A well fed kitty is... well... a happy kitty. There is a ton of cat food on the market, so figuring out the right thing to feed your buddy can seem daunting. Taking a blind guess can unfortunately lead to some issues: stomach upsets, allergy problems, and nutritional deficits can all result from a wrong choice. Today, we will have a quick look at what most cats should have in their diets, plus go a little more in depth into what they may need as they progress through the different stages of their lives.
Cat Food Basics
Although every cat is different, overall, to keep your cat's engine... er... purring, they all require certain things. These things will, of course, vary in amount, and the ratios will change over time; however, it's a good idea to keep an eye out for these components when looking into the right cat food for your little pal!
Just like people, cats require vitamins in their regular diet. From researching your own nutritional needs, you've likely found that there are two categories of vitamins - water and fat soluble - both of which have their own important role to play. Water soluble vitamins that cats need include B complex and C. Fat solubles are A, D, E, and K. Being that cats are carnivorous creatures, these vitamins are best obtained through meat sources, rather than plant materials.
Again, like people, minerals play a very important part in keeping your cat's body in great shape. The list of essential minerals is fairly long, and includes things like calcium, magnesium, potassium, copper, cobalt, chromium, silicon, chloride, sodium, zinc, phosphorous, molybdenum, manganese, selenium, sulfur, fluorine, iodine, and iron. Although this is a reasonably long list, there are also trace minerals that cats need; however, this list alone is fairly important, so be sure to keep an eye out for these minerals in particular.
Cats have a fairly high need for protein in their diet, but the exact amount needed will depend on a variety of factors, such as age and activity level. Plant proteins are not a great source for our meat-eating little buddies, as they are difficult for them to digest and do not provide a whole source of protein. Whole sources are found in many animal products, including poultry, meat, fish, and even eggs.
Certain types of fats work better for cats than others. To continue with the theme, plant sources of fat are not easily digested, and may cause stomach issues, like vomiting and diarrhea. Animal sources work better in the kitty digestive system, and include omega-3 and 6 fatty acids from fish, meats, and eggs, as well as linoleic acid and conjugated linoleic acid, and eicosapentaenoic acid. SOME cat-friendly fats can be found from plant sources, such as alpha-linolenic acid and gamma-linolenic acid.
Feeding Your Cat By Age
Since we've already started this theme, let's run with it. People, as they age, tend to require different things as the years go by. Cats are really no different in this respect. What works for your sweet, fluffy little kitten will likely wreck up the place for your august feline cohort. Similarly, trying to introduce grownup food too soon may make your little one feel impossibly unwell. So now that we've looked over what matters most for cats overall, we'll look into the details of age-specific feeding.
Kittens are high energy and low fat. During the first weeks and months of their lives, their growth is exceptional, and because of this, kittens simply need more calories. Their fat and vitamin requirements are, surprisingly, similar to that of adult felines; however, in addition to extra calories, kittens need more proteins, minerals, and amino acids. In order to provide the right quantity and quality of food, it's a good idea to feed your new little one three to four times a day, using a kitten food that is specially formulated to meet their specific needs. Try to avoid generic or store brand foods, as the quality tends to suffer.
After about a year, the growth rate will slow down and your kitty's nutritional needs will relax just a bit. Of course, he will still need all the vitamins, minerals, fats, and proteins, but caloric intake can be decreased. Proteins can also be somewhat reduced, but he will still require a healthy dose, as certain types, like those that include arginine and taurine, are essential for regular body functions, but can only be attained through food sources. When looking for what cat food to give your adult feline, look for labels that state that they meet the nutritional requirements set forth by the American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO), or labels that offer "complete and balanced nutrition." How much you feed will depend on his activity levels, though as a general rule, twice a day will usually suffice.
Cats linger in the "adult" part of life for many years; however, they generally reach the distinction of "senior" between the ages of 7 and 10 years. At this point, their bodies have definitely started changing, and, of course, their diets need to change as well. Older cats, unfortunately, are more prone to illnesses like diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, and arthritis. Obesity can also be an issue, especially for those between the ages of 6 and 8. Because of potential underlying issues, finding the right cat food for your senior kitty can be a rather complex issue. Some will require higher levels of protein, while others will benefit from increased omega-3s or certain antioxidants. At this stage of life, it is best to speak with your cat's veterinarian to help establish what his specific needs might be, and develop a proper eating plan.
Kitties are unique little critters, and finding the right cat food to meet all of their needs can seem rather tricky. With a little bit of knowledge and some regular observation, though, it needn't be all that difficult. If you're still struggling to find the right balance for your own companion, though, take a moment to speak with your vet - after all, they're trained for this, right?
Cats Will Play is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. For more information, visit our Full Affiliate Disclosure.