The right nutrition is absolutely essential for your cat to be happy and healthy. To make sure she gets everything that she needs, her nutrition must contain the right balance of vitamins, minerals and nutrients. The composition will vary significantly depending on what stage of life your pet is at and what her situation is. We’ll tell you about the specific requirements that kittens, adult cats and senior felines will encounter.
Kittens and pregnant cats
In the first few weeks, the only nutrition that kittens need is their mother’s milk. However, if the mother cat doesn’t produce enough milk, you will need to supplement it with a special milk formula. You can reduce the risk of her producing insufficient milk by giving her junior food from about four weeks before the birth and while she is nursing. Kitten food is especially rich in calories and nutrients, giving the expectant mother the optimal supply of extra energy, which she needs to produce the milk. When they’re about four weeks old, kittens will want to try out some solid food. The mother will start weaning them off her milk at this point. Two to four weeks later, the kittens will have been completely weaned off their mother’s milk and will need a balanced complete feed adapted to the requirements of their growth phase. Adult cat food is not suitable for them. In their first few months, kittens need about twice as much energy per kilo of body weight as adult cats do. Over or under feeding them can result in some serious health problems. The fact that their stomachs are still so small means that kittens can’t eat as much in one sitting as they actually need. As a result, they need lots of little meals each day. Experts recommend giving them kitten food four times a day, as well as fresh water at all times. In the beginning, you should therefore give them wet food at meal times and also offer them a constant supply of dry food on the side so that they can eat lots of little portions. This is also a good way to get them used to different types of foods and flavours. Of course, they should always have access to fresh water as well.
As wet food goes bad quickly, especially in summer, you shouldn’t leave it standing around uncovered for hours at a time. Instead, offer them smaller portions that stay fresh.
The Adult Cat
From around the seventh to eighth month, a cat will have grown enough that she can start eating food for adult cats. Her stomach is now big enough that she can eat enough at each meal. That said, you should still feed your cat three to four times a day, because smaller portions are easier to digest, even for adult cats. Exactly how often and how much you should feed your feline friend will depend on her level of activity and her physical condition. Breed-specific characteristics will sometimes play a role too. In any case it’s important that you choose high-quality cat food that is labelled as “complete feed”. Only food with this declaration will reliably cover the average nutritional requirements of an adult cat.
We know that not all cats are the same, and that’s true of both their personalities and the question of what they need for a healthy diet. Generally speaking, all adult cats need a high percentage of protein, which means lots of meat and fish. Exactly how much they need is dependent on a number of factors such as whether your pet is strictly an indoor cat or if he’s more of an active outdoor cat. Another consideration is that large, heavy breeds will need to be fed differently than those that are smaller and lighter. Getting the composition of the feed right can also help with health issues so long as specific vulnerabilities are taken into account early enough. For example, large and heavy cats have a tendency to develop arthrosis due to premature wear and tear on the cartilage. Nutrition enriched with amino acids and fatty acids or containing green lipped mussel extract is recommended for these kinds of pets as this can have a positive effect on the development and progression of arthrosis.
In contrast, cats with an even temperament or those who don’t require that much exercise require easily-digestible food that is high in protein and low in fat. A high percentage of fiber can prevent constipation and helps cats to lose excess weight.
Cats with especially long or thick fur such as Persian cats or Maine Coons need extra grooming and they also need nutrition with extra Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids to keep their skin and coat healthy.
Anatomical characteristics should also be taken into consideration, especially when it comes to dry food. Pellets should be the right size for your cat’s jaw, teeth and the shape of her head. She should also be able to grab and chew them easily.
It’s best to limit treats: Even cats like to snack and like being given extra treats. However, these should really be the exception. Otherwise it’s possible that your cat will start rejecting her regular food and will only want to have her favourite snacks.
Dry, wet or semi-moist food?
