CAT NUTRITION FACTS
Without nutrition, none of us would be here. Specific cat nutrition for young kittens, that have been just weaned, is extremely important. Lactation via the mother cat can only go so far and the kittens need a new energy source to fuel their growth and development. High quality food during this period will ensure the development of bones and general health. Mentioned many times on this website, is the importance of diet on the kitten’s immune system. High quality protein will insure that this crucial defense system will be in prime condition.
Puppies and kittens have very similar nutritional needs; outside of a higher protein requirement in kitten diets. The big difference is that kittens and adult cats can not manufacture the amino acidAmino acids are the organic building blocks of proteins. Proteins are needed for life; including muscle development all the way to the needs of the immune system. Without amino acids, life could not exist., taurine. It has to be supplemented in a cats diet. People and dogs can manufacture this amino acid by breaking down others to make taurine; not so in the cat. It has been shown in cats that a deficiency of taurine leads to cardiomyopathy and retinal diseases. The former leads to heart failure and the latter, to blindness.
WHAT TYPE OF DIET TO FEED?
There are a million different types of cat nutrition on the market for kittens. Back in the 1980’s manufacturers made a ton of diets using red dye. This color made the cute little fish shapes that they thought cats would like. Maybe a marketing ploy to attract the human buying the food? This caused lots of allergies and more importantly, a lot of vomiting. It is important to find cat nutrition that does not irritate your cat’s stomach. Vomiting is one of the most common complaints on why owners present cats to an animal hospital. Hairballs are usually culprit number one but diets can also lead to chronic vomiting due to a sensitive stomach.
The best thing you can do for your kitten when it comes to cat nutrition is to feed it dry food. Cats really are finicky but if you start feeding canned food, kittens and their adult versions will stick their noses up to dry food. Than, owners usually give in and the cat gets back to business as usual. This is a mistake. Excessive canned food leads to early dental disease as well as obesity. This excessive weight will lead to a shorter life. Stick with name brand diets that your kitten likes plus also those that do not upset your kittens stomach. Some of the better known, are Kitten Royal Canin® and Kitten Science Diet®. Regardless of the diet you feed a cat, if a cat does not eat in three days it will start to develop liver disease. Always keep Nutrical® on hand.
FREQUENCY AND WHERE DO THE FOOD BOWLS GO?
Kittens can be fed as they call it “free choice”. Cats are not usually over eaters like dogs are. They usually graze, pick over and generally eat on their own schedule throughout the day and night. Food can be left out continually. Kittens and adult cats have one habit though. The bowl can be almost full but they demand that the bowl be “topped off”. This is infuriating to cat owners because they eat the top part which is the freshest and leave the other to rot! Mix the old with the new and that will do the trick!
Food bowls can be put anywhere in the home, usually on a floor away from human traffic. Make sure all the food bowls are non-flippable and stay away from red plastic containersThe majority of red plastic food bowls contains a red dye that cats are allergic to. They will usually present with ulcers and sores on their lower lips and jaws. This is a contact allergy and by changing food bowls to stainless or kiln dried will alleviate the situation.. Make sure to change your kittens water bowl daily to insure fresh drinking water. A handy trick is to add a teaspoon or so of cranberry juice to the water each time it is changed. This acidifies the urine and will prevent a lot of urinary tract infections as the kitten ages. Start this when the kitten is young!
The only exception to putting food and water bowls on the floor is when you also have dogs in the house. Dogs much prefer cat food as it is richer in fats and carbohydrates. Most dogs consider cat food a true delicacy. Dogs have a tendency to gain weight on such a diet so the best thing to do is elevate the food and water bowls on to a table or some other object that dogs do not have access to. Remember, cats can jump!
HOW LONG ON KITTEN FOOD?
When it comes to cat nutrition, kittens started on a kitten diet should stay on it till about one year of age. Each kitten or cat is a unique individual so it is safe to say that putting a kitten on an adult diet between 8 months to a year should do the trick. Some female cats spayed at 6 months often gain excess weight if a kitten diet is offered. Even though I recommend that cats stay indoors, cats that are in and out of doors can stay on a kitten diet longer since they are spending more energy running around in the outdoor environment. Keep the food and water bowls indoors as you will also be feeding wildlife including raccoons!
The important message of cat nutrition is sticking with a particular brand of kitten food. This is important when changing over to adult food. Most of the major pet food companies such as Royal Canin® & Science Diet® have adult diets that are restricted in ash; particularly magnesiumMagnesium is a chemical element found on the periodic table we all studied in high school chemistry. In cats, magnesium combines with phosphorus to produce magnesium phosphates. These are known as struvite crystals and stones. These stones can obstruct the urinary tract of a male cat or cause cystitis. Reducing magnesium in the diet decreases the incidence of urinary tract disease in the cat.. Urinary tract infections are one of the common diseases that present daily in most veterinary practices.
Now that you have your kitten on the road to nutritional health, sit back and enjoy your feline companion! Cats are purrrfect company!