Whether you’ve recently adopted a kitten or have an older cat, you have probably gone online to learn about cat nutrition. Here at Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we want you to have the facts about your cat’s nutritional needs. That’s why we decided to provide answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about feline nutrition. We’re glad you found us, and we hope this resource contains the information you need!
If your cat needs a highly trained and compassionate veterinarian in Owings Mills, MD, you’ve come to the right place. From getting your cat on a healthy diet to ensuring their ever-evolving nutritional needs are met throughout their life, we’ll be by your side every step of the way. Call us today at (410) 807-8193 to schedule an appointment.
How does nutrition impact the health and well-being of my cat?
Nutrition impacts all aspects of your cat’s health. Without the proper vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and proteins, your cat’s health will suffer. Some diseases can even be prevented by ensuring that your cat eats a healthy, well-balanced diet.
Think about how you feel when you don’t eat right. It’s the same for your feline friend — even though cats are masters of hiding when they don’t feel well. High-quality nutrition is the foundation for overall good health. An occasional treat is fine, but otherwise, your cat’s diet should consist of high-quality cat food.
What are the nutritional requirements for a cat?
Cats are classified as obligate carnivores, which means they must eat meat. They cannot obtain the nutrients they need from plants, vegetables, or anything other than animal sources. A cat’s protein needs are higher than that of a dog. Because they cannot produce it themselves, they also need an amino acid called taurine. This nutrient is vital for heart health.
As your cat’s veterinarian, we strongly recommend feeding them high-quality commercial cat food. Homemade and raw cat food diets often do not meet feline nutritional needs. The best cat food manufacturers follow the standards set forth by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) and work with veterinary nutritionists to ensure their products are safe and nutritionally complete.
In addition to healthy cat food, your feline friend needs water. Unfortunately, cats naturally do not drink much water, even though they need it for urinary tract health and to remain hydrated. You can encourage your cat to drink more by setting up a water fountain and adding water to their wet food.
Will my cat's nutritional requirements change throughout their life as a kitten, adult, and senior cat?
Absolutely! Like human infants, kittens need a lot of calcium and protein for bone growth and muscle development. They also need more calories than older cats. Kitten food is specially formulated to meet these needs.
As your cat gets older, you can switch them to regular adult food, which is lower in calcium, protein, and calories.
Adult cat food comes in many different formulas to address things like:
- Kidney disease
- Sensitive stomachs
As your cat’s veterinarian, we can advise you on which formula best suits their needs.
Cats’ nutritional needs change again when they enter their senior years. They may need more protein or calcium as they get older. However, calorie needs tend to decrease as senior and geriatric cats are usually less active than their younger counterparts. You may also need to increase or decrease their intake of certain vitamins and minerals in response to health issues. Again, we are here to help you make sure your cat is getting the proper nutrition at all life stages.
What are some signs and symptoms of poor cat nutrition in my cat?
The quality of your cat’s coat tells you a lot about their health. If it’s dull, dry, greasy, or appears unkempt, it could be a sign of poor nutrition.
Other signs of poor nutrition in cats include:
- Urinary issues
- Dry, hard stool
- Frequent vomiting
- Skin disorders
- Hair loss
These symptoms are also associated with a range of other health problems. For this reason, it’s crucial to give us a call at (410) 807-8193 if they display any concerning symptoms that do not clear up on their own within a day or so.
What are some common food allergies in cats, and how can I tell if my cat is suffering from one?
Believe it or not, seafood is one of the most common allergies among cats. Tuna, cod, and salmon produce a lot of histamines and frequently cause stomach upset. Cats can also be allergic to chicken or beef.
Cats who have food allergies experience symptoms like:
- Vomiting shortly after eating
- Chronic diarrhea
- Skin problems
- Hair loss
- Ear infections
The best way to determine whether your cat is allergic to an ingredient is with a vet-supervised food trial using a hydrolyzed diet. Designed to be hypoallergenic, a hydrolyzed diet is something we can discuss further if your cat shows signs of food allergies.
When it comes to cat food, what and how much should I be feeding them?
Your cat’s caloric needs vary depending on their life stage, activity level, and current weight. We are here to help you calculate how much food your cat needs each day based on these factors. As experienced veterinarians, we are also familiar with the best commercial cat food brands and can assist you in choosing the right one for your pet.
Dry cat food should make up the majority of your cat’s diet. We also recommend including some wet cat food in their diet since it has higher moisture content and helps cats stay hydrated. Because cats evolved from desert animals, they lack a strong thirst drive. Keeping canned cat food in your feline friend’s diet is an excellent way to help them stay hydrated and prevent kidney problems.
In the wild, cats eat 10 to 20 small meals throughout the day. This is pretty tough for the average pet parent to keep up with, but there are ways to enrich feeding time for your cat.
Make mealtime more enjoyable for your cat by:
- Feeding them several small meals throughout the day
- Placing food in hunter or feeder toys
- Hiding small portions of food in various places
- Using food puzzles
Though it’s convenient to do, we recommend not leaving a bowl of food out for your cat to graze on as they please. Having free access to food is a common cause of obesity and makes it nearly impossible to monitor how much your cat is eating each day.
If you would like more information, the Cornell Feline Health Center is also an excellent resource for learning more about cat nutrition. And of course, we are here to address any questions or concerns you may have. Contact us today by calling (410) 807-8193.