There are two schools of thought on how to feed cats. One is the self feeding method in which cats always have food and are allowed to eat when they want (Note: Cats should always have fresh water available to them). The other method is with regulated meals where the cat is fed a few times a day. Unless your cat is overweight or has a problem with overeating if food is left out all the time many vets and behaviorists prefer the self feeding method for a variety of reasons. Note: Cats should never eat dog food!
- Cats are grazers by nature. They don’t like to eat 2 or 3 huge meals but eat many small meals a day.
- Cat’s bodies are very inefficient at processing stored fat. As with people, if a cat goes for a long period of time without food he/she will need to use up fat and protein stores for energy. Cat’s bodies are not very good at doing this. A cat who has not eaten for even as short as a day or two can start to undergo liver damage.
- If a cat is only fed a few times a day chances are he/she will be very hungry by the time he/she gets to eat and will eat more than he/she needs at the time. This can produce an overweight cat or a cat the gorges his/herself and then vomits (binge-purge habit).
Of course if you have an overweight cat or a cat that needs a special diet you may need the regulation capabilities of timed feedings.
If you are wondering which method might be best for your cat consult your veterinarian and see which method he/she prescribes.
Cat’s Dietary Needs
Cat’s have very special needs in their diet. It is for this reason that it is always recommended that you purchase a high quality cat food (not just whatever is on sale) to ensure your cat’s good health. Remember that all brands of cat food are not created equally and there is usually a reason why the ‘cheaper’ cat food is so cheap. Although there are many things one can sacrifice to save a few bucks, your cat’s food should not be one of them. Here are some of the things cats need in their diet:
- high protein (over 25% of the diet)
- low fat (cats process fat very inefficiently)
- low pH
- low magnesium
- special needs for urinary health
- taurine (which is only available in meat products)
- arachidonic acid
- vitamins and minerals (A, B12, Niacin and Thiamin)
For many of the reasons above cat’s should not become vegetarian (plus they are natural meat eaters by instinct). If you are thinking about your cat becoming a vegetarian please visit this link Cats – A Vegetarian Diet by the Vegetarian Society and talk to your veterinarian.
Types of Food
There are many different types of foods on the market for cats, which type and style you use depends on your cat’s age and special needs. Note: Cats should never eat dog food!
Wet or Dry
Dry food should alone be used as your cat’s staple food. It is better for their teeth, it lasts longer, and it is generally more nutritious (moist food tends to have a lot of artificial colors and preservatives and most health experts consider most wet foods to simply be ‘junk food’ for your cat). If your cat enjoys moist food try to give it as a treat only. If you get your cat into the habit of eating moist food as a staple you may find that he/she will become very picky. And unfortunately eating wet food as a staple isn’t a very healthy habit.
Kittens need to eat more food (on a pound per pound basis) than adult or senior cats. Kittens also have special nutritional requirements to enable them to grow up strong and healthy. Make sure when purchasing food for you kitten that you always get ‘kitten’ food that is specially formulated with higher protein and calcium contents. Also cats formulate their taste preferences by the time they are 6 months old, so feeding your kitten a good variety of food will help prevent him/her from becoming finicky as an adult.
Adults generally need to eat about 300 calories per day (for a 10 lb. cat). You can find a variety of special foods for different needs of your cat. If your cat is overweight, for example, you can buy lower-calorie food that will give your cat all the nutrition he/she needs with less calories. Whichever brand and flavor you choose, make sure to always buy a high quality food that is formulated for good urinary tract health, reduced urinary pH, and has low magnesium content. This is important as many older cats face kidney and liver problems when they have an improper or low-quality diet.
Seniors, like overweight cats, need less calories and special nutritional supplements. Make sure to purchase ‘senior’ cat food for your older pet (over 9 years of age).
Amount of Food
The average adult cat (10 lbs) needs to eat about 300 calories per day to maintain his/her current weight. The amount of food that you feed your cat will depend on the calorie content of the actual food so check the label to estimate how much your cat should eat each day.
If you are concerned because your cat seems to be eating or chewing odd fabrics please read the section on Pica