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Feeding Your Cat

When you acquire a new kitten or cat, it is strongly recommended that you find out exactly what the cat was being fed previously, and feed the cat this exact same food. If you want to change the diet, this must be done very gradually. The new food must be mixed with the old food, a little at a time,  increasing the percentage of the new food in relation to the old food gradually over a two week period. Far too many new cat owners believe that they can instantly give the new cat a complete change of diet, and find out too late that this causes the cat to have diarrhea and possibly becoming very ill.

There are many varieties of cat foods to choose from whether you are shopping at the grocery or at the pet supply store. Choosing the right food for your cat is important if you want your cat to live a long and healthy life. Inferior food will lack certain elements that will shorten your cats life or lower their immunities to disease and parasites. In addition, they leave a lot more deposits in the litter pan.

Two very important things to look for on the bag is the AAFCO statement. This will state this diet has been found adequate by the Association of American Feed Control (AAFCO). Also look for a statement on the label that describes the food as complete, balanced,
perfect or scientific. If both of these are not present you can assume that it is not a complete or quality food and you should look at another product. The first four items listed on the bad should be some sort of meat.

Generally, the safest thing to do is to buy from large, well-known manufacturers as they have the money to do extensive testing. Also you can call the manufacturers phone number that should be on the bag and ask them questions about the testing and qualities
of ingredients that they include in their product. Also it is a good idea to find out what brand of food the breeder or rescue group has been feeding your cat. If a change is needed then it needs to be done very gradually over a period of a week or two.

Cats are carnivores. They require a food that is high in protein including certain amino acids like taurine, and fat. In nature, if they were eating a fresh caught mouse the mouse would mostly consist of muscle tissue (main source of protein and amino acids), bones (main source of calcium), hair (fiber, minerals and protein) and inner organs (predigested grains with B vitamins and enzymes). Below you will find why each of these are important to your cat. Some things, like calcium and magnesium, on the other hand, need to be a low % of the diet to ensure optimal health.

Protein

Protein consumed by your cat provides him with Amino Acids in which the cat will reassemble into the protein parts of his body. Some Amino Acids are essential and some are nonessential. Essential amino acids must be obtained from the foods where nonessential can be synthesized by the cats body. Taurine is a very important essential amino acid that is vital in a cats health. Before the importance of Taurine was discovered many cats had developed feline cardiomyopathy, heart failure, central retinal degeneration and blindness and reproductive problems due to the shortage of Taurine in their diets. Manufacturers have since corrected this problem by adding it to their foods. Providing a rounded variety of meat, poultry, fish and dairy will ensure that your cat receives a healthy balance of the essential and nonessential amino acids.

The digestibility of the proteins is important too. Highly digestible proteins come from muscle tissues of meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. Other parts of animals used in manufacturing foods, such as beaks, feathers and bones are not as highly digestible. Grain proteins are found somewhere in the middle of the two.

Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates are not part of the "natural diet" of a cat but can be used by the cat. They break them down and convert the sugars into more complex carbohydrates. However, the fiber found in foods helps keep the cat's digestive system healthy and helps prevent diarrhea and constipation.

Fats

About 40% of a cat's calories come from this category. Fats from animal sources help transport certain vitamins and aid in absorption of vitamins. Fat also aids in the appeal of the food to the cat. This high demand for fat and proteins is why cats will not thrive on dog
foods. They do not provide near enough of the percentages that a cat needs.

Vitamins

Vitamins  are divided into two categories, water-soluble and fat soluble. Water soluble vitamins include the B vitamins, niacin, pantothenic acid, folic acid, biotin, choline and Vitamin C. If these vitamins are consumed in excess the body will eliminate them through urine. Fat soluble vitamins include vitamins A, D, E and K. Since these are fat soluble they can not be eliminated and will build up in the cats system if given in excess which could lead to toxic levels. Please consult with a veterinarian before supplementing these particular vitamins.

*Oil based hairball remedies can interfere with the absorption of  vitamins and  shouldn’t be used over long term.

Minerals

Minerals that your cat needs are potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, iron, phosphorous and sodium chloride. These are a very minute part of the dietary balance for a cat but does help ensure proper health and immunities. On the other hand, cats require a diet lower in calcium and magnesium than some foods offer. Male cats, especially, may be prone to developing urinary tract disease if fed a diet high in calcium and magnesium (among other things, fish is naturally very high in both and generally to be avoided).

Water

Approximately 70% of your cats make-up is water. Clean and fresh water needs to be available at all times for the cat. Nutrients are carried and wastes are removed by water. Canned foods are high in water, but consequently much lower in nutrition than dry foods. Thus, it is generally recommended that cats be free fed dry food (i.e. have dry food always available) and also always have easy access to a water source. It is suggested that canned food only be used for a "treat".

In Summary:

When a quality food is used that has the proper balance of all these properties the cat will have a very healthy coat (strong hair and not oily), clear eyes, strong immune system, proper weight and small firm stools.

Proper weight can be decided by feeling the cats ribs and backbone. If ribs are prominent then the cat is to thin. If the ribs can not be felt at all then the cat is obese.   If a cat is underweight the backbone of the cat can be felt easily.

Problems with obese cats can include diabetes, joint problems, breathing problems, liver problems and also skin problems because often the cat can’t reach around to properly clean himself. Talk to your vet about your cats weight. There are "light" or "senior" formulas available that have lower levels of fat to help reduce a cats weight. 

Low weight may signal inadequate nutrition, parasites or more serious illnesses. Again, consult your vet for diagnosis, and for high nutrition veterinary diets if your cat is underweight.

Treats can be given to a cat as long as they are not taking the place of quality, nutritious foods. Treats are often not nutritionally balanced. Also be aware that if you give treats from your plate this will encourage begging and will not provide a balanced nutrition. You should also avoid feeding spicy foods or foods with onion. Many cats are also lactose intolerant and have problems with dairy products. Sometimes that treat dish of cow’s milk can make your cat very uncomfortable.

Whether your cat has an upset stomach, needs some fiber or just likes to nibble on your plants, you can have a cat garden just for your cat. Plants that you can have available for your cat to munch healthily on are Catnip, Valerian, Alfalfa, Rye, Wheat, Parsley and Thyme. There are also dangerous plants that your cat should not be allowed to eat.

Additional Resource Link:
PetDiets.com


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