Just like any human, a cat’s diet needs to be balanced to help ensure a healthy life. While this may sound easy, cats are complex creatures, and meeting their needs isn’t always easy.
A study carried out by the University of Bristol found that of 300 cat owners surveyed, 20.2% feed their cats treats several times a week, 34.6% fed them whenever they desired, and 31.5% fed by free choice. All these are previously found to have been factors in increasing feline obesity.
While the perpetrators are a minority, they’re a sizeable one, so it’s clear that some guidance is needed. Here, we run through some tips to ensuring that your cat remains fighting fit, and if you need some more advice take a look at our guides to the best wet cat food, the best dry cat foods and the best cat food overall.
- Best kitten food: Six types to feed your new furry feline friend
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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
Cats love treats, but no matter how grateful they are, resist the urge to dole them out liberally. Specialist cat treats are usually high in calories, so try to only use them in special situations, like as a reward for good behavior.
Pets At Home recommends that treats exceed no more than 10% of your cat’s daily calorific intake, which sounds like a decent rule of thumb to us. Alternatively, they can be given out after your cat has done something they wouldn’t have enjoyed, 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
- Five human foods that are poisonous to cats
- 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.
Ultimately, all cats are different, but by following the above guidelines you can go a long way towards ensuring their long-term safety. A healthy cat is a happy cat, and so long as you display an empathetic and common-sense approach towards controlling their diet, they have every chance of staying this way.
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