Happy Healthy Cats go with Proper Feeding

Happy healthy cats go with proper feeding.

Feeding high quality (premium) and nutritious food is the foundation of good health for your cat or kitten. However, before we discuss what, when and how to feed your kittten or cat, let’s take a quick glimpse into our kitty’s interior workings to better understand the need for good nutrition.

First of all cats are different from dogs. A happy cat does not wag its tail.

Cats are carnivores, dogs are omnivores. In order for a cat to survive it needs to eat meat due to the many nutrients and chemicals, animal-derived tissues feed into their bodies. A cat’s inner workings are unique.

There are some things it can manufacture for itself and there are other nutrients that have to come from the food it eats.

In this respect, a mouse is the perfect food for a cat as it contains everything that a cat needs to survive nicely. However, I am not suggesting that your provide your cat with mice for breakfast and supper.

A cat can manufacture all the vitamin C it needs; oddly enough we do not. Cats need to get from meat and meat by-products the following; Vitamin A, Niacin, Arginine (an amino acid which helps build proteins.)

Taurine an extremely important amino acid for eye and heart health found in foods of animal orgin.

Felinine (another important amino acid,) dietary protein and Arachidonic Acid (a fatty acid needed for fat utilization and energy.)

A cat cannot be a vegetarian. Cats need to eat meat.

Never put a “fat cat” on a starvation diet and do not allow your cat to go without food.

Cats do not have fat reserves that can be used for energy. Once the internal workings are upset, a cat can get a serious disorder called hepatic lipidosis that has been known to cause death.

My cat Smokey almost died from this disorder due to some bad advice I received from a veterinarian.

Smokey’s story is long and complex so I will just give you the quick version. He was found in a compost pile by my neighbor’s dog. My neighbor brought him to me and we assumed he was only a day or two old. A trip to the vet confirmed our guess and I took over the job of raising him. I won’t go through the medical problems I encountered, but today he is a beautiful 5 year old male.

The problem I had and still have is Smokey will not eat anything but raw beef and shredded cheddar cheese. As a weaned baby he would not eat cat food in any form (dry or wet) he would eat cooked chicken and would take his bottle of cat milk.

As he grew and under the advice of my then vet I was told to not feed him for a few days and that when he was hungry enough he would eat. Not true, he would rather starve than eat cat food. After 3 days of not eating the food I put down, he collapsed.

A quick trip to the vet, some blood work and then the conclusion, I had a very sick cat on my hands.

He was lacking almost all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients his body needed. I quickly put him on a vitamin supplement program (that I found in a natural cat health book) and slowly started him back on his “normal diiet."

Now back to what do you feed your cat?

First of all there is an organization called Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) that keeps the pet food manufacturers on their toes. AAFCO has made up certain dietary requirements that the pet food makers have to follow. This requirement makes certain that all cat food (and dog food) manufactured contains at least the minimum amount of nutrients required for a cat’s well being. I feel that statement is open for debate, but for now we will let it go.

One thing to remember is that there is no pet food or any food that is 100% complete and balanced no matter what the food manufacturer says. There are as many differences in pet food as there are in the people who make it.

The important thing here is to remember that quality counts. Premium cat foods are supposed to be high quality, I suggest you read the list of ingredients to make certain the food does not contain more grains than protiens. The less expensive brands of cat food contain a greater amount of grain and/or water than the premium ones.

We all love to shop for bargains. We feel pretty good when we can save money, but bargain cat food is not a bargain when it comes to the health of your cat.

You will save money by buying a higher grade of cat food. How? Your cat will eat less of it due to the fact it has more of the “good stuff” in it and secondly the more “good stuff” the healthier your cat will be. Less trips to the vet.

It really does not matter whether you feed your cat wet (canned) or dry food as long as it is of high quality. My cats eat both (that is Miss Tiger and Boots). I cannot stress enough the importance of feeding high quality cat food to your cat.

Cats need protein and not the carbohydrates that the grains contain in the less expensive food. In truth you have to feed your cats more of the less expensive food in order for them to fill up and to get all the vitamins and minerals they need.

There is a continual debate going on over natural foods versus commercial food. The truth is the only real natural food is raw meat, (and that is debatable) all other food is processed one way or another and processing (which is heat) destroys vitamins and minerals.

According to the Pet Food Committee of the AAFCO, “natural” as it relates to pet food is a food or ingredient derived solely from a plant, animal or a mined source. It can either be in it’s natural state (raw) or processed by several means including cooking.

The food per se remains “natural” as long as it has not been subjected to a chemical synthetic process and does not contain any additives that are chemically synthetic. Prophylene Glycol and BHA are two examples of chemically synthesized ingredients and are found in many pet foods.

Even frozen and freeze-dried pet foods are not the 100% complete and balanced food to feed your pet. There are no processed foods available for pets or humans that can truthfully be said to be 100% complete and balanced.

