Nutrition & Food

The common saying “You are what you eat,” also applies to cats. Keep your cat healthy and happy with good, high quality, nutritious food.

Ingredients

If you are not familiar with cat food, check the label for the ingredient list. Cats are carnivores and the main staple in their diet should be protein. Higher quality food will have the first ingredient listed as a meat (chicken, salmon, turkey, fish, etc.). Also, chicken-meal or chicken by-products are not the same as pure chicken listed; they are an inferior substitute. The meal or by-products listed are really all the other parts of the chicken (not just the muscle or meat) that are ground up into a “meal.” Also, you do not want a food that is high in carbohydrates which have a grain listed first (e.g. corn, corn meal, corn gluten etc.). Just like people, cats can become carb-fanatics and become diabetic or overweight from consuming too many carbs.

What to Avoid

Some brands are more like “junk food” for cats and are full of meat bi-products, fillers, grains, and chemical preservatives. It’s similar to eating at our fast food outlets with about the same nutritional value and fat. Sometimes these foods or brands are cheaper, but the quality of food can be severely compromised and the cat’s health could suffer as a result.

In addition to avoiding meat bi-products, avoid that list the use of artificial colors. An indicator of this is colored food or kibble. If you see different colors, then artificial colors are used.

Wet vs. Dry Food

Cats are different than dogs—they do not chew their food. Therefore, dry food does not clean their teeth, like you hear people say about dry dog food. Cats teeth were developed for hunting to tear bite-sized pieces from their prey. Since cat food, either wet or dry, is already in bite-size pieces they just use their teeth to get it into their mouth and then they swallow it whole.

Wet food is actually very good for cats. It is typically pure meat, high in protein, and without carbohydrates added. Wet food is wet—it has water in it!—and cats need water with their food. Having enough water in a cat’s diet everyday is critical for cat’s healthy kidney and urinary function. If your cat has urinary problems, or crystals, consult with your vet to determine if your cat should have more wet food in their diet.

Dry food requires more hydration for cats. Since it is dry, cat’s need to drink more water than they would need otherwise with wet food. Proper hydration becomes more of an issue with dry food.

Most vets agree that serving wet food daily is optimal for a cat’s health.

Snacks and Treats

There are many snacks and treats on the market for cats, as well as other pets. Keep in mind that snacks and treats are just that—a small snack to be given sparingly and occasionally. Use them for training purposes or to encourage good behavior.

For example, snacks can be a good way to encourage a shy cat to approach you and learn to trust you. Snacks can encourage a cat to come out of your closet if it is hiding from you and you can’t find it. Snacks can be given to your cat after you gave it some medicine to wash the bitter taste out of their mouth and to encourage them to take the medicine next time.

Please remember that snacks and treats should not be the main source of food in your cat’s diet.

Fresh Water Daily

All living creatures must have a source of clean, fresh water. Water can taste stale when it has been sitting around for a few days. When it comes from the tap it is aerated, which entraps oxygen in it. Cats can actually tell the difference. Have you ever wondered why they prefer to drink out of the faucet, out of a toilet, out of your flower vase, or out of the fish bowl? It’s because this water is usually aerated and fresher tasting.

Change the water in your cats water dish every day, if possible. Be sure to clean or wash your water bowl as well. Another option is to have an aerated fountain. Some have filters, which need regularly cleaning—consult with your local pet food store to determine what will work best for you.

Ensure that your cat has access to clean fresh water at all times—this will help keep them healthy and happy! You may want to consider putting out more than one water bowl to be sure your cat stays well hydrated.

Feeding Dishes

CC4C recommends having sturdy ceramic, glass, or metal feeding dishes instead of plastic. The plastic can hold dirt and bacteria on it, which can cause “kitty acne” which looks like blackheads or dirt on their chins. Also, plastic contains toxins and compounds that are unhealthy to lick, ingest, and be subjected to over time.

Look for food dishes that are bottom-heavy with a wide base so that they cannot be easily tipped over.

Three dishes are needed—a large one for water, and two smaller ones for dry and wet food.

Additional Resources

http://catinfo.org/ – Feeding Your Cat: Know The Basics of Feline Nutrition

http://www.myhealthycat.com/ – General cat information covering many topics including health

http://www.vetinfo.com/catindex.html – Vet Info for Cats