Feeding Your Cat

Feed your cat like a cat –not like a dog or a human. Cats like variety, and they are nibblers, happy to snack at frequent intervals. They are also finicky, and after carefully sniffing at your latest gourmet offering, they may walk away in complete disdain. On the other hand, cats easily become addicted to one food –especially such items as liver, fresh meat, or tuna fish. None of these is an adequate exclusive diet for cats. Cats are usually sensible about managing the amount of food they eat, and very few overeat to the extent that they become obese. If they do, suspect your feeding program or look for a psychological disturbance. Then eliminate the cause.

In nature cats usually are expert hunters, and they balance their diets by catching and eating every morsel of their prey. They catch all kinds of small rodents, birds, lizards, and snakes and often proudly bring them home to demonstrate their hunting prowess. Eating wild prey exposes your cat to several disease states –especially toxoplasmosis and internal parasites– and you should prevent this habit. The only way to stop the hunting habit in a cat is to keep it confined…

Do not feed cats table foods or foods that are cold. The best method is to leave dry or soft-moist cat food available to your pet at all times. Place an amount that is slightly more than is needed for 24 hours in a dish and replenish daily. Rotate the food by adding the fresh food to the bottom of the dish. This prevents food from being left in the bottom of the dish for several days. This method is effective, as cats enjoy nibbling.

Some cat owners like to expand and supplement the above system by feeding the cat a different food as a “meal” once or twice daily. These feedings may consist of canned cat food, canned treats, liver or fish, fresh meat, or cottage cheese. A cat will usually relish such a meal, and under this system, will eat correspondingly less of the constantly available dry or soft-moist foods.

The amount of food a cat needs varies, depending on growth, physical activity, pregnancy, metabolic rate, and digestive efficiency. You must tailor the amounts to your cat’s own needs. Most adult cats weight between 6 and 10 pounds. Generally either 2 to 3 ounces of dry food, 2 to 4 ounces of soft-moist food, or 5 to 8 ounces of canned food will provide maintenance requirements. However, kittens and pregnant cats require much more than this. The best maintenance guide is to feed your cat an amount adequate to maintain a constant and ideal body weight. The above quantities are rough guides. Read and carefully follow feeding advice on the cat food package or can. Feed a variety of foods.

Like all animals, cats require fresh, pure water. The amount they drink depends on the kind of food they are fed. If they are fed canned food (70% water) they will drink much less than if they are fed dry food (8% water). Always keep fresh water available. Do not allow your cat to drink from the toilet, flower dish, fish tank, or other unsanitary source. Some cats favor milk. However, milk should be considered a food, not a source of water. Offer milk only after the cat has eaten its solid food. A surprising number of cats develop diarrhea and digestive upsets from milk. If you suspect this, avoid feeding milk or other dairy products to your cat.

Cats should not be fed dog foods, raw fish or pork, large amounts of liver, raw eggs, or any bones. They rarely require mineral and vitamin supplements. When and if needed, these medications should be prescribed by your veterinarian.


Dry cat foods

Dry cat food contains meat and vegetables, with about 9 to 10% moisture and about 30% protein and 8% fat. You can moisten this food to the desired consistency or serve it dry. Many owners leave unmoistened food in the food dish constantly so the cat can nibble as it wishes. This is ideal, since cats are frequent nibblers (as compared to dogs, which gulp their food rapidly and infrequently).

Moist cat foods

Moist cat food usually comes in cans, with about 75% moisture and the balance protein and fat. The small “treat” cans of variety foods are usually all-meat or all-fish. Tuna fish is often used in these packs. Although these products are extremely tasty and are excellent protein sources, they are not nutritionally balanced –so you should not feed them as the total diet. Some cats become “addicted” to exclusive diets of liver or tuna fish and will eat nothing else. Be certain the cat has a variety of types and brands of foods.

Some canned cat foods are well-balanced, complete diets. They are labeled as such and usually packaged in larger cans that the all-meat or all-fish products. All these maintenance diets support adult cats adequately, but they may not be satisfactory for growing kittens or pregnant cats. The cans contain more than enough food for one cat for one day, and the balance should be stored under refrigeration. However, never feed this food cold or digestive disturbances may result. Warm the food to room temperature.

Semi-moist cat foods

Semi-moist cat foods are sold in sealed plastic pouches. They contain about 27% protein and 7% fat, with about 35% water. They are highly palatable, provide complete balanced nutrition, and are available in different flavors. Leave the food in the food dish all day for frequent nibbling or feed periodically as desired.

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