Reading the Label
Everyone is more conscious these days of ingredient labels because we know that nutrition is so important to leading a healthy lifestyle. That’s why you should read the label on your cat's food carefully. It provides a guaranteed analysis of key nutrients including minimum fat and protein and the maximum fiber and moisture. The label should state whether your cat food is formulated for growing cats, adult cats, aging cats, or for all life stages. The label also should indicate if the cat food has undergone actual feeding studies.
Where, When and How much to Feed
Place your cat’s food bowl and water dish away from foot traffic and noise, but in a place that is comfortable and easy for him to reach. Once you have chosen a suitable place, don’t change the location unless absolutely necessary. Newspapers or a plastic mat under the dish makes cleanup easier. Above all, always keep clean, fresh water available at all times. This is critical to your cat's health.
Establish a routine so that your cat is fed at the same time each day. Use your cat’s name when feeding him. This can help to reinforce his name while associating you with a pleasant activity. If you are feeding a dry cat food, you can put out a whole days’ supply in the morning (very convenient if you are a working person) or feed half in the morning and half at night. Another advantage of to this type of cat food is that it can help keep your cat’s teeth clean and gums healthy.
For a proper feeding program, you can follow the feeding instructions on the cat food package or use the following:
|4-6 weeks||½ to 1 oz (1/4 – 1/3 cup)||3 to 4 times per day|
|7 weeks – 6 months||1 to 3 oz. (1/3 to 1 cup)||3 to 4 times per day|
|7 months – 1 year||3 oz. (about 1 cup)||2 times per day or dry in dish full time|
- Never feed your cat with another pet's food. Cats have unique nutritional needs that only cat food can provide.
- Never feed bones from chicken, pork or fish to your cat. These can splinter and lodge in his throat or pierce the stomach walls and intestinal tract.
- Don’t feed your cat milk. He doesn’t need it and it may cause diarrhea.
- Never feed your cat any food containing chocolate or onions. These can be toxic to your cat and should be stored and disposed of in a place your cat can’t reach. Ask your veterinarian about additional foods that might be harmful to your cat.
- Avoid the temptation to spoil your cat with table scraps. This too can produce a finicky eater who learns to refuse his usual cat food in favor of those high-calorie tidbits.
To keep your cat as lively and healthy as possible, it is important to control his weight, especially in later years. By conservative estimates, approximately 25% of cats are overweight or obese. A cat may be considered obese if her body weight is 20 -25% greater than normal.
There are several ways to tell if you have a fat cat.
- Hanging Stomach – Cats tend to show extra weight in their stomachs first.
- Rib Check – Place your hands on your cat’s rib cage. If you cannot feel the ribs, your cat is overweight.
- Double Chin – Deposits of fatty layers under the skin around the jowls and neck make your cat’s face appear puffy.
- Remember that extra weight puts a strain on organs like the heart, liver, bones and joints, and may cause or aggravate your cat's health problems.
The best way to control obesity is through prevention. Calorie requirements based on your cat’s individual needs can be determined with your veterinarian’s help. The following feeding suggestions are guidelines and are not intended to replace the advice of your veterinarian.
- Make any dietary changes gradually. Sudden or dramatic changes can cause problems. Your cat needs some time to become accustomed to a new cat food.
- Avoid foods high in calories, like table food and snacks.
- Enlist family members and guests in refraining from secretly giving your cat extra food.
- Reduce calories by feeding a cat food formulated for older cats.
- Look for a cat food that features unique kibbles that are easy to chew and digest.
A regular exercise program should go hand in hand with diet to help an obese cat lose weight. Besides its health benefits, exercising your cat is a great way for you to play together and have some fun. Here are some suggested activities to help her lose weight and contribute to your cat’s health and happiness.
- Wake your cat in the morning. Unless she’s hungry, your cat may sleep in. Don’t let her. Wave a cat toy in front of her face to wake your cat up and get her going.
- Put some distance between your cat and his food. If you leave your cat's food out, put it in a room apart from where your cat sleeps. The walk provides some exercise and you can put toys along the way to encourage additional activity.
- Get your cat to run. Even if it’s only back to his chair, encourage quick movements with a clap, car keys or rattling paper.
- Pamper your cat into a playful mood. When she just isn’t in the mood to play, boost her spirits with a brushing.
- Reintroduce favorite games you once played with your cat.
- Leave safe toys out to encourage your cat to play on his own. This is important if you are away from home much of the day.
Variety may be the spice of life to humans but it is stressful to feline digestive systems and can lead to finicky eating and stomach upsets. To avoid these problems, try using one cat food exclusively. But if you do want to switch cat foods, do so gradually over a period of about 7-10 days to avoid digestive upset. Begin the changeover by giving him a small portion of the new cat food with his present food. Gradually increase the new cat food and decrease the amount of the food being replaced. This is especially important when changing from moist cat food to a dry cat food.
Your kitten's first year is critical to a lifetime of good health. During that time he grows from infancy through the equivalent of childhood and then to a young adult. Your kitten needs to have the best possible nutrition to build a strong bone structure, good muscles, a well-developed nervous system and the vitality that will take him through his first year.
Research has shown that a normal kitten's weight practically triples during the first three weeks. Kittens need their own special diet. His rapid growth and high energy level requires kitten food which will give him extra nutrition and calories. Kittens have smaller stomachs and therefore tend to be occasional eaters, eating a number of small meals throughout the day. Dry kitten food is a good choice for kittens because it will remain fresh and flavorful in your kitten's bowl throughout the day.
Give your kitten three meals a day until he is six months old. At six months your kitten may resemble an adult cat, but don't be fooled he still has a lot of growing up to do and should continue eating a diet made specially for kittens.
Don't be worried if your kitten's appetite decreases slightly between four to seven months of age. As he loses his baby teeth, he may eat a little less because his gums are sore. By the time he is seven months old, most of your kitten's permanent teeth should have grown in.
Once your kitten has reached his first birthday, he is officially an adult cat. The high calorie requirements he had as a kitten have gradually declined and he can now switch to an adult cat food.
Your pregnant or lactating cat should switch from her regular food to a diet specially formulated for her needs. During the final two or three of gestation, she may eat up to double the amount she usually eats. Remember that she has to produce enough milk to feed all her kittens. Consult your veterinarian to make sure she is getting everything she needs for her “delicate condition.” For more information on pregnant cats visit our Cat Pregnancy page.
Cats with Special Food Needs
If your adult cat is prone to urinary tract problems or other medical aliments, a special cat food may alleviate the recurring problem. Once your cat had been successfully treated, ask your veterinarian whether your cat could benefit from a diet that is formulated for your cat’s specific problem. Always consult your veterinarian before switching to a special diet.