Feeding your cat provides her with the things she needs to stay healthy and grow. Although some people believe that cats won't overeat, this is a myth., as can be shown by the many overweight cats in veterinarians' offices. According to the experts at Cornell, obesity is the number one nutritional disease. Being overweight means that your cat is more likely to develop liver or heart disease and can also cause respiratory problems. Some of these health issues can even result in death.
With all the foods on the market now, it can be confusing to choose one for your cat. Cat foods consist of 3 types:
The food you choose should be one that's known as "premium." You can look at food labels for contents, which are named listing the ingredients in decreasing order. Meat or meat by-products should be at the very beginning of the list in order for your cat to get enough of the nutrients she needs. The label should also state that the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) has given its approval.
- Dry: This food is purchased in bags and comes in hard nuggets. It usually contains only 6-10% moisture. Primary ingredients in these foods are cereals, bone meal or fish meal, grain by-products, and milk products.
- Semimoist: These foods come packages and often look like ground meat. The moisture content of these foods is usually around 35%.
- Canned (also called "wet food" ): These foods contain around 75% water and And are often the ones that cats like best.
Although, labels usually list the recommended amount to feed your cat, these are only guidelines. Each cat is different and will require differing amounts based on her age, how active she is, and her metabolism. Just as people may vary some in the amount of food they can eat without becoming overweight, there is some variation with cats, too. If your cat has a medical issue, it's important to get recommendations from your veterinarian regarding the kind of food and amount to feed your cat. It's usually best to feed your cat twice a day in measured amounts rather than "free feeding" (leaving food available at all times). In addition to being more likely to cause obesity, it has been shown that free feeding can increase symptoms of indigestion. Some cats may even need to have three measured meals, especially if they're older.
Cornell recommends that you feed your cat two or three different varieties to avoid turning your cat into a finicky eater. Also, you may be surprised to learn that some cats are allergic to fish. If your cat loves fish and can tolerate it, it's great to use that as one of the varieties. If you're switching your cat to a new food that she isn't used to eating, it's best to mix the old food with the new food slowly, gradually increasing the amount of the new food and decreasing the amount of the old food. Cats should not be fed dog food as the nutrients that cats need are very different from that that of dogs.
If you're feeding your cat a premium food, there's no reason to give vitamin or mineral supplements unless your veterinarian has recommended this. Fresh water should be available to your cat at all times.
Written by Kari WintersKari Winters is a Board Certified Advanced Practice R.N. who has been active in animal rescue for several years. She consults to rescue groups re:feline behavior and health and has written many pieces for various rescue organization newsletters. Areas of special interest include rescue and adoption, senior animals, and death and dying issues. She is an Associate Member of Cat Writers' Association (CWA) and received a Certificate of Excellence from them in 2001 and a Special Award in 2002. She has also been published in professional nursing journals regarding human health care issues."
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