Whether it’s beef, mutton, pork, game, rabbit, chicken or salmon, the type of food your cat prefers will mainly depend on her individual preferences. Go ahead and offer her something new on a regular basis. Most cats like the variety and it keeps them flexible when it comes to different flavours. This will come in useful if you have to change over to another kind of food as they’ll find it easier to accept it.
When it comes to selecting the food, there are a number of factors to consider – the right composition, the flavour and also the type of food. The basic rule of thumb is so long as you select a high-quality complete feed, it doesn’t matter which kind you get. Again, it’s simply a matter of taste and preference, for both you and your cat.
Different types of cat food
1. Wet food: It has the highest moisture content. The concentration of nutrients is less than that of dry food, which means your cat will need to eat more of it. Advantages of wet food: Most cats like the taste of it and it provides lazy drinkers with additional fluids. Disadvantages: The food goes bad quickly, especially in warm weather or at room temperature.
2. Dry food: It has the highest concentration of nutrients and provides fussy eaters with everything that they need. Crunchy croquettes encourage cats to bite, which strengthens their jaw. Dry food can also be kept longer once it’s been opened. Disadvantages: You have to make sure that your cat drinks enough.
3. Soft-moist/Semi-moist food: Semi-moist food usually comes in the form of pellets. It has higher residual moisture, which makes it softer than conventional dry food. Semi-moist food has a high energy density but has a shorter shelf life than dry food. Disadvantages: You still need to persuade your cat to drink enough.
The Senior Cat
Healthy food for older pets
Most cats are said to have reached a ripe old age when they are 15-20 years old. However, they are actually considered “seniors” as early as 7, 8 or 10 years old at the latest. Even if your cat still seems very agile, it’s getting to the point where you should switch her over to senior food. The reason is, although there might not be any external indications of this, your cat’s metabolism will change and slow down. This means that her digestion will be more sluggish. The kidneys often become less effective, so a little less protein and phosphorus in their diet will put less stress on these organs. Many older cats require less energy as well as they move about less. Your pet now needs to be given easily digestible nutrition which is carefully formulated to suit the new requirements of a senior cat. To reduce the strain on their bodies even more, senior cats should be fed in smaller portions throughout the day, just the same as when they were kittens.
If you have selected a cat food that contains the ideal combination of vitamins, minerals and nutrients for your cat, your senior feline usually won’t need any extra complementary food. That said, there will always be situations when she’ll need more, such as when she is under particular strain or during the moulting season. Extra vitamins can also help cats to recover from an illness. They will also improve the quality of life for chronically ill pets. Consult with your vet before you give your pet a nutritional supplement, or else ask someone in your local specialty store to advise you about this. The fact is, in the worst case, excessive vitamin intake can be as harmful as vitamin deficiency.
When cats don’t drink enough
Not drinking enough is a common problem among senior cats. This is especially problematic come summer as cats lick their fur to cool themselves down, which results in them losing even more fluids. If this deficiency isn’t balanced out, it can quickly lead to health issues. There are a few things you can do to make sure your senior cat stays hydrated. We recommend giving her wet food or a mixture of wet and dry food. The only senior cats who can cope with having just dry food in their diet are the thirsty types who already drink a lot. Alternatively, you can soften her dry food in water first. Give her access to different places to drink throughout your house or apartment, rather than just one. A drinking fountain with flowing water encourages a lot of cats to drink more. Many cats also like drinking milk, but cow’s milk doesn’t suit them. This contains lactose and the only cats that can digest it are those that grew up with it on a farm. For all other cats there is special cat milk available in specialty stores. This milk tastes just as good and won’t pose a problem for milk-loving cats.
Loss of appetite in cats: Don’t worry if your cat turns her nose up at her food. Even cats can suffer from digestion problems now and then, which makes them instinctively eat less. Or maybe your cat has just eaten at a neighbour’s house. However, you should take your cat to the vet immediately if she suddenly rejects her food, eats less for several days in a row or displays other symptoms such as fatigue.
Maxi Zoo stock a large range of cat food for all life stages, call in to your local store and our staff members will be happy to help you find the perfect one for your pet.