certain so-called essential fatty acids that are only found in meat and fish.

Carbohydrates or sugars also supply energy. They can also help gut function through supplying fibre.

Vitamins and minerals need to be present in sufficient amounts but not to excess. With home made food, be especially careful not to give too much liver, which is rich in Vitamin A and continual over-supply of this can lead to serious bone abnormalities (e.g. fusion of the vertebrae in the spine).

The need for meat in a cat’s diet throughout its life is essential. Kittens require more protein than adult cats for their growth and development. They also have higher energy requirements. For this reason, kittens need a higher fat supply in their diet. Special kitten foods meet these requirements. Pregnant cats also need more energy- rich foods.

Adults do well on ‘maintenance’ rations, although sedentary or desexed cats may tend to become obese. This is why specific ‘light’ foods have been developed. There are specifically prepared commercial diets available for each stage of your cat’s life. Your veterinarian can advise you on the appropriate nutritional needs of your cat.

Commercial or home-made food?

It is true that we have the choice between two ways of feeding our cats: home-made or commercial diets. Reputable cat food manufacturers base their products on scientifically proven standards for the composition of their diets.

 

Home-cooking

There are those who remain unconvinced of the advantages of commercially prepared food, and prefer to make their animal’s meals themselves. The essential proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins and minerals must all be included in the correct quantities and proportions. Please consult your veterinarian who can provide you with the best advice concerning the pros and cons of home cooked food for your pet.

Commercial diets

Cat food manufacturers provide kittens with a variety of product ranges. These are perfectly balanced, complete diets, so nothing extra needs to be added.

It is essential to make sure that your kitten always has fresh water available.

The choice of commercial food is based on an idea of quality: Most veterinarians will supply a choice of ‘premium’ cat food. These high quality products may sometimes be more expensive than other ranges, but the benefits will be seen, in terms of your cat’s health and coat condition. The price difference is mainly due to the quality of the raw materials used, especially proteins.

Be aware of changes in your kitten’s diet as any sudden alterations may cause digestive upsets. The amount of food to be given is generally detailed on the packaging; however, you should check your kitten’s weight regularly and adjust the food amount if needed. You may need to check with your veterinarian for weight range details and other information regarding nutrition, especially recommendations about the ideal food for your kitten.

Meal-time routine

Cats, unlike dogs, are ‘nibblers’. They prefer to have several meals a day. They also eat at night, unlike dogs. Ideally the food bowl should not be too deep: dog bowls are not suitable. The level of water or food needs to be full enough as cats may not drink/ eat if their whiskers are touching the sides of the bowl. Remember to always provide cool, clean drinking water for your kitten. Cats also do not eat next to where they drink so always provide a water source at a distance from the food bowl. Otherwise you may see your cat drinking from the pot plant dish, the dog’s water bowl or a dripping tap.

For your own peace of mind, and for your kitten’s weight, do not let it climb up on to the table during mealtimes and never feed it from your own plate.