A cat’s diet needs to be balanced to help ensure a healthy life - just like any human. While this may sound easy in practice, cats are complex , and satisfying their needs isn’t easy.
A study carried out by the University of Bristol discovered that out of the 300 cat owners surveyed, 20.2% admitted to giving their cats treats several times a week. Of the other respondees, 34.6% fed them whenever they wanted, and 31.5% fed by free choice. These have all been found to be factors contributing to feline obesity, making these some worrying statistics.
Ultimately however, while the people admitting to this are a minority of cat owners they’re a large one nonetheless. With this in mind, here are some tips for ensuring that your cat remains in top shape. If you need some more advice, look at our guides to the best wet cat food, the best dry cat foods and the best cat food.
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1) Make sure your cats have the right food for their age
Just like humans move from processed baby food to the proper stuff, cats have to change their diets accordingly too. According to the PDSA, cat food types can be split into four categories: kitten (0-12 months); adult cat (1-7 years); senior cat (7-11 years) and geriatric cat (11+ years).
While keeping a cat on kitten food isn’t dangerous and won’t cause them any harm, it is possible that the extra calories found in kitten food could lead to an increased risk of obesity.
2) Keep their feeding areas clean and free from germs
It may seem obvious, but there are certain factors that can influence a cat’s appetite. For instance, when picking their food bowls, go for something pottery-based rather than plastic. This is because the latter is harder to clean and can retain odors over time, which in turn may put them off their food.
Don’t just top up the water or put new cat food over the old stuff – think about how you would like it if your dinner consisted of a freshly cooked lasagne draped over yesterday’s cold, stale offerings. Your cat certainly won’t appreciate it.
3) Give out treats by all means – but keep it in moderation
You've probably noticed that cats love treats. Despite this, however, please resist the urge to deal them out at will. Treats are usually high in calories, so save them for special occasions, or as a reward for good behavior.
Pets At Home recommends that treats take up no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calorific intake, which sounds like a good rule to us. One other option is to give them out after your cat has done something they wouldn’t have enjoyed doing, such as having their annual vaccinations or getting their claws cut.
4) When making dietary changes, do so gradually
There are a number of reasons to change your cat’s food. Maybe they’re too old for kitten food, their favorite brand has become unavailable, or finances dictate a change. Regardless, there are ways to go about it. To start with, mix some of their new food with their old dinner.
As time progresses, gradually add more of the new and less of the old, until they have completely switched over. Generally, this can be done over a seven-day period, although for older cats this time frame may need to be extended to as long as 10 days.
- The best wet cat food: From daily dishes to tasty treats
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- What are the benefits of raw cat food?
5) Avoid certain types of human foods – they could be poisonous
While it may be tempting to give your cat the leftovers off your plate, or a bowl of chocolate ice cream to lick clean, you really shouldn’t. All manner of foods that seem perfectly innocuous to us could potentially be dangerous to cats, causing anything from lethargy and diarrhea to serious pancreas and kidney damage – or worse.
Among the chief culprits are caffeine drinks, chocolate, root vegetables such as onions, grapes and milk. If in doubt, stick to cat food.
Like people, cats are different to one another, and have different personalities, so it's tricky to recommend a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to treats. Saying that, if you follow the above guidelines, we're sure that you'll be going a long way to ensuring their health and safety.
Steve has combined editing and writing for publications like SciFiNow, How It Works and All About History with being a doormat to various cats and dogs. He lodges with two moggies called Giles and Willow, and will be told off if he doesn't mention his girlfriend's magnificent pooch, Toby.
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