It is obviously very important to provide your cat with a well balanced diet. Feeding the correct diet will ensure the healthy formation of bones, teeth and internal organs, which will be reflected in the condition of your cat’s coat. Many people think that cats are very similar to dogs and that they both have the same nutritional requirements, but this is not true. Cats have a completely different metabolism to dogs and are actually considered by scientists to be strict carnivores.
Cats are usually quite sensible about the amount of food they eat and don’t generally put on weight as easily as dogs do – although they can sometimes get addicted to a certain type of food. They are excellent hunters too and will catch and eat small rodents, birds, lizards, etc, if allowed to roam around outside. Although this is instinctively your cat’s way of balancing its diet, it is not really necessary with the correct feeding and can lead to toxoplasmosis and internal parasites. The only way to discourage this habit is to keep your cat indoors.
When you first bring your cat home, you need to establish a regular feeding regime and area for feeding. Many people prefer to use the kitchen as the feeding area, as it is often easier to clean up any mess from the floor. There are many different types of bowls to choose from too, depending on your personal preference. Plastic bowls are lighter and can be placed in the dishwasher, but can be knocked over more easily. Earthenware and glass, on the other hand, may be heavier and less likely to be knocked over, but they can be dropped and easily chipped or broken. Metal bowls are probably the best option, as they are more solid than plastic and will not break.
How many times a day you feed your cat depends very much on its age, health and preference. Kittens up to around six months old will require three meals a day, whereas adult cats can cope quite well on one or two meals a day. Again elderly cats may need to be fed little and often and may require three meals a day.
If you take a walk down the aisles of your local supermarket, you will see that there are numerous brands and types of cat food. They come in various textures, nutritional values, flavors and dietary requirements; in seafood, lamb, beef and poultry flavors. Again the choice is mainly down to you and, of course, your cat’s preference. You can choose between:
1. Dry cat food (or kibble) – This is hard and crunchy and is probably the least expensive. These foods are formulated to provide a complete balanced diet with all the vitamins, minerals and trace elements required for perfect health. They are convenient, easy to store and will stay fresh in your cat’s bowl for long periods of time. One major drawback of these products is the fact that they do not contain water. Plenty of fresh water should therefore be left available at all times.
2. Canned or wet food – This food comes in various can sizes or foil pouches. They contain a good level of water, which is much better for your cat’s general health. They also contain considerably less grain and carbohydrate material than dry foods.
3. Fresh food – Cats will certainly enjoy fresh meat of any kind, including chicken, rabbit, fish, beef and lamb. It is better to cook the meat first to ensure that any parasites and harmful organisms are removed. You must also remove any bones, as these could easily get stuck in your cat’s throat. If you decide to feed your cat solely on a diet of fresh food, you may need to consult your vet about vitamin and mineral supplements to ensure that your cat is getting a completely balanced diet.
4. Vegetarian food – This is mainly designed for vegetarians, who also wish to feed a vegetarian diet to their pets. Although dogs may cope well with a vegetarian diet, cats are quite different and tend to be quite ‘picky’ eaters. They may well turn the food down in preference for hunting outdoors. Cats require certain nutrients, which can only be found in meat and cannot be provided in sufficient quantities in plants. If you do decide to use a vegetarian diet, you should consult your vet for some nutritional advice to ensure that your cat gets all its correct daily requirements.
Although you can stick to one type of cat food, it may be a better idea to give your cat a variety of foods from all the categories. This will add variety and texture to your cat’s diet. However, feeding your cat at the table shouldn’t be encouraged, as there are some foods which are suitable for human consumption, that can cause digestive upsets or even severe illness in cats – due to their different metabolism. It would be better to purchase some cat treats and offer these instead at other times. Getting your cat’s diet right is very important for its well-being and will hopefully equip him/her with the right nutrients for a long and happy life.
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