Dry food has been a recommended staple diet for cats by many experts for a number of years. It is an easy option to leave a bowl of dry food out constantly; something that cannot be done with tinned food. Unfortunately though, it’s not a natural food source and has been developed by humans using many additives and un-natural products. Cats, like humans, will eat until they fill themselves up. However, dry food has many more calories and carbohydrates than a natural food source, which leads to the cat taking in far more than necessary just to feel full-up. Many owners assume that their cat is just greedy, but in many cases it is not the quantity of food being eaten, it is the quality.
Naturally, cats are obligate carnivores; meaning they only feed on other animals. The cats prey however, are generally herbivorous and have various vegetable and plant matter in their guts. All of which, will be consumed by the cat. Domestic cats have been shown to have longer intestines than wild cats; proving they have evolved over hundreds of years to cope with more plant and vegetable matter (carbohydrates). Still, this is no excuse to turn a carnivore into an omnivore. Rather, supplementing the diet with small amounts of carbohydrates is acceptable.
Many consumers believe that dried food is actually better for cats. The manufacturers have implemented the belief that all these additives such as corn and grains are an important part of a cat’s diet, implying ‘the more the better’ approach. Although very small quantities of these may benefit the cat, too much will be detrimental to their health.
Kidney disease is one of, if not the biggest killer in cats. Kidney disease is usually a result of lack of water and unfortunately, cats have a very low thirst drive. Although they may drink when eating dry food, they will generally only take in half of the liquid necessary for their health. A cat’s prey item consists of around 75% water, canned and raw foods have a similar amount. Dry foods on the other hand usually have a maximum of 10% water content. It is obvious therefore, that canned or raw foods are an absolute must to maintain a healthy cat.
Cats need a high level of protein in their diet which must come from animals. Plant protein differs from meat protein, and should not be substituted. When protein is calculated in canned food, the moisture content must be subtracted from 100 and the protein percentage worked out from the result. For instance, a canned food with 8% protein and 75% water means that the true protein value should be worked out like so:
Non-Moisture Content = 25% so: 8 ÷ 25 x 100 = 32
Therefore: True Protein Value = 32% which is ideal.
The amino acid ‘taurine’ is also an essential part of a cat’s diet, and can only be found in meat products. It is recommended that a quantity of 2000mg/kg or 0.2% should be available in canned food. Other vitamins and minerals should also be included. Preservatives, colouring and added flavours are used more for the customers benefit rather than the cats. If it looks and smells nice to a human, there is a higher chance of them buying it.
There are very few foods on the market which actually have an ideal amount of everything included. Many diets have concentrated on having high a protein and moisture diet with low carbohydrates, but lack in having enough taurine or vitamin B. If this is the case, offering other canned foods on occasion that are better in these areas should be considered. This will also help stop the cat becoming addicted to any 1 food type. Inter-changing the various meats such as beef, chicken and fish will also benefit by offering varying amounts of vitamins, minerals and oils.
Buy quality, not quantity. Most cheap cat foods are cheap for a reason. Avoid buying canned foods that say ‘meat’, ‘by-products’, ‘bone meal’ or ‘animal digest’. Chemical preservatives such as ‘BHA’, ‘BHT’, ‘ethoxyquin’ and ‘propyl gallate’ have been seriously questioned as being detrimental to the health of cats, and should also be avoided. Canned foods are a must for adding much needed calcium into the diet, which is essential for building healthy bones and teeth.
High energy food has been designed for cats with high energy levels. This food will not benefit a cat which sits around all day, in fact in will make the situation worse. High energy foods will not make a less active cat become energetic.
There is a common misconception that canned food is bad for your cat’s teeth, and dry food is good. Unfortunately neither statement is completely true. Neither food types are actually good for the health of teeth. Dry food is hard and crunchy, completely the opposite of what a cat’s teeth are designed to do, which is tear away at meat. I recommend you brush and rinse your cat’s teeth on a regular occasion.
There are two methods to feeding a cat. The first is to leave a bowl of food out all the time. This is obviously done with dry food and not meat. Since we recommend feeding a diet of canned or raw meat, this method is not acceptable and you should opt for the second method. This is to have a feeding regime of 2 to 4 times per day. Feeding this way allows a more controlled amount of food being eaten. You need to decide how many times per day you will feed your cat. The more often the better, but if you are an owner which is out during the day several times a week, it may be better to opt for a twice a day routine. Alternatively, cat feeding dishes which are set on a timer can be purchased and are a good option if you only go out on occasions.
