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Optimum Feline Nutrition - What Should You Feed Your Cat?

The Pros And Cons Of Different Types Of Cat Food

Feline nutrition is very important for general health. However, the plethora of dietary options, brands and formulas available to consumers can be confusing, when deciding which kind of cat food is best for your feline friend’s health and wellness.

Unlike humans and various other creatures (dogs included), cats’ evolutionary process has resulted in no dietary need for carbohydrates. Just like their undomesticated, and much larger relatives, domesticated cats’ bodies have adapted to a protein and fat rich, carbohydrate-poor diet. In the wild, cats use plants, primarily tall and short grass, for digestive regulation and dental support. However, wild cats do not consume vegetable or plant matter for the purpose of energy or nutrition.

High quality cat foods are formulated with this evolutionary platform, and feline nutrition requirements, in mind. The three main types of cat food are:

Kibble (dry)

  • Pros: Usually inexpensive, convenient
  • Cons: Higher in carbohydrates than desired

Canned (wet)

  • Pros: Convenient, usually more nutritious than kibble
  • Cons: Usually more expensive than kibble per serving

Cats are unique in their attachment to specific textures of their food and it is difficult to get them to accept/change to other forms of food. For this reason, we recommend that you try to feed kittens a mix of canned and dry with the hope that they will always accept both.

At Freeport Veterinary Hospital, we take pride in providing our patients and their human caretakers with all the information necessary to help cat owners make educated decisions about all facets of feline nutrition, cat foods included. This is also why we work closely with a certified veterinary nutritionist  when needed.

Kitten Food

For the first month of a cat’s life, kitten food comes in the form of mother’s milk, and/or commercial milk replacer formula given every 2-4 hours if the kitten has been separated from its mother. Once this initial period passes, kitten food can become a dietary staple in the following stages, amounts and frequency:

From 3-5 weeks of age, feeding kittens involves offering the milk-replacer formula in a shallow dish to encourage weaning from a bottle. You can also add a moist, easily chewable diet consisting of a mixture of warm milk-replacer and high quality canned or dried kitten food 4-6 times a day.

By 5-8 weeks of age, your kitten should be able to chew its own kitten food, and you should provide a protein rich and energy filled diet, with feedings taking place 3-4 times daily. There are many different types of kitten food available, and we would like to discuss these dietary options with you at your next veterinary appointment. Typically we recommend canned kitten food because it will mimic the natural diet both in consistency and formulation. However, a good diet may also consist of a combination of canned and dry kitten foods. After 6 months of age, kittens should be fed 2 times per day.

Kitten food is usually very high in protein, calories and fats, which are all necessary to support healthy growth and body function. Feeding the right kitten food in the right amounts, and at the right times throughout the day is essential for happy, growing cats. Our veterinary staff would be happy to discuss the best kitten food options for your feline friend, as well as a proper feeding schedule at your next veterinary appointment.

Cat Foods

Although dry cat foods are very popular among cat owners, they should be considered the second choice for cat food. This is because dry foods have a higher carbohydrate count than we consider optimal. In addition, the protein choice tends to be higher in plant and not animal based protein.

The high levels of carbohydrates and plant protein can lead to weight gain and digestive issues, especially in older and more sedentary cats. However, dry food is convenient and the best choice for busy households. Some premium food brands have developed formulas of speciality, prescription formula dry cat foods which can be sound choices for cats with allergies, certain health conditions, and as part of a diet also containing canned or fresh food.

Wet cat foods can have a nutrient profile that mimics the kind of diet cats would choose in the wild. The protein in canned cat food is usually animal based, which means that canned cat food has a nutritional profile that compliments a cat’s evolutionary profile and physiological needs. Canned cat food also usually has a low carbohydrate count, and a high water amount.

Senior Cat Food

Beginning around 7 years of age, cats begin transitioning from adulthood to the mature/senior stages of life. This transition causes health and lifestyle changes with a cat’s:

  • Weight
  • Skin
  • Joints
  • Teeth
  • Internal organs

If your cat is doing well on his current diet, then there may be no need to change to a different formula. Some brands make a Senior cat food which is specially formulated to deliver ingredients which are more easily digested than standard adult cat foods. Senior cats are more likely to develop health issues related to intestines and kidney disease. There are diets specifically formulated to benefit cats with these issues which may help slow the progression of these diseases.

Your veterinarian can help you choose the best cat food for your senior cat by taking pre-existing medical conditions, current health status and overall lifestyle (indoor, outdoor, sedentary, active, etc.) into account.

Schedule A Cat Nutrition Consultation Today

Make an appointment today and let one of our veterinarians help you make the right nutritional choices for your cat.

 

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