Feeding your cat the right food is the best thing you can do for its health. With so much information available, choosing the correct diet for your feline friend may be confusing.
Cats are unique animals, and while we keep them as domestic pets, they still retain their natural hunting instincts from their wild cat ancestors. That means their diet is slightly different from that of a dog, and the frequency of meals will often vary also.
No matter what breed of cat you own, this simple guide to feeding your cat will help you to keep your cat healthy and eating well.
What should cats eat?
To feed your cat the right diet, you need to understand a cat’s feeding behaviours in its wild state.
Cats are what’s known as “obligate carnivores” – meaning they must have meat in their diet to survive and thrive. Cats are also hunters. Wild felines will spend around 12 hours a day hunting for smaller prey to eat.
While your house cat is blessed by not having to search for its food, they still have that natural instinct to want to hunt and feed on small yet frequent amounts of food during the day.
So, in order to keep your cat healthy on a diet that mimics their natural feeding behaviour, you should include the following foods:
- Animal protein (such as beef, poultry and fish)
- Wet or dry cat food (or a mixture of the two) that contains a balance of meat, essential fatty acids, fibre and complex carbohydrates.
- Water – Not milk. Cats need fresh, clean drinking water to stay hydrated and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. Cats shouldn’t drink cow’s milk as most cats lose their ability to digest lactose after weaning.
- Carefully formulated cat treats to snack on during the day (as long as you limit these treats to 10% of their total calorie intake)
How often should you feed a cat?
Since, in nature, cats eat small frequent meals throughout the day, it’s best to replicate this by feeding your cat small yet frequent meals at home.
Of course, the age of your cat and its feeding preferences will determine just how often they eat. As a guide,
Kittens up to the age of 6 months will require kitten-made food roughly four times per day.
Adult cats will do well with just two small meals a day. Once a cat becomes an adult at about 1 year, feeding once or twice per day is appropriate — granted they are being given cat food that is specifically formulated for adult cats and contains all the essential nutrients they need.
When feeding your cat, you should follow these tips:
- Use a shallow bowl for food and water and avoid using plastic feeding bowls (as these can put out odours that may deter a cat from eating)
- Keep your cat isolated when feeding. Cats prefer to do their hunting and feeding alone.
- Consider a puzzle feeder to stimulate their natural hunting instincts
- Uneaten wet or dry food should be replaced daily
- Keep food, water and litter trays in different places so your cat knows their food and water is clean
How much should you feed your cat?
One of the most difficult aspects of feeding cats is determining how much food you should give them.
A simple guideline? Feed your cat as per the instructions on their cat food packaging. These instructions give a detailed guide on the amount of food you should give your cat depending on the cat’s age and weight.
Finding the right feeding plan for your cat will also depend on your cat’s feeding preferences and lifestyle.
For example, if you are wanting to meal-feed your cat, then you should provide food twice a day for breakfast and dinner with no snacking in between. If your cat prefers snacking throughout the day, then you can allow free choice feeding by giving him/her small yet frequent meals throughout the day so they can feed on their own schedule. Keep in mind that you should only offer dry cat food if you’re strictly free feeding. The third feeding option is to provide a combination of meal eating and free feeding, where canned food is given for breakfast & dinner while dry food is offered to your cat to snack on throughout the day.
You’ll need to monitor your cat’s diet over a few weeks to ensure they’re neither losing weight nor gaining extra kilos. Remember, if you’re concerned about any changes in your cat’s weight or feeding behavior, consult your local vet.
When feeding cats, balance is key. The best food for cats is premium cat food that contains no filler ingredients and uses only wholesome nutrient-rich foods. High-quality cat foods will be specifically formulated to maintain a cat’s health and weight. If you’re unsure of the best food to give your cat, seek advice from your veterinarian or a local pet supply store. Try to avoid overfeeding your cat by sticking to the serving suggestions as outlined on your cat food packet or tin. While a pudgy cat may look cute, obesity in cats is a real concern and can lead to health complications.