There are many “pet food “experts that say animal fat is not good for our pets. That too much protein will cause kidney problems and meat by-products are among the worst things you can feed your pet.

Think about it, back in the days of yore, when our cats and dogs were the hunters of their own food, both ate almost every part of the animal they caught without any ill effects. For a long period of time I was convinced that any food that said it contained “animal by-products” was bad for my cats. While doing some research to write this article I made a interesting discovery and wondered why I had not thought of it myself concerning meat by-products.

What are the by-products? They are the clean (raw) other parts of a slaughtered animal such as the lungs, intestines, kidneys, livers, blood, some bones, brains and some fatty tissue.

Meat by-products are not the hooves, hair, teeth and horns of the animals as I had previously believed.

If our pets were like their ancestors of yesteryear and had to hunt for their dinner they would eat all of the things that are in what is called meat by-products. Makes some sense doesn’t it?

Another question that keeps coming up is “should I feed my cat vitamins or give it supplements? The answer to that question is “no.” Good premium cat food will have all the vitamins and minerals your cat needs. To give any extra may upset the unique interior “cat factory.” Granted if your vet says your kitty needs an additional vitamin or supplement, do it.

However, if you have a cat like my Smokey that will not eat anything but raw beef and some grated cheese, vitamins are very important. Meat and cheese do not make the best diet for a cat.

I use a cat “multi vitamin (Hartz Vitamins for cats) that I grind up in a small coffee grinder and mix it with some water and some Iams kitten food and put it in a kitten bottle and feed it to him every day.

As I mentioned earlier he will not touch cat food, but when I give him his bottle he never makes a fuss about the cat food that is in it. The reason I feed him the kitten food is that it will flow out of the nipple as regular cat food is too coursely ground and will not. Of course I have been doing it for over 5 years so he is used to it.

Now it is time to get to “the how and when” to feed your new cat. If your choice of cat was a kitten by now it has been weaned and should have been started on solid food before you brought it home. Kittens, because their stomachs are so small and the fact they will generally eat only a little at a time need to be fed four or five times a day.

It is best that when you pick up your bundle of joy you find out what it has been eating (brand name, whether it was canned or dry food) and how often it was being fed. This way you can keep your kitten on the same diet and possibly the same schedule.

Don’t be alarmed if your kitten does not seem to be eating as much each time as you think it should, some kittens are grazers and like to eat a little at a time, but eat many times during the day. If you have a kitten that is a grazer, kitten dry food is a good way to go as you can leave it out when you are not home.

Do not feed your kitten “grown up cat food.” Kittens need food made especially for kittens as this food has the extra vitamins and minerals a new cat needs to grow.

Should your kitten show any signs of listlessness, diarrhea, vomiting or have trouble going to the bathroom call your vet at once. It is important not to change your kitten’s food suddenly, as it might upset its digestive system. Whenever you decide to change your kitten’s diet do it gradually a little new food each day.

By the time your kitten is 3 months to about 7 months feeding can drop down to 3 times a day.

By the time your cat is a young adult you should have the feeding routine pretty well figured out (you should be well trained.) Some cats are grazers and like dry food left out so they can nibble at it during the day.

Always have fresh water available, this is important for kittens as well as grown cats.

By the time my cats had grown into young adulthood I have made it “my own policy” to vary their diet.

I try different “high quality” brands in both wet and dry food. Feeding them sometimes a fish based food and at other times meat based foods, my thinking behind this is I like variety and maybe they do too.

I have to say I have many “hits” and many “misses,” what they like one day, they suddenly don’t like the next.

Boots get treats of raw meat and Miss Tiger get treats of cooked chicken (has to have garlic on it) she will not eat raw beef.

In doing my research I also came across an interesting article concerning cats and bones.

Normally you associate raw bones with dogs, but never with cats. I have not tried it yet, but I am going to.

The article said chewing on raw chicken wings is very good for cleaning a cat’s teeth. The end tip of the wing is good for kittens to chew on and the bonier end near the tip for adult cats. I am going to try it and I will let everyone know the results in my forth coming newsletter.

As I feed my cats (Boots and Miss Tiger) a premium dry cat food as a snack when they are hungry, I am always interested in what other people have to say about dry food and cat nutrition in general.

My research has lead me in many different directions and has given me food for thought. If you are interested in information about cat nutrition and dry food in general please read cats and carbohydrates and see what you think.

As I come to the end of this article I just want to remind you to enjoy your cat or kitten, play with it on a daily basis, give freely of your love and take heed of your cat's great lesson: relax, take naps and take time to play.

Independent Thought

When keeping cats, children learn to be responsible for things as small as a cat bed and taking care of their cat toys. They can start with ragdoll cats that are a gentle breed.

Drs. Foster and Smith Inc.