Cat owners want the best cat nutrition value for their pets. Often, people fall into the habit of feeding the same food, all the time, to the exclusion of all other feline nutrition options. This may be for convenience sake, affordability or simply because their cat seems to like it. Sometimes, the cat may appear to prefer the current diet when offered new options. Ideally, a cat should be offered a variety of foods for best cat nutrition. When given the same food continually, over time, a cat can develop allergies to that food. Types of meat should be changed often.
Reasons why the best cat nutrition is a varied diet:-
Offering a Kibble Only Diet
Kibble is a popular food for cat owners. It is usually relatively inexpensive, does not spoil quickly, stores well. Cats often seem to prefer it when canned meat is also offered. Kibble is not a good choice as an exclusive diet. Consider this- kibble is made from a process called rendering. Rendering means crushing and pulverizing animal parts, cooking this mixture down to a “soup”, pressing all the moisture out of the end product until it becomes a fine, granulated powder and forming it into kibble shapes. Vitamins, minerals and other supplements like taurine, which when lacking in the diet can lead to retinal degeneration and blindness, heart problems and developmental issues in kittens, are added, depending on the quality of the food and dietary expectations of the brand. Protein (derived from meat sources and not plant proteins), fat and high water levels are crucial to a healthy diet. These cannot always be present in a dry kibble. Fat can go rancid and excess moisture can lead to mold if the food is not stored in a dry, low light, air tight container. Therefore, almost all dry kibble formulations have little to no moisture and the fat that may be in any particular formulation is probably rendered and is altered in its makeup and not nutritionally valid.
Consumers usually make purchasing decisions influenced by attractive packaging, familiar advertising, words like “Natural” and “Healthy” and sometimes on the advice of their vet. Some are described as beneficial to cats with a history of urinary tract infections, senior cats, kittens, outdoor cats, indoor cats, overweight cats and underweight cats.
Dry food contains grains like wheat, soy and plant proteins. In a normal, healthy cat these food sources are not only unnecessary, they can be harmful. Cats are obligate carnivores, meaning they have evolved to require a meat only diet. In the wild, cats of all sizes will occasionally eat grass. This is a good source of moisture and helps in digestive problems. Many cat owners offer fresh catnip and wheat grass growing in small containers. A cat will nibble at this from time to time. This is fine. All this being said, a cat will sometimes require dry food as a source of fiber, particularly overweight cats, prescribed by a vet. Also, a cat that is left alone for long periods of time may need an offering of dry food as it does not go bad and a cat will return and eat when hungry, having small meals throughout the day.
Semi-moist Cat Food is Off the Menu
Semi-moist cat foods used to be very popular. They were inexpensive, packaged in serving size, offered the added moisture a cat needs for good urinary tract health and cats loved them. They were pulled from the shelves when it was found that cats fed this diet suffered from anemia and other serious health concerns. They had a high caloric density and a lot of added sugars. Today, semi-moist food is still offered in treat form, which should be given sparingly.
Offering Wet, Canned Food
When a cat owner is home more often, canned, moist food is usually offered, sometimes in conjunction with dry kibble. ( This is how we feed Oscar our cat ) A high quality canned food can be a good choice of nutritious cat food, even when it is the only food available to the cat. Some cats prefer it. Canned food holds a lot of water, which is beneficial because cats don’t drink a lot of water naturally, so the added moisture is good for them. Cats that consume more water, in food or drinking, are less likely to develop kidney disease throughout their lifetime. There are less calories in canned food as opposed to dry kibble. There are little to no grains and carbohydrates in canned food. Also, cats with dental problems are more likely to eat the proper amount of food if they are eating food that is easier to chew. However, providing a certain amount of crunchy food or treats can prevent oral health problems in the first place.