The total amount of canned food your cat should is listed below. It is important to divide this total amount of food up equally among all of its feeds. The chart below is appropriate to cats that are getting their appropriate amount of calorie intake per day, which is approximately 25 calories per pound in weight. This chart is for healthy adult cats weighing approximately 8-10lbs. Not overweight or obese cats.
Type / Age of Cat Weight of Canned Food
2 – 10 Years 200g
Geriatric (10 Years +) 160g
Neutered or Spayed 160g
Inactive or Indoor 160g
Treats are given to cats for different reasons depending on the owner. Surveys have shown that overweight humans are more likely to have overweight pets. They show that overweight people are unable to control their own weight properly due to lack of will power. They have the same lack of will power when their pets are ‘begging’ for treats.
Treats are often given because it is a way of making the pet feel more welcome. If the owner is out of the house all day, they often make up for it by giving treats. This is the easy way of doing things and totally unhealthy. Rather, making up for it by spending just 5 quality minutes with the pet is far more rewarding. You may decide to simply brush the cat, or you could play with it by throwing a small toy mouse or ball around. Either way, the cat will enjoy being with you more than it will eating a treat, and exercise will aid its health.
Some owners offer treats because they think the cat doesn’t eat enough dinner. The treats are designed and flavoured to be ‘irresistible’ to the cat, and they will eat it whether they are hungry or not. Treats should not be offered for this reason. Providing your cat looks healthy and is the appropriate weight, it will be feeding just fine. If your cat is a poor feeder, they should be tempted by other feeding methods, not with treats.
Higher Risk Cats
Neutered or Spayed
I would like to point out before anything, that the act of neutering or spaying your cat will not make it overweight. Rather, it is how you care for it afterwards that will affect its weight.
A neutered cat loses its desire to ‘roam’ like an ‘intact’ cat would do. They are not as inquisitive and generally get less exercise than intact cats. Because of this, their metabolism is slower than normal by around 20-25%. With a slower metabolism, comes a lower need for calories. A neutered or spayed cat should intake approximately 20% less calories.
Some breeds of cat are naturally slimmer than other breeds; such as the Siamese and Ornamental Short Hair. These breeds are far better at maintaining a good body condition than larger breeds. Pedigree cats are also generally fitter than non-pedigree individuals.
Cats are most likely to become overweight from about 2 to 12 years of age. Younger cats have a much higher metabolism and are more energetic than older individuals. Older cats often eat far less, and it is more common for geriatric cats to become skinnier rather than heavier.
Indoor cats have many factors weighing them down. To start with, the most obvious factor is being indoors all the time. There is little stimulation inside, and they will not get the exercise that an outdoor cat will be able to. Many static toys that are offered to indoor cats become boring. They will soon lose interest in scratching posts and similar toys. Repetitive electronic toys can also become predictable and boring. The most enjoyable form of playing for the cat is to interact with the owner. Waving string around or rolling a small ball around will keep the cat amused for far longer.
Being inside all the time also means more contact with the owner is likely. This usually means more treats are given.
The temperature is an important factor too. An outdoor cat will use more energy and have a higher metabolism simply to maintain its body temperature. Cats living in centrally heated houses don’t have to use much energy to get their body temperature controlled.
This is an area where you just can’t win. There are advantages and disadvantages of having one cat or having multiple cats.
Only cats do not have the same competition for food that a multi-cat household may have. Therefore they may not be as eager to eat as much food and as quickly as a cat in competition with other cats will do. However, only cats are more likely to become bored and have less stimulation around them compared to a cat living with others. Cats have been known to take on habits like humans, such as eating when bored like an only cat may do. They may also eat more when they are stressed, like a cat living in a multi-cat household may do.
A household with more humans is far more likely to inflict extra weight onto a cat. It means more people offering treats, and more people to feed the cat dinner. It is common for many households to become confused as to whether or not the cat has been fed, and if in doubt they will feed it again.
This applies to humans and pets alike. Humans with physical disabilities are less likely to play and exercise their pets. The situation becomes worse if the cat is an indoor cat.
Disabled cats are often ‘over-protected’ by their owners. Most are automatically turned into indoor cats if they get a disability, and become an excuse for more treats to be offered. Most cats can still exercise and have their mind stimulated with various disabilities. In fact many cats with disabilities will deteriorate quicker if they are not exercised and the mind stimulated properly.
Do you have cat friendly neighbours? Do you know if your cat has gone into other people’s houses before? It is common for other cat lovers to feed a cat that has wondered into their house.
If you think this happens, place a tag onto the cat which is clearly visible and ask politely not to feed the cat. Some people will ignore this, thinking it will not do any harm. To get around this, state that you cat has ‘Special Dietary Needs’. They are more likely to pay attention when they think feeding them the wrong food could potentially harm them.