Cats really do benefit from a variety of meats in their canned food. Organ meats like kidney and liver are good for cats because they are lower in calories and higher in iron, vitamins and phosphorous. Phosphorous is an essential mineral to good health. However, in a cat with compromised kidneys or renal failure, the kidneys are unable to process phosphorous properly, exacerbating the kidney issues. Muscle meats are very good because they have the highest levels of protein. Chicken ( Oscar’s preference! ) and turkey are more easily digestible, but beef can be offered often too because of the high protein levels.
Seafood is a popular choice and associated with cat preferences. This is not really healthy for a cat and the reason for this myth can be attributed to the fact that seafood is inexpensive and widely available. It really should not be used, at all. Seafood is not a natural prey item for cats in the wild. Seafood available today can also contain high levels of PBDEs, a bromine containing chemical used in foam, flame retardants, imitation wood, carpet padding, fabric backing, sound proofing panels, computers, televisions and mattresses. Bromine is harmful to cats because they can develop hyperthyroidism and high levels of bromine can inhibit levels of iodine in the body. Continued exposure to bromine can lead to iodine deficiency which can lead to autoimmune disease and cancer of the thyroid.
One shouldn’t feed inferior canned foods. Read labels to make sure there are not “meat by-products” in the formulation.
A caution in using canned food is that BPAs, an industrial chemical used in plastics and resins, is used to coat the inside of most cat food cans. There is a minimal to moderate risk of high blood pressure and compromised brain function.
Feeding a Raw Diet
Increasingly, raw food diets are becoming popular. Some of the advantages of feeding a raw diet are; you are absolutely certain of what you are feeding your cat, raw meat is a more natural option for strict carnivores such as cats, this diet is more palatable to your cat, raw meat is a complete food for a cat and there is the benefit of less stools and decreased odor from the litter box! There are drawbacks. Raw meat needs to be handled carefully, both for the health of your cat and yourself. Raw meat can carry salmonella and E. coli. If sold responsibly and handled carefully, this is not a problem. Providing a raw diet can be costly and time consuming. A raw diet if considered by the cat owner to be the best cat food nutrition should never be started without advice from your vet and diligent research. In this age of online search engines and a plethora of websites and blogs dedicated to cat health, behavior, feeding, housing and caring for cats, information is readily available.
What You Should Never Feed Your Cat
You should never give dairy to a cat. Cats can’t process lactose. They usually get an upset stomach and/or diarrhea. Even if they do tolerate dairy, it’s still not good for them and can lead to obesity. It’s pretty obvious that cats shouldn’t eat chocolate. Everybody knows that. If you suspect your cat has consumed chocolate, you should get to the vet right away. Signs that your cat has gotten into chocolate include unusual thirst, muscle tremors, vomiting and restlessness. It’s unclear what is in grapes and raisins that make them poisonous to cats, but they are extremely toxic. The protein in raw eggs can interfere with the production of biotin in the body and can make fur and skin lose proper condition. Caffeine is very toxic to cats. Even two little laps of coffee can be fatal to a cat. Use extreme caution. Don’t let your cat get into raw dough. It can expand in the gut and cause the stomach or intestines to rupture.
Feeding Schedule, Area and Bonding time
Cats are creatures of habit, moreover. They benefit from a regular feeding time, whether it is canned or raw food at specific times of the day or dry kibble put down at the same time every day and picked up again later.
You should give thought to where you feed your cat. It should be in a low traffic area where your cat feels safe. A cat prefers a raised area on which to eat. This doesn’t mean you should feed your cat on the kitchen counter or your dinner table. If you set up a little table or bench specially set up as the place for your cat to eat, this makes her more comfortable and more likely to eat all of the food set out for her. Some cats can be skittish around the food bowl and don’t like to get disturbed.
When you are the one that puts down the food for your cat on a regular basis, it is a chance for bonding. You are special to your cat, not only because you love her and cuddle with her (when she wants it) but you are the one that provides one of the highlights of the day, feeding time!
Given this information on best cat nutrition, hopefully you can come to a decision that variety is key to a cat’s health and happiness.